New to the forum — Looking into getting a tortoise!

Katie 7130

New Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2024
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5
Location (City and/or State)
West Lafayette, IN
Hi! I’m Katie (she/her) I live in West Lafayette, IN. I just moved to the area and work at a small animal clinic, but they only see cats and dogs (bummer!!)

I love animals so much, but I‘m not ready for the high-energy needs of a dog and I’m allergic to cats. I’m actually allergic to a lot of fluffy creatures—that’s why I’m here!

I adopted two geriatric guinea pigs when I was in high school and fell so in love with those little creatures! I loved caring for them at the end of their lives and went ahead and got two babies when I moved out. My allergies got much worse over a few years and was I told by my doctor that my options were asthma or rehoming. I found them a good home down the street and I was able to visit them until I had to move.

I’ve been searching for animals that could fill the pet-shaped hole in my heart and found that russian tortoises require the same amount of space as guinea pigs, and have very similar diets! I’m learning more and more about tortoises each day, and I really hope to find a geriatric/older russian tortoise I can care for, because I really have a passion for end-of-life pet care, and I’m sure there are some old geezer tortoises out there just waiting for a home.

I’m sure I’ll be asking for advice in the future after I do some more financial planning and get officially started in my tortoise journey, so I look forward to talking with all of you!
 

sj.marrs

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Jul 26, 2023
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Indianapolis, IN
Hi! I’m Katie (she/her) I live in West Lafayette, IN. I just moved to the area and work at a small animal clinic, but they only see cats and dogs (bummer!!)

I love animals so much, but I‘m not ready for the high-energy needs of a dog and I’m allergic to cats. I’m actually allergic to a lot of fluffy creatures—that’s why I’m here!

I adopted two geriatric guinea pigs when I was in high school and fell so in love with those little creatures! I loved caring for them at the end of their lives and went ahead and got two babies when I moved out. My allergies got much worse over a few years and was I told by my doctor that my options were asthma or rehoming. I found them a good home down the street and I was able to visit them until I had to move.

I’ve been searching for animals that could fill the pet-shaped hole in my heart and found that russian tortoises require the same amount of space as guinea pigs, and have very similar diets! I’m learning more and more about tortoises each day, and I really hope to find a geriatric/older russian tortoise I can care for, because I really have a passion for end-of-life pet care, and I’m sure there are some old geezer tortoises out there just waiting for a home.

I’m sure I’ll be asking for advice in the future after I do some more financial planning and get officially started in my tortoise journey, so I look forward to talking with all of you!
Hi Katie,

I actually just found your post because I was going to make a post of my own about needing to rehome a Russian in the next 4-6 weeks. We are in Indianapolis. He is not geriatric however, he is around 4-5. Let me know if you’d like any more information.

Thanks
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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Location (City and/or State)
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Hi! I’m Katie (she/her) I live in West Lafayette, IN. I just moved to the area and work at a small animal clinic, but they only see cats and dogs (bummer!!)

I love animals so much, but I‘m not ready for the high-energy needs of a dog and I’m allergic to cats. I’m actually allergic to a lot of fluffy creatures—that’s why I’m here!

I adopted two geriatric guinea pigs when I was in high school and fell so in love with those little creatures! I loved caring for them at the end of their lives and went ahead and got two babies when I moved out. My allergies got much worse over a few years and was I told by my doctor that my options were asthma or rehoming. I found them a good home down the street and I was able to visit them until I had to move.

I’ve been searching for animals that could fill the pet-shaped hole in my heart and found that russian tortoises require the same amount of space as guinea pigs, and have very similar diets! I’m learning more and more about tortoises each day, and I really hope to find a geriatric/older russian tortoise I can care for, because I really have a passion for end-of-life pet care, and I’m sure there are some old geezer tortoises out there just waiting for a home.

I’m sure I’ll be asking for advice in the future after I do some more financial planning and get officially started in my tortoise journey, so I look forward to talking with all of you!
Hello and welcome!
Please, take a look at this post (https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/info-for-new-people-please-read-this-first.202363/) while you are in search of your new shelled friend. This will help you to better understand tortoise needs and care. While there is something in common between guinea pigs and tortoises husbandry, reptile care is different. And tortoises need lots of dedicated space to thrive.
 

Katie 7130

New Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2024
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
West Lafayette, IN
Hello and welcome!
Please, take a look at this post (https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/info-for-new-people-please-read-this-first.202363/) while you are in search of your new shelled friend. This will help you to better understand tortoise needs and care. While there is something in common between guinea pigs and tortoises husbandry, reptile care is different. And tortoises need lots of dedicated space to M

Hi Katie,

I actually just found your post because I was going to make a post of my own about needing to rehome a Russian in the next 4-6 weeks. We are in Indianapolis. He is not geriatric however, he is around 4-5. Let me know if you’d like any more information.

