Care of Tortoises
Tortoises can be very expensive to buy and look after and can also live to be 100 years old so think carefully before taking one on as a pet.
Tortoises are cold blooded animals which means they cannot regulate their own temperature. In addition they are non native to the UK, often adapted to greatly different climates much hotter, dryer or wetter than they will get naturally here. So they need to be provided with a habitat which offers good levels of light and warmth year round (even a UK summer will not always be sufficiently warm for some tortoises), as well as a placed to find shade when it wants.
Outdoor habitats should be used as often as possible but invariably even in the summer in the UK some indoor housing will be required.
For a number of reasons it is not recommended to keep tortoises in glass tanks or vivarians and the most satisfactory solution is a tortoise table. When preparing a tortoise table make it as big as possible because in the wild tortoises roam large distances. Using rocks and other obstacles on the table can help keep your tortoise fit and active. Tortoises bask in the sun relying on the UV rays to keep warm and function properly and in order for them to grow properly. An indoor run can be split into a covered area (which acts as a shelter for hiding and sleeping) and an open area where the tortoise can cool down and regulate its temperature. UV heat lamps are ideal as they provide UV-B, UV-A and basking heat requirements all in one. These must be fitted precisely as recommended to ensure correct temperatures and exposures. Tortoises need approximately 14 hours of heat and light daily. Tortoises are great escape artists so make sure the box is high enough (at least twice the length of the tortoise) and also that nothing else can jump in!
Tortoises are great diggers so check the garden or enclosure boundary is secure - ideally fencing needs to be dug into the ground 150mm to prevent escape. Ensure there is a variety of vegetation but no toxic plants in the enclosure. Make sure no predators such as rats, dogs and foxes can access your garden and in this respect it is best to bring your tortoise in at night. You will also need to provide a water bowl and an area for sheltering and hiding under and to prevent overheating.
Tortoises hibernate from around September/October to around February/March. You will need to find a suitable location for this such as a shed but the temperature needs to be maintained between 3-7 degrees C. If the temperature drops below 1 degree C your tortoise could freeze. If it rises above 10 degrees C the tortoise will start to wake up and will need to be removed from hibernation. To hibernate your tortoise stop feeding it for about 3 weeks as the weather is cooling off and take its water away for the last week. Pack a box with straw or shredded paper and provide some ventilation holes. Put the tortoise in the box making sure the packing is snugly placed all around and place a max/min temperature probe in this box. Place another larger box around the outside of this box (also with ventilation holes in), fill with more insulation and fix the thermometer on the outside of this box. The high low temperature should be checked each day to ensure it stays within limits. Weigh the boxes and tortoise and monitor the weight weekly for weight loss throughout the hibernation period.
It is important to ensure your tortoise has a water bowl and that it is regularly topped up. Mediterranean tortoises diet should mainly consist of non toxic weeds and flowers which is what they would naturally eat in the wild and supplements of calcium and other trace elements. In general their diet should be high fibre, low protein, low fat, low carbohydrate, low sugar and calcium rich.
Bedding for Tortoises click here to buy our universal bedding litter from our online shop