Last Updated on October 1, 2023 by Samantha Harris
Tortoises are different from other pets because they’re reptiles. How you interact with them won’t be the same as with other animals. When it comes to tortoises and affection, less is more.
You can’t cuddle a tortoise in the way you would other animals. Tortoises don’t enjoy being picked up and placed where they can’t find their footing because it stresses and disorients them.
You can show tortoises love and affection by rubbing their shell or head with your hand.
Knowing how to be affectionate toward tortoises involves learning what they like. Tortoises aren’t expressive animals, so knowing what they enjoy can initially be challenging.
Can I Cuddle My Tortoise?
Tortoises dislike cuddling, so you risk stressing them out and becoming associated with bad memories.
Tortoises are reptiles that don’t seek out others of their species for companionship. Unlike other wild animals, tortoises aren’t social creatures and don’t live in groups.
Males only seek out females to mate. If they encounter another male, they may fight over territory. Females don’t raise their young, laying eggs and leaving their hatchings to fend for themselves.
Because tortoises spend most of their life alone, they’re disinterested in cuddling.
Do Tortoises Like Being Touched?
It’s difficult to say whether tortoises like being touched, but they show no signs of disliking it.
Pet a tortoise on its head or shell. According to the Journal of Zoology, tortoise shells are sensitive to transient stimuli. They have nerves in their shells, so they can feel it when touched.
Reptiles are so different from mammals that we often can’t tell how they feel. We think they’re indifferent to affection because they don’t react like we do.
However, some experts theorize that tortoises enjoy having their shells rubbed because of their relationship to birds.
Wild tortoises let birds pick the bugs off their shells, as this dynamic benefits both tortoises and birds. The birds get something to eat, and the tortoises’ shells are cleaned.
When you touch a tortoise’s shell, you simulate how a bird would clean it. Though it shows no signs of happiness, if a tortoise stays still while you do this, it could mean it enjoys physical contact.
How To Know If Your Tortoise Likes Being Touched
Tortoises aren’t expressive animals, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. There will be signs if your tortoise likes it when you touch it. A tortoise will do one or more of the following:
- Stay near you as you touch it.
- Turn towards you when you speak to it.
- Approach you.
- Crane its neck toward you.
Pay close attention to your tortoise’s body language when interacting with it. Tortoises can’t vocalize to let you know when they don’t like something, so you need to spot the signs of discomfort.
If your tortoise does any of the following when you pet it, it means it doesn’t want to be touched:
- Run away.
- Hide in its shell.
- Bite you.
- Flail its arms.
What Do Tortoises Feel When You Touch Them?
It’s difficult to know how tortoises truly feel when touched by their owners. Because they don’t run away or hide in their shells when touched, we can assume that they don’t mind.
The consensus is that tortoises don’t feel love. They live solitary lives and aren’t domesticated, which means they lack the cognition necessary to form and maintain complex relationships.
At the same time, owners often talk about how their pet runs up to them when they walk into a room. This may indicate that the tortoise is excited to see you, but thinking this way may be a case of anthropomorphism.
Some tortoises never adapt to their tank or vivarium. When you see your tortoise scratching at the tank’s glass, it could be because it’s trying to climb out, not because it’s pleased to see you. However, it could be because it recognizes you and knows you sometimes take it out of its enclosure.
Can You Kiss A Tortoise?
Kissing a tortoise isn’t recommended.
According to The Veterinary Record, salmonella lives on reptiles, particularly land tortoises. By kissing a tortoise, you risk contracting salmonella and other diseases.
Think about where a tortoise spends most of its time. It defecates, eats, urinates, lays eggs, and digs around in the same tank. The tortoise gets covered in bacteria, so refrain from kissing a tortoise.
Even if you bathe the tortoise, there are certain bacteria you cannot rinse off with water.
Do Tortoises Like Being Held?
Most tortoises dislike being held, as they find it distressing to be lifted off the ground for long periods.
Tortoises heavily rely on hearing vibrations to navigate their surroundings. Being close to the ground helps them, so being lifted reduces their ability to sense things.
Even if you lay your tortoise on your lap or chest, it may still find it distressing. Without a flat surface, a tortoise will have trouble finding its footing.
How To Show A Tortoise Affection
The best way to show a tortoise affection is by petting and caring for it properly.
Rubbing the top of its head and shell is something that many tortoises seem to enjoy, so it’s a safe way to show your tortoise some love.
Nothing says you care more than ensuring your tortoise is healthy and happy. Cleaning your tortoise’s living space and feeding it a healthy diet may not seem like acts of affection, but they go a long way in getting your tortoise to relax around you and acclimate to its environment.
Some ways to show you care include providing the following:
- Games to play.
- Foraging opportunities.
- Soaks to keep a tortoise healthy.
- Food puzzles.
You can tell when a tortoise is distressed because it’ll defecate, which is one of the body’s many responses to stress. So, you shouldn’t hold your tortoise for too long.