“Is My Tortoise Happy?” – Here are 5 Signs to Look Out For

Chaco Tortoise

It is not as easy to tell if a pet tortoise is happy as it is for other types of pets such as cats or dogs. In general, however, a healthy tortoise is a happy tortoise. It is important then that you look for signs of good health in your tortoise as this typically implies contentment. Below I have listed a few signs to look out for that indicate a healthy, happy tortoise:

  1. Your tortoise will have a good appetite. If your tortoise is happy, it will be eating and pooping regularly. When a tortoise is stressed or unhappy, it is likely to lose its appetite. This can also occur if it is unwell. It is important to ensure that your tortoise has accessible water as well as food, despite what you might have been told about them getting all of their water from their food. Baby tortoises in particular need access to water or they can quickly become dehydrated.
  2. Although tortoises have a reputation for being quite lazy and slow, they are actually active reptiles. Indeed, in their natural habitat, they will walk for miles on end. If your tortoise is happy, it will likely spend time exploring its surroundings. Lots of tortoise species enjoy walking about and climbing on any obstacles they come across or shoving them out of their way. If your tortoise spends most of its time in one spot, hiding, or keeping its head in its shell, it is highly likely that it is not happy.
  3. Healthy, happy tortoises have healthy shells. A healthy shell will be firm and smooth to the touch. It will have scutes (plates on the upper shell) without gaps or soft spots between them. The bottom shell should also be firm. If you notice any cracks or soft spots on your tortoise’s shell, you should have this checked out by a vet.
  4. A tortoise should have bright, shiny eyes if it is healthy and happy. If the eyes are runny or weeping, it could be a sign of infection or injury and should be checked out. It may be that your pet has suffered an injury to its retina which is causing irritation and watery eyes. On the other hand, if your tortoise’s eyes are looking quite dry and dull, it may be a sign of dehydration.
  5. When it comes to the skin, dry and wrinkly indicates good health in a tortoise. However, it should not be so dry that it causes cracking and soreness. If you notice cracking of your tortoise’s skin, contact a vet for advice. Likewise, if your tortoise’s skin is moist, this too is a problem that should be checked by a professional.

A healthy tortoise is a happy tortoise. It is important to be aware of the signs of good health in your pet; for anything you don’t deem to be healthy or healthy-looking, have your tortoise checked out by an experienced vet if necessary.

Phot Credits:

Featured Image (Chaco Tortoise): Arteivanna – CC BY-SA 4.0


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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