As we are familiar with the need for companionship in most pets, we assume that would be true for tortoises as well. But the reality isn’t anywhere near that assumption.
So, do tortoises get lonely? No, tortoises usually don’t get lonely. Their natural instinct is to live a solitary life without much interaction. They will be totally fine to live alone in captivity as well. You shouldn’t force any interactions or try to teach social skills to tortoises.
I will draw a conclusion to the heated debate about whether tortoises get lonely or not. You will also learn what other than companionship tortoises need in captivity. Let’s begin.
Do Tortoises Get Lonely?
No, they don’t. This is because of their unique social behavior that is unknown to many. Before getting into the detailed discussion, I want you to have a clear understanding of loneliness. Tortoises don’t perceive loneliness like humans or other animals do.
In most animals, loneliness is an emotional state when they don’t find other members of their species for companionship or social interaction. The range of loneliness and its impacts can vary in different animals.
For tortoises, loneliness isn’t even a factor. It is because they are solitary creatures. In the wild, they often live alone and only get close to a partner for breeding. When in captivity, tortoises show a similar behavior and do perfectly fine in living alone.
You just need to fulfill their basic needs for a healthy life and that is enough for tortoises. As loneliness isn’t a probable condition for tortoises, they don’t get lonely.
Logics in Favor of ‘Tortoises Get Lonely’
The assumption of loneliness in tortoises derives from the following reasons. Let me explain one after another.
Tortoises Show Unusual Behaviors
If tortoises are happy, they seem to lead a normal life where the activities aren’t erratic. But sometimes, tortoises show aggressive or lethargic behavior. They can also lose appetite in some cases. A common concept is loneliness causes these behaviors.
As a counterargument, I can say that tortoises aren’t aggressive creatures. But that doesn’t prove only loneliness is the reason behind this behavior and personality structure. In fact, tortoises can show such behaviors when they are stressed. It happens when there are many tortoises in the same habitat.
Tortoises Show Affection, So They Have Emotion to be Lonely
Another misconception is that tortoises can feel lonely because they show affection to their keepers. Even though it is true to some extent, their affection doesn’t have to do with emotions. Some pet owners claim that their tortoises are pleased in their presence.
But tortoises aren’t pleased because you are there. They can process various sound frequencies with their auditory sense and associate them with different situations. For example, when they hear your footsteps, they associate that with getting food and water.
So, when you get close to them, they are happy because it is feeding time. I feel sorry to burst your bubble, but they aren’t specifically happy to see you.
Logics in Favor of ‘Tortoises Don’t Get Lonely’
The following logic will convincingly prove that tortoises don’t get lonely.
Wild Tortoises Live Alone
When in the wild, tortoises don’t rely on social interaction that much. In fact, their interaction with other tortoises is limited to sharing resources or for mating. Tortoises are territorial, which means they don’t want other tortoises around their habitats.
As they live such a life in the wild, they don’t need any companion in captivity. If you provide them with the necessary resources and a wild-like habitat, they won’t need anything else.
Males Don’t Bond with Each Other
Even if you put two male tortoises together, chances are they will start fighting. Tortoises need a fairly big enclosure, where they can feel safe and sound. When there are male-male interactions with the same or other species in the vicinity, tortoises can get stressed.
Some Tortoise Behaviors Are Normal
When you see some unusual behavior like scratching or being aggressive, it is totally normal for tortoises. It doesn’t mean the tortoise is getting lonely. In fact, such behaviors indicate tortoises are stressed due to the presence of something around them.
So, there should be enough hiding places to live alone and feel secure. Below is a video of a giant tortoise that is living alone for a long time:
What Do Pet Tortoises Need to Be Happy?
Tortoises don’t even realize that they need companions to be mentally healthy. As long as you give them the right resources and living conditions, they will be happy and healthy. Here is a list of things you should provide for your pet tortoise.
- The enclosure should be large and resemble their natural habitats.
- Rock formations and substrates for burrowing.
- Hiding spaces where tortoises can take shelter when they are stressed.
- Enough food and clean water.
- Comfortable temperature with UVB lights.
Check answers to some commonly asked questions about the loneliness of tortoises.
Keeping male tortoises together can be risky. But if they have been together since they were hatchlings, you can keep two tortoises together. Female tortoises are better at living together because they are less territorial.
They don’t express attachments as such, but they will get used to the presence of the owners. They might even come to you for food.
If a tortoise is happy, it will show signs of excitement. For example, it will move faster toward you to get food from you.
Contrary to what many pet owners think, tortoises don’t have the mental ability to feel lonely. So when someone asks, do tortoises get lonely? The clear answer is they don’t.
Asking the question is a great sign of compassion but tortoises actually don’t need that compassion. They aren’t highly social creatures and enjoy a solitary life more. So, you will mostly find them living happily without a companion. The best way to keep them healthy and energized is to provide them with the necessary resources.