Pets have tortoise a lot

Tortoise are a lot like humans really.

They live to 80 or 90, have a unique pattern on their tummies like our fingerprints, and like to eat stuff that’s bad for them.

They all have individual personalities as well, says Wildbore Vets customer care manager Jenny Bricklebank.

And she should know - she has 11 of them.

It all started 12 years ago when her partner Andy said he had always wanted a tortoise but had never been allowed one.

“I decided to buy him one for his birthday and we called it Buffy because the children wanted to name it after a TV character,” said Jenny.

“We thought she was a girl but discovered later she was a boy.”

“Andy was highly delighted and set about building a tortoise house and within three weeks we had bought two more, who we called Kendra and Spike.”

Buffy is now 15 and head of the family of Hermans tortoise, which live in their own shed in the garden.

“I can tell them all apart easily and they all have their own personality.”

“People think tortoise are slow but they will really run for a piece of fruit. They only have fruit as a special treat now and again though because it makes them fat.”

Jenny, who has worked at the Worksop vets since last August, said tortoise need to be fed plenty of good salad and vegetables like spring greens, water cress and chicory, and have a vitamin supplement when they are living in captivity.

They also eat weeds and dandelions which Jenny grows in tubs for them.

She said tortoise take a lot of looking after - they need cleaning out every day - and need light and heat to function properly.

“We have done lots and lots of research into caring for tortoise. They get their energy from heat and light, a lot of people don’t realise that they need to be kept at about 85F (29C). We keep ours under lamps and that can make them an expensive pet.”

“We only get about 20 days a year when it’s warm enough for them to go without lighting.”

Jenny said they put them out in the garden for a walk around when we do get warm days.

Two of Jenny’s tortoise have been bred by them, but she said males and females have to be kept separate because otherwise they would breed non-stop.

They lay eggs and tend to have between one and four at one time.

Tortoise hibernate in the winter and have to be prepared for about 12 weeks prior to bedding down for the cold months.

“We start feeding them a bit less and they start to slow down on their own. They hibernate from October time right through to April. That’s when they need to be somewhere cooler like the loft, but you have to keep checking them regularly to make sure they are still deeply asleep because once they start to wake up they are hungry and will eat their own bedding and could get out of the box.”

Jenny said she wouldn’t recommend tortoise as a pet for children, because they aren’t active enough, but they are great for adults.

She said Wildbore Vets does not treat tortoise but will refer customers to specialists Holly House Vets in Leeds, which also has useful care leaflets to download from its website www.hollyhousevets.co.uk.