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Do Tortoises Recognize Their Owners? [Can They Get Attached?]

It is incredibly rewarding for pet owners when their pets show recognition to them. Tortoises make amazing pets; however, they are not generally known as the most sociable of creatures. So, you may be wondering if they are even able to remember you as their guardian. I decided to do some research to find out for good. I would like to share this information with you here today.

Do tortoises recognize their owners? Yes, tortoises can and do recognize their owners! Whilst tortoises are not known to be the most sociable animals, they can remember and become familiar with their owners. Tortoises use their body language, sense of smell and even make noises to show their affection. Showing love and affection, in only the way a tortoise can, is a sign that your tortoise recognizes you.  

At first, it can be hard to tell if your tortoise recognizes you. The way in which reptiles, tortoises included, show affection is vastly different to the way in which a pet that is a mammal might. If you’re expecting to be greeted at the door with a face lick by your tortoise, you might need to think again.

Understanding how your tortoise will show you they recognize you can make their affection that bit more special.  

Let us now explore the topic further and answering some of the main questions you may have. Be sure to read to the end as you’ll be able to discover the tell-tale signs your tortoise positively knows who you are!

Do Tortoises Recognize Their Owners?

It may take some time to fully develop a bond of trust and recognition with your pet tortoise. Don’t be offended if your tortoise appears to take no notice of you at first. Generally, tortoises are not social creatures, they are unlikely to run towards you or try and clamber on you knee.

Tortoises who recognize their owners may show this by simply being calm and still in your presence. Quietly and calmly enjoying your company.

If your tortoise will happily sit or roam around near you, it is highly likely that they recognise you and are comfortable in your presence. You may find that from time to time, your tortoise watches you from a distance, and appears interested in what you are doing.

Trust between you and your tortoise is a major factor in whether they recognize you or not.

Think of it this way, when your pet tortoise recognizes a threat or is scared, they may retract into their shell. On the other hand, if your pet tortoise recognizes you as a place of safety, comfort and someone who occasionally provides a tasty treat for them, they are likely to behave in response to the positivity they feel towards you.

Your tortoise may stretch out their neck when you are round, signalling that they trust you, and more importantly are hoping that you will give them a neck rub!

Talking to your pet tortoise can also allow them to recognize you, building a positive association with the sound of your voice and the trust they have for you. Over time, you may find that your tortoise even begins to respond to your voice and this is a sure sign of them recognizing you!

Anecdotal evidence from other tortoise owners suggest that even the most skittish and nervous tortoise does recognize their owner over time. Tortoise’s who are of a particularly nervous disposition often don’t respond well to strangers, but will behave perfectly normally with their owners, whom they trust.

You may find that your tortoise recognizes you and will come towards you without any prompting if you are sat near them. By speaking to your tortoise and using they name, they may also be able to recognize that!

Do Tortoises Get Attached To Their Owners?

Owing to the fact that tortoises are reptiles, and generally aren’t social or emotional creatures, it can prove difficult to know whether or not the love and attachment you feel for them is reciprocated.

When you know what to look out for, recognizing your pet tortoise’s attachment to you is much easier!

Tortoises can become attached to their owners, they will often approach you of their own accord, seeking out gestures of affection from you. Your tortoise my elongate their neck looking for a neck rub or close their eyes to show you that they are enjoying their contact with you.

Developing a bond with your tortoise can take time, but is very rewarding when you notice that the attachment and affection shared between you and your pet is enjoyed by both parties. Patience is key when building trust. Start by slowly introducing yourself to your tortoise, allowing them to grow familiar with the way that you smell and the sound of your voice.

Hand feeding your tortoise is another great way to build a bond of trust. We would recommend only feeding them treats occasionally, but when you do so be sure to enjoy the interaction with your pet. Keep talking to them whilst you feed them so that your tortoise can build the association between you and the treat!

Do Tortoises Remember You?

Scientific studies in the USA and the UK suggest that tortoises have good long-term memories. Particularly those memories that are related to, you’ve guessed it, food!

Tortoises can form lasting associations or memories and hold these for up to 18 months, even when not exposed to the stimulus for extended periods during this time.

So, it is likely that if your have invested time in building a bond of trust with you pet tortoise, that they will remember you in some way. It could be your voice they remember, they way that you smell, or even the way that you stroke them.

Their excellent long term memories have been attributed to their evolution, and the need to find, establish and remember sustainable food sources in the wild. For this reason, if you provide your pet tortoise’s food and give it to them each and every time, it is highly likely they will remember you.

Do Tortoises Show Affection and How Do Tortoises Show Affection?

Like most reptiles, tortoises are not the most outgoing animals when it comes to showing their love. Subtle displays of affection are what tortoise owners are likely to be on the receiving end of.

There are certain behavioural and body language cues to look out for if you want to know whether you tortoise is showing you affection.  

The main thing to look out for is whether your pet tortoise is relaxed and calm in your presence. If they are, trust us, there is no bigger compliment! This shows that your tortoise is totally comfortable around you and that they feel safe.

Over time, you may notice other signs of affection such as nudging your arm or hand when feeding them and stretching out their neck so that they can be stroked more. When we said the signs of affection shown by a tortoise were subtle, we weren’t joking!

It may not seem much for your pet tortoise to show you affection by simply being content in your presence, but for an owner, this can bring a sense of great satisfaction and joy.

Like most animals, the more time you spend cultivating your relationship with your tortoise, the more affectionate they will become. Make sure that when you are spending time with your pet tortoise you are showing them affection too by:

  • Establishing a feeding routine by ensuring there are fixed meal and snack times, consistency is key,
  • Stroking and very carefully handling your tortoise (when necessary),
  • Making note of the food that your tortoise responds most positively too and treating them with this,
  • Talking to your pet tortoise at any given opportunity.

Interacting with your tortoise in this way will allow you to build trust and affection that is enjoyed by both pet and owner.


It is common for tortoises to recognize their owner and respond to them accordingly. Tortoises make amazing pets and can show their affection in ways that will make your heart melt.

Investing time in the care of your tortoise will allow you to build a trusting bond and your tortoise will recognize you as a protector and person who means them no harm.

Related Questions

Can Tortoises Love Their Owners

Whether or not tortoises and other reptiles have emotions is a topic of much debate. While some are of the opinion that tortoises, and other reptiles, have not developed love as an emotion (as it does not naturally benefit them), they do show in their behavior that they recognize and respond positively to those who care for them. Tortoises also appear to like certain people over others, especially those who feed and handle them and are known to show other emotions similarly related.

Do Tortoises Like Being Touched?

Tortoises do generally enjoy being touched; so long as it is appropriate and gentle. Reptile biologists have confirmed that tortoises not only can feel it when their shells are touched, but they respond positively to it. Tortoises have been found to enjoy all forms of tactile sensations; whether this is in the form of rubbing or scratching. The neck and head are areas they seem to enjoy. A tortoise will express their fondness for touching if they extend their neck and have a satisfied expression.