How to Tell If Your Tortoises is Sad or Depressed (& What to Do)

Tortoises are calm and affable creatures that can be great and low-maintenance pets as long as you provide the most suitable care to them based on their special needs.

They will not make any aggressive actions unless they feel threatened as they are always ready to guard themselves.

However, these gentle reptiles tend to feel stressed out from time to time.

As a pet parent, how can you tell if your tortoise is experiencing a mood illness and what can you do to help it?


Do Tortoises Get Depressed?

Yes. Tortoises can experience the feeling of depression if they are not properly taken care of.

If you are looking for a hearty animal that is easy to care for and maintain, likewise can spend quite a long life with you, you should consider getting yourself a tortoise.

However, you should not take advantage of the fact that they are low-maintenance and skip the essential research and preparation on becoming a tortoise parent.

Tortoises are not a typical pet that you can see in every household. Hence, you should fully educate yourself on how to effectively take care of them.

If you fail on this, your tortoise can experience illnesses that may risk its life such as depression.

The major cause of your tortoise depression is basically an ineffective raising approach.

Your tortoise will feel depressed if it gets too stressed, scared, sick, injured, or lives in a poor environment. It can experience all of these if it is not well-taken care of.

Tortoises are highly vulnerable to experience depression more often. They can get easily stressed with simple changes or noise in their environment.

Depression has a great impact on the overall wellness of your tortoise. This can make them weak, sick, and worse, cause them death.

Do Tortoises Get Sad?

Yes. Tortoises get sad even though they tend to be solitary reptiles that do not show similar feelings as other mammals.

Comparing tortoises to other creatures, they are not very affectionate and showy to their feelings.

Some might even think that they don’t have emotions, especially those that do not own tortoises or lack knowledge about them.

Their solitary personality is an added reason why you might assume they are not getting sad. Yes, even a baby tortoise can live on its own, but it still can experience various sets of emotions based on its living conditions.

Tortoises can get sad and discouraged if they experience something that they are not used to, which can have harmful effects on them.

How Can You Tell When A Tortoise Is Sad?

A tortoise is sad if it seems sluggish and uninterested in the happenings in its environment.

For new owners, it may be a challenge to tell whether their tortoises are sad or not. Unlike other pets, tortoises do not instantly communicate their feelings and show their affection.

You need to be a keen observer to recognize their sadness.

A sad tortoise is commonly sluggish and seems so lazy. It may prefer to just sit in a corner hiding its head and legs inside it’s hard shell.

It is no longer the curious creature that will follow you around or make itself busy playing with its toys or smelling different stuff in your house.

Your efforts in trying to get its attention will be wasted as it will ignore your presence and shut its eyes like a snub.

Why Does My Tortoise Seem Sad?

Your tortoise may appear sad if it is low in spirit.

Tortoises are gentle creatures and are active if they are feeling great!

If your tortoise is sad, you can notice its unexpected weariness.

It may start hiding and be lethargic. It may also start to lose appetite with too much sadness that can be caused by stress.

Unlike other pets, it can be hard to determine its preferences at times as it has a different way of communicating its feelings.

Your tortoise may seem sad if it is not trying to get your attention or coming towards you. It may not be touching its nose to your hands to extend its affection to you.

It is so gloomy that it may not want to be rubbed or scratched.

If your tortoise continues to exhibit these uncommon moods, you might consider bringing it to your veterinarian.

Why Is My Tortoise Depressed?

Your tortoise may be depressed if it is stressed, scared, sick, injured, being bullied, or living in a poor environment.

There are a couple of reasons why your affectionate and charismatic tortoise suddenly prefers to stay in one spot, becomes weak, and starts to ignore you.

One alarming reason is the possibility of your pet experiencing depression. Depression is a serious matter that you must immediately look into as it could jeopardize your tortoise’s life.

One of the reasons for this mood disorder is stress. Your tortoise tends to get stressed if you move it to a new environment.

Associated with stress is fear. Your tortoise will experience stress if it is feeling scared.

Just like in the new environment scenario, it will be terrified since it is not familiar and comfortable yet, which can increase its anxiety.

