Stubborn Boris

ahigdon05

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Bel Air, MD
Hi. I need help with my stubborn Russian Tortoise (Boris). He will only eat romaine lettuce and occasionally carrots. I've tried commercial tortoise pellets and other leafy greens with no success. I've been reading other posts and sounds like this stubbornness is common. I've never tried mixing up the romaine with the other greens. I'm just not sure how long I should let him go on a hunger strike if he starts one? I don't want him to get sick from not eating. He went to the vet recently and received a good bill of health! Also, is there a reliable source that anyone recommends I use for proper diet and care. Thank you for the help!
 

Cathie G

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Hi. I need help with my stubborn Russian Tortoise (Boris). He will only eat romaine lettuce and occasionally carrots. I've tried commercial tortoise pellets and other leafy greens with no success. I've been reading other posts and sounds like this stubbornness is common. I've never tried mixing up the romaine with the other greens. I'm just not sure how long I should let him go on a hunger strike if he starts one? I don't want him to get sick from not eating. He went to the vet recently and received a good bill of health! Also, is there a reliable source that anyone recommends I use for proper diet and care. Thank you for the help!
Hello and welcome to the forum. There is specific topics on TFO that I wish I could send links to you. Unfortunately I don't know how. Until more experienced members show you the links try to find Russian care sheets. But I can tell you this just from my experience with my little Russian. Try some endive mixed up with the romaine. It worked for mine. I've not been able to get him to eat the commercial pellets and most people on here recommend Mazurri. My little one has been a picky little person from the day I got him. Keep reading.🤗
 

TammyJ

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I don't think it's a matter of being "stubborn" when it comes to animals other than humans! It's got a good reason for not eating something - either it's not used to it yet, because it has only been given something else all along, or it is sick, or it is not hungry because it stuffed itself with something else that is is accustomed to.
You said you had never tried mixing the romaine with other greens? Why not? That's a good way to get him to eat other things that he needs for a balanced diet. To get at what he really wants, he has to jolly well eat the other stuff too! Mix, mix, mix is what I have found works. And you be the stubborn one.
 

ahigdon05

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Bel Air, MD
I don't think it's a matter of being "stubborn" when it comes to animals other than humans! It's got a good reason for not eating something - either it's not used to it yet, because it has only been given something else all along, or it is sick, or it is not hungry because it stuffed itself with something else that is is accustomed to.
You said you had never tried mixing the romaine with other greens? Why not? That's a good way to get him to eat other things that he needs for a balanced diet. To get at what he really wants, he has to jolly well eat the other stuff too! Mix, mix, mix is what I have found works. And you be the stubborn one
 

ahigdon05

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I never tried chopping it up and mixing different greens because I thought it was better for his beak to keep it in larger pieces. I have tried putting other food in with the romaine lettuce but he pushes the other food out of the way and eats only the romaine. Also, I have tried only putting in other greens and he refuses to eat it. I don't want him to get sick from not eating at all so I will give in and put the food in that he will eat.
 

Cathie G

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I don't think it's a matter of being "stubborn" when it comes to animals other than humans! It's got a good reason for not eating something - either it's not used to it yet, because it has only been given something else all along, or it is sick, or it is not hungry because it stuffed itself with something else that is is accustomed to.
You said you had never tried mixing the romaine with other greens? Why not? That's a good way to get him to eat other things that he needs for a balanced diet. To get at what he really wants, he has to jolly well eat the other stuff too! Mix, mix, mix is what I have found works. And you be the stubborn one.
I have to share with you how my Russian is in the yard. He loves dandelion leaves but only will eat the ones he has sniffed and decides to. That's with everything he eats. You'd think he's in a smorgasbord but he sniffs every blade and leaf before he'll eat it. I think he's trying to avoid bugs and their dirt. I've watched him do this for 14 years and recently I got a beak trim by a veterinarian. It was his first vet visit and she managed to get a stool sample because she scared the poo out of him. He had no paracites and I think that's really why he eats that way. He wants to make sure there's no bugs because he's a vegan🤗
 

ZenHerper

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I never tried chopping it up and mixing different greens because I thought it was better for his beak to keep it in larger pieces. I have tried putting other food in with the romaine lettuce but he pushes the other food out of the way and eats only the romaine. Also, I have tried only putting in other greens and he refuses to eat it. I don't want him to get sick from not eating at all so I will give in and put the food in that he will eat.
The primary issue right now is to get your pet eating a proper varied, fully nutritious diet. Once a tort has gotten used to new foods, it will be fine to go back to whole leaves. A good beak will do no good if the body as a whole is malnourished.

