Having two kinds of pets in one household, like tortoises and cats, can be a difficult combination. That’s because the two different species of animals don’t naturally get along, and may even attack or kill each other.
Adult tortoises and cats ‘can’ get along once they are trained. Cats and tortoises don’t hunt each other in the wild, but they can chase and bite each other. To stop your cat and tortoise fighting you can use water sprays and do your best to keep them apart.
Kittens and young tortoises will play and fight with each other. You need to know how to stop your cat and tortoise attacking each other.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Do Tortoises and Cats Get On?
- 2 Do Tortoises Like Cats?
- 3 Can Cats and Tortoises Live Together?
Do Tortoises and Cats Get On?
Cats and tortoises can get along, but whether they do will depend on the behavior and personalities of each animal.
The age of the cat and the tortoise, their temperaments, and the stressfulness of your household will determine how well the pair get along.
So, for example, a baby tortoise and a kitten are more likely to fight than an adult cat and adult tortoise. A cat that has never encountered other pets is more likely to attack a tortoise because it sees it as a potential threat.
It is possible for a tortoise and a cat to live together safely. But the pair will never be friends because the two species can’t understand each other.
Do Cats Like Tortoises?
Whether your cat will like your tortoise depends on its personality. If your cat is feisty, it may be aggressive to a tortoise. But if your cat is calm around other pets, then it likely won’t want to harm your tortoise.
Most owners claim that cats will leave tortoises alone. When first introduced, your cat may be curious about the other animal. It may sniff at the tortoise as if it’s interested in what it is.
If it’s scared of the tortoise, it will try to keep its distance. It may also bat the tortoise with its paw. This is a common reaction among cats when they see creatures that they don’t recognize.
Not all cats are the same. Some will try to play with the tortoise. Others will be curious, and so might try to get into your tortoise’s enclosure. This applies to kittens, which are far more inquisitive than adult house cats.
Do Cats Attack Tortoises?
Cats rarely attack tortoises. More than anything, a cat that sees a tortoise will be feeling very curious, especially if it has never encountered one.
When a cat is curious, it doesn’t immediately attack. The cat doesn’t know if the tortoise is dangerous in some unknown way. If it attacks an unknown quantity, it could be caught by killed or injured.
However, cats can attack tortoises in certain circumstances. Baby tortoises are more likely to be attacked because of their diminutive size. Cats’ instincts tell them to hunt, but only for things which are smaller.
Also, tortoises move like a cat’s prey does. They will sit still for a long time, perhaps hiding, before trying to escape. This appeals to a cat’s basic hunting instincts.
Can Cats Hurt Tortoises?
A cat could hurt an adult tortoise, but this is unlikely. The tortoise has a natural defense with its shell. It can also nip at a cat with its surprisingly strong bite. This will likely be enough to dissuade the cat from attacking.
Also, a cat is more likely to play with a tortoise than to attack it. Tortoises aren’t natural prey for cats. If your cat is only playing, then it won’t bite or scratch with its full intensity.
According to Discover Magazine, baby tortoises’ shells aren’t fully formed, and are softer than those of adult turtles.
A cat could easily hurt a baby tortoise if it attacked one. So, don’t keep baby tortoises in a place that cats can reach.
Do Cats Eat Tortoises?
Cats don’t eat tortoises in the wild. They’ll eat rodents and birds, but they aren’t naturally drawn to eating tortoises.
According to the Wildlife Land Trust, tortoises live in many countries. They can live on land, in fresh water, and in dry deserts.
Many tortoise species share a habitat with wild or domestic cats, although these cats very rarely want to eat them.
Do Tortoises Like Cats?
Cats can scare tortoises. Cats move quickly and suddenly, which can make your tortoise nervous. Cats are also very agile, which means they can get into your tortoise’s enclosure unless it’s properly closed off.
Cats can hiss loudly and scratch, too. While you, the owner, understand that cats only do this when scared, your tortoise obviously doesn’t know that.
It comes across as aggressive behavior in cats. This will make your tortoise frightened, or cause it to fight back.
Tortoise Biting Cat
Sometimes, your tortoise might bite your cat. This can either be in self-defense, or unprovoked. Your tortoise may move slowly, but it bites quickly.
