Do Pet Tortoises Like Being Held?

Chaco Tortoise

As tortoises have a hard outer shell, it is common for people to just assume that these creatures cannot feel it when they are being touched or picked up. And because of this assumption, it is also natural then to wonder whether pet tortoises like being held or not.

While tortoise shells are not as sensitive as skin, it does not mean that these creatures do not feel a rub or pat from their owners. Whether they enjoy being held is another matter though. The reality is that just like other animals, some tortoises like the feeling of being touched and held while might not.

Should You Handle Your Tortoise?

A tortoise is not like a dog or cat in terms of being a cuddly pet. So although they can make for affectionate pets, many tortoises do not really like to be picked up and handled. It is better to rub or stroke the tortoise if you really want to interact with it, rather than picking it up.

It is important to take great care if you do pick up your tortoise as they have very strong legs and can wriggle about quite a lot. If your tortoise does not like to be picked up, it is likely to move its legs amazingly fast in a bid to get back to the ground. You will need to support it firmly to ensure you do not drop it. Also, bear in mind that applying too much pressure on your tortoise’s shell can be uncomfortable for your pet due to the position of its internal organs.

To create a bond with your tortoise, you could rub under its chin or hand feed it. Note that tortoises do not generally seek affection from humans. When they do interact with their owners, they are usually looking for food.

African Spurred Tortoise
African Spurred Tortoise

How to Play with Your Pet Tortoise

Tortoises tend to spend their days eating, sleeping, and walking about. So how do you play with them?

Tortoises like moving things about their enclosure, so you can add some plastic plant pots and lightweight balls that they can knock about. You should also consider adding climbing areas as tortoises, believe it or not, absolutely love to climb. Use things like rocks and small logs but remember not to place any of these near to the sides of the enclosure or your pet is liable climb up and over the side.

Should You Kiss Your Tortoise?

Although it is common for humans to kiss and hug pets such as cats, dogs, and rabbits, you should never kiss a pet tortoise. Almost all reptiles carry salmonella bacteria. This bacteria does not harm them but it can cause serious illness in humans. Do not kiss your pet tortoise or share food with it, and always remember to wash your hand thoroughly after handling yours.


Most pet tortoises do not like to be picked up and held. Your tortoise may interact with you when seeking food, but it is unlikely to be looking for physical attention in the sense that dogs and cats would. Tortoises prefer to be stroked rather than held and most will struggle to be released from a hold if picked up.

When considering a tortoise as a pet, just remember that it is not a cuddly pet that will enjoy cuddles.

Photo Credit:

  • Featured Image (Chaco Tortoise): Arteivanna – CC BY-SA 4.0
  • African Spurred Tortoise: Melissa Mitchell – CC BY-SA 3.0


When not researching and writing about weird and wonderful animals, Lisa enjoys spending time with her 'two' families: her husband and 3 kids, and her 3 dogs, Sooty the cat, Frank the terrapin, and Bob the bearded dragon.

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