Pet Keen advocates for adopting before shopping. We understand there are many reasons for seeking a breeder or purchasing from a store, though, so we encourage it to be done the right way. Learn more.
Tortoises can make great pets. They’re relatively low maintenance, are fun to watch as they explore, albeit quite slowly, and their diet is relatively easy to meet. However, you do need to be aware that some can live up to 100 years, which means that your pet tortoise will likely need to find a new home after you, and owning one represents a lifelong commitment.
This longevity also means that there are tortoises available for adoption, sometimes from friends or family and also through rescues or classified ads. Below, we look at the different options you have when it comes to buying or adopting a pet tortoise.
Tortoises as Pets: What to Know Before Welcoming One into Your Home
Tortoises make popular pets. They are quiet and unobtrusive. They don’t shed fur and they tend to be quite docile. However, you do need an enclosure and while it can be possible for tortoises to live outdoors, it does depend on the weather where you live as well as whether there is a large population of natural predators. Be aware that while they are docile and their slow speed makes them seem easy to keep in an enclosure, some species burrow and others are good climbers so you will need to ensure that an enclosure is secure. Your tortoise will also need to hibernate in winter, and this can be a stressful experience for tortoises: one that you will need to carefully manage.
Most tortoises are herbivores, which means you won’t need to feed them live insects or frozen rodents. However, you will need to meet the dietary requirements of your pet tortie to ensure that it remains healthy and happy.
The biggest obstacle to ownership for most people is how long tortoises live. Although it is rare for one to reach 100 years, it is possible, and many species do reach 70 or 80 years old. Taking on a young tortoise means a lifetime commitment and you should be prepared for the fact that your shelled pet may outlive you.
- Related Read: Turtle vs. Tortoise: Key Differences (With Pictures)
Where to Adopt Tortoises
Tortoises live a very long time, and even though prospective owners are aware of this, changes in family situations and living conditions mean that a lot of tortoises do end up needing new homes. As such, there are plenty of opportunities to adopt tortoises, and we encourage prospective owners to adopt rather than buy, where possible. Unlike cats and dogs, there aren’t really any major adoption networks, although some rescues do exist.
Start with friends and family that own tortoises. They may no longer be able to care for the animals and want to find them a good home. This way, you may also be able to get the enclosure and some other accessories, in exchange for a caring new home for the animal.
You can also check boards in local shops and even advertisements in local newspapers. Local social media pages and groups might have details of tortoises that are available for adoption occasionally so it is worth checking these sites out regularly. Craigslist is another possible place to find adoptable tortoises.
American Tortoise Rescue (http://www.tortoise.com) is a large rescue organization. They have rehomed more than 4,000 Tortoises in 28 years and were responsible for launching World Turtle Day in 2000. They have details of local shelters near you where you might be able to find Tortoises in need of new homes. Adoption fees vary but are usually around $250 for a single tortoise.
Where to Buy Tortoises Online
You can buy Tortoises online and have them delivered to your home address. Shipping is usually done in a transport-safe livestock box that has ample holes and substrate to ensure that the tortoise is kept safe and stress-free.
The box may also have heat pads to keep them warm in wintertime. You do need to ensure that the tortoises are shipped appropriately when buying online, and you should look for captive-bred tortoises to avoid any illnesses or behavioral problems that can occur with wild-caught tortoises being caught and sold as pets. The following websites offer a good variety of tortoises for sale.
Tortoise Town is a family owned and operated turtle and tortoise farm that is proud to sell ONLY healthy captive bred tortoises, box turtles, and aquatic turtles, chameleons, geckos, and iguanas for sale.
Backwater Reptiles offer exotic reptiles for sale online at absolute rock-bottom prices, which means they make these fascinating animals available to you affordably as pets, or even to start your own reptile breeding project.
XYZReptiles is the cumulative effort of over 35 years of herpetology and marketing experience. They have a love for the animals and an eye for detail and have combined these traits to bring customers a great reptile buying and keeping experience.
How Much Do Tortoises Cost Online?
Prices vary according to the age and specific species of tortoise but usually start at around $200 to $300, potentially rising to as much as several thousand dollars for rarer breeds and morphs.
Pet Stores That Sell Tortoises
Buying tortoises from a store means that you can see the tortoises before buying and you can ask questions about tortoise ownership and the specific species that the store has for sale. You can also buy any supplies and equipment. Try local pet stores and especially reptile specialists. Reptile stores have greater knowledge of tortoises and will be able to advise you on the best species for your requirements, while also advising on the right equipment.
They will even be able to give you a few handy tips on caring for your new shelled pet. Some large chains do sell tortoises, although they are rarer than other more common pet species.
PetSmart has over 1,600 stores across the U.S. although different stores carry different stock and different animals. It is worth visiting to see if your local PetSmart has tortoises.
Petco has around 1,500 stores in the U.S., Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Like PetSmart, some stores do have tortoises, but it isn’t guaranteed, so you will have to call in and see what animals are currently in stock.
How Much Does a Tortoise Cost in Store?
Prices in-store are similar to those online, although stores like PetSmart are less likely to carry rare tortoises and more likely to offer Sliders and other common breeds. Expect to pay $300 to $1,000 in the big stores. Some specialist reptile stores may offer rarer species and are likely to be able to get rare species in on request. Prices for some of the rarest tortoises can reach $2,000 or more.
Tortoise Breeder Information
Tortoise breeders operate across the U.S. but while there are some highly reputable breeders that care about the welfare of the animals they breed, there are also some unscrupulous breeders. Always ensure that the tortoise you buy is captive-bred and do your research before using any breeder. Try to seek out other customers that have used the breeder.
Tips for Adopting or Buying a Tortoise
Adopt, When Possible
It is better to adopt, but this isn’t always possible. There may not be tortoises available for adoption in your area, or the only tortoises that are available might be ill. Adopting also means you don’t know the history of the tortoise, or its general condition. Check with adoption centers and services to see what they have available.
Try to See the Tortoise Before Buying
Although this isn’t possible when buying online, try to make sure you see the tortoise you buy before buying it. This will give you a chance to check its condition or health.
Buy Captive Bred
Capturing and shipping a tortoise from its homeland can be extremely stressful and it can cause injury and illness to the tortoise. Buying captive-bred tortoises minimizes the risk of injuries and illness.
Avoid Shell Damage
A tortoise’s shell is essentially an extension of its skeleton, and without its shell, a tortoise will likely die. Even a small amount of damage can lead to ill health, so check the condition of the shell. Look for cracks as well as more obvious signs of damage.
Have a Backup Plan
Remember that some tortoises can live up to 80 years in captivity. If you move house or are no longer able to care for your tortoise, do you know somebody who will take over its care, or do you have details of a rescue?
Tortoises can make great pets. They are relatively low maintenance, don’t need walking, and they don’t shed. They are also docile creatures that are fun to watch and have a relatively easy diet. However, they live a long time and do have specific habitat and environmental requirements that need to be met to ensure they are safe and healthy.
Adopt, where possible, but if you do buy, ensure you buy a captive-bred tortoise from a reputable source to help avoid stress and illness in the tortoise.
Featured Image Credit: seasoning_17, Shutterstock