Since tortoises are slow-moving animals, many owners assume they don’t need enrichment. However, tortoises require entertainment for physical exercise and visual, olfactory, and auditory stimulation.
Wild tortoises explore miles of terrain, forage regularly, and engage with objects around them. So, pet tortoises grow bored, depressed, and develop behavioral problems when they have nothing to do.
Tortoises need lots of enrichment and stimulation. Options include puzzle toys, mazes, balls, rocks, and climbing obstacles. Offer your tortoise hides, a substrate to dig in, and territory to explore. You can make DIY toys like cardboard boxes, scratching posts, bathing dishes, and plastic tubs.
Adding diversity to a tortoise’s diet will also keep it happy. Aim for bright colors, interesting smells, and unique textures so that a tortoise can experience the same variety it would in the wild.
Why Do Tortoises Need Entertainment?
Wild tortoises’ lives are enriched by what they encounter in their natural surroundings.
This should be the same for your pet tortoise. A lack of things to do can make your tortoise unfriendly and aggressive toward people. At worst, a tortoise might grow depressed and refuse to eat.
Here are the most important reasons for keeping your tortoise’s life enriched:
According to Applied Animal Behaviour Science, captive tortoises experience higher stress levels.
Stress is more likely because artificial habitats don’t always have adequate stimuli to encourage captive tortoises to behave like their wild counterparts.
Consequently, your pet tortoise might become anxious and stressed. So, keeping your tortoise entertained will go a long way to reducing its stress levels.
Since tortoises have a laid-back demeanor, you can mistakenly believe they don’t get bored. However, tortoises can get listless, sad, and lonely if they don’t receive sufficient stimulation.
Your tortoise might self-harm or become destructive to keep itself occupied.
Feelings of Safety
Tortoises feel safest when they can hide in their shells and burrows. According to the International Journal of Behavioral Biology, tortoises hide in burrows to cool off and evade predators.
A tortoise’s enclosure must have lots of hides and burrows to retire when it feels vulnerable and afraid. Seclusion will make a tortoise feel safer because it’ll have places to tuck away.
Having space to dig out burrows can keep a tortoise entertained as it’ll enjoy scraping away at the soil.
Wild tortoises hide in soil, under rocks, fallen trees, and other debris. To replicate this environment, ensure the enclosure has access to rocks, logs, and live plants.
Encourages Physical Activity
Physical exercise is essential for the health and well-being of tortoises.
Allowing a tortoise to walk, climb, and dig burrows keeps it entertained and at the right weight. Ensure the tortoise enclosure has adequate space so it can play, explore, and forage.
Activities For Tortoises
Tortoise enrichment is about creating a stimulating living environment. Aim to recreate the natural habitat wild tortoises enjoy by engaging their exploration, foraging, and climbing instincts.
Here are some of the best tortoise enrichment ideas:
A tortoise’s main source of fun is digging out burrows in the sand and soil. These burrows are ideal spots for maintaining warmth and humidity, which are essential because tortoises are ectothermic.
You can encourage your tortoise to dig holes by adding the right substrate in its enclosure.
Mazes And Puzzles
According to the University of Vermont, tortoises are one of the most intelligent reptiles.
Tortoises can learn new tricks through positive reinforcement and remember them for years. For this reason, tortoises need mental stimulation through mazes and puzzles to solve.
Food puzzles involve hiding treats around the tortoise’s enclosure. This encourages it to explore, climb over barriers, and dig in the soil to locate food. It mimics the foraging behavior your tortoise would experience in the wild and forces it to work for treats.
You can pair this with a maze by setting up obstacles for your tortoise to get around. This might include rocks and hides that your tortoise must navigate to reach its treats. It can also involve small walls, other toys, or furniture that your tortoise has to circumvent to get to the end of the maze.
Wild tortoises rarely have flat and even terrain to explore, so providing difficulty will be appreciated.
Tortoises rarely eat the same thing every day in the wild. You can mix things up by offering:
- Leafy greens
The more colorful and aromatic the foods, the more interested your tortoise will be in its meals. Tortoises have a good sense of smell and color vision, so they like their food to be bright and colorful.
While tortoises like to keep to themselves, that doesn’t mean they’re unsociable. Tortoises appreciate neighbors, not roommates.
Interacting with other tortoises, calm pets, and their owners is an effective way to keep a tortoise engaged. It’ll feel happier and more enriched if you ration playtimes and handling sessions.
The more your tortoise gets to know you, the more affectionate it’ll become. Your tortoise may touch its nose against your arm or hand to show appreciation.
Some will even approach you once they realize you’re back home from school or work.
How To Keep Tortoises Entertained
Entertainment is essential for a tortoise’s physical and mental well-being. However, tortoises usually spend the majority of their time within an enclosure.
For this reason, you should set up a tank or outdoor pen with enrichment options. Here are some ways to keep your tortoise entertained and enriched:
Tortoises walk miles to explore their environment in search of food, water, and shelter.
Although pet tortoises can’t be given miles of space to explore, it helps to provide the largest tank or enclosure possible. The enclosure should be at least four times the length of the tortoise.
The more space a tortoise has to exercise, play, and explore, the happier it’ll feel.
Tortoises have reasonable eyesight and can see up to 20 feet away, so they need visual enrichment. So, add barriers and objects like rocks, logs, and live plants.
Tortoises that can see from one end of their enclosure to the other may feel boxed in and crowded. If you break up their line of sight, they’ll spend more time exploring the bounds of their enclosure.
A tortoise may have 30-40 burrows in the wild, so they like lots of variety.
You should always provide a substrate that allows your tortoise to dig and burrow. Additionally, you should add hides like tunnels, hollowed-out logs, or plastic domes.
This allows tortoises to choose hiding spots based on their mood and play in new areas.
Tortoises need scratching posts to scrub and scratch their shells. The shell of a tortoise has nerve endings, which are stimulated by scratching.
Offering a scratching post gives your tortoise a chance to shed its skin and scutes more easily. It can also stay occupied by rubbing against objects when it’s not shedding.
Tortoises are skilled climbers that can walk up and over rocks, logs, and other rough terrains. Wild tortoises find it easy to scale trees, walls, and fences due to their shape and low center of gravity.
To keep your tortoise busy, place small rocks, ramps, and bridges so it can test its climbing ability.
What Do Tortoises Like To Play With?
Wild tortoises play and interact with natural objects like:
- Pieces of wood
- Live plants
- Non-predatory animals
- Trusted humans
Some tortoises find certain toys fun, while others find them boring. So, you should mix and match various combinations until your tortoise seems contented.
DIY toys for tortoises can easily be made at home. Examples include:
- Cardboard boxes
- Bathing dishes
- Small pots
- Mixing bowls
- Old tires
- Plastic containers
All the above items can make good hiding spots, climbing toys, and visual barriers.
Ensure everything is clean before putting them in a tortoise’s enclosure. Tortoises need enrichment, so you’ll keep them happy by giving them fun and interesting things to do and boredom breakers.