Can I Let My Tortoise Walk Around the House?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Many people want to treat tortoises the same as other pets, like dogs and cats. They let their tortoises roam around freely. But is this safe for the tortoises or the owners? You may have bought a pet tortoise for the first time. Now you are wondering if you can let your tortoise walk around the house. 

You can let your tortoise walk around the house, but it does not mean you should. A tortoise can get hurt in different ways inside a house. It can get lost or stuck somewhere. Moreover, the temperature in the house can be inappropriate for the tortoise.

In this article, I will discuss if you can have a tortoise roam around freely. You should know why it is not a good idea to let your tortoise walk around inside the house. 

Can You Have a Free Roaming Tortoise?

Depending on the weather area, you may keep your tortoise indoors. You may feel the indoor enclosure is not large enough for your tortoise. So, you may let your tortoise walk inside the house to give it some freedom. 

Many people let their pet tortoises move freely in the house. They think that this exercise is good for their tortoises. Some even think it is really cool seeing tortoises walking inside the house. But is it a good idea?

Tortoises are not regular pets like cats and dogs. So, you cannot train them to follow your instructions. They will follow their instinct while moving around the house. As a result, they can face many challenges. 

Why Should You Not Let Tortoises Walk Around the House? 

The idea of your tortoise walking around inside the house like other pets may seem tempting. But it is not safe for your tortoise. You may think you will monitor every move of your tortoise to keep it safe. But the tortoise may feel uncomfortable or become the target of other animals.

Here are the reasons you should not let tortoise move freely inside the house:

Bump Into Sharp or Dangerous Objects 

It is common to have sharp objects or structures around the house. It can be sharp angles on furniture or walls, fireplaces, toys, decorative items or other dangerous things. 

Pet tortoises live in a controlled environment. They are not familiar with the objects in your house. So, they can bump into sharp objects and hurt themselves. You may also have an active heater or fireplace. Your tortoise may walk on it and get severely burned. 

Getting Injured in Different Ways

Besides bumping onto dangerous objects, tortoises can get injured in different ways indoors. When you put it on a table or chair, it might fall. It can even fall from the stairs on its shell. People in your house might even accidentally step on your tortoise. As you can see, there are endless ways for your tortoise to get hurt inside your house. 

Varying Temperature 

Tortoises are cold-blooded reptiles; hence they rely on their environment to control their body temperature. Therefore, you should maintain an ideal temperature for your tortoise in the enclosure. 

So, another problem with letting your tortoise spend time in your house is the temperature. Your tortoise may not be native to your area. As a result, the normal temperature inside your house will not be suitable for your tortoise. The tortoise can feel too cold in a room without appropriate heating temperature.

Maintaining the temperature is crucial for a tortoise’s health. Tortoises need heat not only to keep themselves warm but also to digest food. Also, they can get respiratory diseases if they spend too much time on the cold floor of your house. 

Eating Unhealthy Objects

In the house, you have furniture and other decorative items. Besides, there can be kids inside the house who can spread their toys all over the house. When you let your tortoise walk around the house, it can feel curious and nibble on small pieces of furniture or toys. 

Moreover, you may have house plants that are toxic for your tortoise. Your tortoise might even accidentally bite or get caught on electronic cables. Thus, it is better to keep your tortoise away from such danger. 

Getting Attacked by Other Animals

Do you have other domestic pets in the house? Then your tortoise can be at high risk while roaming inside the house. Cats and dogs may get excited seeing a tortoise. They might want to play with it or try to eat it. 

No matter how friendly your dog or cat is, never let them be too close to your tortoise. So, keep other animals away from the tortoise when you get it out of the enclosure. 

Too Much Stress on the Tortoise 

Tortoises are not like other pets. They do not like to be touched too often. When you let a tortoise walk inside the house, you may try to control its movement for safety. For that, you may have to touch it or hold it in your hands. 

Though it is for your tortoise’s safety, it does not understand that. Too much handling causes stress in tortoises. Remember, a stressful tortoise is an unhappy tortoise. 

