George with after eating some flowers

Written by Marissa Greenberg, DVM 

Most of you are familiar with my dog family members, Mico and Slink. What most of you don’t know is that I have a reptile family member too. Although I am very attached to my California Desert Tortoise, named George, please know that I do not see reptiles as patients at Animal Care Clinic! We stick to the furry pets!

I have a long history with California Desert Tortoises, having grown up with two as pets since I was a kid. In fact, my parents still have one of them, and we estimate him to be almost 80 years old! For years I have wanted one of my own, and in fall of 2012, I was lucky enough to get George! George came from the local tortoise rescue group called TOOSLO (check them out at He was given up because his previous owners couldn’t keep him anymore. He is estimated to be about 20 years old, but contrary to popular belief, tortoises can’t be aged by their shell very accurately. Tortoises like George can live to be over 100 years old!


George eating one of his favorites, hibiscus flowers.

Also contrary to popular belief, tortoises do have great personalities! George is very social.  He eats from my hand, comes around to get attention, and loves a scratch on the head. He has his favorite places to sleep and has a tendency to like to bite toes if given the opportunity! Really, a lot of the same characteristics of some of our furry friends! And he’s also a lot faster than most people give tortoises credit for!

George lives in my yard and grazes on various plants and weeds (good excuse to not mow the lawn!), in addition to the various vegetables, plants, flowers, and greens that I offer him regularly. I have to admit he’s a bit of a spoiled tortoise. His favorite foods are hibiscus flowers and succulent plants, so to make sure he could always have his favorites, I’m growing them right in my own yard!

Tortoises and other reptiles aren’t the right pets for everyone, and most dogs and cats can pose a danger to these animals.  Please be sure to do all your research and ask the right people for advice if you are considering a reptile friend. If you are interested in learning more about owning a tortoise, feel free to ask me more about George the next time you are at Animal Care Clinic! You will find that I love to talk about him!