Thanks
Hi!

I’m not ready at the moment. I might be ready in a few months, but I want to get super secure in my finances before making the commitment. I know you’ll find your tortoise a good home!
 

Katie 7130

New Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2024
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
West Lafayette, IN
Hello and welcome!
Please, take a look at this post (https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/info-for-new-people-please-read-this-first.202363/) while you are in search of your new shelled friend. This will help you to better understand tortoise needs and care. While there is something in common between guinea pigs and tortoises husbandry, reptile care is different. And tortoises need lots of dedicated space to thrive.
I understand that reptile care is different. I’ve cared for reptiles before, but they weren’t personal so I didn’t share it in my intro.

Guinea pigs also need a lot of dedicated space—more than most people think. My guinea pigs had an enclosure over 15sq ft. and free roamed my entire living space. I got good at not tripping over potato-sized creatures on the floor haha
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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Cyprus
I understand that reptile care is different. I’ve cared for reptiles before, but they weren’t personal so I didn’t share it in my intro.

Guinea pigs also need a lot of dedicated space—more than most people think. My guinea pigs had an enclosure over 15sq ft. and free roamed my entire living space. I got good at not tripping over potato-sized creatures on the floor haha
That's great that you have experience with small creatures and reptiles.

Adult Russian tortoise needs about 30 sq.ft and free roaming isn't safe. I don't know if guinea pigs eat wrong stuff from the floor but some tortoises do and that kills them. And maybe guinea pigs don't get stuck behind the fridge or heat radiators to bake themselves to death. Also, floors too are cold for tortoises usually and slippery tiles a bad for their joints. So a safe environment (inside or outside) with controlled temperatures and right substrate is the way to go.

I see that you want to be a responsible tortoise keeper. That's good to know! We will help you to set the things up without double-spending on wrong equipment. Please, ask questions!
 

Katie 7130

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Joined
Apr 17, 2024
Messages
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Location (City and/or State)
West Lafayette, IN
That's great that you have experience with small creatures and reptiles.

Adult Russian tortoise needs about 30 sq.ft and free roaming isn't safe. I don't know if guinea pigs eat wrong stuff from the floor but some tortoises do and that kills them. And maybe guinea pigs don't get stuck behind the fridge or heat radiators to bake themselves to death. Also, floors too are cold for tortoises usually and slippery tiles a bad for their joints. So a safe environment (inside or outside) with controlled temperatures and right substrate is the way to go.

I see that you want to be a responsible tortoise keeper. That's good to know! We will help you to set the things up without double-spending on wrong equipment. Please, ask questions!
I baby-proofed the whole apartment for the pigs and kept them locked up when I could t watch or hear them. I was going in with the assumption that a tortoise would probably be a bit smarter than a guinea pig but would be way more curious as a result lol. A dangerous combo for sure. I brought up free roaming as a bit of a fun, supervised thing to do with a tortoise. Is that not a good idea?

I have a question about an enrichment tool that I used, and I might just make it a separate post. There was a wire ball that I would put lettuce or dandelion greens in. I would tether it to the wall, usually low to the ground. I ended up having like 4 of them because they would get sassy with each other over it, but they had fun working for their food. My pigs would bonk it around during their popcorn (happy jump) sessions, even if it was empty. They’d also squeal like nobody’s business when I filled them up lol.

My concern is that I’m not super familiar with tortoise brain—would the difficulty of getting the food be a reward or more of a stress? I would also be worried about the material of the toy. It’s made of stainless steel wires, probably 14 gauge. Let me know if I should go ahead a make a full post!

I’ve also started drafting plans for a 32sq ft indoor enclosure, and I’m talking to my landlord about whether or not an enclosure on my balcony, which is about 30sq ft, would be okay. I was thinking of making a doggy-door to connect the inside and outside enclosures! If he says no, then I might have to wait until the end of my lease to get a tort :/ I’m still really excited regardless!

edit for clarity: about the doggy door thing haha I would not have one with flaps because I think that could confuse a tortoise. They’re very line-of-sight focused from what I’ve gathered. It would probably be the size of a cat door and would close at night and probably be removed in the winter as it gets to below 0F here in January-February.
 