Your tortoise can feel depressed too if it is unwell or injured.

Naturally, it will feel low if it is sick. Most likely, it will not be the same sociable and active pet of yours if it is hurting somewhere on its body.

Believe it or not, your tortoises may be docile and look amicable, but putting them in one confinement will sooner or later start a competition. This is common between two male tortoises which could not be handled properly, the bullied tortoise will be stressed and depressed.

Lastly, the environment of your tortoise plays an important part in ensuring it will not experience mental health problems.

How sure are you that you have a favorable habitat for your tortoise?

The poor environment is one of the reasons for depression as your tortoise needs your full attention, a healthy diet, and a spacious place to live in.

What To Do If Your Tortoise Is Depressed?

If your tortoise is depressed, you must know first the major cause of its mood illness. You should check its health, look for any injury, check if it is coping effectively in anything new around it, and ensure its home is safe, clean, and stimulating. If despite all your efforts your tortoise still looks discouraged and gets even worse, you should go see a vet.

If you are a cognizant pet parent, you will instantly notice if your tortoise shows any changes or differences, even how small it is, that can be a sign of depression.

You can count several reasons why your tortoise abruptly becomes depressed.

First off, you may want to check the health condition of your pet.

Naturally, it will feel blue if it is sick and not feeling well. A healthy tortoise should have a smooth and firm shell, clear and bright eyes, dry nostrils, a pink tongue, and skin with no injuries or mites.

You should also examine your tortoise’s whole body to see any scratches or wounds. Injuries can be usually caused by sharp objects in the enclosure so it is important to do maintenance regularly.

Additionally, changes in the environment is one dominant reason why your tortoise gets depressed.

Tortoises are very sensitive to any kind of movements around them. From the bark of your dogs to the changes inside their pen, they can notice everything which can stress them out.

You should always check their emotional state whenever they will be exposed to something new that they are not familiar with.

Lastly, you may want to ensure the place where your tortoise lives is sufficient for its fast and healthy growth. Cleanliness is important, likewise, the easy access to abundant, nutritious food and playthings that will keep it occupied.

If your tortoise still feels depressed despite ensuring that all of the above-mentioned factors are monitored and performed, it is recommended to bring it to the vet for further examination.

How To Cheer Up A Depressed Tortoise?

You can cheer up a depressed tortoise by providing it a stimulating home where it can live abundantly, in peace, and enjoyment.

It is certainly heartbreaking for any owner to see their beloved pets not feeling well, suffering, and not the energetic ones they used to be.

As a pet parent, there is no doubt that what you keep on wishing is for your tortoise to get better and lively again!

No worries as you can do several ways to cheer up your depressed tortoise.

The depression that your tortoise is experiencing has negative effects on its health. Thus, you should ensure that it is consuming plenty, nutritious food to strengthen its body and prevent sickness.

Your tortoise may gain its appetite again by seeing its favorite food.

It may be picky eaters like kids so it is important to offer it varieties of fresh foods.

You can give it treats like berries too. You can add some flavors to its food such as pellets by soaking them in fruit juices. Your tortoise also likes bright things so try adding colorful foods as well.

Aside from food, you can also cheer up your depressed tortoise by ensuring you will provide it a comfortable and peaceful home.

Make sure that its place is always tidy and orderly. It should have enough space to walk around too. Make sure noise around is minimized too.

Lighting and temperature are very important for your tortoise as well.

It needs enough UV lights which help in producing Vitamin D and boost its healthy behavior.

Likewise, being warm is essential for your tortoise. Low temperature can negatively affect its system, appetite, and energy.

Lastly, one effective way to brighten the mood of your tortoise pet is by encouraging it to play and have fun.

You can provide something new in its enclosure, perhaps new toys, that will excite it and boost its energy. Your tortoise can be very curious and will move as fast as it can towards the unusual stuff that catches its attention.


The Tortoise Table. (2017). Signs of a healthy tortoise.

West Berks Tortoises. (2015, April 8). How to keep a happy and healthy tortoise.