Tortoises can be fascinating, affectionate, and intelligent pets, but they also have very specific care requirements and can require daily attention for decades. Many pet tortoises have been abandoned in the wild after a cute hatchling grows to be the size of a dog, which is why it is your responsibility as a pet owner to ensure that you have both the time and resources to care for your new friend adequately. Before you begin searching through different reptile pets at places like Snakes at Sunset, you should have an answer for each of these four questions.
What Environment Can Your Provide?
Tortoises are, for the most part, desert creatures who require warmth and humidity to lead long, healthy lives. They are also capable of wandering great distances, meaning they will need plenty of space both indoors and outdoors to explore, graze, and exercise. In warmer climates, you may be able to house your tortoise outdoors year-round, but most areas in the United States grow too cold in the winter. If you cannot dedicate a large chunk of your home to your new pet, consider smaller species like Russian Tortoises, which still need a large terrarium but will not grow to more than 10 inches or so in length.
How Long Can You Commit To Your Pet?
Many tortoise owners love their pets because, unlike cats and dogs, they tend to stick around for a lifetime. These long-lived reptiles survive for decades when properly cared for, and some can even push a century. On the other hand, a pet whose lifespan rivals your own must still be looked after in the event that it outlives you, and your own changing life circumstances may make it impossible to care for your pet at some point. Smaller tortoises, besides being easier to house and manage, also tend to live shorter lives. The Russian Tortoise mentioned earlier, for example, averages around a 40-year lifespan.
Can You Handle an Adult Tortoise?
Newly hatched tortoises are tiny and adorable, but they have many years ahead of them to grow. African Sulcata Tortoises are some of the most popular pet tortoise purchases, but they can also weigh more than 100 pounds in maturity and remain active throughout adulthood, making them difficult to handle and prone to breaking furniture since they like to climb. Research any species you buy carefully to understand what you are getting into before you have a behemoth on your hands.
Can You Handle Your Pet Safely?
Another risk to consider with any reptile is their propensity to carry salmonella. Although this infection is rarely serious, and you may never contract it from your pet, you should avoid contact between it and those whose immune systems are at risk, such as pregnant women and young children. Wash your hands before and after handling your tortoise and keep its conditions sanitary to minimize your risk of salmonella.
Tortoises require careful consideration and planning before purchase, but by doing your research and answering each of these questions beforehand, you should be prepared to give your pet a long, healthy, and happy lifespan.