Cats have sharp hunting instincts and quick reflexes, even if they’re tame and well-behaved. They have been known to attack and eat birds, fish, hamsters, and other pets that are viewed as prey. There is a grey area with tortoises, however. They are prey animals, but cats don’t hunt tortoises in the wild, leaving owners to wonder if they’d get along.
Tortoises and cats get along since they both prefer to keep to themselves. At best, they will accept each other’s presence and ignore one another. At worst, they will warn each other off and keep their distance from then on. If a fight does break out, it will be brief and largely harmless. The cat is too nimble to be harmed by the tortoise, and the tortoise can protect itself with its shell.
Large tortoises are the best to keep, as the cat won’t see them as prey. With that said, cats and tortoises can hurt each other. This is especially true for kittens or juvenile tortoises. To ensure they live peacefully, you should always supervise the two, especially in the first few weeks. Be sure to cat-proof the enclosure, so the feline can’t antagonize the tortoise or cause sickness. This should see them coexisting without conflict or stress.
Are Tortoises Good With Cats?
When compared to other mixed-animal pairs, tortoises and cats can get along fine. That’s because they both have mild temperaments and prefer to keep to themselves. Upon first meeting, they will largely be indifferent to each other.
If your cat and tortoise do get into a fight, it’s unlikely to become as dangerous as with other animals. Both have natural defenses that could protect them instead of letting things turn into a free-for-all.
Tortoises are not overly social creatures and don’t engage in fights unless for territorial or mating reasons. That won’t immediately be a problem for cats.
Felines don’t set up permanent claims on land, food, or even sunning spots. Your cat will be more willing to compromise if the tortoise wants a space. You won’t get those persistent, unresolvable fights that can be found with a cat and a dog, for example.
Out of the two, your cat is the most likely to pester the tortoise. However, since these reptiles aren’t the natural prey of cats, your cat won’t react based on its hunting instincts. This eliminates the urge to antagonize, bite, or exhaust the creature as it might with a bird, fish, or rat.
Do Tortoises And Cats Get On?
Tortoises and cats have no reason to be instant friends, but they won’t be automatic enemies either. The cat and tortoise will view each other as a strange new creature with odd:
- Movement patterns
In a good situation, this will result in curiosity as the two investigate and learn about each other. Once they’re satisfied, they may live in harmony, either accepting the other creature’s presence or ignoring it.
In a bad situation, the two will have a brief session of hissing, warning bites, and then an agreement to stay away from each other. This shouldn’t result in an actual fight but a truce. That truce may need to be renewed every few weeks, especially if one enters a space that belongs to the other. However, they won’t actively antagonize one another.
Tortoises and cats make a good pair precisely because of this truce. Since they are so different from each other, and the cat’s hunting instincts aren’t engaged, they can make a compromise. As long as you prepare accordingly, your cat and tortoise can live safely under the same roof.
Are Tortoises Safe Around Cats?
Tortoises are mostly safe against cats because they have many ways to repel predators. The greatest will always be its shell. This protective home is strong and can withstand immense pressure. In fact, according to Composites, tortoise shells have:
- A flexural strength of 165.1 MPa
- A fracture toughness of 36.4 MPa
That’s comparable to aluminum alloy, which, pound for pound, can be as strong as steel. It’s often used to build planes, satellites, and even skyscrapers. Although a tortoise’s shell doesn’t work as a building material all on its own, it does mean that your new tortoise can withstand a cat scratch.
Aside from their shells, tortoises can also defend themselves with a vicious bite. This is good news for the reptile, but it can be bad news for the cat. The force of a tortoise’s bite depends on the species, but alligator snapping turtles have one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom.
According to the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, carnivorous tortoises have a stronger bite force than herbivores. They can snap fingers clean off or reach pressure levels of 1,000 psi. Luckily, cats are nimble fighters and cautious when poking at threats.
In a fight, your cat will likely maneuver out of the tortoise’s range and try to pounce at its back. The shell will then repel the cat. After a few more minutes of conflict, the cat is likely to give up. Of course, if you notice them fighting, you should break it up. Accidents still happen, and the stress to your tortoise alone can be dangerous.
