Tortoise worries

kpkb7

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Aug 8, 2022
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Gold River
I've had a desert tortoise for 10 years but I'm worried about him because all he eats is romaine lettuce and only if I hand feed him. He doesn't seem to like our lawn anymore. We moved him from my mom's house to ours a month ago. But I noticed he was not consuming much grass there either. It's worse at his new location. We only use organic lawn products and even then, rarely. I just keep offering his favorite romaine. He likes apples too but I hear that should just be an occasional treat. Is he just being difficult or is something wrong? I bought tortoise pellets to feed him and am waiting for their delivery. My husband laughs at me saying he will never eat pellets. He's so finicky!!
 

KarenSoCal

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It sounds like he is thoroughly spoiled, like most of them are. In the past, did he eat lots of variety, and then just stop and only eat lettuce?

You said he wasn't eating grass before his move to your house. Usually we say that the move stressed him, and he'll eat when he's ready, and that may still have merit in your situation.

Where you live is a cooler climate than ours here in SoCal. What are the nighttime temps there now? A very common reason for not eating is being too cold. Does he have a burrow? Or a heated night box to sleep in? Maybe he's chilly, especially underground.

Another thought. If you're only offering him romaine, he may lose his taste for other greens. You could try starting over like when you first gave him different foods. Cut up another green that he has eaten in the past into very tiny pieces, wet the lettuce, and mix in the "new" greens. Hopefully they will stick to each other and he'll get the new greens with each bite of lettuce. As time goes by, you slowly increase the new food, at the same time as you decrease the lettuce. It can be a very long slow process, so take your time. Once he's off the lettuce, start with a new green.

As for your pellets, most torts like the regular flavor Mazuri. The "LS" version is good, but the flavor is not preferred by many torts. Whatever kind you get, soak some in water until they are mushy, then squish them up onto his food.

If he's acting normal in other ways, I would think it's a stage he's going through, and the move to a different place is not helping it resolve.

Work on reintroducing new foods, and let some time go by til he's comfortable in his new home. He can go a long time without food, and by then maybe he'll have settled down.
 

Lyn W

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I don't know anything about identifying genus but if your DT is in the Gopherus genus this is the caresheet you need (I only know that because it says so)
That will suggest good foods to introduce and tell you the temps and living conditions they need.
 

Tom

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I've had a desert tortoise for 10 years but I'm worried about him because all he eats is romaine lettuce and only if I hand feed him. He doesn't seem to like our lawn anymore. We moved him from my mom's house to ours a month ago. But I noticed he was not consuming much grass there either. It's worse at his new location. We only use organic lawn products and even then, rarely. I just keep offering his favorite romaine. He likes apples too but I hear that should just be an occasional treat. Is he just being difficult or is something wrong? I bought tortoise pellets to feed him and am waiting for their delivery. My husband laughs at me saying he will never eat pellets. He's so finicky!!
Great info from both Karen and Lyn.

He might be too hot during the summer days if he's stuck above ground, and too cold at night. Frequent soaks should help keep him hydrated and healthy and also perk up the appetite. Most of the care info given for this species is all wrong and slowly contributes to their death over time. That care sheet will explain. Questions are welcome.
 

tag78

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12 year sulcata care taker - Time alone does not make an expert but I can tell you when I got my little beastie he was already 60lbs and clearly spoiled. He wanted nothing to do with anything that wasn't juicy. It took about two years of mixing cut up bermuda, timmy, and orchard grasses mixed with some romaine lettuce, pumpkin, melons (his favorites of course) to get him to the point that he would eat moisturized cut grasses as his basic menu. Fortunately he would always eat the green grass in his area and mulberry leaves which I have on hand until winter. His favorite now is cut collards greens but he will even munch on the end of the grass bale when he wonders by it. His old favorites are now designated to the "treats" list.
 

bioteach

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I've had a desert tortoise for 10 years but I'm worried about him because all he eats is romaine lettuce and only if I hand feed him. He doesn't seem to like our lawn anymore. We moved him from my mom's house to ours a month ago. But I noticed he was not consuming much grass there either. It's worse at his new location. We only use organic lawn products and even then, rarely. I just keep offering his favorite romaine. He likes apples too but I hear that should just be an occasional treat. Is he just being difficult or is something wrong? I bought tortoise pellets to feed him and am waiting for their delivery. My husband laughs at me saying he will never eat pellets. He's so finicky!!
I bought pellets because Sunshine's blossoms that she loves have died back with the intense heat we have had in Phoenix this summer. Sunshine wouldn't even try them. I tried stuffing a few of them in a few blossoms and she only ate the blossom part - so I hope that you have better luck with your tort. My vet does not really like pellets so I don't put them out often.

