Tortoises are reclusive and aloof pets. However, tortoises can be affectionate animals in their own way, so you can get them to care about you if you do the right things.
For a pet tortoise to love you, spend time together, give it a good living environment (clean with ample space and enrichment), provide regular food, and offer petting and handling.
Tortoises can become affectionate once they understand you’re trustworthy and fulfill their care needs.
The way tortoises show affection is different from the way humans do. To know if a tortoise loves you, forget everything you know about affection and look at things from the tortoise’s perspective.
Can Tortoises Love You?
A study by the Physiological Society looked at the distribution of dopamine in a tortoise’s brain, discovering that they feel pleasure, anxiety, mania, satisfaction, and motivation.
Tortoises can grow affectionate toward their owners, but it’s unlikely they’re capable of love. Most tortoises are naturally solitary creatures that don’t desire same-species companionship.
Tortoises only come together to mate and further the species. However, female tortoises will leave their eggs a few days after laying them, as they have no natural inclination to rear their young.
Tortoises can’t think about anything other than their immediate situation, so most of their behavior is an instinctual reaction to the present.
For this reason, we can be certain that tortoises don’t love anyone like humans love each other.
However, tortoises can associate certain people with positive and negative events. When a tortoise associates you with comforting neck rubs, safety, and food, it’ll react positively to you.
Although it’s not love in the way humans understand it, it’s a form of affection that only arises when a tortoise is raised with love and care by a human.
How Do Tortoises Show Affection?
Tortoises have limited ways of showing affection because they have limited mobility and only produce certain sounds humans can understand. However, they can still show affection by:
- Following you around their enclosure.
- Craning their necks so that you can pet them.
If a tortoise follows you or pays attention to you when you enter the room, it recognizes and associates you with positive things.
Of course, the tortoise may only do this because it thinks you have food. However, it can still be interpreted as a bare-bones form of affection.
Tortoises follow their owners in the same way that we stay close to people we love due to how they make us feel. It’s because that person craves a feeling only we can provide.
Tortoises like to have their shell, neck, and head rubbed. They’ll close their eyes and crane their neck toward you when enjoying a petting session, which means that the tortoise trusts you.
How To Get Your Tortoise To Like You
To get a tortoise to like you, you must ensure that it’s physically healthy. No matter how much time you spend with a tortoise, it won’t be in a good mood if it’s under the weather.
Once a tortoise has settled into its environment, you can get it to like you by:
- Petting its shell.
- Giving it neck and head massages.
- Providing bathing opportunities.
- Hand-feeding favorite foods.
- Standing nearby in bright colors.
It may take a while for a tortoise to warm up to you as they aren’t naturally affectionate animals.
So, they have no concept of what a relationship with a human is supposed to entail. However, once a tortoise realizes it can feel safe, well-fed, and comfortable with you, it’ll 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 that individual with positive outcomes. For this reason, tortoises will only show affection to the person caring for them.
However, there are rare cases of tortoises showing affection for people who have never fed them. This isn’t a common occurrence, so little research has been done to explain why.
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 something about your natural scent attracts them.
According to the University of Vienna, tortoises can distinguish between different colors.
Tortoises prefer bright colors over darker colors, preferring reds and yellows. Something about how you dress or your hair color could attract them.
It could mean the tortoise is chasing you because it thinks you have food. However, it would explain why an otherwise shy tortoise might take a sudden interest in a stranger.
Do Tortoises Like to Be Held?
It scares tortoises to suddenly feel their feet leave the ground because that’s how airborne predators attacked them in the wild.
According to Conservation Physiology, tortoises exhibit signs of stress when handled, although the severity of the response varies considerably among tortoises.
If you want to shower a tortoise with affection, avoid carrying it.
Do Tortoises Like Being Touched?
Tortoises enjoy gentle petting, rubs, and scratches on their heads, necks, and shells. Tortoises’ shells aren’t a rock-solid mass. While shells aren’t as sensitive as skin, they can still sense different touches.
Tortoises experience pleasure from being massaged on the neck due to their relationship with certain birds in the wild. One of the ways wild tortoises get rid of insects and parasites is by letting birds pick them off their shells and skin.
The tortoise then cranes its neck so the bird can reach the bugs. This symbiotic relationship allows tortoises to stay clean and bug-free while the birds get a meal.
Once the parasites and bugs are gone, the tortoise feels immense relief. A captive tortoise may instinctively crane its 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 be free of bugs and parasites.
However, others believe that whether it’s a bird or a human, allowing another creature to get close is a sign of trust and appreciation.
Is Headbutting a Sign of Affection in Tortoises?
Some people believe tortoises headbutt as a way of showing affection or demanding it, but this isn’t true. Tortoises butt when they want to mate or feel frustrated.
The belief that tortoise headbutts are positive comes from cats and dogs, who butt their owners to express 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, wants food, or feels threatened.
How Long Does It Take for a Tortoise to Like You?
How long it takes for a tortoise to grow fond of you depends on the following factors:
- Past treatment (if rehomed).
- Age of adoption.
- Food provision
- Husbandry and care.
- Petting and handling.
- Health and wellness.
No shortcut can make a tortoise love or grow fond of you faster. However, certain pet tortoise species are friendlier than others, such as Sulcatas, Russians, and Hermann’s.
Do Tortoises Have Emotions?
It’s difficult for tortoises to express their emotions because of their limited movement, lack of facial expressions, and inability to vocalize in a hat humans understand.
That said, if you take the time to get to know the tortoise, you’ll be able to tell how it’s feeling.
Tortoises can feel depressed, frustrated, happy, fearful, and stressed. Their spectrum of emotions is simpler than humans, 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 how their behavior changes once they trust you.