Why Is My Tortoise Shaking? (3 Reasons Why + What To Do)

If anything, tortoises are known for their slow and deliberate movements, they aren’t exactly known to be the type of animal that will shake about 

That being said, they may still shake, if you notice your tortoise shaking you may start to be concerned 

This article looks into why your tortoise may be shaking 

Why is my tortoise shaking:

Understanding why your tortoise does certain things can help you give the animal proper care when needed. If your tortoise has health issues promptly addressing the health issues is a must, but not all odd behavior, like the turtle shaking, means that the animal is ill.

Here is why your tortoise is shaking:


If your tortoise is shaking its head and or the rest of its body going back and forth then the animal is likely just breathing. 

These animals move their head are forearms when they breathe because there is no space in their rib cage to expand when breathing. 

To make up for the lack of space in the ribcage, tortoises have a muscle in their lungs that expands and contracts to move air in and out of the animal’s body. 

The result of this setup, the reptile will move its whole body when breathing. 

Some tortoises will only move their legs when breathing, others will move their whole body, this can look like shaking. 

This is more visible in younger tortoises and is simply a sign that the animal is putting its body’s fuel to work.

What to do:

This is quite normal and isn’t something that you’d need to worry about, all tortoises will do this so your pet is both normal and perfectly healthy if it does this 

You would only need to worry about your pet tortoise if it starts to show symptoms of illness or signs of distress along with the shaking.

They enjoy being scratched:

Your tortoise may shake its body when you scratch it because it likes it. A tortoise’s shell and body are fused together, they cannot be separated. 

A tortoise has a lot of nerve endings in its shells so it can feel when you’re scratching it, and they like this feeling.

If you’re scratching your pet’s shell, and the animal seems to like this feeling, then the animal will shake and do a sort of tortoise dance because it is enjoying the scratching 

What to do:

This is normal behavior for tortoises and happens with a lot of these animals. You don’t have to worry or be confused by the animal if it does this. 

What you can do is continue rubbing or scratching your pet’s shell because the reptile enjoys it.


It wants to scratch itself: 

These animals have nerve endings in their shells, because of this, it will feel great when their shells are scratched. These animals will develop the need to scratch their shells themselves as well. 

If the animal’s shell is itchy then the tortoise may shake until it realizes that it can rub against something to relieve the feeling of being itchy. Once it realizes this, it will scratch itself and be satisfied 

What to do:

Learning is good for tortoises so you can let the animal be and have it figure out that it can scratch its shell on its own.

If you enjoyed this article then you may also be interested in other turtle/tortoise related articles. Here are some articles that you may be interested in: Tortoise Shaking Head Side To Side, Tortoise Making Croaking NoiseBaby Tortoise Rocking Back And ForthTortoise Rocking Back And ForthTortoise Throwing Up White FoamTortoise Throwing Up BloodHow To Bond With Your TortoiseTurtle Vomiting WhiteHow To Discipline A Tortoise

Why Is My Tortoise Shaking? (3 Reasons Why + What To Do)
Scroll to top