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Can Tortoises Love Their Owners?

Even though tortoises aren’t cuddly pets, they make good companion animals. Tortoises are incapable of love in a human sense, but they can express warmth and affection, despite their timid nature.

Pet tortoises can show affection and appreciation for their owners through body language, scents, following you around their enclosure, eating directly from your hand, and certain vocalizations.

For example, a trusting tortoise may touch its nose against your arm or hand affectionately.

Since tortoises are reptiles, their emotional responses differ significantly from mammals. So, tortoises often respond to emotions based on environmental stimuli.

Your tortoise will react differently to your touch and presence, but you can develop a special and lasting bond together.

Do Tortoises Have Feelings?

Tortoises have feelings, but they’re reinforced by their instincts and living environment.

A study by the Physiological Society looked at the distribution of dopamine in a tortoise’s brain, discovering that they feel pleasure, anxiety, mania, satisfaction, and motivation.

The effect of dopamine lasts longer in tortoises than in mammals, underlining the fact tortoises have feelings, but they’re not manifested in the same way as other animals.

Even though tortoises have feelings, their emotions are somewhat limited, and they can’t express them as mammals do. For instance, tortoises can’t love other tortoises or their owners, nor do they feel loved.

Most reptiles’ only dominant feelings are fear and pleasure, which are primarily associated with fight-or-flight responses and sex drive.

Can Tortoises Feel Love?

Tortoises are reptiles, which means they don’t feel or perceive love as humans do.

BioScience stated that primary emotions, such as love, are hardwired into the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for emotions.

The brains of reptiles and amphibians are primitive and don’t have an amygdala, meaning they don’t experience emotions such as love.

However, the journal Animals show that reptiles, including tortoises, can feel pleasure, anxiety, and other emotions. So, they can be happy, angry, or bored.

When a tortoise is upset, you’ll notice it banging and ramming its shell against objects or tortoises.

You can tell that your tortoise is emotional by observing its behavior. A tortoise that feels loved will often be calm and comfortable around its owner.

Your tortoise may stretch out its neck, follow you around, or nudge your arm when feeding to show it affection. This loosely translates to feeling loved.

how to make your tortoise love you

How Do Tortoises Respond To Love?

You’ll know that your tortoise responds to love by how it behaves around you or when you interact with them. Your tortoise will come to you when it sees you, as long as it trusts and recognizes you as its owner.

Your tortoise may touch its nose against your hand or arm, which is what it would do in the wild when socializing with other tortoises as a sign of affection.

It may move closer to the edge of its enclosure when it hears your voice or stretches out its neck while expecting you to gently stroke it.

However, you shouldn’t expect your tortoise to respond the same way every day. Like all reptiles, tortoises are unpredictable animals and view the world differently. Your tortoise can change its mind and bite you or become withdrawn out of the blue.

These spontaneous behaviors are responses to environmental stimuli or hormonal changes.

Can Tortoises Feel Happiness?

A tortoise can’t experience happiness. However, the above study by Animals noted that reptiles are sentient, meaning they experience feelings and sensations, such as contentment.

Since reptiles view the world differently and often react to environmental stimuli, it’s hard to anticipate your tortoise’s reaction to various situations. Observing your tortoise over a few weeks or months will let you know how it responds when feeling contented.

You can tell that your tortoise is happy based on its day-to-day behavior. A cheerful tortoise is often active, moving around its tank without hesitation and eating well.

A contented tortoise usually tolerates handling and is responsive to petting. Bright and shiny eyes and a healthy shell are other signs of a contented tortoise.

Ensure you provide your tortoise with quality plant-based meals and clean drinking water. Its enclosure should be expansive with toys and enrichment.

Do Tortoises Show Love?

Tortoises don’t express love to their owners openly and in a set way. They show love through their behaviors and reactions to various situations.

Your tortoise will show its appreciation for you, but only after coming to recognize your face and the base of your voice after months of bonding. Once it trusts you, it may follow you around, elongate its neck toward you, and eat directly from your hands.

According to Washington University, reptiles use chemical signals to show love to their peers and attract mates in the wild. The same isn’t the case for captive tortoises and their owners.

According to Herpetology, tortoises produce chemical cues for communication and social interactions, but only among other tortoises, rather than their owners.

Do Tortoises Recognize Their Owners?

A tortoise can recognize its owner, but it’ll take time before it’ll know you’re its guardian.

Like all reptiles, tortoises aren’t the friendliest of animals. They’re shy, fearful, and usually prefer to keep their own company. They’ll often retract back into their shells if they see a stranger or unusual object.

You may notice this behavior since your tortoise is unlikely to run toward you during your initial interactions. It would rather watch you attentively from a safe distance.

According to Texas A&M University, reptiles recognize people who regularly feed and handle them. So, your tortoise may know you as its owner. Tortoises seem to identify and like some people more than others, meaning your pet tortoise may recognize you if you care for its needs.

