It can be surprising when a placid tortoise suddenly chases after you.
You may find the tortoise chasing you during mealtimes and pursuing you around the house when you let it out. It may even chase you away from its outdoor enclosure or target your feet when sitting down.
Pregnant tortoises, mating tortoises, and tortoises establishing territory will defend their space, leading to them chasing off anyone who gets too close. A male tortoise may chase its owner during the mating season to show off to a mate or drive off competition.
Tortoises will chase after dogs to protect their territory or chase cats because they have confused their tail for a mate. If the tortoise is charging your feet or toes, it may be confusing them with food.
Why Is My Tortoise Chasing Me?
Tortoises aren’t prone to chasing people down, partly because of their easy-going nature and partly because they aren’t fast enough. In certain cases, a tortoise will still try.
You don’t need to worry about it chasing you forever. Most tortoises will enter a period of defending their territory or running off competitors.
Depending on its sex, the time of year, and how you care for it, this may be due to:
- Territorial disputes
- Competing for mates
- Wanting space
These factors can cause your tortoise to chase you, tortoises, and other pets.
Some of these issues can be resolved with your direct intervention, while others need to be waited out.
If you’re wondering, “why does my female tortoise chase me?” this is likely the explanation. The territorial instincts of a pregnant tortoise are amplified, and she can become quite aggressive.
While carrying eggs, she may be more defensive of herself and her area. You may also find her picking fights with other female tortoises and chasing after you.
These actions work to drive you away from where her eggs will be laid. You can tell if this is the case when the female tortoise explores around the enclosure and digs in several locations curiously.
Tortoises don’t protect their eggs for long after they’re laid as tortoises don’t protect their young. So, this aggressive behavior should pass once she’s finished with her eggs and moves on.
Tortoises may chase you during mealtimes when they’re hungry.
If the tortoise is particularly ravenous, it will be eager to access its food. You might find it headbutting or acting aggressively when you bring the food, and the tortoise may even chase you outside of mealtimes.
This is the tortoise’s way of telling you that it’s hungry and upset about that fact. You can fix this behavior by feeding it more regularly or adjusting the nutritional balance of its diet.
You can also create a fixed schedule for mealtimes so that the tortoise knows when to expect its food. This will keep it from chasing after you whenever it feels peckish.
If the tortoise doesn’t act aggressively, it may just be excited about its meal. Tortoises can learn how to recognize their owner and expect food to be given at a designated time.
If your tortoise chases you outside of mealtimes and doesn’t appear aggressive, it may be happy to see you.
In the wild, tortoises are solitary creatures and prefer the comfort of their own territory. However, that doesn’t mean they’re unfriendly or devoid of social behavior. Tortoises will interact with others in their area and display complex social relationships, even outside of mating.
According to Herpetologica, tortoises develop structured domestic hierarchies, which usually help them determine how food, space, and burrows are allocated. Tortoises prefer to have neighbors but not roommates.
Your tortoise may come to see you as a friendly neighbor and want to visit with you. As you explore the home or yard, it will follow leisurely, or do a quick rush to catch up when you get too far ahead.
4/ Territorial Behavior
According to Biological Conservation, tortoises establish territories and can be very defensive of these spaces, especially during mating season. If your tortoise feels threatened about its enclosure or burrows, it may start chasing you to protect them.
This is common when you introduce a new tortoise to the enclosure. It’ll feel unsettled by the new surroundings and want to comfort itself by establishing a safe territory. It’ll then chase off anyone who threatens this space.
Male tortoises can get riled by the presence of another male. This protective behavior can bleed over into its other relationships, causing it to defend its territory against you and other tortoises.
This should pass once the tortoise has established its territory and feels comfortable that it’s not challenged. It should also tame down once the mating season ends.
If you’re wondering, “why does my male tortoise chase me?” it’s likely mating season.
During this time, male tortoises will compete for the attention of female tortoises. They won’t appreciate rivals and will attempt to drive them off. Even the process of chasing you may be a way to show off to a female.
Spending time with a female tortoise in heat can upset the male. He’ll feel that you’re challenging his position or are seeking to outdo his courting routine.
You can separate the male and female until the mating season is over. You can also give them more space until the courting mood has passed and they return to normal.
Tortoises are slow-going creatures, but they still need enrichment to feel happy and balanced.
If your tortoise has nowhere to explore or burrow and nothing fun to munch on, it’ll get bored or depressed. This can leave it to create its own fun, including chasing after you.
The more bored your tortoise gets, the more upset and moody it’ll become.
7/ Lack of Space
Aside from defending its territory, your tortoise may feel overcrowded, overstimulated, and want its personal space.
According to Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, extreme environmental conditions can result in a tortoise sharing its burrow with another tortoise. However, they rarely prefer this and choose to interact with other tortoises in more neutral territory.
If you handle your tortoise regularly and constantly walk around inside its enclosure, a tortoise may seek to drive you away. Consequently, this can lead to a tortoise aggressively chasing you or seeking to hide in a burrow.
If your tortoise is chasing you, it’s likely hormonal due to the mating season, pregnancy, or courting behavior. You can wait this out until your tortoise calms down. If it’s hungry, bored, or needs space, you should provide food, enrichment, and extra privacy. If your tortoise isn’t aggressive, it may just be happy to see you.