Tortoise diets need to have a variety of nutrients.
This way, they can grow properly and be more satisfied with the quality of their lives.
Vegetables can be a great source of these nutrients, but which specific ones do they need?
For instance, can tortoises eat cabbage? Is it healthy, and are there any risks associated with it?
In the following few paragraphs, we’ll cover everything you need to know about incorporating cabbage into your pet’s diet.
Can Tortoises Eat Cabbage?
Yes! tortoises can eat cabbage.
Cabbage allows tortoises to get all the vitamins and nutrients that they need for a healthy diet. You can give them the following varieties:
- Green cabbage
- Red cabbage (My favorite)
- Purple cabbage
- White cabbage
- Savory cabbage
- Napa cabbage
- Bok choy
- Tuscan cabbage
- Portuguese cabbage
- Mammoth red rock cabbage
- Pointed cabbage
- Green lunar
- Parel cabbage
Health Benefits of Cabbage For Tortoises
Cabbage is nutritious for tortoises.
It is a brilliant source of minerals, proteins, calcium, folate, sodium, phosphorus, riboflavin, fibers, and vitamins C, A, and K.
So, how exactly can consuming cabbage impact your tortoise’s health?
1- Enhanced Bone Health
Cabbage contains vitamin K, which is excellent for bone health, and phosphorus, which promotes bone growth.
Also, the leafy green has a high percentage of calcium, which protects the tortoise’s shell, supports its muscles, and strengthens its functioning skeletal structure.
Additionally, cabbage contains manganese, which prompts calcium absorption, indirectly strengthening your reptile’s shell.
A shortage in calcium can cause pyramiding (a metabolic bone disease or MBD) and soft shell syndrome (another MBD) in tortoises. These conditions are serious and may result in death.
Expert Tip: For extra calcium, dust calcium supplements on the cabbage.
2- Wound Healing
Vitamin K present in cabbage allows tortoises to produce prothrombin, which helps in blood clotting.
If a tortoise with a cabbage-filled diet accidentally cuts itself, it won’t experience excessive bleeding and its wounds will heal quickly.
Manganese found in cabbage may also help with proper blood clotting for tortoises.
3- Boosted Immunity
Cabbage has vitamin C, which helps tortoises get a stronger immune system.
This vitamin is naturally produced by the microflora in a tortoise’s gastrointestinal tract, but a boost wouldn’t hurt.
4- Increased Energy
Your pet tortoise needs to absorb iron efficiently so that it can be more energetic.
Thankfully, vitamin C present in cabbage supports iron absorption.
5- Digestive System Health
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) claims that 84 grams of cabbage have a fiber content of 2g. So, cabbage supplies tortoises with essential nutrients for digestive system health.
Fiber helps flush out the gut, get rid of toxins, and prevent constipation.
However, consuming excessive amounts of cabbage can be counterproductive, as it may cause diarrhea and stomach issues.
6- Weight Control
If you want your pet tortoise to maintain a healthy weight, cabbage is a good choice.
The vegetable is low in fat and cholesterol.
Is It Safe for Tortoises to Eat Cabbage?
Cabbage is generally safe for tortoises, but there are some health risks.
Cabbage has high levels of a compound called goitrogen. Although not toxic, goitrogenic foods, such as broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, interfere with the regular function of the thyroid gland.
As a result, if you feed too many cabbage leaves to your tortoise, it may encounter difficulties producing hormones that promote healthy metabolism and organ functioning.
It might also suffer kidney and liver health complications. So, tortoises should consume cabbage only in moderation.
Secondly, cabbage is rich in oxalates, which are naturally occurring compounds in plants.
High levels of these compounds interfere with calcium absorption and may cause deficiencies.
How Much Cabbage Should I Feed My Tortoise?
Since moderation is key, feed your tortoises roughly a third of a cabbage leaf per serving.
However, it’s important to remember that cabbage should not be the primary food source for a tortoise and should be accompanied by other leafy greens, vegetables, and a limited amount of fruit.
How Often Can You Feed Cabbage to a Tortoise?
It isn’t advisable to feed your tortoise cabbage daily. Instead, make it an occasional treat a few times per month.
This way, your pet can get its share of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients without consuming too much goitrogen.
Expert Tip: To avoid high goitrogenic levels, never serve cabbage with other goitrogenic foods or right after them.
How to Prepare Cabbage for Your Tortoise
When feeding your tortoise cabbage, make sure to cut it into small bits for easy consumption.
A note on cooking cabbage: this kills the enzymes that make cabbage goitrogenic, but this also makes the leaves lose up to 80% of their vitamin C content.
However, since the vitamin naturally occurs in the tortoise’s digestive system, you’d be better off reducing the said enzymes—this way, you might make the leaves tastier through cooking, too!
Can Tortoises Eat Cabbage Every Day?
No, we wouldn’t recommend a daily dose of cabbage for your tortoise because it’s goitrogenic.
Excessive amounts may affect the thyroid gland. Instead, feed your tortoise cabbage a few times per month.
Can Tortoises Eat Cooked Cabbage?
Yes, they can. Cooking the cabbage is recommended because it strips the vegetable of its goitrogenic compounds, alleviating the risks they pose for the tortoise’s thyroid gland.
Can Baby Tortoises Eat Cabbage?
Yes, cabbage and other green leafy vegetables are recommended for baby tortoises.
They add some variety to their diet which is mainly composed of plants and grass.