When there isn't much food in her enclosure she will graze on the Bermuda grass patch - and judging from her droppings she isn't starving.
 

kpkb7

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Aug 8, 2022
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Gold River
It sounds like he is thoroughly spoiled, like most of them are. In the past, did he eat lots of variety, and then just stop and only eat lettuce?

You said he wasn't eating grass before his move to your house. Usually we say that the move stressed him, and he'll eat when he's ready, and that may still have merit in your situation.

Where you live is a cooler climate than ours here in SoCal. What are the nighttime temps there now? A very common reason for not eating is being too cold. Does he have a burrow? Or a heated night box to sleep in? Maybe he's chilly, especially underground.

Another thought. If you're only offering him romaine, he may lose his taste for other greens. You could try starting over like when you first gave him different foods. Cut up another green that he has eaten in the past into very tiny pieces, wet the lettuce, and mix in the "new" greens. Hopefully they will stick to each other and he'll get the new greens with each bite of lettuce. As time goes by, you slowly increase the new food, at the same time as you decrease the lettuce. It can be a very long slow process, so take your time. Once he's off the lettuce, start with a new green.

As for your pellets, most torts like the regular flavor Mazuri. The "LS" version is good, but the flavor is not preferred by many torts. Whatever kind you get, soak some in water until they are mushy, then squish them up onto his food.

If he's acting normal in other ways, I would think it's a stage he's going through, and the move to a different place is not helping it resolve.

Work on reintroducing new foods, and let some time go by til he's comfortable in his new home. He can go a long time without food, and by then maybe he'll have settled down.
Thank you for your comments. I will try the cutting and mixing. Getting him to eat by himself will be difficult as he only eats if I HAND FEED him. What a spoiled boy! I snuck 20 soaked Mazuri LS pellets between his romaine folds the other day and he was only wise to it when he could SEE the pellets. I'm sure he can smell them but if he couldn't see them, he chomped away. He recognizes me and "comes running" (on his 3 legs) as I'm the dupe that hand feeds. UGH. I will work on getting him more independant. His burrow is just whatever he creates in the yard, digging into the dirt into a corner, hiding under shrubs, or going into his dog house. Our yard can get very hot as it's south facing but there's plenty of areas to find relief along the north fence and under shrubs. I just found out we need to be 'soaking' him. Another fail on my part.
 

kpkb7

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Gold River
I bought pellets because Sunshine's blossoms that she loves have died back with the intense heat we have had in Phoenix this summer. Sunshine wouldn't even try them. I tried stuffing a few of them in a few blossoms and she only ate the blossom part - so I hope that you have better luck with your tort. My vet does not really like pellets so I don't put them out often.

When there isn't much food in her enclosure she will graze on the Bermuda grass patch - and judging from her droppings she isn't starving.
It is such a relief to hear someone has my same woes. THANK YOU.
 

TammyJ

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I am just wondering if a tortoise would actually starve itself to death refusing to eat anything except one particular item. I can't imagine a tortoise living for ten years on romaine lettuce, and being healthy.
 

