Do Tortoises Smell Bad? [Remove Stinky Odor]

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

People often back out from getting a tortoise because of the maintenance hassle and the fear of a bad odor. But do tortoises actually smell bad? Do these creatures have a body odor? 

Tortoises have an unnoticeable musky odor. But the pets will stink if they grow an infection or a rotten wound on the body. Besides, the dirty enclosure, uncleaned substrate, and scummy water bowls can also cause the foul odor of the tortoises. 

You do not want your tortoise to rot. Right? Then give this article a read to find out the prevention and escape from the stinky odor.

Do Tortoises Have A Natural Odor?

You can not blame people for thinking that tortoises stink. Well, most popular house pets like dogs and cats have a distinct odor of furs. But luckily, this is not the case with tortoises. 

Tortoises definitely do not stink or have a bad body odor. However, you will notice a musky, outdoorsy smell coming from these reptiles. 

The fragrance is similar to the hay-like substrate smell. Being a land creature and spending a chunk of time on the substrate justifies the odor of the tortoises. 

Generally, the tortoise’s body odor is not strong enough to grab your attention. In most cases, this smell is influenced by the surrounding of the pet. Hence, if your tortoise stinks, chances are that there is something wrong going on inside the enclosure.

What Makes The Tortoises Smell Bad? 

As mentioned, the stinking smell is not something that the tortoises inherit. But the foul odor is coming from the habitat. 

Let me explain to you the factors that make the tortoises smell bad, 

1. There Is Poop Everywhere

Tortoise poop has a mild smell and goes unnoticeable most of the time. But the excrement will start spreading a foul odor if it goes uncleaned for days.

The waste entices bacterial growth and attracts flies and bugs to the enclosure. Soon the feces turns into a mold and causes health harm to the tortoises.

While most pets take a dump in the water during the bath, some still prefer to poop on the substrate. If your tortoise belongs to the latter group, look out for the excrement and remove it as soon as possible. 

2. Leftover Food items In The Pen 

Generally, the owners put the food in the corner of the pen to avoid mess. But the mightly tortoise often decides to take its meal to some other place. 

Once the pet is full, it will stop eating and return to its playful activities. And the food? Well, the meal will stay there to rot unless you remove it. 

Tortoise meals include 60 – 80% vegetables, grass, and other greens. As we know, the greens rot quickly when they get moisture, temperature, and air. Considering all the factors present in the tortoise enclosure, the meal undergoes decomposition faster.

During the process of this microbial breakdown, the leftover foods spread a pungent odor. 

Hence, look for food scraps if you notice a terrible smell from the tortoise. The best solution to this problem is to remove the leftovers immediately after the meal. Also, you can use another box solely built for feeding the pet.

3. You Haven’t Cleaned The Dishes For How Long?

To keep the tortoises hydrated, you must provide them with a shallow water bowl at one corner of the pen. Experts insist on filling up the bowl with fresh water.

But wait!

Do you give the bottom surface a good rub when filling the bowl? Of course, not! 

The uncleaned water dish often builds up residue at the bottom, spreading a rancid odor. Thus, scrubbing the bottom of the bowl at least once a week can help you get rid of the smell.

4. The Substrate Is Damp And Nasty

The musty smell of the substrate is not something most owners enjoy. Sometimes a stronger unpleasant odor accompanies that mustiness. All credits here are due to the damp bedding. 

Tortoise enclosure substrates have the capability to retain moisture. Well, it is to keep the pen humid and the tortoises hydrated. But this feature can often backfire, making the bedding damp and a breeding ground for bacteria. 

For example, spraying the substrate with more water than necessary will entice bacteria to spread their population. Similarly, tortoises can wet the bedding when you do not dry them off after a soak. 

Again, tortoises may urinate on the substrate. While you can spot the poop, the bedding will soak the pee. As a result, the damp ground will soon start to sink and promote bacterial growth. No wonder why the tortoise spreads that unpleasant odor. 

5. Is It Cuttlefish? 

Cuttlebones are a great source of calcium for tortoises. Nibbling on this supplement keeps the tortoise away from calcium deficiency. Besides, it prevents the beak from overgrowing. 

However, the cuttlebones have a fishy smell. Some owners can not stand that odor at all. 

Boiling the cuttlebone or soaking it for 15 minutes can eliminate the smell. Again, you can go with other calcium supplement alternatives too.

How To Get Rid Of The Tortoise Stink 

Dealing with a stinky tortoise or enclosure is not a big deal. In fact, maintaining the minimum hygiene code will take care of the odor. Here is how to keep the tortoise pen healthy and clean, 

  • Start by removing the poop and leftover food from the habitat every single day. 
  • Try to feed the tortoise in a separate box if your tortoise is too messy. 
  • Replace the bedding regularly.
  • Dry the wet spot on the substrate every day. 
  • Scrub the water dishes at least once a week. 
  • Do a thorough cleanup of the entire habitat once a month with disinfectant and tortoise-friendly cleanser.

What if the odor is still lingering with the tortoise? Well, in this scenario, you have to explore the possibility that the smell is coming from the pet. 

Infectious diseases, for example, mouth rot, shell rot, etc., have the reputation of spreading bad odor. Hence, properly check the tortoise’s scutes, limbs, neck, and tail. Look for any sign of redness, raw injury, sore muscle, or rot. 

Take a quick sniff of the wound. If the tortoise stinks, rush to the vet immediately for treatment. Infectious diseases spread really fast, and if they go untreated, the pets suffer in the long run.

Experts will treat the sick tortoise with meds and disinfectant. The smell will be gone once the pet is cured.

Dead Tortoise With Bad Smell 

Like any other living creature, the tortoise’s body decomposes once the pet is dead. The flesh will start rotting, spreading a stinky odor. Also, the dump will attract bugs and flies, making the scene a mess. 

Hence, dealing with the dead tortoise is necessary as soon as possible to avoid the smell and bacterial outbreak. You can bury the pet or cremate it in the pet crematorium. I have pointed out more details on how to handle a dead tortoise in this article

Do Turtles And Tortoises Have The Same Smell?

Being close relatives, turtles and tortoises have countless physical and behavioral similarities. So, do these reptiles smell the same? 

Well, not really. 

I have seen people tag tortoise smells as musty. But I beg to differ.

In fact, the musty or damping smell is more of a turtle thing. It is because these creatures spend 3/4th of their lives in the water. 

On the contrary, tortoises have a dry and musky odor. These creatures often smell like hay or layered substrate.

Can Tortoises Smell? 

Enough with the why tortoises smell bad or musky. Let’s find out whether this species can smell the surroundings or not. 

As a matter of fact, tortoises have a strong smelling sense. Scientists suggest that these reptiles have Jacobson’s organ, which allows them to smell.

Jacobson’s organ is located on the roof of the tortoise’s mouth. When breathing, air passes through the nose and pumps the throat, connecting the smelling organ. Hence, the pets can sense the faintest odor.

Before You Go 

You already know that tortoises can smell. Do you know pets can make weird noises too? The below link will give the right explanation behind each tortoise sound. 

Weird Noises That Tortoises Make And Why They Do It?

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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