Many owners assume that, since tortoises are slow-moving, they don’t need to play. However, tortoises need entertainment for exercise and mental stimulation.
Tortoises get bored, aggressive, and depressed when they have nothing to do. In the wild, they explore miles at a time, forage near-constantly, and play with objects around them.
To keep your tortoise physically and mentally enriched, they must be entertained. Options include puzzle toys, mazes, balls, and rocks to play with, as well as obstacles to climb over.
Offer your tortoise hides, substrate to dig in, and room to wander around.
You can make DIY toys like cardboard boxes, scratching posts, bathing dishes, and plastic tubs. Adding variety to your tortoise’s diet will also keep it happy.
Aim for bright colors, different smells, and unique textures so that it can experience the same changing diet it would in the wild.
Do Tortoises Need Entertainment?
Wild tortoises’ lives are enriched by the objects they encounter every day in their surroundings. They can:
- Burrow and bury themselves in the sand or dirt
- Climb small rocks
- Play with their fellow tortoises
This should be the same for your pet tortoise. A lack of entertainment can make your tortoise aggressive toward people and other pets. In worst-case scenarios, your tortoise might even grow depressed and refuse to eat. Here are other reasons you should keep your tortoise entertained:
According to Applied Animal Behaviour Science, tortoises living in captivity tend to experience high levels of stress. This is because artificial habitats might not have adequate stimuli to encourage pets in captivity to behave like their wild counterparts.
As a result, your pet tortoise might become anxious and stressed. Keeping your tortoise entertained will go a long way to reducing its anxiety.
Since tortoises have a laid-back demeanor, you can mistakenly believe they don’t get bored. However, tortoises can get listless, depressed, and lonely if they do not receive the stimulation they need. This can negatively impact your tortoise’s behavior.
Your tortoise might become aggressive and destructive as a way to keep itself entertained. Depressed tortoises might injure themselves as they try to stay active. Keeping your tortoise busy prevents them from getting bored.
Enhances The Feeling Of Safety
Tortoises will feel the safest when they can hide in enclosed spaces and burrow in the soil. According to the International Journal of Behavioral Biology, tortoises hide in burrows to cool off and evade predators.
If your tortoise tank is set up with enrichment, it will include multiple hides and burrows where your tortoise can hang out. This will help it feel much safer because it will have multiple spots to tuck itself away in. Even having the space to dig out these burrows can keep your tortoise entertained since it will enjoy scraping away at the soil.
Variety is important. Wild tortoises hide in soil, under rocks, in fallen trees, and around other debris. To replicate this, ensure that your tortoise enclosure has objects like rocks, logs, and live plants. This will give your pet ample locations to play and hide.
Encourages Physical Activity
Obviously, tortoises cannot jump, skip, or go for a run. However, physical exercise remains essential for their health and wellbeing.
Allowing your tortoise to walk, climb, and dig underground burrows will keep it entertained and guarantee it stays physically fit. Ensure that the tortoise enclosure has adequate space so that your tortoise can explore like it might in the wild.
What Do Tortoises Like To Do?
Despite being introverted, tortoises like to play, explore, and hide. Here are things your tortoise will like to do:
- Digging and burrowing
Activities For Tortoises
Designing enrichment activities for tortoises can be challenging for new owners. Since tortoises are reserved animals, knowing what makes them happy can be overwhelming.
Tortoise enrichment involves creating an environment that can engage and stimulate your pet. Aim to recreate the natural habitat wild tortoises are used to. Their natural instincts for exploring, foraging, climbing, and playing won’t go away in captivity.
By allowing your pet to act like its wild counterparts, you can help it remain happy and avoid boredom. This also involves:
- Giving your tortoise a variety of foods and treats
- Adding various scents and colors to its tank
- Exposing it to other pets
- Offering it puzzles and toys
Here are a few tortoise enrichment ideas:
A tortoise’s main source of fun will be through digging out burrows in the sand and soil. These burrows also make ideal spots for maintaining warmth and humidity levels. You can encourage your tortoise to dig holes by placing the right substrate in its enclosure. Soil, sand, and sawdust are good choices for digging activities.