Last edited:

Tom

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I baby-proofed the whole apartment for the pigs and kept them locked up when I could t watch or hear them. I was going in with the assumption that a tortoise would probably be a bit smarter than a guinea pig but would be way more curious as a result lol. A dangerous combo for sure. I brought up free roaming as a bit of a fun, supervised thing to do with a tortoise. Is that not a good idea?

I have a question about an enrichment tool that I used, and I might just make it a separate post. There was a wire ball that I would put lettuce or dandelion greens in. I would tether it to the wall, usually low to the ground. I ended up having like 4 of them because they would get sassy with each other over it, but they had fun working for their food. My pigs would bonk it around during their popcorn (happy jump) sessions, even if it was empty. They’d also squeal like nobody’s business when I filled them up lol.

My concern is that I’m not super familiar with tortoise brain—would the difficulty of getting the food be a reward or more of a stress? I would also be worried about the material of the toy. It’s made of stainless steel wires, probably 14 gauge. Let me know if I should go ahead a make a full post!

I’ve also started drafting plans for a 32sq ft indoor enclosure, and I’m talking to my landlord about whether or not an enclosure on my balcony, which is about 30sq ft, would be okay. I was thinking of making a doggy-door to connect the inside and outside enclosures! If he says no, then I might have to wait until the end of my lease to get a tort :/ I’m still really excited regardless!

edit for clarity: about the doggy door thing haha I would not have one with flaps because I think that could confuse a tortoise. They’re very line-of-sight focused from what I’ve gathered. It would probably be the size of a cat door and would close at night and probably be removed in the winter as it gets to below 0F here in January-February.
Hello and welcome!

Free roaming the floor is not safe and can't be made safe. Many tortoises end up sick, impacted, injured, lost or dead that way. We see it several times a year here on this forum and I see it in day to day life too. My reptile vet friends text me pics of tortoise X-rays with all sorts of novel items stuck in their gut. We had one member whose tortoise got smashed in the door jamb when she opened it. They get kicked, stepped on, stuck under things, its too cold down there, too slick, carpet fibers can cause impaction or limb strangulation, someone leaves a door open and they escape or get run over by the family car in the driveway, etc... The list of mayhem is endless. The solution is so simple: Make them a large safe enclosure indoors and out, and leave them in their safe enclosures.

Tortoises understand door flaps just fine. All of my adult tortoises live outdoors and all of them have clear vinyl flaps on their door ways to keep heat in when the door is open. You could do the doggy door flap thing if you want, but you can also just make an outdoor enclosure and carry them out there in favorable weather.

I've ever tried a food ball with tortoises, but as long as their head can't get stuck in it, I can't see how it would hurt anything. And guinea pigs are MUCH smarter than tortoises. Not even the same ball park.

No one knows how long tortoises live, but its many decades at the least. There are some on verifiable record well over 100 years old. One over 280 years old. I don't think you will find a geriatric tortoise. I'm not sure that exists. I currently have several babies ranging from 2-4 years old from 100 year old parents of known origin that are quite prolific.

The threads that have been linked should have lots of good info for you to help you make a decision. Questions and conversation are welcome.
 

Katie 7130

New Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2024
Messages
5
Location (City and/or State)
West Lafayette, IN
Hello and welcome!

Free roaming the floor is not safe and can't be made safe. Many tortoises end up sick, impacted, injured, lost or dead that way. We see it several times a year here on this forum and I see it in day to day life too. My reptile vet friends text me pics of tortoise X-rays with all sorts of novel items stuck in their gut. We had one member whose tortoise got smashed in the door jamb when she opened it. They get kicked, stepped on, stuck under things, its too cold down there, too slick, carpet fibers can cause impaction or limb strangulation, someone leaves a door open and they escape or get run over by the family car in the driveway, etc... The list of mayhem is endless. The solution is so simple: Make them a large safe enclosure indoors and out, and leave them in their safe enclosures.

Tortoises understand door flaps just fine. All of my adult tortoises live outdoors and all of them have clear vinyl flaps on their door ways to keep heat in when the door is open. You could do the doggy door flap thing if you want, but you can also just make an outdoor enclosure and carry them out there in favorable weather.

I've ever tried a food ball with tortoises, but as long as their head can't get stuck in it, I can't see how it would hurt anything. And guinea pigs are MUCH smarter than tortoises. Not even the same ball park.

No one knows how long tortoises live, but its many decades at the least. There are some on verifiable record well over 100 years old. One over 280 years old. I don't think you will find a geriatric tortoise. I'm not sure that exists. I currently have several babies ranging from 2-4 years old from 100 year old parents of known origin that are quite prolific.