Are Cats Dangerous To Tortoises?
Natural defenses or no, a tortoise isn’t completely safe from a cat. Cats may still be able to scratch or bite an exposed part of the tortoise before it can retreat inside its shell.
Juvenile tortoises will be more vulnerable, as they have softer shells than adults. A cat may be able to damage the shell or inflict wounds on younger ones.
One of the greatest dangers is if your cat gets into the tortoise’s enclosure. Here, it can spread bacteria, parasites, bugs, and even feces gathered from the outdoors. This could make your tortoise sick.
If the cat decides that the tortoise’s substrate makes for great litter, be sure to clean it out and sanitize the area immediately. Viruses and pathogens are likely to transmit in the warm enclosure of a tortoise tank.
The cat itself may also be endangered within the tank. If it lies underneath the heat lamp, it may get burnt or create a fire hazard while knocking objects around. Worse yet, if the cat isn’t able to escape, the tortoise can bite at it freely. The reptiles are known for ramming their shells against other creatures to defend themselves. This could injure your cat.
Do Cats Eat Tortoises?
Unless your tortoise is tiny, a cat cannot eat it. A tortoise’s hard and broad shell will make it impossible for your cat to bite it into smaller pieces. That leaves swallowing the tortoise whole as the only option. If the cat gets the shell into its mouth, even then, it will struggle to swallow it.
This can lead to choking and will certainly frighten the tortoise. For that reason, be sure to only pair cats with a tortoise that’s equal to the size of their head or even larger.
As a perk, the bigger a tortoise, the less likely the cat is to fight or antagonize it. Even if they aren’t natural prey for a cat, small animals may engage their hunting instinct. A baby or juvenile tortoise may be reminiscent of a mouse or a small bird.
The feline will play with the tortoise as a toy, at the very least. If the tortoise is equal in size to the cat or a little smaller, the feline will give it a wide berth.
Do Cats Attack Tortoises?
Whether or not cats and tortoises will fight depends largely on their personalities. Aggressive and territorial cats will be more likely to start a fight with a tortoise. Overly playful cats are also more likely to approach tortoises and cause harm through play. In general, cats will leave a tortoise alone. This is especially true if:
- The tortoise is larger than the cat, or equal in size
- The tortoise isn’t allowed near the cat’s food or litter box
- The cat has somewhere high-up to perch, out of the tortoise’s reach
Tortoises also tend to be slow. While your cat may be intrigued, there’s less of a chance of your cat pouncing and attacking. Felines respond best (with almost blind instinct at times) to fast, scurrying creatures.
Of course, that doesn’t mean your cat can’t attack your tortoise. It may decide on a whim. It may also feel threatened when the tortoise ignores its warning yowls and invades the cat’s space.
That makes it crucial to monitor when your cat and tortoise are in the same room together. Although the reptile is likely to defend itself, and the fight will end in a draw, the cat may also:
- Scratch the tortoise’s face, legs, or neck
- Reach inside the shell and bat at the tortoise (perhaps avoiding any forthcoming bites)
- Antagonize the tortoise until it’s exhausted
Can A Cat Kill A Tortoise?
A cat can kill a tortoise. A cat’s teeth and sharp claws can still harm the head, legs, and shell. This is especially true for smaller or younger tortoises. The shell may not be fully hardened, or their tiny bodies may suffer more grievous wounds from a large cat.
Likewise, a cat may stress out a tortoise, which can eventually lead to its death. Constantly being attacked, prodded at, chased, and antagonized can disrupt the tortoise’s ability to:
- Process nutrients
- Recover from injuries
- Maintain a healthy immune system
That’s just to name a few. This can lead to the tortoise growing ill and eventually dying.
Outside of a fight, cats may also kill a tortoise by accident. Using their enclosure as a sunning spot, a litter box, or a playroom exposes the reptile to many unseen dangers. Cotangents that do not affect your cat may prove deadly for a tortoise, such as:
That’s just to name a few. Although it’s safe to let both explore your home, giving the creatures free rein in each other’s private enclosures is unwise. It can lead to harmful cross-contamination.