Mazes And Puzzles
According to the University of Vermont, tortoises are among the most intelligent reptiles. They can learn new tricks through positive reinforcement and remember them for years. For this reason, tortoises need mental stimulation to keep them entertained and sharp. There is no better way than by offering your tortoise 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 foraging behavior that your tortoise would experience in the wild and makes it work for its 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, easy terrain to explore, so providing some difficulty will keep your tortoise sharp.
You should also keep your tortoise entertained with its regular meals. Tortoises rarely eat the same thing each day in the wild. You can mix things up by offering:
- Leafy greens
- Other foods
The more colorful and aromatic they are, the more interested your tortoise will be. These reptiles have a strong sense of smell and color vision, so they like their food to be engaging. Different varieties of the same vegetable can also keep your tortoise excited for mealtimes.
While tortoises like to keep to themselves, that doesn’t mean they’re unsociable. Tortoises appreciate neighbors, not roommates. Interacting with other tortoises, different pets, and their owners is a great way to keep a tortoise busy. As long as you ration these playtimes and don’t overwhelm your tortoise with company every day, it will feel enriched.
The more your tortoise gets to know you, the more affectionate it may become. Your tortoise may touch its nose against your arm or hand to show appreciation. Some will even approach you when they realize you’re back home from school or work. If you have a social tortoise, then you can teach it various games, like chasing food in your hand around its tank.
How To Keep Tortoises Entertained
Entertainment is good for a tortoise’s physical and mental wellbeing. However, tortoises usually spend the majority of their time within an enclosure. Because of this, you should set up a tank or outdoor pen that has enrichment options. Here are ways to keep your tortoise entertained, even when it’s not with you:
Provide A Large Enclosure
Tortoises love to explore, particularly when they are in the wild. Depending on the species, one might travel up to 10 miles in a single day while searching for food. Although most pet tortoises can’t be given this much space, it helps to offer the largest tank or pen you can. The enclosure should be at least 4 times the length of the tortoise. The more space it has to exercise, play, and explore, the happier it will be.
Create Visual Barriers
Tortoises have decent eyesight and can see up to 20 feet away, so they need visual enrichment. With that in mind, be sure to include barriers and objects like rocks, logs, and live plants.
Tortoises that can see from one end of their enclosure to the next may feel crowded and boxed in. If you break up their line of sight, they will spend more time exploring and learning about the bounds of their tank. This will keep things interesting.
Provide Plenty Of Hiding Spots
A tortoise may have 30-40 burrows in the wild, so you can be sure they like variety. You should provide a substrate that allows your tortoise to dig and burrow. Additionally, you can offer hides like tunnels, hollowed-out logs, or plastic domes. This allows it to choose hiding spots based on its mood and play in new areas when it feels like it.
Set Up Scratching Posts
Tortoises need scratching posts to scrub and scratch their shells. The shell of a tortoise has nerve endings, which get stimulated by scratching. The nerves may not be that sensitive, but they need an occasional rub-down.
By offering a scratching post, you give your tortoise a chance to shed its skin and scutes more comfortably. When it’s not shedding, it can stay entertained by rubbing against objects.
Place Climbing Objects In The Enclosure
Tortoises like to climb. They may not be able to scale vertically, but they can still walk up and over rocks, logs, and other rough terrains. To keep your tortoise busy, you can place small rocks and heavy balls along the path, so your tortoise can test its climbing skills. It may prefer to knock these around or scratch against them, but it might also want to scale up one.
What Do Tortoises Like To Play With?
Toy shopping for a tortoise may be difficult. In the wild, tortoises play and interact with natural objects like:
- Pieces of wood
- Live plants
- Small, non-predator animals
Since your pet tortoise cannot access these toys easily, you should add them to your pet’s enclosure.
Of course, each tortoise is unique. Some will find certain toys fun, while others will find them boring. You can mix-and-match your options until your pet seems entertained. Tortoise enrichment toys generally include balls, rocks, hides, and even climbing nets. As long as it keeps your tortoise exploring and moving, it should be fun.
DIY toys for tortoises are even better. These can be made easily at home, and you don’t need to spend extra money to find out your tortoise isn’t interested. Examples include:
- Cardboard boxes
- Bathing dishes
- Small pots
- Mixing bowls
- Old tires
- Plastic containers
All the above items can make very good hiding spots, climbing toys, and visual barriers. Just make sure they are clean and disinfected before placing them in the tortoise enclosure. Tortoises need enrichment, and by giving it objects to keep busy, you can ensure it stays happier.