Tortoises can be housed outside during the warm summer months in the UK. In the winter tortoises can be hibernated in a cool area such as an outhouse or kept active inside in a warmed environment. Animals which have not eaten adequately over the summer or who are ill should not be hibernated.
- If choosing to house a tortoise indoors, they can be free range or a 10-or-20-gallon aquarium is usually adequate.
- Substrate or bedding material should be easy to clean and non-toxic. Newspaper, towels or even Astroturf is recommended. Alfalfa pellets can also be used for bedding and are often eaten by the tortoises, which is acceptable. AVOID sand, gravel, wood shavings and cat litter, as these are not only difficult to clean but can cause impaction if eaten on purpose or accidentally should the food become covered by these substrates. Cedar wood shavings are toxic to reptiles!
- A hiding place is appreciated by all reptiles and should be available.
- A heat source is necessary for all reptiles, which are cold-blooded and need a range of temperatures to regulate their internal body temperature. Ideally there should be a heat gradient set up, where one area is warmer than another. Therefore a tortoise can move around its environment and warm or cool itself as needed. Temperatures should range from 15-18oC (60-65oF) to 26-29oC (80-85oF). An inexpensive way to do this is to supply a focal heat source using a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a reflector hood, although pet stores sell other types of heat lamps. At night, heat isn’t necessary as long as the temperature remains at 18-21oC (65-70oF).
- UV light is necessary to provide Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is needed to allow the ingested calcium available to the body. The UV output of any light decreases with age; they should be replaced every six months. For UV light to work, it must reach the pet in an unfiltered form, which means that you must make sure there is no glass or plastic interposed between the pet and the light. Please ask our vets for advice on the best type of UV light to buy, to ensure the light produced is of the correct wavelength to be of benefit.
- If you choose to house your tortoise outdoors, it should be contained within an enclosure.
- Make sure a shaded area is provided, as well as a hiding area. Tortoises can dig out of enclosures, so bury the fencing 6-12inches or put bricks or rocks under the area. Of course , food and fresh water must always be available.
- Bring the tortoise indoors if the temperatures drops below 15oC (60oF).
- Finally, remember that tortoises can become prey for neighbourhood dogs and cats, so keep this in mind when housing a tortoise outdoors.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to call the practice.
At Wendover Heights, we provide a wide range of services for tortoises and other reptiles, including consultations, worm egg counts and worming advice and pre-hibernation checks.