There are 2 reasons why your tortoise may chase you. Firstly, affection: they like you (or more likely the food you provide) so much that they follow you around. Secondly, it may be a sign of them being aggresive or territorial. It’s important to determine which, and if needed change your behaviour.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when you’re just minding your own business, or evenly casually interacting with your tortoise, it starts to chase you around with an alarming degree of determination? Most of the time, you might think it’s cute, thinking that your tortoise wants to play tag with you. Maybe they love you so much they even want to chase you around wherever you go?
You might be right – but there may also be other causes. There are several reasons why your tortoise may be chase you – and unfortunately not all of them are because they love you. Usually, they aren’t aggressive – but occasionally their territorial nature can also make an unwelcome appearance. To figure out why your tortoise is going out of its way to chase you, you need to find out the underlying cause.
Are Tortoises Aggressive?
Tortoises are not typically aggressive creatures. When it comes to humans and other animals, they will rarely show signs of aggression. Having said that, just like humans, tortoises can also be territorial or moody when others step on their “toes”.
Imagine the difference in your own demeanor when in a crowded shop or traffic jam, compared to the calm tranquility of your home, and you start to understand where your tortoise might be coming from.
If your tortoise is following you and biting you – and not a cute kind of playful bite, mind you – it’s a good sign that they might be ticked off by something. With that in mind, as long as you give them what they need, including space and independance, you shouldn’t see any signs of aggression if they do chase you.
Top Reasons Why Your Tortoise Might be Chasing You
There are several reasons why your tortoise might be after your toes or hand, whether they bite you or not. Here is why these otherwise cute pets would chase you, and what you can do about it.
- They Are Territorial
Tortoises, males in particular, can be very defensive of their domain. As a result, they might start chasing you the moment you enter their environment. When that happens, they may even try to bite you. This shows the importance of giving your tortoise an enclosure that is exclusively their property. Allowing them to go free in the yard or the house might take this away from them – or worse, they might think that your whole house is theirs.
- It’s Mating Season
Yes, a tortoise might also start chasing you simply because they are embroiled in the mating season. Male tortoises are known to have a powerful hormonal drive, and the urge to mate is very strong in them. If you’ve had your male tortoise for a long time and all of a sudden, they start chasing and snapping at you, then it might be a sign that they want to get some ‘action’. Chasing in this case is just a form of hormone-based aggression.
- They’re Hungry
Tortoises can be very clingy and/or aggressive when they’re hungry. Yep, if your tortoise doesn’t get off your back, there’s a very good chance you’re simply dealing with a hungry tortoise. If you suspect this is the case you might want to try increasing their daily serving of food helps calm them down a bit.
Tortoises may also associate you coming near the enclosure with you giving them food, so they chase you or your hand around the enclosure, it might be because they know (or hope!) that food is on the way.
- They’re Bored of Their Food
So, perhaps you’re feeding your tortoise more than enough, often enough, but they still act “hangry.” While there may be food in the enclosure it may not be varied enough to satisfy the tortoise.
Think about how you act when you eat the same things a couple of days in a row. You get irritable and start craving other (often unhealthy) alternatives. The same thing happens to tortoises. So, if they are chasing you for no apparent reason, try giving them different foods. It might sound surprising, but tortoises are quite picky eaters. Just keep it healthy!
- They’re Showing Genuine Affection
Yes, there can also be instances when tortoises are not chasing you as a result of aggression. It might just be a sign of affection (coupled with the fact that they know you usually give them food). If you approach their enclosure, but do not enter it, it might be because they want or expect to get some food from you. You should take this opportunity to try and bond with them (e.g., give their shell a gentle scratch).
- They’re Mistaking You for Food
You may be bigger, but this may not make you look any less delicious – particularly when your tortoise is hungry. Even if you did feed it, your tortoise might still chase you down and try to chew down on you! It is not usually a sign of aggression as such, nor is it a sign of affection – it just shows that your little friend is a bit confused.
- You Haven’t Given Them Enough Enclosure Enrichment
Tortoises, just like humans, need to work out their energy – aggressive or not. In a properly enriched environment, they probably won’t have any chance to get bored. They will push a few balls or rocks, chew on their cuttlebone, and simply burn off some steam.
So, when they do not have the appropriate enrichment to keep them busy, they’ll make do with what little they can get. And if that means chasing you down the moment you enter their enclosure to burn off some aggressive energy, then they’ll do just that.
The Bottom Line
Tortoises do not often chase people without good reason. There’s a slight chance it might be a sign of affection – but usually, it’s either because they are territorial, or they want something. It’s up to you to figure out what they need and provide it accordingly.