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how to feed tortoise when away

How To Feed Tortoise While On Vacation

Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing, but many people spend their time away worrying about the well-being and safety of their pets at home.

Of course, tortoises require less upkeep than other animal companions, as they eat less, make fewer messes, and can sustain themselves on less water.

In theory, this means you won’t have as much to fret about when leaving your tortoise behind. However, tortoises still need to be watched over. Accidents can happen in your absence, like a tortoise getting flipped over and unable to right itself.

Your tortoise may also get sick or be vulnerable during an emergency. Worst of all, there’s the danger of them running out of food and water.

The risk factor depends on how long you’re away and what precautions you take.

Can a Tortoise Be Left Alone for a Week?

A tortoise can be left alone for a week, but it’s not recommended. Even if tortoises can endure that long without supervision, it can be hard on their systems.

Runs Out of Food

Tortoises can survive months without food because they have a slow metabolism and can derive energy from their existing food source for a long time. That’s why it’s recommended that you have 2 starve days a week in a tortoise’s feeding routine to keep it healthy.

Even still, if it runs out of food for several days, this can put it in a weakened state. The tortoise will reduce its activity and conserve energy. This will be uncomfortable, even if it isn’t life-threatening.

If you leave behind extra food, these meals could spoil or begin to rot, putting your tortoise off eating. Even if there’s technically food available, it won’t consume it, leaving it to go hungry.

Flipped Over

If your tortoise flips itself onto its back, you won’t be there to assist it. Many tortoises are capable of flipping themselves over when needed, but this isn’t a guarantee.

Depending on the terrain, a flipped tortoise may be unable to rock itself side to side or push off an object to land on its feet again. If your tortoise is young, old, or sick, it’ll struggle to right itself as easily as a healthy tortoise.

Being flipped spells trouble for tortoises if their owners are away. The tortoise won’t be able to drink or eat, and the weaker it gets, the less energy it’ll have to flip itself over. According to Scientific Reports, flipping itself upright takes a metabolic toll on tortoises.

Even if your tortoise doesn’t die, it’ll have been in extreme stress for days. Tortoises find being flipped on their backs dangerous because it exposes their soft underbellies to predators. They also find it hard to breathe, as the weight of their organs being inverted can weigh down on their lungs.

No Drinking Water

Perhaps you’ve watched how much your tortoise drinks in a week and have calculated how much water it needs to last during your vacation. Maybe you provided an extra measure to be safe, but there’s no guarantee that your tortoise can consume that water.

Water can accumulate germs and bacteria if your tortoise knocks bedding, food, or waste into the water dish. Depending on the size of the dish, your tortoise may even bathe in it, contaminating the water.

So, enlist someone to check on the tortoise’s water, so the supply can be refreshed if needed. Although tortoises can survive for months without food, most species can only last 1-2 days without water.

what to do with tortoise while on vacation

Sickness

Your tortoise could get sick from consuming contaminated substances. Many illnesses stem from moldy, rotten food and dirty water.

While you don’t need to deep-clean your tortoise’s enclosure weekly, it should be spot cleaned often.

Emergencies

Should your tortoise get out of its enclosure, get injured, or face off against another pet in the house, you won’t be there to help it.

So, it’s recommended that you know what your tortoise is up to. This may be accomplished by checking cameras or having another person check in on the tortoise.

You should also have a backup plan for helping your tortoise in an emergency, which may include setting up an arrangement with a neighbor to come over and take your tortoise to the vet if it gets hurt.

How To Feed A Tortoise When Away

Owning a tortoise doesn’t mean you can never go on vacation again.

You can make preparations to ensure your tortoise is healthy, happy, and safe in your absence. It merely depends on how long you will be gone.

Short Vacation: 2-4 days

Leaving your tortoise alone for 2-4 days shouldn’t be a problem. If your vacation lands on the tortoise’s normal starve (or fasting) days, you don’t even have to leave food out.

If your tortoise is still young and needs to eat daily, you can use an automatic feeder. You can schedule it to drop food into a bowl every few hours so your juvenile tortoise has fresh meals.

A range of models hold different trays and open at different times, so you can still give your tortoise a balanced diet while you’re away.

Get a water fountain instead of filling a water bowl and leaving it in the cage. The stagnant water in a bowl can accumulate germs. A water fountain will contain a constant stream of flowing water that doesn’t get contaminated as quickly.

Medium Vacation: 5-7 days

If you’re going away for 5 days to a week, you’ll need to hire someone to watch your tortoise occasionally. You can still use an automatic feeder and water fountain, but someone needs to check in to ensure everything is working.

The automatic feeder and fountain can run out of power, or there could be a blackout that damages the devices. Your tortoise will be well taken care of if someone is there to fix these problems.

If paying someone to take care of your tortoise is too costly (especially if you’re gone for a week), you can get a camera to watch it while it’s in its cage. If you notice that it needs anything, you can always contact a trusted person to take care of it.

Whether it’s a professional pet sitter, a neighbor, or a family member, you need to find someone to look after your tortoise if your vacation is longer than 5 days.

Long Vacation: 8+ days

If you’re going on vacation longer than a week, you should consider tortoise boarding. With your tortoise in professional care, you don’t have to worry about whether your tortoise is eating or drinking enough.

If there are no official exotic animal boarding companies near you, ask local vet centers and pet stores. Many have no problem boarding animals for a low price.

If you can’t board your tortoise, you can get a professional pet sitter to visit your home. You don’t need to pay them daily visits; your tortoise should be fine if it’s visited every 2-4 days.

The important part is that the tortoise is getting fresh food, the sitter rearranges a few things in the cage to encourage exploration, and its environment gets cleaned often enough.

What To Do With A Tortoise While on Vacation

Before you go on vacation, prepare your tortoise for your absence. This isn’t limited to checking on its food and water but also the animal itself. You should:

  • Take your tortoise to the vet
  • Clean the cage
  • Wash your tortoise’s shell
  • Leave instructions for the person sitting
  • Make everything automatic
  • Replace batteries and light bulbs

Before thinking about how to feed your tortoise while you’re away, you need to know if it can even handle being alone for a day. Taking your tortoise to the vet before leaving will uncover any hidden health problems.

You can either cure your tortoise of any problems before you go or organize to have it medication while you’re away. You should also deep clean the cage and wash the tortoise before you go. If everything is clean, the tortoise has fewer chances of getting sick.

If someone is caring for your tortoise, leave instructions. This should include general information about tortoises and their needs, especially if the sitter isn’t familiar with reptiles.

Leave specific information about the tortoise, such as any medication it needs or its temperament. Leave a list of signs of illness or injury the tortoise could display and what to do in case of an emergency.

You should make everything in the enclosure’s environment automatic. Besides the food and water, this should include the temperature settings and humidity. This step is especially important if you’re vacationing during extreme weather.

If the temperature outside is hot or cold enough to affect the temperature inside, your tortoise will suffer. Automatic thermostats and humidifiers will keep the enclosure comfortable.

Replace the batteries and bulbs around the tortoise’s enclosure. This can be for the thermostat, the basking area, the humidifier, and the automatic feeder.

Always keep extra batteries and light bulbs just in case something happens. Tell the sitter where they are and how to replace these components around the tortoise’s cage.