Feeding out tortoises is what causes most owners a headache the lighting is pretty simple. However, with so many different breeds of tortoise there diet can be a little tricker. Cooking a big juicy steak and own a dog, they will be hovering around your feet, seeing if you have any to offer. On the other hand, Tortoises are a lot different; they won’t be hanging around your feet like a dog. But you may be wondering do tortoises eat meat? Is it even safe?
Tortoises do not eat meat; they are herbivores, and their diet consists of mainly green leafy vegetables. There are some species of tortoise that consume some meat in the wild. However, captive-bred tortoises should follow a strict herbivore diet for optimal health.
So no meat for our hard-shelled little friends it is then, but this may leave you with more questions than answers. Why cant they eat meat being the most obvious one? And I answer that below.
There is a lot of contradictory advice throughout the tortoise’s community, and we hope to dispel all and myths and help you offer the best care for your tortoise.
Tortoise Poor Advice
There is a lot of contradictory information about tortoises eating meat, leading to a lot of confusion. I have even seen in the tortoise community of vets giving people advice to offer their tortoise meat. If this is the case for you, I would advise looking for a veterinarian who has a much better understanding of reptiles.
If you visit a vet, your tortoise could be facing issues with its shell, and a lack of protein or calcium can often cause shell problems. When someone doesn’t understand tortoises, they may put two and two together and come up with five.
So I feel this is where the poor advice comes from, as people who don’t fully understand tortoises would advise feeding meat as a protein and calcium source. Try seeking out a veterinarian that specializes in reptiles.
There are much better ways of offering your tortoise calcium and protein, and a well-rounded diet is the best advice. There is plenty of protein in flowers and greens that tortoises eat.
Not Built to Eat Meat
Tortoises are just not built to eat meat; they have many problems that make eating meat very difficult, if not impossible.
Tortoise’s first problem is their mouth; a tortoise has no teeth, so they will not be able to chop and chew the meat.
A tortoise uses saliva to make their food slippy and gulp it whole, and with their diet only being plant-based, this doesn’t offer any problems. However, if your tortoise were to eat meat, they would be consuming it whole or in large chunks.
We then move onto a tortoise digestion system that is just not built to break down the meat. Even a human swallowing large chunks of meat would struggle to digest it and properly cause you stomach problems.
A tortoise would become bunged up, a tortoise that has too much protein will start to get pyramiding, leading to ill health and eventual death.
What Tortoise Eat Meat In The Wild
Another part of the confusion comes because some tortoises eat meat, but this will only ever in small amounts. Also, any tortoise kept in captivity should never be fed meat.
Any Mediterranean tortoises should never eat any meat; they have been seen eating meat in the wild. However, this will be opportunistic and only by tortoise with a poor diet or one struggling to feed.
Red-footed tortoises and Russian tortoises do eat slow-moving invertebrates like slugs and snails in the wild. Again this is ordinarily opportunistic rather than being a big part of their diet. Also, if you have either tortoise, don’t try to replicate this in captivity. An ordinary tortoise diet will be much better for them.
A tortoise in captivity has a much longer lifespan than a wild tortoise. A big part of this is captive tortoises have a much better diet and don’t need to eat foods that are ultimately bad for them.
Do Hermann Tortoises Eat Meat?
There is a lot of misinformation about feeding tortoise meat, and it seems more around Hermanns come into the meat debate more than any other species.
Hermanns tortoises are strict herbivores and do not eat meat that is high in protein. Meat is not how Hermanns get their protein; they get protein from flowers and grasses. If a Hermanns’s tortoise has too much protein, it can cause pyramiding and ill health.
I’m unsure where the idea that Hermanns’s tortoise requires meat I have spoken to many of experts in the field, and they feel the same.
Do Tortoises Eat Chicken?
Again another one I have seen people suggest feeding a tortoise chicken as it is clean meat. However, this is for us humans, but I’m unsure how it crept into the world of tortoises.
No tortoise do not eat chicken, and you should not feed your tortoise any meat. A well-rounded tortoise diet that coincides with weeds, flowers, and grasses will give a tortoise all they need in terms of protein.
So again, it’s a no for meat; even if it is chicken, you really don’t need to feed meat to a tortoise.
There are many myths about meat and feeding your tortoise meat, which can lead to lots of confusion.
The best practice is never to feed your tortoise meat and learn how to offer your tortoise a better diet that gives them everything in terms of vitamins and minerals.
Your tortoise can take in plenty of protein through flowers and grasses. A captive-bred tortoise has a much longer lifespan than one in the wild, down to a better diet and no need to eat meat as they may in the wild.
I understand where people’s confusion comes from, as it’s a question that is always popping up within tortoise communities. We have found that vets that offer this advice have little to no knowledge of reptiles, and I would see a vet that does if you want the best advice for your tortoise.