I personally love the rain! It’s refreshing, its sound is calming, it waters the trees, soaks the streets and it even smells nice. Just writing that on a hot summer day makes me long for a cosy winter evening! The question is do our pet tortoises feel the same? In this article we explore the issue of whether tortoises enjoy being in the rain, whether it is safe (or fun) and just how much rain is enough.
So do tortoises like rain? Tortoises do tend to like the rain! Some species are more acclimated to it than others, given that they are native to tropical rainforests, but all can have a bit of fun in the rain! In the wild, tortoises are outdoor animals so exposing them to safe amounts of rain will replicate many of their natural habitats.
There are certainly risks posed by allowing your tortoise to spend significant time in the rain. With the proper precautions and preparation, rain shouldn’t be an issue for your tortoise. Let this be your guide for all things rain-related and what you should keep in mind before letting your tortoise out into the elements.
Tortoises Do Enjoy Some Rain
Based on behavior and the testimonials of many tortoise owners, these animals do in fact like the rain. Think of it as a little shower. They get to enjoy rinsing off and drinking from the fresh little puddles that will form.
Many tortoises enjoy being gently sprayed with a hose, mister, or sprinkler, and this is just the natural version of that. Many tortoises will stick their necks out when they are enjoying themselves in a variety of activities. We often see this when our tortoises feel the rain!
A Simple Reason for Allowing Tortoises in the Rain
Exposing tortoises to the rain in proper doses and temperatures can be beneficial for the animal because it imitates their life in the wild. Tortoises live outdoors and may often be exposed to rainfall.
This is good because helping a tortoise experience more of his natural habitat reduces stress. And just like in humans reducing stress encourages a happy and healthy life. Stressed animals are often more prone to illnesses, eating habits are affected, they will hide, and become lethargic.
If you’ve read other articles on our site here, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. Animals, including tortoises, get stressed too! Not because of their boss yelling down their neck but because of being subjected to what to the them feels like an unnatural environment.
Rain and Tortoise Species
Tortoises come from many different climates and regions based on their species type. Sulcata, red-foot, star, and leopard tortoises prefer a warmer and humid climate.
Russian and Hermann’s Tortoises are adaptable in both warm and cold climates, making them ideal pets in many regions of the world. Most come from semiarid regions, characterized as a dry climate with slightly more rain than a desert region.
Other species are found primarily in desert climates but in general, most tortoises seem to be comfortable in the rain. This might vary from tortoise to tortoise as they all have their own personalities, likes and dislikes but overall they seem to enjoy the rain in small spurts!
Can Tortoises Get Wet? – Is it Safe for Tortoises to Get Wet?
Most tortoise owners are reluctant to put them in the rain at first as a precaution. I know we did when we first got our beautiful Hermann’s. Really, we were nervous of them getting sick. Tortoises are very susceptible to infection and disease and maybe the rain will increase the likelihood.
While tortoises cannot swim and do not live in water like turtles do, there is no danger in a tortoise getting wet. Tropical rainforest species of tortoise, such as the popular red-foot tortoise, are living proof that they can handle significant amounts of rain. Any problems that arise with a tortoise and rainfall are often related to the temperature.
Given that rainforests are warm and humid, tropical rainfall does not pose a threat to the tortoises that live there. Similarly, someone with a tortoise in Arizona will not have to worry about rainfall being too cold in the summer time.
Problems arise when the rainfall is accompanied by a drop in the temperature. Many times, it gets colder when it rains, dropping the tortoises’ temperature if they are wet. This is when rainfall can be dangerous. Lack of sun will not allow their internal temperature to rise again, leaving them vulnerable to illness. So if it becomes too cold and the weather too harsh, do bring the tortoise inside.
If you do allow your tortoise to be exposed to the rain AND you know that it can get them cold, it is important that they have an indoor portion of their enclosure or an ability to come safely inside.
A proper UV light should be readily available to the tortoise in order to replicate the effects of the sun. This is a great option for a tortoise to warm back up or stay out of the rain if she wishes.
Things to consider when leaving your tortoise in the rain:
- Severity of downpour
- Potential sun exposure
- Availability of shelter
These will determine if you should leave your tortoise in the rain unsupervised. If it is too cold or the tortoise is engulfed in water, you could put its life in danger.
A typical temperature range for tortoises to be kept at is around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-22 Celsius). Anything that gets much colder for consistent periods of time should be avoided regardless of rain. With the addition of rain, this can be dangerous for the tortoise.
Much like being out in the elements for long periods of time can lead to illness in humans and other animals. The most common reason for respiratory infections in tortoises is due to being exposed to cold weather. This is further exacerbated by cold rain.
Tortoises need and enjoy basking in the sun, especially if they are wet. They typically bask in 90-95 degree temperatures during the day (30-35 degrees Celsius). If there is no ability for them to dry, they will be exposed to illness and diseases more easily, similarly to other animals or humans.
Make sure there are opportunities for warmth and dryness. Because these risks are posed, many tortoise owners will keep their pets indoors during risks of heavy showers and dropping temperatures.
The Dangers Of Tortoise Enclosure Flooding
As mentioned, tortoises are very safe in the rain given that the temperature is manageable. Besides temperature, the amount of rain can be a concern. A significant amount of rain can sometimes lead to flooding.
Floods within a tortoise enclosure can be very dangerous as tortoises are not usually swimmers. If they are surrounded by too high of water, they face the risk of drowning.
Tortoises are strictly land animals, so deep water poses a high risk to their survival. This is especially true for domesticated tortoises that are not typically exposed to high levels of water.
This is particularly important for small tortoises and hatchlings. Bigger tortoises may be able to walk through pools of water without exposing themselves, while small tortoises and babies are exposed and may not be large or strong enough to avoid such water.
If you notice heavy rain, consider bringing your tortoise into a dry area of the enclosure or inside until the flooding goes away. Once the flooding has occurred, it is safest to bring your tortoise inside for safety. Return the animal once the flooding has stopped or no longer poses a great threat.
To prevent flooding risk within the enclosure, elevate the indoor section on risers or blocks. Create a ramp going into the indoor enclosure, given the tortoise the opportunity to stay dry as well as prevent flooding in the entire outdoor enclosure.
Many outdoor enclosures have an indoor area that looks like a dog house. These are good options for tortoises as they are fully enclosed, allowing them to stay dry and protected from rain, wind, and the cold.
Preventing Floods in the Tortoise Enclosure
Floods can be eliminated or prevented by:
- Planting grass in the enclosure
- Plant a rain garden
- Have portions of the enclosure with higher elevation
These solutions will lessen the risk of flooding as they focus on absorption and redirection. Grass will absorb water more effectively than dirt and other surfaces that do not need water to grow.
Similarly, a rain garden requires planting deep-rooted plants that are suitable for very wet climates and absorb extra rainwater. Shrubs, perennials, and ferns are just a few plants that help.
Make sure all of these are edible in case the tortoise gets hungry! Having higher elevation in areas of the enclosure will serve as an escape if a tortoise finds themselves surrounded by water.
Your tortoise can’t read weather reports so it is important you stay on top of them for him. While tortoises do enjoy a little bit of rain, a sudden drop in temperature can be very harmful. It is also harmful if the rain is heavy or prolonged as this might flood the enclosure.
In short, let your torts enjoy the rain but as soon as the weather turns cold and the rainfall is pouring heavily, it’s time for your tortoise to stay inside in a warm and dry enclosure.