Tortoises don’t have teeth. Rather than teeth, they have hard gums. But they still have a hard bite which can hurt a cat. You can’t let your tortoise bite your cat with no consequences.
If this happens, you can try the same thing as you would with your cat: scaring it to discourage the behavior. However, your tortoise may not understand this in the same way that a cat would.
Why Do Tortoises Chase Cats?
Something else a tortoise might do is chase and hassle a cat. Your tortoise may pester your cat, following it and nipping at it over and over again.
Your tortoise is playing with the cat. Many animals will play, including cats. It is a behavior that serves many evolutionary purposes. Your tortoise may be irritating your cat on purpose as a game.
According to the Independent, the tortoise is showing interest in mating with the cat. Tortoises aren’t the smartest animals, so your male tortoise may have mistaken the cat for a female tortoise.
Male tortoises which are showing interest in mating will display several behaviors, which you may notice:
- Biting to get the female tortoise’s attention.
- Headbutting and foot-stomping, again to get her attention.
- Attempted mounting
Your tortoise may not try to mount the cat, as the cat will move away before it can. But you may see these other behaviors. While this behavior won’t hurt your cat, it will mean that the two can’t easily get along.
Can Cats and Tortoises Live Together?
Cats and tortoises can live in the same home, but they aren’t an ideal pairing. They won’t ever grow to love each other, as two cats can, or a cat and other kinds of pets. But they can tolerate each other safely.
Cats and tortoises can sit together, even play to an extent, although they will never be as close as two mammals will.
A cat can be dangerous to a tortoise. That applies mostly to baby tortoises, which are vulnerable because their shells haven’t fully formed.
Keep Your Cat and Tortoise Apart
The best way to prevent fighting between cats and tortoises is to stop them from interacting. If they never encounter each other, they won’t ever fight.
So, have a home for your tortoise that your cat can’t reach. It should have four solid walls and a ceiling that the cat can’t get through. This will prevent any attacks, i.e. when your cat gets into your tortoise’s enclosure.
Cats, especially playful kittens, can easily jump into tortoises’ enclosures. Once inside, they may struggle to get out. And while tortoises are slow, they are quick to come out of their hiding area to bite the feline intruder.
You should also put the tortoise enclosure somewhere your cat can’t sit near it. Your tortoise needs somewhere to live that it feels safe. If your cat were watching it all the time, it wouldn’t feel happy and secure.
This could be in a room that your cat isn’t allowed in, for example. It could also be in a cabinet that your cat can’t climb up or into.
Monitor Your Tortoise and Cat Together
Your tortoise will benefit from time outside of its enclosure. You can allow it out into your room, or into an outdoor or indoor pen. You should monitor your tortoise when you let it out. This is for several reasons.
You don’t want it to escape. While tortoises aren’t fast, they can hide, and can end up in unexpected places. So even if you don’t have a cat, you should watch your tortoise when you take it from its enclosure anyway.
But your cat could also be somewhere you don’t expect. It could be in your yard when you let your tortoise out. If you don’t monitor your tortoise, your cat could attack it.
Prevent Fighting by Training Your Cat
Over time, your cat and tortoise will each learn that the other isn’t a threat. But your cat might need training.
Your cat may want to play with the tortoise or attack it. While the basis of these behaviors is instinctual, you can train your cat to an extent.
The easiest way to train a cat is through negative association. You want to associate your cat’s behavior, in its mind, with something bad.
Throw something loud near your cat. Keys are a good choice, because they will get your cat’s attention. They will scare your cat, and it will associate its poor behavior with a negative consequence. Options include:
- Using keys, which aren’t too loud, but make a shocking jangling sound
- Using a can full of pebbles or something similar
- Saying ‘No!’ in a loud voice, although this can make your cat dislike you personally
Don’t throw anything directly at your cat. The idea isn’t to hit your cat, but to scare it momentarily. You also don’t need to throw the thing too hard.
You can also spray your cat with a misting spray. If you do want to do this, ensure that the consequence immediately follows the behavior, because otherwise, your cat won’t understand why you’re ‘punishing’ it.
Over time, this will teach your cat not to attack or pester your tortoise.