Can Tortoises Eat Cat or Dog Food? (No, Here’s Why!)

No, tortoises should not eat cat or dog food. Tortoises have specific dietary requirements that are very different from cats and dogs. Feeding your tortoise either cat or dog food will be detrimental to their health.

Can Tortoises Eat Cat or Dog Food

Is Cat Food Ok for Tortoises?

Cat food is not ok for tortoises. Cat food has been specially formulated to satisfy the specific nutritional requirements of a cat.

Formulated cat foods are typically high in animal proteins and carbohydrates, contain fats, and specific vitamins, and minerals.

I’m sure I do not need to point out some of the obvious differences between cats and tortoises. They’re two very different species, with very different nutritional needs!

Is Dog Food OK for Tortoises?

If cats and tortoises are two very different species, dogs and tortoises really couldn’t be much different – so it’ll be no surprise that dog food is not OK for tortoises.

Dog food typically contains a lot of cereals to provide carbohydrates, fats, and oils as a source of vitamins, and other minerals dogs need to maintain optimal health.

Not exactly the variety of weeds, grasses, and plants tortoises would find in their natural habitat in the wild.

The Dangers of Feeding Tortoises Foods Designed for Other Animals

Tortoises require specific vitamins and minerals in their diet to stay healthy, grow and maintain strong shells, and live long lives.

Mineral deficiency is one of the leading causes of poor health, and even death. It’s incredibly important that you provide a tortoise with the right nutrition, if you’re not able to do so with 100% fresh plants, you can supplement their diet with commercial feeds.

Calcium, in particular, is a key mineral in a tortoise’s diet. It’s calcium that helps them build strong bones and their shells.

This is a mineral that is far too low in cat and dog food for a tortoise to maintain a strong shell and maintain optimal health.

There are a number of other vitamins and minerals foods designed for other animals that do not provide tortoises.

It’s important you know what species of tortoise you have and what they’d eat in the wild. But for almost all species, the bulk of their diet is going to come from grasses, plants, weeds, and other greens.

Fruits and vegetables also add some variety to a tortoise’s diet. Their diet really depends on the species, but one thing we know for sure is that cats, dogs, and foods formulated for other pets are definitely not suitable for torts.

Important Note: All pets have specific dietary needs – regardless of what they seem to enjoy eating. Stick to the appropriate pet-specific foods at all times!

What Should You Feed Your Tortoise?

When feeding tortoises, the general rule of thumb is to try and feed your tortoise a diet as similar to what they’d eat in the wild as possible.

There are a lot of different species of tortoise that are commonly kept as pets. Generally speaking, however, you can split tortoises into two groups in terms of diet;

Tortoises eat mostly plants, weeds, flowers, etc, and those that would eat some fruit as part of their diet in the wild.

Some of the species of tortoise that would eat fruits in their native environment, such as tortoises that are native to rainforests include:

  • Yellow-Footed tortoise 
  • Red-Footed tortoise
  • Elongated tortoises

It would be fine to feed these species blueberries and other fruits. Although, you still need to provide a balanced diet with plenty of fresh greens, too.

On the other hand, many species of tortoise are native to dry grassland savannahs and desert environments and may never come across any fruits.

On the other hand, many species of tortoise are native to dry grassland savannahs and desert environments and may never come across any fruits.

Some species of tortoise that eat almost entirely plant matter includes:

  • African Sulcata
  • Spur Thighed
  • Hermann’s tortoise
  • Horsfield’s (Russian) tortoise
  • Indian Star tortoise
  • Marginated Tortoise
  • Leopard tortoise

You can certainly offer blueberries to tortoises that are not accustomed to eating fruits but don’t be surprised if they don’t eat them.

You should only offer them a very small amount on occasion, too, as if it may give them a little stomach upset.

Plants Tortoises Can Eat

Tortoise love plants, leafy greens, foliage. Here are some of the plants and flowers etc that are known to be safe:

  • Forget-me-nots
  • MulberryChicory
  • Chickweed
  • Clover
  • Arugula
  • Cat’s ears
  • Hibiscus
  • Dandelions
  • Plantain
  • Dock leaves
  • Knotweed
  • Aloe vera
  • Brambles (remove thorns!)
  • Mustard leaves
  • Evening primrose

Vegetables Tortoises Can Eat

Although tortoises are omnivores, depending on your species, greens are likely to make up at least 80% of their diet.

Torts love vegetables, and vegetables provide some great nutrition and added variety to their diet – not to mention you get to recycle some leftovers!

Here are some of the best veggies to feed to your hard-shelled friend:

  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin
  • Peppers
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Red cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Cauliflower
  • Parsnip

Fruits Some Tortoises Can Eat

As mentioned above, not all species of tortoises eat fruits in their natural environment. Still, as long as you only give them fruits in moderation (less than 5% of their diet) it’s fine.

Here are some of the fruits that are safe for tortoises:

Things to Avoid Feeding Your Tortoise

Tortoise can eat most of the plants and foods that grow naturally and are commonly available, but there are some that you need to be aware of if you’re going to let your tortoise out to graze.

Here are some of the fruits, vegetables, and plants that are on the banned list as they may be toxic or harmful in some way:

Fruits, Vegetables, and Foods to Avoid

  • Citrus fruits
  • Parts of nightshade plants
  • Rhubarb
  • Bread
  • Chili Peppers
  • Avocado
  • Yogurt
  • Beans

Plants to Avoid

  • Azalea
  • Buttercups
  • Tiger Lily
  • Asparagus Fern
  • Hydrangea
  • Ivy/Poison Ivy
  • Hyacinth
  • Mistletoe
  • Rhododendron
  • Holly
  • Morning glories
  • Hemlock
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Yew
  • Foxglove
  • Parts of nightshade plants

Author Note: Nightshade foods are complicated. Certain parts of the plants contain a toxin called solanine, it’s best to avoid nightshade plants/vegetables altogether.

Summary

It should now be perfectly clear, if you have cats, dogs, a tortoise, and any number of other animals, you need to stick to individual formulated diets for all of them.

Tortoises have specific dietary requirements, as do cats and dogs. The nutrients found in cat’s and dogs’ food are not sufficient for tortoises and vice versa.

The best you can do is to find out what your tortoise would eat in its natural habitat in the wild, and stickers as close to those foods as possible.

Resources

Image credits – Taken by author; copyright PetAdviceHub.com

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