Tortoises often grow very old and because of this, a lot of people think it’s a good idea to give their pet a companion. These companions vary from other tortoises to other reptiles and pets from different species such as cats and dogs. But is that a good idea?
Can tortoises live with other animals? Most often the answer is yes, tortoises can live safely with other animals. However, any animal can get aggressive, playful, curious and sometimes sick. In these scenarios, problems between tortoises and other animals can come up.
In this article, we will look at the best conditions for keeping a tortoise together with other pets. In addition to that, we’ll discuss a number of species and how they usually interact with tortoises.
Do Tortoises Like Each Other as Companions?
As we’ve discussed in this article “Are Tortoises Better in Pairs?” many people have the impulse to give tortoises a mate because they think their pet will otherwise get lonely. That’s not necessary at all. In fact, in the wild, tortoises are solitary animals from a very young age. They just don’t crave any companionship.
Of course, it’s also possible that you – as an owner of pets – would like to have several tortoises in your home. That’s not a problem in and of itself, but you have to be careful with how you approach this. Not all tortoises go well together.
What to look out for with multiple tortoises
In a perfect world, you want all of your tortoises to get along fine when they live together. That’s not always the case though. Tortoises – especially males – can be dominant and even aggressive to one another.
Consider these points to minimize the risk of that happening:
- Make sure the tortoises are of the same species – this prevents transmission of diseases or parasites that could cause problems if passed on to animals from another species.
- Check if your enclosure is large enough – to accommodate for an extra tortoise, make sure they will not crowd each other too much.
- Never put two males together – in many cases, this will lead to dominant and even aggressive behavior. They will most likely try to hurt each other.
- Avoid putting a male together with a single female – the male can display dominant or aggressive behavior towards a single female. A male with several females or two or more females together is usually not a problem.
- Pair tortoises of a similar size – if this is not the case, problems with dominance can occur. The larger tortoise will dominate the smaller one.
Even if you have taken all of the above into account, it’s still imperative that you – especially in the beginning – pay attention to whether the tortoises go well together. If you’re not sure, it’s probably better not to put the animals in the same enclosure. Tortoises are territorial animals and this instinct can leads to aggression.
In nature, these animals will search for another territory when necessary. In a closed environment, this is obviously not a possibility. Be mindful that you forced them into the same area whether they like it or not. You created these circumstances so please keep an eye on their behaviour towards each other and be ready to deal with any problems that come up.
Can You Keep Tortoises with Other Pets?
There’s a good chance you’ll have more then one pet if you decide to get a tortoise. Some people make plans to keep multiple pets under one roof, but have a skewed idea of how different species can interact with each other. Tortoises, by nature, don’t make particularly good companions to other animals. The reality of putting multiple pets into the same room is usually very different from the one that Walt Disney has tried to instil in our brains for decades.
Pets that are cute in our eyes can in fact:
- Hurt or fight each other
- Eat each other
- Pass diseases onto each other
- Frighten each other
- Irritate each other
A little disclaimer: there are always exceptions to a rule. Sometimes cute pet videos go viral on social media but just because that tortoise is best friends with a dog, doesn’t mean ALL dogs will get along with ALL tortoises.
Let’s look at some common pets and how they might get along with tortoises.
Do tortoises get along with dogs?
If you keep your tortoise in an enclosure where it can’t reach the dog and vice versa—then you won’t have any trouble for obvious reasons. However, it’s a different matter if they can physically interact with each other.
If you have a dog that is confident and friendly, then I would recommend that you carefully let them get acquainted, but always keep your eyes on the situation. If your dog tends to be aggressive at times, you should probably avoid contact altogether.
No matter how long the animals know each other or what character your dog has, there’s always a risk involved. Dogs can willingly eat your tortoise or mistake it for a toy and chew on it. While some dogs get along fine with just about any species you introduce them to—a lot of them will not.
The shape and the movement of your shelled reptile can trigger instincts in a dog that might lead to bad things for your tortoise. It’s not your dog’s fault. The animal just responds to what it knows.
In turn, it’s also possible for a tortoise to hurt a dog. Be especially careful if you have a small dog breed. Most reptiles have a surprisingly strong bite that can do severe damage to your these breeds. Do not underestimate it.