It takes time for a tortoise to develop a bond of trust with its owner. You can build trust by feeding it regularly and through occasional petting and handling.

You may give your tortoise a name and speak to it consistently to build a positive association with your voice. The tortoise may even respond to the sound of your voice and approach you when it hears you calling its name. Your tortoise will then come to recognize and develop a liking for you over time.

How Do Tortoises Recognize Their Owners?

Tortoises use their senses of hearing, touch, smell, and sight to recognize and remember their owners.

Your tortoise can use its auditory senses to hear you talking and recognize your high-pitched voice. However, first, it must associate your voice with positive things, such as food and petting.

So, speak to your tortoise while feeding and petting it to condition its brain to recognize and remember you. Tortoises have good memories and can remember things once ingrained into their brains for years.

Unlike what most of us assume, tortoises are sensitive to touch. Their shells and skins have nerves that are highly responsive to touch.

So, your tortoise can use its sense of touch to recognize you as its owner. If you often stroke your tortoise during feeding and grooming, it’ll remember you for the calming and sensational neck and head rubs.

Your tortoise can learn to recognize you through your scent. Tortoises have a vomeronasal organ (Jacobson’s organ) at their mouth’s roof, which they use to smell chemicals and pheromones.

Another sense tortoises use to recognize their owners is sight. According to the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, tortoises have good eyesight and can see over 17 feet away. Your tortoise can see you clearly but may associate you with colors rather than your physical appearance.

Do Tortoises Get Attached To Their Owners?

According to the Anthrozoos Journal, emotional attachment in reptiles is almost non-existent. Most reptiles don’t even show attachment or care for their young.

Tortoises may get attached to their owners, but it comes down to the individual tortoise and its personality. Tortoises are unlikely to have social tendencies.

Don’t expect them to reciprocate love, no matter how much you adore your tortoise. Reptiles don’t understand or perceive emotional attachment the same way as humans.

So, your tortoise won’t feel sad if you’re not around since it naturally knows how to live a solitary life.

How Do Tortoises Display Emotional Attachment?

Wild tortoises show affection to each other through touch, head bobs, and subtle movements.

If your tortoise has an outgoing personality, it can get attached to you and display this attachment by approaching you and touching its nose against your arm or hand. It may also pace around its enclosure in excitement if it sees you, particularly if you’re its owner.

Don’t react negatively or feel bad if your tortoise doesn’t display signs of emotional attachment. They don’t know how to get attached to someone or return love in the way humans understand.

Do Tortoises Love Being Touched By Their Owners?

Most tortoises like being touched by their owners. You can tell this is true by how a tortoise extends its neck and closes its eyes when touched.

For many owners, touching, handling, and petting is a way to bond and show love. The tactile sensations associated with rubbing and scratching your tortoise create a special bond.

Nonetheless, you need to know where to touch or rub as you interact with your tortoise. Focus on the shell, head, and neck to evoke a positive reaction and form an affectionate bond with your tortoise.

Not all pet tortoises like being petted, even if they trust and recognize you. A gravid female might become aggressive and bite you when you touch it. The same applies to mature males that become aggressive to assert their dominance.

According to General and Comparative Endocrinology, sudden aggression results from seasonal hormonal changes. It doesn’t mean your pet tortoise doesn’t appreciate you.

can tortoises love you?

How To Make Your Tortoise Love You?

Making your tortoise love you involves conditioning its brain to appreciate your presence.

Here are tips and advice on how to get your tortoise to love you:

Regular Interaction

Your pet tortoise has to recognize you before you can develop a bond.

This can be achieved by making regular appearances near its enclosure to feed, pet, and talk to it. Use positive reinforcement to ensure your pet associates you with positive things.

Feeding Routine

Tortoises are herbivorous animals that enjoy plant-based foods.

Establishing a feeding routine is essential. Your tortoise will realize that you’re its primary food source and grow to like you whenever it sees you around its enclosure.

Out-of-Enclosure Time

To avoid stressing your tortoise, consider releasing it to stroll outdoors regularly.

Giving your tortoise extra time to come out of its enclosure and walk around your home can build trust and make them like you more.

Enrichment And Exercise

Tortoises require physical exercise and mental stimulation. Fun and enriching items you can add to your tortoise’s enclosure include logs, moist hides, dirt mounds, bathing dishes, and rocks.

Stroking And Petting

Some tortoises enjoy being touched and stroked occasionally. If you touch it around the neck, legs, head, and shell, your tortoise may like it.

Tortoises respond to human touch by stretching out their neck and closing their eyes to show they’re enjoying the bonding session. The shell is sensitive and often leads to tactile responses when rubbed.

Although tortoises don’t feel love in the human sense, they appreciate your presence. These techniques will enable you to form the closest bond possible with a pet tortoise.