bioteach

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I am just wondering if a tortoise would actually starve itself to death refusing to eat anything except one particular item. I can't imagine a tortoise living for ten years on romaine lettuce, and being healthy.
My girl "Sunshine" is very picky about food; but when she is hungry enough she will graze on the patch of Bermuda grass that I planted in her enclosure. I tried a huge variety of foods with her including pea pods (the vet says NO on them because they have too much protein - so no more), Pellets, carrot matchsticks, Opuntia pads and fruits, Kale, Hibiscus flowers and leaves, Rose flowers and leaves, Yellow Bells, Mexican Petunia, strawberries, Globe Mallow, Nasturtiums, Pansies, and Fairy Duster flowers and leaves. She rejected the Pellets, Opuntia, the Kale, Hibiscus leaves, Mexican Petunia leaves, the strawberries, the Nasturtiums, the Pansies, and the Fairy Duster leaves. She will eat the rest. I recommend offering a colorful array of "OK" foods and see if anything appeals. Romaine is not considered all that healthy because it has very little nutritional value. Good luck!
 

bioteach

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I've had a desert tortoise for 10 years but I'm worried about him because all he eats is romaine lettuce and only if I hand feed him. He doesn't seem to like our lawn anymore. We moved him from my mom's house to ours a month ago. But I noticed he was not consuming much grass there either. It's worse at his new location. We only use organic lawn products and even then, rarely. I just keep offering his favorite romaine. He likes apples too but I hear that should just be an occasional treat. Is he just being difficult or is something wrong? I bought tortoise pellets to feed him and am waiting for their delivery. My husband laughs at me saying he will never eat pellets. He's so finicky!!
Hello,
My Desert Tortoise is picky too; but my vet says NO LETTUCE of any kind. My girl Sunshine gladly eats carrots (cut into matchsticks), Hibiscus, Roses (and their leaves), Yellow Bells (Tecoma), Mexican Petunia, and Globe Mallow. I have a lovely patch of Bermuda grass in her enclosure that she ignores 90% of the time.

I bought pellets and Sunshine ignores them. The ants seem to like them..... Anyway, I guess that your guy will eat when he is good and hungry. Hopefully, he'll pack in some nutrients before hibernation time.
 

kpkb7

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Gold River
I am just wondering if a tortoise would actually starve itself to death refusing to eat anything except one particular item. I can't imagine a tortoise living for ten years on romaine lettuce, and being healthy.
I think he ate my Mom's lawn (which had a lot of weeds) when we weren't looking. But we moved him to our home where he doesn't seem to like our lawn (which has no weeds). No poops for weeks. I bought timothy hay and those tortoise pellets and hand feed him those snuck into romaine folds. He pooped a little tiny bit since I started doing that. Looking for a reptile vet b/c I want to get him less dependent on hand feeding.
 

kpkb7

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Gold River
Hello,
My Desert Tortoise is picky too; but my vet says NO LETTUCE of any kind. My girl Sunshine gladly eats carrots (cut into matchsticks), Hibiscus, Roses (and their leaves), Yellow Bells (Tecoma), Mexican Petunia, and Globe Mallow. I have a lovely patch of Bermuda grass in her enclosure that she ignores 90% of the time.

I bought pellets and Sunshine ignores them. The ants seem to like them..... Anyway, I guess that your guy will eat when he is good and hungry. Hopefully, he'll pack in some nutrients before hibernation time.
I keep offering roses and leaves and he walks right over them.
 

kpkb7

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Gold River
Hello,
My Desert Tortoise is picky too; but my vet says NO LETTUCE of any kind. My girl Sunshine gladly eats carrots (cut into matchsticks), Hibiscus, Roses (and their leaves), Yellow Bells (Tecoma), Mexican Petunia, and Globe Mallow. I have a lovely patch of Bermuda grass in her enclosure that she ignores 90% of the time.

I bought pellets and Sunshine ignores them. The ants seem to like them..... Anyway, I guess that your guy will eat when he is good and hungry. Hopefully, he'll pack in some nutrients before hibernation time.
 

kpkb7

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That's reassuring that he will heat when he gets hungry enough. I hope you are right.
 

kpkb7

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Gold River
Great info from both Karen and Lyn.

He might be too hot during the summer days if he's stuck above ground, and too cold at night. Frequent soaks should help keep him hydrated and healthy and also perk up the appetite. Most of the care info given for this species is all wrong and slowly contributes to their death over time. That care sheet will explain. Questions are welcome.
That's good thinking...about the heat. It's so hot here. Nights aren't too hot....maybe dip a little into the 60's at the lowest.
 

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