A Guide to Caring for Sulcata Tortoises as Pets

The world is full of wonderful and fascinating animals, some of which we keep as pets. While dogs and cats dominate the lists of popular pets there are many more to choose from. It is reckoned that, in the USA, more than 48million households include a dog. Compare that to 32million for cats and a mere 1million for the third most common pet in the US, which are fish.

However, the number 4 spot goes to a group of creatures that are fast becoming more popular, especially with people looking for a pet that is different from the norm. We’re talking about reptiles and while only 360,000 US households keep reptiles that number is far greater than a few years ago.

sulcata tortoise

This is largely because we now have a better understanding of how to keep reptiles in the home and access to more affordable equipment. Of course, the reptile is a broad term that refers to snakes, lizards, and to the animal we are talking about in this article – the tortoise, in particular the Sulcate Tortoise.

We’ll be looking at why people keep them, what sort of pets they are, and what you need to know to be able to keep a Sulcata Tortoise. First, let’s look at why we suggest this species of tortoise as the one to keep as a pet.

Why a Sulcata Tortoise?

We are all familiar with the tortoise as a creature that has been around on Earth for many millennia, and one that is slow-moving, long-lived and entirely charming. These lovely, peaceful animals with their hard shells and heads that retract when threatened are loved by both adults and children and there are many different species.

The Sulcata Tortoise – also known as the African Spurred Tortoise – is the species most commonly kept as a pet. Native to Africa, the Sulcata Tortoise will take up to 20 years t reach adult size. This can be as much as 30 inches long and weighing potentially more than 100lbs! Bear in mind that tortoises are believed to be the longest-lived animals on Earth. Kept well and correctly, a Sulcata Tortoise will outlive its owner and possibly pass 100 years. The oldest living documented tortoise is believed to have lived 255 years!

So, the Sulcata Tortoise is a placid type of tortoise and is also a curious one with a definite personality. Many owners refer to them as being akin to a slowly moving dog! This more comprehensive guide tells you everything you need to know about keeping a Sulcata Tortoise, and we want to talk about what they are like as pets.

face of sulcata

Do Tortoises Make Good Pets?

Tortoises can be kept either indoors our outside, the latter being ideal if you have a good-sized yard and live in a warm part of the country. They will thrive in a family setting, too, as long as they are treated with care. Whether they make a good pet or not depends on what you are looking for in a pet.

A dog or cat is there for companionship and cuddles. However, while you cannot really cuddle a Sulcata Tortoise it will make a good companion as they do become surprisingly loyal. Your tortoise will get to know you and will be an enjoyable – as well as fascinating – animal to have around.

Food and General Care

There is a lot of confusion about what tortoises eat but the basic fact is this: mainly greens! Spring vegetable mixes and all types of lawn grass are part of the tortoise diet. They will also love kale and have been known to take to tomatoes. Mulberry and grape leaves and turnip greens will go down well with your tortoise and be aware it will be partial to any flowers it comes across!

They will also need a calcium supplement as this is a vital element of their diet in the wild. Water is not of great interest to these desert animals. Soaking veg before giving it to the tortoise will suffice. One further piece of advice is to soak your tortoise in warm water twice a week for fifteen minutes, as this helps keep their skin hydrated.

Where to Buy a Sulcata Tortoise

As we have seen it is clear that Sulcata tortoises make rewarding pets but buying one is not something to do on a whim. First you need to know you have the right place to house a tortoise, and then you have to find a reputable expert who can guarantee you a healthy animal. There are many around so don’t be tempted by your local pet shop unless they are tortoise experts. Ask around on reptile forums for expert breeders local to you and be prepared to pay good money for a Sulcata Tortoise that comes with good breeding.

Related reading

Reviewed By: Tim Winter

Tim Winter has a strong affection for pets and wildlife. His years of experience caring for various types of pets has led him to share his knowledge with others on the best practices in pet care. Tim holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications.

| Home | How to Take Care of a Turtle | Types of Turtles and Tortoises | Pet Tortoises | A Guide to Caring for Sulcata Tortoises as Pets