When I first brought Malti home, I had no idea what to expect.
All I had to go on was an adorable photo of a baby redfoot tortoise her breeder had posted on Craig’s List and a few descriptive adjectives, such as “great personality,” “eating well,” et al.
Also, I had seen a number of social media videos of very energetic tortoises chasing lawnmowers, pushing balls on the floor, giving parrots rides on their back…that sort of thing.
At around 5 weeks old, Malti in person was nothing like anything I had read or seen – except for the “eating well” part. She has always been an enthusiastic diner.
But the rest – my mom described the look in her baby eyes as “feral” and I couldn’t disagree. She was wild – there was no “pet” anywhere in her infant self.
As she grew up and got used to me and my kind, that shifted. Plus, her size increased (greatly increased) which moved her out of the “appetizer” category and into the “main course” arena, making her less afraid of everyone and everything.
At that point, which was also after her early dangerous health issues were beginning to be resolved with the help of our new vet (for more on that you can read this post), she started to get curious.
VERY curious. Suddenly, everything was interesting. And, like pretty much every baby of any species I’ve ever encountered, Malti liked to explore new finds with her mouth. She would bite my shoes (and my bare toes) and my keys and my laptop and power cords and the rug and the sprinkler hose nozzle and anything else she could get her teensy but powerful jaws around.
Thankfully, I already knew something about pet-proofing one’s casa, thanks to the ongoing insatiable curiosity of my parrot, Pearl.
But Malti, with her blocky, heavy body, short, powerful legs and battering ram head needed a different kind of proofing strategy than I had used for Pearl. Basically, instead of evaluating threats based on how they might be accessed from the air, I now had to look at every threat from a ground-level perspective….literally.
Here, a set of colorful metal gates was one of the best purchases I have ever made, but it is still no substitute for keeping a close eye on her at all times.
To this day, and likely for the remainder of our days together, I know I cannot leave Malti alone in any space for long without supervision. I just can’t. As a conscientious tortoise mama, I just accept that.