Why is My Tortoise Pacing?

Gopher Tortoise

Written by Lisa

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.

Last Updated on January 25, 2021

Tortoises are inquisitive and naturally walk about, so seeing yours walking around its enclosure should not be something to worry about. However, if you think your tortoise seems to be continually pacing back and forth, there may be a reason for this.

Where is Your Tortoise Kept?

Vivariums are not recommended for tortoises but this is a mistake many new owners make. If you are keeping your tortoise indoors, the best type of enclosure is an open one without glass walls. Tortoises are confused by glass walls as they do not understand these ‘see-through’ walls.

Pacing could also come about by your tortoise’s enclosure being too small. It is best to have an enclosure as big as you possibly can to prevent excessive pacing. Nonetheless, even in a bigger enclosure a tortoise might still be inclined to ‘pace.’

‘Pacing’ is Natural

What you might not realize is that pacing is actually natural behavior for tortoises. In the wild, tortoises walk for many miles. Pacing in captivity is thought to be related to this. Their natural instinct is to walk. And some species, such as Russian tortoises, are more prone to pacing than others.

Is Your Tortoise Looking for a Mate?

Although tortoises are generally solitary creatures, it could be the case that your tortoise is pacing more out of sexual frustration. Pacing is an early mating behavior and is a way to ‘catch the eye’ of a suitor.

Do You Need to Worry?

There is no reason to worry about your tortoise pacing unless it is accompanied by other signs that something is amiss, such as a loss of appetite. If your tortoise does not seem distressed, is eating and pooping normally, and is not showing any signs of ill health, then you can take it that its pacing is completely normal behavior and nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, if you are worried about your tortoise, talk to your vet for professional advice.


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