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Tortoises are very interesting creatures and cared for properly can give many years of enjoyment to their owners.
Many of us will remember tortoises fondly from our childhood days when they were imported to the UK by the thousand and widely sold and kept as pets.
Unfortunately most of these tortoises lived only a few years as little was understood about their needs and how to keep them successfully through the British seasons.
This page will help you evaluate the needs of a captive tortoise in Britain and decide whether they are the pet for you.
Many people keep tortoises as pets in the UK and around the world and the interest in keeping tortoises and other reptiles is growing rapidly. Although these creatures can be fascinating to watch and will provide hours of pleasure to their owners, it is essential before purchasing any reptile or exotic pet that you understand exactly its needs and requirements and the demand that this will place on your time and living space.
In order to help you make an informed descision, ask yourself the following questions. If you find yourself answering 'No' to many of these questions, then a tortoise is perhaps not the pet for you.
— Can you provide an indoor heated enclosure (not a fish tank) for your tortoise for the spring, autumn and possibly winter (species dependant)?
— Can you provide an outdoor area which is secure from predators and has somewhere to shelter for your tortoise during the summer months?
— Can you provide your tortoise with somewhere safe and cool to hibernate where the temperature will not fall as low as zero degrees centigrade and will not rise above ten degrees centigrade?
— Are you prepared to spend time (10 minutes) most days in finding suitable food for your tortoise?
— Do you have a suitable supply of broad leafed weeds and/or grass (dependant on species) to feed your tortoise and if not have you somewhere to grow your own?
— Are you prepared to provide adequate heating/lighting for your tortoise (which will need to run all of the time when your tortoise is indoors)?
— Are you prepared to take your tortoise to a vet who specialises in reptiles (and preferably tortoises) if it becomes ill?
It is worthwhile bearing in mind that tortoises may not be suitable for households with young children or other pets such as cats and dogs.
Tortoises (and other reptiles) can carry bacteria such as salmonella which can in turn cause serious (and sometimes life-threatening) illnesses in humans. Strict hand washing and good hygiene is essential when handling tortoises.
Cats and dogs are not compatible with tortoises and each year tortoises are maimed or killed by other family pets. If you can keep your tortoise away from your cat or dog then this is not necessarily a problem but you need to take into account any potential difficulties this may cause before purchasing a tortoise to avoid unfortunate (and expensive) incidents occuring.
Toddlers are not gentle and will find tortoises highly interesting with possibly fatal results for the tortoise. Toddlers should never be left alone with a tortoise. Also the hygiene issue is more relevant with toddlers as they are less careful about hygiene and more likely to catch diseases than adults due to a less developed immune system.
Having said all of this, tortoises are amazing creatures and are far more attractive and interesting than many people expect. If you feel that you can meet their requirements then the tortoise can be the most rewarding of pets and we wish you every success.