Tortoise Care 101: Insights from Expert Patty Mesich

Tortoise Care 101 Insights from Expert Patty Mesich

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

Embarking on the journey of tortoise parenthood can be both thrilling and daunting. Understanding the nuanced needs of these unique creatures is crucial for their well-being.

Enter Patty Mesich, a Tortoise & Box Turtle Expert from Lagrange, IL, who has dedicated two decades to the study and care of these fascinating reptiles.

In this comprehensive guide, Patty shares her wealth of knowledge, covering everything from the ideal diet for baby tortoises to creating the perfect habitat.

Later down the guide, I have included the complete interview with Patty Mesich for interested readers (you won’t regret reading!).

Meet the Expert: Patty Mesich

Patty Mesich tortoise & box turtle expert
This is Patty Mesich!

Patty Mesich, a renowned expert in tortoise and box turtle care from Lagrange, IL, brings 20 years of experience to the table.

She’s a passionate hobbyist who has bred numerous species, helped countless people improve their pet’s lives, and shares her vast knowledge on various platforms including Facebook.

Her focus is on enhancing the lives of tortoises and turtles worldwide.

Baby Tortoise Diet and Feeding Schedule

Babies need food daily,” Patty emphasizes. She advises starting with a soak in shallow warm water to spark appetite. The diet varies by species.

For example, Russians, sulcatas, and hermanns should avoid protein and fruit. On the other hand, redfoots and yellowfoots can have some fruit and protein.

She recommends safe weeds and greens for the first group, with food ideas available on The Tortoise Table.

Dealing with Common Tortoise Diseases

Respiratory illnesses are common, especially in spring and fall. Patty’s first advice is to visit an exotic vet.

As a temporary measure, she suggests raising the enclosure temperature slightly. She also notes that Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) stems from poor care, like incorrect UVB lighting, humidity, and diet. “Research is key,” Patty advises.

Creating the Ideal Tortoise Habitat

An ideal habitat, according to Patty, is large, with proper UVB and heat bulbs. It should include a water source, a cool side, and a hot side. Covering part of the top with plexiglass can help maintain heat or humidity.

She stresses the importance of keeping the habitat away from windows or drafts and safe from predators like dogs and cats.

Choosing the Right Tortoise Species

For beginners, Patty recommends the Russian or Hermann tortoise due to their small size and friendly nature. She warns against Sulcata tortoises, often chosen without understanding their large size and long lifespan. “Research and space consideration are vital,” she asserts.

Avoiding Common Beginner Mistakes

The most frequent errors include improper temperatures, humidity, and diet. Patty’s solution is simple: do your research. She encourages reaching out for help when needed, highlighting the importance of informed pet care.

Interview With Patty Mesich

Q1. What is the perfect diet for a baby tortoise? Can you also provide a sample feeding schedule that a beginner can follow?

Babies need to be offered food daily.  It is best to give them a soak in shallow luke warm water first then offer food.  This can help to entice appetite. Diet depends on the species.  Russians, sulcatas, hermanns, desert tortoises are not protein or fruit eaters. 

That should be avoided.  Redfoots, yellowfoots, elongated and forsten’s tortoises can eat fruit and a small amount of protein. For the first group it is best to feed safe weeds and greens. Any food ideas can be cross referenced on the website

Q2. What are some of the common diseases of tortoises? Any home remedies a beginner can do as a first aid?

Common diseases are respiratory illnesses.  They seem to show up more in spring and fall.  The best thing to do is get to a trusted exotic vet. 

Until you can get there it is best to bump up your temperature inside the tortoise’s enclosure a degree or two.  Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is also a common illness. It is generally caused by improper husbandry overall. 

Meaning lack of the proper UVB lighting, lack of humidity and improper diet.  It is very important to research a tortoises need before getting one. 

Q3. What does an ideal tortoise habitat look like to you? What elements are a must for an ideal tortoise habitat?

An ideal habitat is large and spacious.  It has the correct UVB bulb and heat bulb.  There is access to fresh water daily, a cool side and a hot side. Sometimes you may want to cover part of the top (not by the light bulbs) to keep heat or humidity in. 

The best way is a piece of plexiglass.  It is best to keep the habitat away from the window or drafty areas. 

It is also important to keep tortoises/turtles away from other pets especially dogs and cats since they are predators and can severely injure or kill them. 

Q4. According to your experience, if someone wants to start with tortoise keeping, what species should he/she get first? Why?

I have always been a fan of the Russian tortoise or Hermann tortoise. They stay relatively small and are very friendly.  Don’t get me wrong, every tortoise is very friendly and you can develop a nice bond with them given time and patience.

Picking the right species for you is based on how much time and space you can give them.  For example, so many people get Sulcata tortoises not knowing how large they get.  They can get over 100 pounds and live many decades.  I

n my opinion sulcatas are extremely overbred and too many wind up being given away since they get so large.  It also seems like they are most prone to MBD since most keepers cannot meet their space requirements. Please do your research!

Q5. What are the most common mistakes a beginner makes when keeping tortoises? How to prevent these?

Common mistakes are improper husbandry.  Temperatures being off, lack of humidity, bad diet, the list goes on.  All can be prevented with proper research.  If ever needed please reach out! 

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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