Let's talk pets! As you might know, I've been the happy owner of this little cutie for a few years now, as a friend could no longer keep her. As a child, I'd always dreamed of having a pet tortoise, but growing up in a household with Alsatians made it a bit of an impractical suggestion.
When I knew that I would actually be able to welcome a tortoise to my home, I decided I needed to read up on a few things, just to make sure I could give it everything it needed. I know that all pets are a responsibility, but some take a little more preparation than others. Tortoises, like lizards and snakes are classed as exotic pets and usually need a more complicated set up than some of the more common household pets. With the increase in people wanting to keep exotics, the RSPCA have come up with a quick #TropicalChronicles guide, which covers the basics for anyone who might be wondering if a new pet is right for them. I think it's really good and figured I would share some of my experiences as a tortoise owner.
B has a tortoise table (which is basically a run, with a covered section at one end) which has a heat lamp at one end and a UV strip light across one side. As I don't yet live in somewhere with a secured garden, it's rare that she gets to explore outside, so the UV light gives her what she needs in terms of sunlight. When I do take her outside, we have to keep an eye on her - tortoises are pretty great at escaping.
If you're after an affectionate pet, a tortoise is *not* the one. They're not particularly happy with being handled and they don't do cuddles. They're quite inquisitive and B will try to explore most things, so it's important not to lift them too high or put them anywhere they could fall from.
She's fed on a mixture of leaves - sometimes lettuce (although Romaine leaves; Hermann's tortoises shouldn't eat iceberg lettuce as their systems can't cope with it), often dandelions, clover and watercress, with some curly kale. I've tried various seed kits (this and similar) and to be honest, I like that as I know that everything I'm growing is definitely safe for her to eat. I do also bring plants back from the allotment, but that tends to mostly be dandelion, as they're easily recognisable and not mistaken for anything which could be harmful. Special treats include tomatoes and strawberries - her favourite!
With her food, I add a pinch of calcium carbonate, which is important as some of the green foods can hinder calcium intake and that's what helps a tortoise's shell and bone structure to grow properly. She's also got a cuttlefish bone, which is a good source of calcium which is always available to her, although she doesn't often bother with it.
I'm quite lucky to live quite close to a really great vet who specialises in reptiles, keeping many herself. I've only had to take B to the vet once, when the humid temperatures caused by the boiler exploding caused her to get a respiratory problem - it's always a really bad sign if you can hear your tort making a kind of "popping" sound when they're breathing. She was totally find after a course of antibiotics, though she hating having to be injected every day. But a good vet is definitely something to do your research on before you get any kind of exotic pet.
The RSPCA site has lots of great advice for new and potential pet owners and it's always much better to read up on these things first, before taking the plunge and then causing yourself (and your new pet) unecessary stress and worry.