So do they get along in general? Hard to say upfront, since it’s more of a trial and error thing. I would look at it on a case-by-case basis and see how it develops. They aren’t natural enemies but they probably just don’t know what to make of each other.
Do tortoises get along with cats?
There are a lot of similarities between the pairing of dogs and cats with tortoises. Although a lot of the same principles apply – like letting them get acquainted and take it from there – I also want to point out a crucial difference.
Cats are very agile when compared to dogs. They’ll be able to enter a lot of tortoise enclosures if they want to. This can be very stressful or frightening for a tortoise, even if your cat is just curious as they usually are.
So in general, I would second the dog recommendations, with the addition that you need to be a lot more careful about keeping your cat out of the tortoise enclosure. This measure is primarily for the sake of smaller tortoises, but – in some cases – can also protect your cat.
We at home have two cats. When they were kittens they wanted to play with just about everything and anything that moved! As a result, they were very curious about our tortoises-they went closer to sniff them, touched their shells and even tried to push them around a little bit.
Luckily, this was always under supervision and the tortoises were already growing up. Now that our cats are older and our tortoises are bigger, they are used to each other and for the most part they simply ignore each other. Sometimes a cat enjoys observing them as they feed but that’s where it stops.
From this experience my sincerest advice is to:
- Never allow a cat to be around a baby tortoise without supervision
- Never allow a kitten to be around any tortoise without supervision
- Never allow a cat and a tortoise to be together if they are strangers to each other
- Once both cats and tortoises are grown up and they are used to each other, they will probably simply ignore each other and no one will get hurt.
- If a cat is particularly playful, or a tortoise particularly aggressive, supervision is highly recommended at all times. Separate them when you’re not home!
Can tortoises live with chickens?
We’ve never had any chickens ourselves, but I’ve also never heard of any problems between the two species. The experiences I have come across so far indicate that they usually lack any type of interest in each other’s presence. That’s probably a good thing if you want to know if they will try to hurt each other.
Now, when it comes to chickens, there is one caveat. If you have a farm—and the chickens or the eggs are meant for consumption, take into account that tortoises often carry salmonella. This means you should always keep tortoises away from places where food gets prepared or consumed. If not, you run the risk of transferring the salmonella to food and, in turn, infect human beings with it.
So while tortoises and chickens themselves will most likely get along, tortoises should be kept away from anything food-related.
Can bearded dragons live with tortoises?
It’s usually not a problem to have a bearded dragon and a tortoise in the same house. In fact, under certain circumstances, they can even get along in the same tank—given they have plenty of their own living space.
Both species are usually solitary and tend not to be aggressive by nature towards other animals. This is especially true when there is a clear situation of non-predatory animals in the same vicinity. It’s probably best to keep them in separate tanks though, just to be sure, and always keep an eye out when they do interact.
Can tortoises live with lizards?
In most cases, tortoises are harmless for lizards and vice-versa when it comes to aggression. They should get along just fine. However, one of the reason this goes well is that most tortoises are herbivorous and thus not interested in eating or attacking other animals.
However, there are carnivorous tortoises as well. If you put a small lizard in a tank with one of these guys, your run the risk that your little friend gets eaten, so keep that in mind if you want your pets to live under the same roof.
As we mention again below, putting different species of reptiles is not a good idea as a rule of thumb. Even if they don’t harm each other willingly, they might transfer bacteria that are harmful. Better safe than sorry when it comes to pet health!
Can tortoises live with geckos?
Once again, while these reptiles aren’t normally aggressive, there’s always a chance that animals get territorial at some point. They can hurt each other if they fight each other for more space in their environment. In the case of putting tortoises with geckos, you might want to be concerned about your gecko being harmed.
As with other lizards, tortoises and geckos can transfer harmful bacteria or viruses among each other. All in all, it’s usually not a good idea to put them in the same living space. If they have a separate tank but you want them to interact every now and then, be sure you supervise it so nothing goes wrong.
In general tortoises tend to be peaceful creatures so they will get along with most other pets. Always keep in mind the several caveats we mentioned so that all your animals can live happily and safely together.
If any of your pets is young or very old, it’s probably best to separate them and only allow interaction under supervision. And the same applies if your pets are new to each other. If you suspect that any of your pets might be getting sick, separate them immediately and visit your vet.