If you’ve already got a tortoise or a hedgehog you might be wondering if you bought the other kind of animal whether they could share facilities and save you some money when it comes to setting up home for them. Maybe, they could even be friends? Well, let’s see.
Can a tortoise and a hedgehog live together? Tortoises and hedgehogs are unlikely to live together comfortably. Tortoises are generally solitary creatures. Hedgehogs are more social, but they could be at risk from the salmonella that many tortoises carry. Overall, the environments that these two animals require are quite different so it’s a real challenge for a tortoise and a hedgehog to live together.
Let’s look at these issues a little deeper and see how, if you really want to, you could manage having both pets in the same home.
Tortoises and Hedgehogs Living Together: The 4 Pros & Cons
There are four issues that might impact your decision to allow your tortoise and hedgehog to live together:
Pro: Tortoise Food vs. Hedgehog Food
One area in which there is unlikely to be any cause for concern is in the area of diet. A tortoise is primarily a vegetarian. (Unlike turtles which are completely omnivorous by comparison). They ought to be eating a diet which is roughly 80% vegetables.
Tortoises love kale, dandelions, green pepper, dark leafy greens, etc. they can also eat fruit which is where around 20% of their calories should come from. They particularly enjoy melons, grapes and apples (but not the seeds as they are poisonous!). They can also eat commercially designed tortoise food and enjoy some reptile supplements.
Hedgehogs, on the other hand, have no real interest in vegetables. They’re insectivores. Their diet should be high in protein and while they will eat a little vegetable on the side, they turn their nose up at almost anything that isn’t either high in sugar or high in protein.
Thus, you won’t find hedgehogs and tortoises competing for food. This is obviously a positive step in the right direction.
Tortoises are nature’s loners. They don’t even tend to hang around for very long after their young have hatched. The only time you’ll see tortoises getting together is when they are *ahem* getting together to make more tortoises.
You will find that they avoid members of their own species whenever possible and the idea that they’d seek out the company of another species is simply out there. Two male tortoises are guaranteed to start fighting.
Related article: Are tortoises better in pairs?
Hedgehogs may look like friendly little fellows, but they too are quite solitary creatures in the wild. They explore and forage by themselves and if they spend too much time in each other’s company, they fight.
It is worth noting that hedgehogs are sometimes raised together in captivity and they can get along as long as they are raised with each other from birth, otherwise, they won’t tolerate each other.
But hedgehogs would prefer not to share with other animals too.
So, one step forward but two steps back. These animals aren’t all that keen on their own kind and are much less so on other animals.
Con: Tortoises Can Carry Salmonella
This, for us, is the big deal breaker when it comes to tortoises and hedgehogs sharing space on a permanent basis.
Tortoises can’t help it but in common with many other reptiles and, in particular, turtles. They can harbor the salmonella family of bacteria. These bacteria live in the gut of your tortoises and to the tortoise, they’re completely peaceful passengers.
They will live with the salmonella inside them for their whole lives and never get sick from it.
This cannot be said of your hedgehogs. Now, given the fact that your tortoise and your hedgehog are basically going to ignore each other a salmonella infection of your hedgehog is not guaranteed but it becomes more and more likely the more time they spend in each other’s company.
As with all mammals, if a hedgehog gets a salmonella infection it can become very sick. It may vomit and suffer from diarrhea. If this continues for long enough it may become completely dehydrated and die.
Related article: Tortoises and Salmonella: What you need to know
The risk, as we say, is small on a casual contact basis but over time, we think it becomes a near certainty that your hedgehog will get sick from being near a tortoise.
Con: Hedgehogs Can Attack Anything
Hedgehogs also have a nasty habit of attacking and biting things at random. It’s part of their natural playful charm and most of the time, this means that your hedgehog is just being itself.
We think it’s unlikely, mind you, that a hedgehog can severely damage a tortoise even if it rolls up into a ball and the tortoise prods at it. But even a small cut or wound on a tortoise can become a seriously infected area.
It’s not that your hedgehog and tortoise are going to go into combat on a regular basis, but it is something of a risk and it’s one we’d prefer not to take.
Hedgehogs Are Better For Tortoises Than Dogs (Or Cats)
One thing that we feel duty bound to point out is that while a hedgehog and a tortoise are not ideal companions as you can see from the breakdown above, they are still better companions for each other than a dog or a cat would be.
Dogs regularly chow down on tortoises and while they can play nicely with a tortoise for years without any issues. They can also change overnight and suddenly your tortoise’s friend because his consumer.
It’s best not to allow dogs and tortoises to occupy the same space without keeping a very close eye on them. Nobody knows what it is about tortoises that drives dogs crazy but it does happen all the same.
Related article: Can a tortoise survive a dog bite?
Cats are somewhat better but it’s a good idea to remember that as a pure carnivore, a cat’s only purpose is to hunt and even when they’re playing, they may be a bit rougher than your tortoise can handle.
In particular, cats may bite or scratch your tortoise in such a way that the wounds get infected. However, if a cat proves itself to be wholly trustworthy in the company of your tortoise it’s not likely to change its mind at a later date, either.
Related article: Can tortoises live with other pets?
The Best Option For Hedgehogs And Tortoises
OK. So, we’ve established that hedgehogs and tortoises shouldn’t share a home. They’re just not built for it and there’s a serious risk that your hedgehog might get sick in the long term. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep both hedgehogs and tortoises.
Nor does it mean that you shouldn’t allow the two animals to spend some time with each other. What it does mean is that you should carefully manage interactions between the two, with safety in mind.
If you have a large secure space outside, there’s nothing wrong with allowing the two to wander around in it together at times. You should keep a close eye on them to make sure there’s no fighting (unlikely) but otherwise let them get on with it.
Related article: How much space do pet tortoises need?
What you shouldn’t do is try and force an introduction between the two, the tortoise, in particular, may not take this the right way and it could cause them a bout of severe stress and might even lead to a fight.
We don’t think it’s a good idea to allow them to mix indoors. Why not? Well, we’re back to that salmonella risk. When a tortoise poops indoors, it can’t be trained to use a litter tray, so it just goes where it wants to go. This is no big deal if you quickly clean it up, normally, because you won’t be eating your dinner off the floor.
Your hedgehog might though if a tasty insect wanders through the space and that means it might catch salmonella even if the floor is now clean seeming to the naked eye.
Can a tortoise and a hedgehog live together? Not really, no. It’s not that we don’t understand the reasons why you might want to keep two interesting pets in the same space – it’s that the two lead very different lives.
The biggest concern, of course, is the risk presented by tortoise’s carrying the salmonella bacteria which might infect your hedgehog and make it sick or even die.
That’s not to say you can’t try some time together in a more managed interaction, but we’d expect the outcome to be the tortoise ignoring the hedgehog as best it could.