The threads that have been linked should have lots of good info for you to help you make a decision. Questions and conversation are welcome.
So about the same dangers as having a guinea pig on the floor :( I used to work at an animal hospital that saw exotics and the amount of rabbits we’d have come in near-death or DOA with something in their stomach was so sad. I’ll keep that in mind.

I’m also super surprised that tortoises aren’t as smart as guinea pigs!?!? I think being smart enough to use the doggy door counts as something though. Some dogs can’t even figure those out without some fluoxetine haha.
What’s the most I could expect from a russian tortoise, in terms of intelligence?
 

wellington

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So about the same dangers as having a guinea pig on the floor :( I used to work at an animal hospital that saw exotics and the amount of rabbits we’d have come in near-death or DOA with something in their stomach was so sad. I’ll keep that in mind.

I’m also super surprised that tortoises aren’t as smart as guinea pigs!?!? I think being smart enough to use the doggy door counts as something though. Some dogs can’t even figure those out without some fluoxetine haha.
What’s the most I could expect from a russian tortoise, in terms of intelligence?
They aren't going to be anything like regular pets, like dogs, cats, guinea pigs. Once they get used to you and realize you are the food god, they might great you every day at feeding time. Other than that, they really just want to be left alone to do their own thing. Each one of course is different. So you might get one that likes you being around and you might not.
My Russian could careless that I'm the food god. My leopards will come to me every time I'm near them.
 

SinLA

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It would probably be criminal for anyone other than @Tom to answer your question about the relative train-ability of any one species versus another.

I’ll only say that in my case, and I suspect for tortoises, it’s not so much that they are trained to use a doggie door, it’s that they figure out on their own that it is beneficial for them to go through the doggie door to get where they want to go. maybe that’s a subtle difference, but I’m quite certain I never would’ve been able to train him to go through a doggie door just because *I* wanted him to be on the other side of it. I possibly “helped” him to understand that the door was movable and a nice safe space existed on the other side, but I would not say that I “trained” or even “convinced” him to go through the door.

He goes because he is smart enough to know he wants to be on the other side of it and they EXCEL at stubbornness for getting where they want to go.
 

Alex and the Redfoot

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So about the same dangers as having a guinea pig on the floor :( I used to work at an animal hospital that saw exotics and the amount of rabbits we’d have come in near-death or DOA with something in their stomach was so sad. I’ll keep that in mind.

I’m also super surprised that tortoises aren’t as smart as guinea pigs!?!? I think being smart enough to use the doggy door counts as something though. Some dogs can’t even figure those out without some fluoxetine haha.
What’s the most I could expect from a russian tortoise, in terms of intelligence?
They have their own "smartness". They are bad at "causal logic" but really good at mapping territory and navigating (there are some paper where tortoises solve labyrinth puzzles better than rats). They are good at selecting optimal conditions in environment, but it's somewhat hard-wired - when you place them in climate different from natural habitat they are often confused.

Social side of intelligence is rather weak - they are solitary animals with no compassion and empathy but capable of "gaze following". They understand routines and can do some actions to "trigger" them (e.g. scratch the enclosure doors when they want to go out) but every change in established environment is hard for them.

Many tortoises show different behaviour when keeper is around. It's not only "gimme foods" behaviour, but changes in overall activity level (maybe it's "get of my lawn, dude", I don't know).

There are some incredible stories of bonding between tortoise and owner. Mostly with larger tortoises like sulcatas. However, it can be reduced to "trigger - routine" behaviour (no emotions from their side, sigh).
 

The_Four_Toed_Edward

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So about the same dangers as having a guinea pig on the floor :( I used to work at an animal hospital that saw exotics and the amount of rabbits we’d have come in near-death or DOA with something in their stomach was so sad. I’ll keep that in mind.

I’m also super surprised that tortoises aren’t as smart as guinea pigs!?!? I think being smart enough to use the doggy door counts as something though. Some dogs can’t even figure those out without some fluoxetine haha.
What’s the most I could expect from a russian tortoise, in terms of intelligence?
Tortoises don't want to please you and lack in social intelligence, both of these facts make training hard. Training a tortoise is very slow and more like getting them used to certain routines.

I have gotten my tortoise to come to me when I tap on his ramp in his indoor enclousure. And when I lay my hand on the ramp he will climb on it and I can pick him up with my other hand with his "permission" (without the kicking and scratching) to soak or otherwise handeled. I have been doing this for a few months, but it is still not a 100%. It is not like your usual dog training, it is more like teaching your tortoise what to expect.

Also target training is possible with tortoises, it is more useful with luring big tortoises, but Russians can learn it as well.
 

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