Getting Stuck or Lost

Now, what does an overstressed tortoise do? It will try to find a hiding spot in the house. Tortoises are shy animals. They do not want too much attention. Yes, tortoises are slow, but they can run at an incredible speed when they want to protect themselves.

Small to medium size tortoises can hide under furniture or any corner of the house. They can get stuck, and you may not even find them. They can get injured while you try to get them back. 

Spreading Diseases 

Your tortoise should not walk around your house not just for its own sake but also for your safety. Like many reptiles, tortoises can also carry Salmonella. It is a bacterium on the tortoise’s skin, shell, and digestive system. 

When the tortoise affected with Salmonella roams around the house, it can spread the bacteria. Moreover, you may need to touch the tortoise to readjust its position or keep it away from harm’s way. Thus, the bacteria can get inside you or any of your family members. 

People affected by Salmonella show symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, fever, and headache. You can suffer for three to seven days. Most adults have the immunity system to fight Salmonella, but kids may have to be hospitalised. So, always wash your hands properly whenever you touch a tortoise.  

How to Keep Your Tortoises Safe Inside Home?

The safest way to keep your tortoise is by putting it in an indoor enclosure. It is better not to let your tortoise roam around on its own. If you think the indoor tortoise enclosure is small for exercise, you can let your tortoise walk in a well-controlled space. 

Here is what you should do for the safety of your tortoise:

  • Provide a dedicated space for your tortoise’s exercise. You can make an enclosure with a wooden frame so that your tortoise cannot escape. 
  • Remove any kind of sharp objects or anything potentially dangerous for tortoises.
  • The temperature should be strictly maintained. During day time, the ideal temperature for tortoises is between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the cooler side and 90 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit on the warm side. 
  • Other animals should not be around the tortoise. 
  • Handle your tortoise with care. Try to avoid touching tortoises as much as you can. Too much handling can be stressful for tortoises. 

Can I Walk My Tortoise?

Does your tortoise need to be walked outside like cats and dogs? Pet tortoises grow in an enclosure in a controlled environment. They also need to walk around freely now and then. But it does not mean you should take a walk on the street or take it to a busy park full of people.

You can let your tortoise walk in your yard or garden. Tortoises do not like too many people and too much noise. So, you should walk your tortoise in a safe spot where people or other animals do not disturb it. 

Do Tortoises Like to Explore?

Tortoises are slow animals, but they can be curious. In the wild, tortoises walk miles in search of food, partner for reproduction, and nesting. Your pet might appear shy for a few days. But when it adjusts to the environment, it will start exploring the surroundings. 

Tortoises prefer a natural setting. They climb on rock and logs, roam around the area, and burrow in the substrate. Put a lot of rocks, tree logs, and shelter in the tortoise enclosure for your tortoise to explore. 

This is why letting tortoises walk inside the home is discouraged. Inside a home, various objects are harmful to a tortoise. A curious tortoise might get under furniture or a spot in the house where it can get stuck. They might even eat unwanted things out of curiosity. 

Can You Let a Tortoise Roam the Garden?

Tortoises need to exercise regularly to stay healthy. If the weather is suitable for your tortoise, they can walk in the garden or yard for at least an hour. Remove shape objects or tools from the spot to keep the tortoise safe. Also, the area should be clear of other animals when your tortoise exercises outside. 

Remember that tortoises can bite the plants in the garden. So, you should be prepared for that. Also, there should not be any plants that are toxic for your tortoises. Tortoises can get sick eating the leaves and fruits of toxic plants. Some of these plants are:

  • Daffodil
  • Azalea 
  • Avocado
  • Buttercup 
  • Bean sprouts
  • Citrus fruit


So, can you let your tortoise walk around your house freely? The question should not be if you can but if you should let your tortoise roam around inside your house. As an owner of a tortoise, your priority should be the safety of your precious pet.

Since letting tortoises walk inside the home is not safe for many reasons, you should not do so. Instead, take your tortoise for a walk outside in a safe environment. 

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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