Tortoises are considered unfriendly and aloof. However, they can be loving and affectionate in their own unique way, so you can make tortoises care about you if you do the right things.
To get your pet tortoise to love you, you need to spend time together, give it a good environment to live in, provide regular food, and offer occasional petting.
Tortoises can become affectionate once they understand that you’re trustworthy and are fulfilling their day-to-day needs.
The way tortoises show affection is different from the way mammals do. To know if your tortoise loves you, forget what you know about affection and look at things from your tortoise’s perspective.
Can Tortoises Love You?
Tortoises can grow affectionate toward their owners, but it’s unlikely that they’re capable of love. Tortoises are naturally solitary creatures that don’t desire any companionship.
Tortoises only get together to mate. Female tortoises will leave their eggs a few days after laying them, for they have no desire to rear their young.
Tortoises are incapable of thinking about anything other than their immediate situation. Much of their behavior is an instinctual reaction to the present. Because of this, it’s difficult to say that tortoises are capable of loving anyone the way that humans love each other.
However, tortoises are capable of associating people with positive and negative events. When a tortoise associates you with comforting neck rubs and food, it’ll react positively to you.
Although it’s not love in the way that we understand it, it’s a form of affection that only arises when a tortoise is raised with care by a human.
How Do Tortoises Show Affection?
Tortoises have a limited way of showing affection because they have limited mobility and cannot vocalize like other animals.
However, they can still show affection by:
- Following you around
- Craning their necks so that you can touch them
If your tortoise follows you around or pays attention to you when you walk in the room, it means it recognizes you and associates you with positive things.
Indeed, your tortoise may only do this because it thinks you have food. However, it can still be considered a bare-bones form of affection.
In the same way that we stay close to people that we love due to how they make us feel, tortoises will follow their owners. It’s because they crave a feeling only you can provide.
Tortoises like to have their shell and head rubbed. When enjoying their petting session, they’ll close their eyes and crane their neck towards you. This means that the tortoise trusts you.
How To Get Your Tortoise To Like You
To get your tortoise to like you, you must ensure that it’s physically healthy. No matter how much time you spend with your tortoise, it won’t be in a good mood if it’s in poor health.
Once your tortoise has settled into its environment, you can get it to like you by:
- Petting its shell
- Giving it neck and head massages
- Giving it baths
- Hand feeding
- Wearing bright colors
It may take a while for a tortoise to warm up to you as they aren’t naturally affectionate creatures. So, they have no concept of what a relationship with a human is supposed to entail. However, once the tortoise learns that, with you, it can feel safe, well-fed, and comfortable, it will seek you out.
Can a Tortoise Love You If You Don’t Feed It?
When a tortoise grows to care for its owner, it associates them with positive things. Because of this, tortoises will only show affection to the person that takes care of them.
However, there are rare cases of tortoises showing affection for people that have never fed them. This isn’t a common occurrence, so little research has been done to explain why this happens.
The tortoise may be attached to you because of the way you smell or the way you dress. Tortoises have an excellent sense of smell, so there could be something about your natural scent that attracts them.
According to the University of Vienna, tortoises can distinguish between different colors. They prefer bright colors over darker ones, preferring reds and yellows. There could be something about how you dress or your hair color that attracts them.
It would mean that the tortoise is chasing you because it thinks you are food. However, it would explain why an otherwise shy tortoise might take a sudden interest in a stranger.
Do Tortoises Like to Be Held?
Most tortoises don’t like to be held. Being carried and moved around distresses them greatly, although only for a short time.
According to Conservation Physiology, tortoises exhibit signs of stress when being handled, although the severity of the response varies among tortoises.
If you want to shower your tortoise with affection, avoid carrying it. Tortoises don’t jump, and they never experience life away from land in the wild.
It scares them to suddenly feel the ground beneath their feet disappear.
Do Tortoises Like Being Touched?
Tortoises love being touched. They enjoy gentle petting, massages, and scratches on the top of their heads, their necks, and their shells.
Tortoise shells are not the rock-solid mass they seem to be. Shells aren’t as sensitive as tortoise skin, but they can still sense different touches.
For tortoises, feeling pleasure from being massaged on the neck comes from their relationship with birds in the wild. One of the many ways wild tortoises get rid of insects and parasites is by letting birds pick them off their skin. The tortoise then cranes its neck so that the bird has an easier time reaching the bugs. This symbiotic relationship allows the tortoises to stay clean while the birds get a meal.
Once the parasites and bugs are off, the tortoise feels immense relief. A captive tortoise may instinctively crane his neck to simulate what tortoises and birds do in the wild.
Many believe this proves that tortoises don’t feel happy when caressed and only allow it out of an instinctive need to feel clean. Others state that whether it’s a bird or a human, allowing another creature to get so close is a sign of trust and appreciation.
Is Headbutting a Sign of Affection in Tortoises?
Some believe that tortoises headbutt as a way of either showing affection or demanding it, but this isn’t true. Tortoises headbutt when they want to mate or when they are frustrated.
The belief that tortoise headbutts are a good thing comes from cats and dogs, who butt their owners as a cute way of expressing affection. In tortoises, headbutting has little to do with affection.
Tortoises will headbutt each other to bully the other into submission and claim their right to mate. In captivity, headbutting may mean that the tortoise is bored, demands food, or feels threatened.
How Long Does It Take for a Tortoise to Like You?
It can take an average of 1-3 years for a tortoise to like you.
How long it takes for a tortoise depends on various elements. How healthy it is, how attached it was to its old home (in the case of adult adoption), the species and its personality all contribute to how long it can take for your tortoise to warm up to you. No shortcut can make a tortoise love you faster.
Certain tortoise species are a lot friendlier than others. Sulcatas, Russians, and Hermann’s are species that are considered to be friendly. Because they aren’t as afraid as other species, they have no problem approaching people and accepting massages relatively quickly.
Do Tortoises Have Emotions?
It’s difficult for them to express their emotions because of their limited movement, lack of facial expressions, and inability to vocalize. With that said, if you take the time to get to know your tortoise, you’ll be able to tell how it’s feeling in no time.
Tortoises can feel frustrated, depressed, happy, and stressed. Their spectrum of emotions is simpler than ours, but they have feelings. These feelings are often in reaction to their immediate situation, so complex emotions like love and affection are simple to the point of seeming non-existent.
However, tortoises still have enough emotions to learn to care for humans. You can see this in how their behavior changes once they learn to trust you.