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Reptile Behavior | PetsWeekly

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When we first adopted Augustine, our Russian Tortoise, we knew absolutely nothing about how to care for a turtle or tortoise. That’s okay. We didn’t need to know everything. Part of the fun of being a pet parent is learning HOW to care for your pet - and that goes for any species. Of course, there are certain things you absolutely must know about any species you bring into your home, like what their diet is and what type of housing they require (the PetMD® Reptile Center at Petsmart® is a great place to begin). But after this, you can discover the details and further information about any animal. Today we're talking about things that probably aren't in the care kit that the store sent you home with.

This post is sponsored by petMD Reptile Center, and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Reptile Ownership, but PetsWeekly only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. petMD and PetSmart are not responsible for the content of this article.

Highlights
Tortoises live a very long time, require multivitamin and calcium supplements, and don't understand glass.

We learned a lot of things about reptiles when we took Augustine into our home. The first thing is that despite being a desert animal, our Augustine LOVED the water and would spend hours in the soaking pond. Most Russians won't do this, so you need to pay attention to your individual tortoise. Each of them are quirky and have their own preferences.

Beware cats and dogs - don't let your pets flip your tortoise over

We learned that having a turtle can be challenging when you also have dogs and cats. First off, anything big likes to mess with smaller animals. That’s just a fact. So we had to learn how to keep the dogs and cats out of Augustine’s cage because they would roll him over onto his back - mostly because they thought it was funny as he struggled to get upright (which he could never do on his own). This is why you must never leave your tortoise unattended in an area that isn't fully enclosed.

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Tortoises don't understand windows or glass

When we first got Aug, he was given to us in a 10-gallon glass aquarium that was way too small and also, well glass. So he kept trying to climb out of it. We eventually moved him into a giant custom enclosure that had plexiglass so we could watch him, but he still kept trying to escape. Finally we understood that he didn't get the concept of glass and it was cruel to give him false hope. We had to take the glass away and put up regular wooden sides on it. That made for a lot happier tortoise.

Tortoises have a sense of humor

We learned that Augustine has a sense of humor and that his bite was much worse than his bark. He loved to go into the backyard and chase the animals around. They thought he was terrifying. Augustine also learned that to keep the dogs and cats out of his cage, he could easily snap at them. They were quick to move after that and far less likely to bother him!

Tortoises are excellent diggers

Tortoises love to dig and burrow into the sand. They will dig all the way under a fence unless you have a concrete footing, which is why it’s important to never leave your reptiles unattended when they are outside or in an enclosure that doesn't have a floor. You wouldn’t believe what kind of escape artists they are!

Some Tortoises like to be petted

Augustine loved to be petted and to stretch his legs. The most fun time for him (and for us) was letting him run around (supervised) in the yard. Contrary to what you may think, tortoises need to have shade available (but sun is excellent for his shell). Focus on your climate and do your best to adjust the environment to your tortoises needs. Every tortoise setup needs a basking area AND a colder side where they can hang out. Tortoises are accustomed to fairly extreme temperature variances (about 20-30 degrees). This is why it's important to have a large terrarium or table, so they can move from warm to cool. The are where they sleep should have high humidity (about 60%) which you can achieve by using moist substrate.

Calcium supplements and multivitamins are necessary

We eventually learned that calcium was necessary for Augustine’s diet. We couldn’t just feed left-over vegetables and fruits - he needed a balanced diet (we used a canned tortoise food to supplement his herbivore diet). We dusted his fruits with a calcium supplement twice a week and added a tortoise-specific multivitamin to his food once a week. Every captive species requires a very special diet, so be sure you research.

Tortoises live a long time

Russian tortoises can live to be over forty years old. This is not a pet that you can bring into your home lightly - it's a lifetime commitment.

Beware any pest control

If you have any type of reptile, bird or fish, you have to explore alternative ways to handle pest control. It’s very important that you look at natural pesticides when you have any type of fish, reptiles or birds in your home.

If you're thinking of adding a new tortoise to your home, we hope you select a Russian Tortoise. They are wonderful pets, but they do require work and it's important that you do your homework. This is not the best pet for a child who wants one that they can pet and hold - Russian tortoises are fairly shy and prefer to be left to their own devices most of the time. You will need to commit to a lifetime of care.

And if you're looking at other quirky things about tortoises and turtles, watch this fun video from the PetMD Reptile Center!

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stacymantle
Author: stacymantle
About the Author

Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who currently resides in the southwestern deserts of Arizona with a few dogs, several cats, and a very understanding husband. She is a regular contributor to Pet Age Magazine, Catster, Animal Behavior College, and of course, PetsWeekly. Many of her stories and articles have been translated into several languages, and now reach an international audience. She is also the author of a bestselling urban fantasy/thriller, Shepherd's Moon; a humor book entitled, Conquering the Food Chain: Living Amongst Animals (Without Becoming One), and a line of Educational Activity Books for children.


Reptile Quotes

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Reptile Facts

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