Date: 18/02/20
Share this article:
Tortoise Behaviour - What does it mean?

Tortoise Behaviour - What does it mean?

Our pets can not communicate with us so there are many times when they will exhibit behaviour that seems strange and unusual to us. There are times when we can find this worrying as we do not know what they are trying to tell us. Here we look at some strange tortoise behaviours and what their actions mean.

Head Banging

Head banging in tortoises is usually a sign of mating behaviour or a show of dominance. These are not social creatures and when two males are placed in close proximity they will often fight and show aggression. When mating some tortoises will bite and others will ram and it’s also not just to other tortoises, if a human or object gets in their way, they will try to ram it. These behaviours are not across the board, some tortoise species such as the Hermann’s is more prone to bobbing their head rather than banging it. Assertiveness can also be your tortoise pre-empting a need to be territorial based on the perception of another male tortoise in the area – whether they are or not.


This can be related to behaviour, but it can also be signs of a respiratory infection. If your tortoise is squeaking, you do need to check for any discharge in the noise or any difficulty breathing before you pass off any squeaking as a behavioural issue. Male tortoises can squeak, loudly, as part of the mating ritual and there are also some owners who are sure their tortoises squeak as part of their personality. Regardless if this is the case or not, any squeaking should be met with caution and a check on your tortoise to make sure the reason for this isn’t part of a bigger problem or the start of a respiratory infection.


Lack or substrate and an enclosure that is too small are both reasons as to why your tortoise may be scratching. If this is the case, you need to make sure their home is as large as you can afford; tortoise do get bored and not having enough space can cause them to become lethargic and frustrated. Your tortoise enclosure or table should be at least 4 ft x 2 ft, although as big as you can manage is always suggested. On the other hand, tortoise do like to dig, so the scratching could easily be a lack of substrate. As keen burrowers they do need to be provided with enough substrate that they can bury themselves in it should they wish, just as they would in their natural habitat, this should provide them with what they require and stop the scratching. You can also make sure to provide them with plenty of hides and spaces they can go and hide away in.

Share this article:

Need Help?

If you have any queries relating to a quote, policy or our services please contact us by


01444 708840 Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm

  4 Bridge Road Business Park, Bridge Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1TX

Pet Insurance


Get A Quote

Related Articles


Can my reptile get fat?


Yes! Overfeeding and not enough exercise can make your reptile pile on the pounds. Here’s our tips for keeping your reptile fit and healthy!

Read More

Tortoise shell problems


Terrapin, turtle and tortoise shells vary hugely in terms of shapes, sizes and colours. In this article we outline the common shell problems that can occur.

Read More

Heatstroke in small mammals


Heatstroke is one of the biggest pet killers in the summer, however, it can be avoided! We have some simple, yet effective, steps to keep your small mammals cool in the heat.

Read More

COVID-19: exotic pet Q&A


We answer some questions you may have regarding COVID-19 and your exotic pet

Read More