Should I Get a Tortoise

I spend about an hour a week on Yahoo Answers trying to answer questions related to Redfoot tortoises and other species as part of my continuing effort to educate people on these animals and their unique needs as pets.

One of the most common questions I see week in and week out  is, “Should I get a Tortoise?”

It’s a good question, so here is what you need to ask yourself in order to answer it.

  • Have I done at least 10-15 hours of research on the Redfoot or a specific species of tortoise so I have a strong understanding of where they live in the wild and their requirements to live a healthy life?
  • Can I afford the cost of either building or buying large enough indoor and outdoor enclosures where I can re-create their wild environment, which means the lighting, temperature, and humidity they need to be healthy?
  • Am I prepared for what it takes financially and emotionally to have them as a pet for 20, 30, or 50 years or more?
  • If I buy a wild caught tortoise do I have enough money to pay for the inevitable costly vet bills when it gets sick in order to get it back to being healthy?

If you answer “No” to any of these questions, you’re not ready to have a tortoise as a pet.

I say you aren’t ready because outside of the Australian Moloch, there is no animal more closely tied to its environment than a tortoise.  If you can’t closely replicate their natural environment and food requirements, they will get sick and die.

They are not adaptable to different environments like a dog or cat.   They can’t eat processed food their entire life and thrive and live a normal healthy life like a dog or cat.

They are opportunistic feeders in the wild, so they’ll eat almost anything and in their native environments “anything” is almost always good for them.  However, because they’ll eat almost anything too many people feed them all manner of junk like peas, beans, hamburger, etc.  A tortoise doesn’t know those items will ultimately be fatal for them because they don’t ever come across them in the wild.

After spending over 40 years with these magnificence animals a couple of things are abundantly clear.

When you understand the unique environment your tortoise comes from, which includes the lighting throughout the year, their food and humidity requirements, and you replicate them as much as you can – they are almost bullet-proof.

They go on and on and on and on their daily routine without so much as a hiccup.

For Redfoot’s that means, 75-90 degrees year round, 70-90% humidity year round, indoor and outdoor pens large enough to allow them plenty of exercise, and well planted enclosures with only 25-30% of the pen in sunlight.  Add in a 60% fruit, 35% greens, 5% animal protein diet as well as 24/7 access to large bowls of fresh water deep enough for them to drink from and soak in and you’ll have a bullet-proof pet.

So when you ask yourself, “Should I Get a Tortoise”, answer those four questions and if you answer “yes” to all four, you’re ready for a tortoise.

If not, then either get yourself a pet that doesn’t require the cost and dedication of maintaining a tortoise or go back and do what’s necessary to say, “yes.”

About Ernie J

I've been involved with Tortoises for 42 years - and have spent the last 12 with the beautiful Redfoot Tortoise and been breeding them successfully since 2009.
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