Getting your tortoise diet correct is something we try to do from the start as we know how important it is in keeping them healthy. We often have many questions about foods we can feed our tortoise. In this case, you may be wondering if your tortoise can eat cat or dog food; you are not alone in asking the question. Maybe you found the tortoise eating out of the dog bowl. Will it do them any harm?
No, you should not feed your tortoise cat or dog food. Tortoises are herbivores, and most cat and dog foods contain meat and are high in protein which can cause tortoise health problems. A tortoise that has too much protein will outgrow their shell, which will cause pyramiding.
You may have read that some people use cat and dog food as a treat this is not recommended. While you may have caught your tortoise in the dog bowl having a bite this should not cause too many problems. You should avoid it at all costs and remember your tortoise is a herbivore and cats and dogs are omnivores.
These diets are completely different and need completely different needs. Let’s have a look at some of this in a little more detail.
Can A Tortoise Eat Cat Food?
I think it is worth pointing out that tortoises will eat anything that you put in front of them. Which for tortoise owners it makes it very problematic to know what types of foods you should give them. Someone new to tortoises can be forgiven in their assumption that your tortoise is eating it then it must be ok.
It is the same thinking we have when it comes to our own diet we eat foods and wonder why we feel sluggish and unhealthy. Just become we can eat fast food every day with dashings of sweets doesn’t actually mean we should be doing it.
Cat Food Can Cause Big Problems To Tortoises
While if you put cat food in front of your tortoise they would eat it but cat food can be extremely problematic to your tortoise’s health. Our tortoises are vegetarians which of course means they only eat plants.
Cat’s Are Carnivore, Your Tortoise Is A Herbivore
While your tortoise is a vegetarian and survives on a plant-based diet your cat on the other hand are carnivores. Your cat can’t survive on a plant-based diet as they don’t get any nutrients from them. People have tied to force their carnivore eating pet a plant-based diet which can be seen as cruelty.
Tortoise Diets Are Low In Protein, Cat Diets Are High In Protein
Your cat food is made up of all the ingredients that are perfect for your cat which is high in protein which is bad for tortoises. The reason for this is that your cat needs a high protein diet to thrive.
There have not been any studies into the effects of feeding cat food to tortoises as it would be seen as animal cruelty. However, we do know that a carnivore diet is rich in protein as they require it for muscle growth.
We are sure that a diet that is high in protein can lead to tortoise developing many health problems. Your tortoise is very likely to grow too fast and with a shell, on their bad, this is a bad combination. As this will cause the shell to “pyramid” while not deadly at first it can eventually lead to death.
Can A Tortoise Eat Dog Food?
Dogs are not pure carnivores and there is a trend doing the rounds of feeding dogs very little meat on an omnivore diet. With this many people may ask can we feed our tortoises dog food?
The answer remains the same as it does with cat food no you should not feed a tortoise dog food. Also, there are additional risks in feeding a tortoise dog food in the way of the high-fat content you find in it.
The High Protein Still Leads To Problems With Dog Food
Dogs are larger animals than a tortoise that is one obvious difference between tortoises and dogs. Also, a dog is packed full of muscle and move much faster than a tortoise and dog are warm-blooded animals which means they need to produce their own body heat.
All this means that a dog requires a diet high in protein to function correctly. However, as we have already discovered a diet high in protein is problematic to your tortoise which will lead to many physical health issues.
High-Fat Content Is Also A Big Problem With Dog Food
A lot of animal diets are packed full of protein and a dog’s diet is the same to allow your dog to function correctly. But there is a big difference with dog food in that it is also packed full of fat. As you may expect foods that are high in fat are also going to be bad for your tortoise.
A wild tortoise will live on a 0% fat diet and be completely vegetarian and when something doesn’t consume fat. Like our tortoise, their body never can adapt to process the fat correctly.
Tortoises Eating Fat
A tortoise will be unable to break down the fat that they consume as we do. So you may be wondering what would happen to a tortoise that eats fat.
What happens to a tortoise that eats fat is the fat is pushed to different parts of the body as fatty deposits. Just like humans become fat when we eat excess. Unlike humans, a tortoise is unable to ever digest the fat so they are there for good.
A tortoise has a fixed shell on its back so a fat tortoise is not a good combination. What this leads to is putting pressure on your tortoise’s internal organs not allowing them to function correctly.
So your tin of dog food is far too high in protein and fats for your tortoise to safely consume and will lead to ill health.
What Happens When A Tortoise Gets Too Much Protein
Throughout this article we have alluded to it being unhealthy for a tortoise to eat too much protein but what would happen if they did eat too much protein.
Your tortoise would develop what is called “pyramiding” it is something that affects the bone structure of your tortoise. The shell of your tortoise is made up of “scutes” which are like little plates.
These scutes become raised and make the shell appear and feel bumpy. Too much protein is believed to be the biggest cause of pyramiding.
When people hear a tortoise should not consume too much protein they often cut it out completely. As wrong as too much protein, no protein will have the same dramatic effect on your tortoise. Your tortoise requires protein but in other ways manly thought flowers and weeds.
Does Pyramiding Hurt Tortoises?
While the actual pyramiding itself causes your tortoise no pain if the problem that is causing it is not dealt with your tortoise can become ill. Pyramiding can look unsightly and stop male tortoises from being able to mount females.
With this in mind despite the fact it may not hurt your tortoise. You should discover the reason for it happening and put a stop to it as it will eventually lead to your tortoise becoming ill.
If you nail down your tortoise’s diet and have them eating manly leafy greens with wildflowers and weeds. Your tortoise should get the correct amount of protein that you don’t need to think about it.
What To Do About Pyramiding
We never want our tortoise to become ill and pyramiding while not being able to overturn the physical element you can stop it from getting any worse.
Yes, you read that right your tortoise’s shell will always look bump for the rest of their life.
If you do spot early signs that your tortoise’s shell is developing the signs of pyramiding then reassess their diet immediately. If you have been feeding your tortoise cat or dog food then you have been feeding your tortoise too much protein for sure.
You also need to be careful not to reduce the calcium too much. You will see signs of protein deficiency if your tortoise starts to become lethargic and lose their appetite.
So there is one resounding answer to whether a tortoise can eat cat or dog food and that is no they can not. You should never attempt it even if you are lacking food that day.
If you often run out of food I would purchase some dried tortoise food for emergencies. I would even say if you have nothing to give your tortoise they will survive better without food for one day than eating dog or cat food.
Feeding your tortoise takes some time to get right but learning the perfect diet early will lead to a long and healthy life.
I have been keeping tortoises for over 15 years and I have to say that I feel I’m still learning. Don’t feel bad if you have been feeding your tortoise a poor diet just start to put it right.