So many questions...


New Member
Sep 23, 2016
Hello all!! This is my very first time on a forum period, so forgive my clumsiness if any.

Now some background: I have had a vast array of pets, but mostly just cats. I adopted my Desert Tortoise, Michelangelo, from a friend's parents who are having health issues and needed to find homes for some of their babies. He is a third generation bred in captivity and about five years old. I did extensive research before making this handsome guy a part of our family including online but moslty picking the brains of his previous owner, my local veterinarian and breeders. I like getting information from a vast pool of resources so that I can glean information from both written rule, professional perspective and day to day experience. That is why I am here.

I live in an area that typically does not house tortoises because it is in the mountains and cooler than they generally prefer. Because of this, Mikey basically has free reign of my home with a dog house all his own set up with a cave, lamps and whatnot for when it is too cold and bring him outside on days/times when it is more his liking.

According to my research, most tortoises in my area hibernate from October to March, however, for the last month, while it has still been rather warm, high 80's to mid nineties and he has been markedly less active, like lazy if that makes sense. Is he just starting to hibernate? I check him every day and without bugging him too much, I offer him food and water and he just ignores it. I've checked him for signs of illness, but to my untrained eye, he seems fine.

My reptile vet is out of town and will definitely consult her upon her return, but I was hoping for some input from experienced tortoise owners in the interim. Any input and advice would be greatly appreciated! I've only had him for five months and I feel so lost! Thank you for your time, patience and help.


Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Oct 29, 2013
Location (City and/or State)
Ohio USA
Has he alway hibernated with past owners? mine do not so I am not going to be much help but mine do slow down this time of year too. I just up the warm water soaks to perk them back Up. Not sure this is something you would do with one getting ready to hibernate....

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
We usually tell people to not allow their new-to-you tortoise to hibernate the first winter you have him. But it's pretty hard to set up a large enough indoor enclosure for a full grown desert tortoise to live in during the winter. It's not a good idea to allow him to run around the house as there are too many hazards on the floor.

I have a desert tortoise that I've had to keep awake for the past three winters. She has an abscess on her nose that I just can't seem to get rid of. I have a 4x8' cinderblock habitat set up for her on the car port. First I put down a sheet of plywood, then stacked the cinder blocks around the edge. I cut-to-fit some rigid foam insulation and put the on the inside, then cut plywood to fit over the foam to protect it. The enclosure has a pig blanket, a night heat/light, a day light (UVB),a feeding tile and a hiding place. I put another 4x8 sheet of foam lined plywood on top and I can prop it open when needed. My tortoise has successfully been kept awake in this enclosure for the past three winters. She seems perfectly happy in there, eating, walking around, sleeping and not the least bit stressed.

Here in the Central Valley of California, the nights are getting down into the 50's and my desert tortoises are no longer eating. They come out in the a.m. and sit in the sun, but they don't eat. This is their way of cleaning out their digestive tracts, getting ready for winter. You can offer water to your tortoise, but he doesn't need to eat now. If you don't want him to hibernate, you're going to have to get a light on him and make him think the days are still summertime long - 14 hours a day, with some sort of heat at night too.

If you want him to hibernate, then don't offer food. When the time comes, in about three or four more weeks, you can box him up in shredded newspaper, in a cardboard box, and place the box someplace quiet and cool. He should be kept between 40 and 50F degrees, and the cooler end of that range is better.

Cinder Block habitat 4-5-14 a.jpg Cinder Block Habitat 4-5-14 b.jpg Cinder Block Habitat 4-5-14 c.jpg

It's not ideal, but it works.

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