And you go slowly. Replace one leaf out of a meal with the new green, then chop things very small - the new food the smallest so that it sticks to the lettuce and goes down "by accident". I would start with belgian endive as it has a very mild flavor. Then, once that is working well, replace two leaves: one with belgian endive in larger pieces with the lettuce plus, say, a single finely-chopped leaf of curly endive.

Tortoises have evolved to eat bunches of things they find when they hatch, but then to become picky as they age. This keeps them from being poisoned in the wild. You must be patient, but very persistent. Your pet can learn to eat better foods, but it is a learning process that has to overcome hundreds of thousands of years of genetically coded safeguards.

This is the most current forum care guide:
 

ahigdon05

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Bel Air, MD
The primary issue right now is to get your pet eating a proper varied, fully nutritious diet. Once a tort has gotten used to new foods, it will be fine to go back to whole leaves. A good beak will do no good if the body as a whole is malnourished.

And you go slowly. Replace one leaf out of a meal with the new green, then chop things very small - the new food the smallest so that it sticks to the lettuce and goes down "by accident". I would start with belgian endive as it has a very mild flavor. Then, once that is working well, replace two leaves: one with belgian endive in larger pieces with the lettuce plus, say, a single finely-chopped leaf of curly endive.

Tortoises have evolved to eat bunches of things they find when they hatch, but then to become picky as they age. This keeps them from being poisoned in the wild. You must be patient, but very persistent. Your pet can learn to eat better foods, but it is a learning process that has to overcome hundreds of thousands of years of genetically coded safeguards.

This is the most current forum care guide:
Thank you for the help and information!
 

Lady Boxsworth

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NO LETTUCE it has no nutritional value for a tortoise. Try a 100% natural vegetable mix like for salad lettuce free. Like a spring mix available at walmart or your grocer. A calcium powder is good to sprinkle too ever couple feedings.
 

Mrs.Jennifer

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I never tried chopping it up and mixing different greens because I thought it was better for his beak to keep it in larger pieces. I have tried putting other food in with the romaine lettuce but he pushes the other food out of the way and eats only the romaine. Also, I have tried only putting in other greens and he refuses to eat it. I don't want him to get sick from not eating at all so I will give in and put the food in that he will eat.
The chopped up food, served in a terracotta plant saucer, is helpful for keeping the beak from overgrowth.
 

RosemaryDW

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He isn’t going to starve himself. Boris can go without eating quite a while; tortoises aren’t built like mammals and he comes from a very dry climate where food isn’t always plentiful.

He’s also isn’t buying that romaine and carrots himself. :) It’s hard when they get fixated on something but you likely need to let him get a little hungrier. Try mixing in a tiny bit of one new food at a time; he’ll get used to the taste of it without realizing it. Over time you can introduce more of the other and cut back on the romaine. Then add a second food. There is no reason to try ten new foods at once or look at a list and think you have to feed everything on it. You’re going to have him a good long time; there will be many opportunities to improve his diet. I’m pretty sure my Russian was on a primarily romaine diet when we found her; it took about four months for her to transition to a healthy, broad diet. She was faster than some, I think, as she lives outside and gets plenty of exercise. Yours may take longer. Or shorter! You just never know with a tortoise.

I love to share this photo because it was taken the shortly after she got into “healthy” foods.

D54D22D6-B9CB-46D6-AEC2-0E69597BE5E4.jpeg

I’ve had my Russian quite a while now and I often give her foods she hasn’t cared for in the past; it’s not uncommon for her to try something she’s refused for years, even if it’s a only little bit.

I’d stop feeding carrots for the time being; they are too high in sugar for Boris to properly digest. When he’s eating better he can have the occasional chunk—like the top of a single carrot.

Stay strong! You can do this.
 

ahigdon05

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Bel Air, MD
Great picture! Thanks for the encouragement and advice. I've had Boris now for close to 20 years and the vet said he is doing great. I just want to get him into a well-rounded diet without worrying about starving him. 😊
 
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