With the popularity of keeping a tortoise as a pet steadily increasing with every year that passes, the number of people keeping a pet tortoise looking for advice on caring for their pet increases too.
This has resulted in more and more questions being asked recently with many of them being based around the diet of a tortoise.
After publishing our articles going over a sulcata tortoise not eating as well as our article on why a Russian tortoise may not be eating, we noticed people specifically reaching out for advice on foods that they can feed their tortoise.
One thing that people have been asking about recently is if tortoises can eat cactus spines or not.
Although some species of tortoise can eat some types of cactus spines, you really do have to be careful as the wrong type of cactus spine can end up causing problems for your pet tortoise and potentially cause serious problems.
Due to this, we would not recommend that you feed your tortoise cactus spines as the risk is higher than the potential reward with their being so many other suitable foods.
The rest of the information in this article below is intended just for informational purposes and is not meant to be put into practice.
Can Tortoise Eat Cactus Spines?
As we briefly touched on above, some species of tortoise can eat cactus spines without any problems at all.
In fact, there are some cases where the cactus spines can actually be beneficial for their health as they can help with things such as digestion and so on but this is rare and the potential risks are high.
However, this does not mean that all tortoises can eat cactus spines or that it is a good idea to feed them to your tortoise.
The main reason for this is that different tortoises have different digestive systems and what may be fine for one species of tortoise could cause problems for another.
Are All Cactus Spines Safe For Tortoises?
Not all cactus spines are safe for a pet tortoise to eat with some types of cactus having toxins and hallucinogenics in them.
This can potentially cause some serious health problems with your tortoise if you get the type of cactus wrong and this is the main reason we don’t recommend that you give your pet tortoise cactus spines.
Just because your tortoise can eat something, does not mean that it should.
Different tortoises have different digestive systems and what may be fine for one species of tortoise could cause problems for another too.
On top of that, the average tortoise keep lacks the skills required to correctly identify the safe types of cactus over the potentially toxic ones.
Although you can use images from the internet to help you, many types of cactus look very similar making this a problematic method of correctly identifying a cactus.
How Do Tortoises Eat Cactus Without Getting Hurt?
If you were to watch a tortoise eating cactus, you would notice that they have no problem whatsoever consuming the plant.
This is because they have a beak which is specially adapted for breaking down and consuming plants such as cacti.
The beak of a tortoise is very different from our own as it has a sharp tip which is used to pierce the plant.
Once they have pierced the plant, they then use their beak to shred it before finally swallowing it.
If you look closely at a tortoise beak, you will also notice that they have ridges running along the length of it.
These are there to help them grip onto their food and stop it from slipping out of their mouth as they are eating.
The beak of a tortoise is also very hard which means that they can eat plants which would be too tough for us to chew such as cacti.
This is because the beak is made out of a material called keratin which is the same thing that our fingernails are made out of.
Keratin is very tough and this is why tortoises can eat plants which would normally be too tough for us.
This allows many types of healthy tortoises to easily eat cactus and their spines with minimal issues of actually chewing the cactus and swallowing it.
Do Tortoises Eat Cactus In The Wild?
Tortoises do eat cactus in the wild but it is not their primary source of food by any means.
The main reason for this is that there are many other types of food which are much easier for them to find and eat such as leaves, grasses, berries, and so on.
Cactus is not something which tortoises can easily find in the wild and so they tend to only eat it if they are desperate or if there is nothing else around.
Many types of tortoise will only eat cactus as a last resort and this is something which you should bear in mind if you are thinking about feeding your tortoise cactus.
How To Prepare Cactus For Tortoise!
Note – we do not recommend that you actually give your tortoise cactus or their spines!
If you have decided that you want to feed your tortoise cactus, then there are a few things which you need to do first.
The first thing is to make sure that the cactus is clean and free from any dirt or other contaminants.
You can do this by giving it a good wash in some clean water.
Once you have done this, you then need to cut the cactus into small pieces which your tortoise will be able to eat easily.
It is important that you cut the pieces small enough so that your tortoise does not choke on them.
You also need to make sure that you remove all of the spines from the cactus before giving it to your tortoise.
The easiest way to do this is to use a pair of tweezers to pull them out and then you some people will give their tortoise the spines by hand to remove the risk of the spine hitting the eye of their pet tortoise while it eats the cactus.
Once you have done this, your cactus is now ready to feed to your tortoise.