Why Do Tortoises Chase Cats?
Tortoises may seem like the more docile of the two creatures. To some extent, this is true, but a territorial or aggressive tortoise can be the instigator. Based on its species and personality, the reptile may look for a fight, chasing down a cat that’s otherwise leaving it alone.
Owners of both animals sometimes report their tortoises chasing the cat and biting its tail unprovoked. This is usually a tortoise’s way of exhibiting mating behavior. From the reptile’s perspective, a cat’s tail is the same height as a female tortoise.
Throughout the breeding process, male tortoises nip at females and butt against them with their shells. Unfortunately, this can be really confusing and painful to cats. Match that to a powerful bite strength, and tortoises can damage the vertebrae, nerves, and joints of a cat’s nail. If the reptile decides to ram its shell against the cat, it may lead to bruising or even broken bones.
In most cases, a feline can outrun a tortoise. As long as it has a vantage point it can escape to, it can avoid injury. However, it will still be stressful for the cat and lead to conflict in the home. The cat may be more willing to antagonize the tortoise in the future. If you see this behavior, you should keep the two separated.
What Can Live With A Tortoise?
Tortoises get along with cats well enough, but there are other pets that can also live with a tortoise. These include:
- Dogs: They’re more likely to see tortoises as prey, but they can be more easily trained to get along.
- Turtles: Other turtles and tortoises will co-exist naturally with yours.
- Bearded Dragons: Both animals are territorial, but they ignore each other if given a large enough enclosure.
- Geckos: When paired with herbivorous tortoises, they will inhabit different parts of the tank and co-exist peacefully
Keeping Cats And Tortoises
Cats and tortoises can live together safely, but you need to take precautions. The more stress you can limit, the healthier both your cat and tortoise will be. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
Supervise Your Pets
A cat and tortoise should not be left alone together, especially in the first couple of weeks. Until the cat has properly investigated the new pet and decided it’s acceptable (or boring), it may bother the tortoise incessantly. Even if it means no harm, this can stress the tortoise out.
Likewise, tortoises are likely to ignore the cat, but they may also be aggressive or curious. To keep the tortoise from chasing your cat, stay within reach of it. You can pick the tortoise up or reposition it before it can create a fight.
This is especially true if either the cat or the tortoise is a juvenile. Kittens are more likely to play with a tortoise, and juvenile tortoises are more likely to be hurt by adult cats.
Depending on how your pets react and their ages, you may be able to loosen the reins a bit. A cat and tortoise should never be left together for several hours, let alone all day. However, if both ignore each other and show no signs of aggression, stepping out of the room doesn’t have to mean bringing one with you.
Cat Proof Your Tortoise Tank
You can’t keep an eye on your pets all the time. For this reason, it’s important to give your tortoise a place where it can stay safe, far from your cat. Cats will be intrigued by a tortoise enclosure. To keep them out, you’ll need to cat-proof it.
- Have a tank lid: You can buy reptile tanks with pre-made covers or create your own using opaque materials. These will not let UVB light through, but they also won’t leave your tortoise in darkness.
- Secure the enclosure: The cat will undoubtedly try to jump on and play around on the tank. Just in case, be sure to place it against a wall and secure any openings with clamps.
- Place it out of reach: Cats are agile, and it can stress your tortoise to see the pet always climbing around, just out of reach. Try placing the tank in a room your feline can’t access.
- Add deterrents: You can train a cat to stay away from the enclosure, but you may also need deterrents. Smell-based ones include diluted essential oils like citrus, mint, and menthol.
- Set up irritants: Like the essential oil, you can deter cats by placing foil or sandpaper on surfaces near the enclosure. This will not hurt your cat but will make it think twice about approaching.
This will ensure the cat gives your tortoise some breathing room, so they can both stay calm and happy. These two animals are likely to ignore each other and live happily in the same home. As long as you don’t leave them unsupervised, especially in the early weeks, cats and tortoises will get along OK.