When it comes to a tortoises diet you need to be sure that what you’re feeding them is safe and nutritious. Tortoises are primarily herbivores so their diet should consist of plenty of greens, plants, and vegetables. However there isn’t one set diet for tortoises as a species that lives in North America will require a different diet to ones that live closer to the Mediterranean.
One food that often gets brought up is mean, is it safe for tortoises and can they eat it? Let’s find out.
Do tortoises eat meat? As the majority of tortoises are herbivores, they shouldn’t have meat as a part of their diet. Meat also contains high amounts of protein which can be harmful to tortoises as it’s known to cause damage to the kidneys. Species like the Red-Footed tortoise are omnivores which means they can have some meat sources in their diet.
In this article we’re going to cover certain meats in more detail, why meat is harmful to tortoises, and some other important topics so continue reading!
Can Tortoises Eat Meat?
As tortoises are naturally herbivores, meat isn’t usually a staple in their diet. Whether or not a tortoise can eat meat depends on the species and what foods they would come across out in the wild. As meats are known to be extremely high in protein this can harm tortoises. Now protein isn’t detrimental to tortoises it’s needed to support muscle maintenance and build antibodies. However too much protein for tortoises is known to do damage to their kidneys.
Increased protein intake can lead to kidney stones in tortoises due to excess urate production. This leads to an increased chance kidney stones form in the body.
Another downside of protein in a tortoises body is that it can make them grow at a rate that harms them. This is known to be a big factor in pyramiding in tortoises. Pyramiding is when your tortoises scutes grow abnormally to form a pyramid looking shape.
Meat isn’t exactly toxic to tortoises as if they eat some they won’t be harmed, however it’s not something that should be a staple in their diet. Tortoises need foods like greens, fruits, vegetables, and plants. Depending on the species they may be able to have more protein in their diet than others.
When living in the wild Red-footed tortoises would often come across protein sources and therefore protein can be included in their diet. It’s recommended they have around 10% protein in their diet. This can include things like mealworms and other insects.
Can Tortoises Eat Chicken?
For species of tortoise that can have protein in their diet, chicken is one of the best sources. It’s extremely lean as it contains low amounts of saturated fat and the amino acids inside it are needed for muscle and cells regeneration.
You should avoid feeding your tortoise any sort of processed chicken as it typically contains other preservatives that make it unsuitable for tortoises. Processed chicken is also extremely high in sodium and fat. Tortoises are herbivores meaning they have little need for fat in their diet.
Can Tortoises Eat Beef?
Red meats like beef aren’t recommended for tortoises as they are known to be high in cholesterol. Tortoises may come across beef in the wild. It likely won’t do any harm to them if it’s fed sparingly however beef isn’t something that should feature in your tortoises diet too often.
Can Tortoises Eat Pork?
Pork is very high in saturated fat so it shouldn’t be on the menu for tortoises. It’s best to stick to other leaner sources of protein like chicken, boiled eggs and insects.
Can Tortoises Eat Turkey?
Turkey is a good alternative to chicken as they contain similar nutritional values. If your tortoise doesn’t like chicken try give them some turkey and see how they respond. Similarly to chicken, you should avoid feeding your tortoise processed turkey. When it comes to feeding your tortoise poultry you need to avoid giving it any seasoning like salt and pepper. Simply bake it in the oven.
What Happens If A Tortoise Eats Meat?
Fast Rate Of Growth
Baby tortoises have a diet that’s high in protein, this is because they need it for growth. Too much protein can cause your tortoise to grow at an excessive rate that is harmful to them.
Excess protein in a tortoises diet can cause the shell to put down extra layers of keratin. This causes the scutes to forming a pyramid like shape. Pyramiding can’t be reversed in tortoises so it’s important to catch it before it occurs.
There are also different factors that cause pyramiding in tortoise such as :
- Not enough calcium
- Too much phosphorous
- Not enough vitamin D3
- Wrong substrate
- Improper care during the baby months
We have a more in-depth article about pyramiding in tortoises which covers the subject in greater detail.
Similar to humans, tortoises can also develop kidney stones. They are stones made up of protein, uric acid, and mucus from the bladder.
High amounts of protein is known to cause these kidney stones in tortoises so it should be limited. This is because uric acid, which is a waste product of protein, can build up in the kidneys putting extra strain on the organ.
Kidney stones can also occur if there is a nutritional imbalance in a tortoises diet, either too much protein or too much calcium.
To prevent kidney problems in tortoises you need to make sure they have a well balanced diet, enough water so they don’t become dehydrated, and they are kept at an optimal temperature. Water is important in kidney health as it flushes out uric acid from the bladder, reducing the risk of stones.
Tortoises and Meat – Final Thoughts
Meat shouldn’t be a big part of your tortoises diet as they are mainly herbivores who require foods like vegetables, greens, and plants. If your tortoise species is one that can have more protein in their diet such as a Red-footed tortoise then they can have meat like chicken, eggs, and insects.
As meat contains high amounts of protein it should be kept to a minimum as too much protein for tortoises can cause problems such as rapid growth and kidney problems.
We hope you found this article useful and you can use it to create a more balanced and nutritious diet for your tort!