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Thinking of getting a tortoise.
Posted: 03/01/2009 by hetty23dotty


I'm new to this site and wanted to start by saying how much I have enjoyed reading all your information and looking at your photos.  It has been very helpful.

I have long had an interest in tortoises and looked into purchasing one several years ago but decided against it at the time.  I'm now glad that I didn't as I think I would have fallen into many of the 'traps' of incorrect tortoise care that I have read about on your site (purchasing from a pet shop, vivarium etc).  A friend of mine has recently brought a baby tortoise and it has got me thinking about owning one again.  I have read the tortoise care guides and found them very useful.  There are just a couple of issues which I wanted to check and I would be very grateful if anyone could help me.

Firstly, as I am a complete novice I was wondering whether there is a particular breed which is best for beginners?  I live in the South East of England.  Also would it make a difference whether I got a male or a female or should I get two of the same sex to keep each other company?  I would take your advise and purchase from one of the breeders on your list.  I have kept rabbits/guinea-pigs for several years and have noticed that the males are often (although not always) more outgoing.  Just wondered whether it is the same with tortoises?

I would be able to create an indoor home following your guidelines fairly easily but am more worried about the outdoor accomodation.  Would it be acceptable to build a small outdoor, unheated encolosure (about 1m square) to put the tortoise in on warm days (obviously with solid sides, a secure top and lots of edible plants, pots etc). My current garden is not suitable for creating a large area with outside heating etc as we cannot run electricity out into the garden.  However we only plan to live here for a few more years and then I would be looking for a house with a garden where I could create a more permenant outdoor enclosure.  I was thinking of getting a baby tortoise so I guess I need to know whether the area I am proposing would be sufficient for approx 2-3 years before more long term, permenant housing could be created?

Finally, as I work full time I would need to put the tortoise outside before I went to work (about 8.00am) and then bring it in when I got home (about 6.00pm).  Obviously I would only do this on fine, warm days.  Would this be ok for a young tortoise or would it be likely to get too cold?

Thank you in advance for any help you may be able to provide.  Please excuse all the questions but I would rather get everything right, rather than ending up with a pet which I cannot provide for properly.

Many thanks, Laura.


Re: Thinking of getting a tortoise.
Posted: 04/01/2009 by TPGDarren

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Hi Laura,


Iím glad you found the site usefulClick and drag me down to the editor


Iíd recommend either Spur-Thighs (Iberas or Graecas), Hermanns, Marginated or Horsfields. These are all hibernating species (except some of the Graeca sub-species) and are more accustomed to the weather conditions in the UK. Some tend to go for non-hibernating species such as the Redfoot or Leopard, which is very well but when it comes to over-wintering such a large animal in large accommodation during the winter it becomes very expensive.


1m x 1m is fine whilst the tortoise(s) are small. During the summer months when there is no risk of frost or cold spells itís perfectly OK to leave a baby tortoise outside in a predator-proof enclosure. Itís a good idea to consider a cold-frame within a baby enclosure that they can access if the weather becomes a bit cooler


If you are looking to keep a pair, which is better, it would be best to take on 2 that are incubated for females. Two males will fight as they become older and a 1:1 male/female ratio would run a high risk of the male constantly pestering the female and stressing her out.


Please feel free to ask as many questions as you feel necessary


Kindest Regards


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Re: Thinking of getting a tortoise.
Posted: 04/01/2009 by hetty23dotty

Hi Darren,

thanks for your advise.  That's great that the area I have available would be big enough to start with.  How long do you think it would roughly be before they outgrew it, assuming I got two baby females?  Yes, it would be nice to provide a cold frame shelter for them.  Would it be acceptable for this not to be heated if it was just for summer, daytime use?  I am assuming that a clear roof and solid sides is the best way to go? Should it have a solid floor or go straight onto the dirt?  I was also wondering about those days when it is sunny in the morning but then you get an unexpected downpour in the afternoon.  Obviously if I was at work they would be stuck outdoors until I got home.  Would a young tortoise be able to cope in a coldframe shelter or would this be too cold for them? 

I know this is a long way off but I also wanted to check something about the adult enclosures as well.  I have seen some created with secure sides but no roof on them  Does this not leave the tortoises vulnerable to cats?  I have read a lot about the danger of foxes/dogs but not much about cats.  We have a lot of these around us!

Thanks again, Laura.


Re: Thinking of getting a tortoise.
Posted: 04/01/2009 by TPGJo

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Hi Laura,

I have 3 cats, and they are the ones at risk from my bigger tortoises Click and drag me down to the editor if they are lying in my tortoises favourite sunny spot, they'll soon move them !!

Cats are generally no risk to tortoises, they don't move quick enough and cats soon lose interest in them, even little ones.............cats prefer small furry mammals that move very fast !

I have a great pic of my 2 whitei snuggling up to my tom cat in their greenhouse, wish I could find it.  If your cat can get anywhere near a basking bulb, then that's what they'll make a bee-line for <g>

Hope that helps


Re: Thinking of getting a tortoise.
Posted: 04/01/2009 by Ozric

Hi Laura, I've got a little experience with Hermanns and living in W. Scotland I reckon Ive got the worst weather in the UK in respect of tortoise keeping.  I have half the coldframe floor as a light soil and the other half I have covered with wood. I've got solid wood sides on mine and it helps retain heat.  In the warmer months its not really a big problem if it rains, unless there was any chance of your enclosure being flooded.  They don't mind a bit of rain as long as its not too cold. You don't need a heater in the coldframe during the warmer months.

If using a coldframe its vital your torts can come and go as they please because it can quickly get too hot in there when the sun is overhead and there should be shade in the frame too.  I also have hidey places in the outside area and the torts do use them. Doesn't have to be fancy, an upside down plastic pot with an entrance hole cut out is fine. 

In terms of predators I've got magpies, crows and seagulls in the area and I wouldn't trust them with a tortoise of any size.  My outside area has lids made with chicken wire fixed to wooden frames.  This keeps torts safe when I'm not around, but I can remove them when I am in the garden. 


Re: Thinking of getting a tortoise.
Posted: 05/01/2009 by hetty23dotty

Hi Jo,

thanks for your advise.  I'm glad the local cats shouldn't be a problem.  Think I would keep the pen securely covered though just in case.  I have a female British Blue who lives as an indoor cat.  She is currently sprawled out in front of our log burner so I know what you mean about seeking heat!

Best wishes, Laura.

Re: Thinking of getting a tortoise.
Posted: 05/01/2009 by hetty23dotty

Thank you so much for your advise.  I know they must seem like silly questions but there is a lot to think about. 

Best wishes, Laura.

Re: Thinking of getting a tortoise.
Posted: 05/01/2009 by tpgNina

Hi Laura,

I know it's been said before, but I'll say it again -- we really believe that there are no silly questions, and in fact the only silly question is the one that isn't asked (we're here to answer questions and help each other, so it's silly not to ask {g})!
You wouldn't believe how many questions even really experienced keepers have, so please feel free to ask away!



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