Should I Let My Tortoise Roam the House?

Leopard Tortoise

Many people who decide that they want a tortoise think that their new pet can be like other domesticated animals and be allowed to roam freely around their home. If you are someone who has been asking the question ‘should I let my tortoise roam the house,’ the answer is – probably not.

This does not mean that there aren’t tortoise owners out there who do allow their pets to roam the house, there are. In most instances though, it is not a good idea. There are many reasons for this, a few of which I’ll discuss in the below paragraphs.

Do Tortoises Like to Walk Around the House?

If you have considered allowing your tortoise to roam freely inside your home thinking that this would be cool, you might then wonder whether these reptiles actually enjoy walking around the house or not. It is highly likely that they do, but just because they might like it does not mean that it is a good idea.

During my research, I have found that some tortoise owners run into trouble with their pets because they have allowed them free reign of the house. Some are being terrorized by their tortoise who now believe the owners to be trespassers in its home. I have heard of tortoisesOpens in a new tab. running to snap at the feet of their owners whenever they are in the same room, leaving the houseowner with no choice but to run from room to room to get away and then have to sit with their feet permanently up on the furniture!

If you didn’t know, tortoises can be very territorial. So if you allow them to roam freely, they may quickly believe that every part of the home is theirs and theirs alone. It is best to have an enclosure for your tortoise but allow it to walk about outside from time to time (if you have the external space to allow for this). If you are interested, Amazon has a good selection of tortoise enclosures. Just click hereOpens in a new tab. to have a look (opens in a new tab).

We Recommend…

Rockever Tortoise Habitat

  • Box size is about 36″X24″X13″ the grate space is 3.3″x1″
  • Durable grate and latch
  • Solid wood construction with metal grate
  • Great for hiding, basking, climbing and relaxing

Is it Dangerous for a Tortoise to Roam the House?

Something else that tortoise owners forget about when allowing their tortoise to roam freely in the home is that it can be quite dangerous for the creatures. It is important to remember that a typical home is not the same as a tortoise’s natural environment, so it could come across things that might be dangerous to it.

Tortoise’s often get injured when roaming freely, and some can get stuck trying to get through an opening that is too small for them. As these reptiles also enjoy climbing, they could easily clamber onto something and then fall off, resulting in injury or worse.

There is also a risk of them ingesting a foreign object. Moreover, if you have young children in the home, your pet could get hurt accidentally by boisterous kids. Tortoises have also been known to get caught up in wires, hit by doors, stepped on, attacked by dogs, and inadvertently kicked.

Many tortoise owners that have allowed their pet to roam the house have reported dealing with pee and poop on the carpet. Others have said that their tortoises have tried to eat a variety of foreign objects including the carpet, dust bunnies, wires, plastic, furniture feet, jewelry, and rocks (among many others).

Important: Tortoises, like all reptiles, carry bacteria such as salmonella.

So while this is harmless for your tortoise, it could cause you and/or family members to become quite ill. Therefore, allowing your tortoise to roam the house increases the risk of a family member becoming ill with salmonella poisoning or the like.

One of the biggest cited reasons that people allow their pet tortoises to roam the house is so that the animals can get enough exercise. Nevertheless, tortoises can get enough exercise just walking about in their enclosures. You could also take them outside from time to time, weather permitting.

Are Tortoises Happier in an Enclosure?

Another reason tortoise owners allow their pets to roam about is because they feel that their pets would be happier with more space to move about in. However, while tortoises in the wild have plenty of space to walk about in – and are very happy doing this, often walking for miles – the same is not generally true for captive tortoises, especially when younger.

You should note that tortoises in the wild are prey animals and as such can feel quite stressed when out in what they consider to be the open. They may very well be moving about quickly, and you might think that they are excited to be out exploring, but the reality is that the openness could be making them feel exposed and threatened. It is more than likely that your tortoise is trying to find somewhere to hide.

You should also remember that tortoises are cold blooded creatures, which means that they cannot regulate their body temperature. They need to have artificial heat in their enclosure to help keep them warm. Even if you live in a warm climate, the floor outside the enclosure is likely to be quite cool. It is far better for tortoises to be in their enclosure where they can bask in the warmth they need.

Something else worth mentioning is that once you do allow your tortoise out of its enclosure, it will realize that there is another big world out there. This could mean that it becomes desperate to get out again once put back in the enclosure.


It is obviously your prerogative on whether or not you allow your tortoise to roam freely in your home. Nonetheless, bear in mind that doing so could be dangerous for you and your pet. Furthermore, your tortoise may begin to believe that the entire house is its territory and could start to view you as an invader.

Photo Credits:

Featured Image (Leopard Tortoise): Bernard DUPONTOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 2.0

Radiated Tortoise: Charles James SharpOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 4.0

African Spurred Tortoise: Melissa MitchellOpens in a new tab. – CC BY-SA 3.0

Speckled Cape Tortoise: Abu Shawka – CC BY-SA 3.0


I am a content creator by profession but exotic animals are one of my great passions in life. Over the course of my adulthood, I have had the pleasure of looking after stick insects, terrapins, an Egyptian tortoise, giant African land snails, a crested gecko, a Chilean rose tarantula, a couple of curly-haired tarantulas, and a selection of millipedes, centipedes and worms!

Related Posts