In the role of client, I found myself praised and then shamed in equal measure when taking my tortoise for a check-up this week.
Being a paranoid RVN pet owner, I was getting a bit worried because Bridget seemed considerably smaller than a friend’s female tortoise of the same type.
After being quizzed on her housing, feeding, lighting, heating and hibernation, I was very pleased to be complimented on her excellent care, but saddened to learn that both my vet and @Exoticpetvet on Twitter still regularly see tortoises whose main issue is poor husbandry.
This surprises me – mainly because tortoises aren’t cheap to buy. For example, the shop where we purchase our heating and lighting equipment sells them from about £300 each, so they aren’t generally seen as a cheap “impulse buy” like rabbits or guinea pigs so often are.
A lot of the issues go back to the age-old problem: who should sell pets?
It would appear that few pet shops are able to sell a pet and ensure its husbandry needs are met, either at point of sale or later in its life. Tortoises in pet shops already suffer from poor husbandry as they’re usually kept in vivariums, so it’s really no wonder the public think these are acceptable to house them in longer term.
(Tortoises are not generally well-suited to indoor, vivarium-style maintenance – despite what you may be told by the seller. “All but the very largest will have an inadequate floor area even for a small tortoise”, claims an article about vivariums on the Tortoise Trust website.)
I have even seen a client with a pen in the shape of a tortoise, with the heat lamp set too low and very limited space for their pet to move in. They had also been advised to feed it only chicory. Being posh north London it was organic, but still…
Personally, I was pleased to learn I am on the right track and can confidently pass on my husbandry tips. My only failing was sex… it turns out Bridget isn’t a girl, but a boy – which may well explain his smaller size compare to my friends female tort.
Bridget has yet to divulge which pronouns she/he prefers, but we may need to change her name to Bruce.