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Can Tortoises Eat Cabbage? [4 BENEFITS]

Can Tortoises Eat Cabbage? [4 BENEFITS]

Earlier today while watching a documentary I saw pet tortoises feeding on hay. Given that there a lot of cabbage and spinach in my local market I got curious whether torts can enjoy this veggie.

Can tortoises eat cabbage?

Tortoises can eat red, green, and purple cabbage as part of a balanced diet. However, tortoises should have cabbages moderately since it has goitrogens which in high levels are toxic to tortoises and can cause harm to the thyroid glands, liver and cause kidney and bladder stones if cabbage is fed excessively.

As a rule of thumb, do not feed tortoises a lot of vegetables that have high oxalates, goitrogens at the same time try to vary these vegetables. Some of the examples of vegetables that have high goitrogen levels besides cabbage include spinach, kale, and Wild Mustard.

Strive to feed your tortoise foods that have a high content of fiber, plus calcium and vitamins. Since cabbage is loaded with calcium, vitamins, and water it can be fed once per week as part of a healthy diet.

Is Cabbage good for tortoises?

Cabbage is good for all tortoises either the African tortoises, grazing tortoises, or Mediterranean tortoises as long as it is fed sparingly due to the high levels of goitrogens that can cause damage to the liver and kidney if offered in excess.

A well-balanced diet should be made of a variety of several foods that are safe for tortoises.

Therefore, mix cabbage with other greens and fruits such as celery, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes, bananas, spinach, and radishes plus its commercial food to achieve a balanced diet.

Below is a list of tables that shows an example of which feeds are safe for tortoises from different environments.

Rainforest/Tropical Tortoises

Rainforest TortoisesPreferred Diet
Red-footed tortoises70% weeds, flowering plants, and other greens
Yellow footed tortoises [Geochelone denticulata]30% Fruits and a small amount of animal protein
Burmese Brown Tortoises
Kinixys homeana (Home’s Hingeback tortoise
Grazing TortoisesPreferred diets
African Sulcata Tortoises70% mixed grass and Hay
Leopard Tortoises20-30% flowering plants, succulents and weeds.
Indian TortoisesLimit or Avoid: Fruits, vegetables, and saladsAldabra Tortoises
Mediterranean TortoisesPreferred Diets
Greek Tortoises, Spur Thighed (Testudo Graeca)100% variety of weeds and flowering plants
Examples: hibiscus leaves and flowers and Mulberry leaves
Hermanns tortoise (Testudo Hermanni)Limit or avoid: Fruits, vegetables, and salads
Marginated Tortoise (Testudo Marginata) and the
Russian / Horsefield (Testudo Horsefieldi)
Egyptian Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni)

You can seek the help of a vet so as to understand the type of your tortoise, to avoid offering the wrong type of feeds.

Below is a table showing the nutritional value of 100 grams of cabbage.

Water92.18 g
Protein1.28 g
Dietary Fiber 2.5g
calcium40.00 mg
Phosphorus26.00 mg
sodium18.00 mg
selenium0.3 mcg
Choline10.7 mg
Folate43.00 mcg
Thiamine0.061 mg
Niacin0.234 mg
Riboflavin0.040 mg
Vitamin A5.00 mcg
Beta carotene42.00 mcg
Vitamin B60.124 mg
Vitamin C36.6 mg
Vitamin E0.15 mg
Vitamin K76.0 mcg

Benefits of feeding Cabbage to Tortoise


There is a misconception that since tortoise is associated with a dry client where water is not readily available that they do not drink water.

Some people believe that tortoise should get their daily water intake from the foods they eat.

While it is true that tortoise does get water from the foods that they eat, it is normally not enough.

Every tortoise should be provided with enough freshwater on a daily basis so as to maintain their optimal health.

Dehydration can lead to life-threatening side effects such as renal system failure.

A high percentage of cabbage is water, therefore feeding cabbage to your tortoise can help to keep your tort hydrated. Check this article we wrote about the importance of giving your tortoise water.

Source of fiber and protein

Like all herbivores tortoise needs a lot of fiber in their diet, in fact, a healthy tortoise diet should have about 10% to 40% of dry matter, with 18% to 28% considered as the optimal fiber content of the dry matter taken by the tortoise on daily basis.

Tortoise derives energy from carbohydrates which are yielded from the processing of fiber.

A diet poor in fiber will result in diarrhea which will lead to dehydration. Protein on the other hand should be fed relatively, the digestive system of the tortoise is not well adapted to digest proteins, as digesting proteins will produce high amounts of urea and uric acids which require a lot of water to excrete.

However, tortoise still needs some protein in their diet as they also serve as part of their energy source.

The protein content of about 15% to35% of the tortoise dry matter food is enough. Emphasis should mostly be put on the fiber content.


Minerals are very important in maintaining the optimal health of any animal.

While there are commercially made supplements to provide the minerals that your tortoise needs, feeding foods rich in minerals will take you a step closer to fulfilling a tortoise’s mineral requirements.

From the table above you can see that cabbage is loaded with several minerals. Let take a deeper look into these minerals and their importance in tortoise development.

One of the most important minerals especially in young tortoises that are still developing their shells and skeleton is calcium and phosphorus.

However, one should be very cautious when feeding vegetables to tortoises, due to the fact that calcium absorbability is directly affected by factors such as phosphorus availability in the food and body’s calcium requirements.

The recommended ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 2:1 or 1:1 respectively. Cabbage is one of the veggies that fall under the category of greens with safe calcium to phosphorus ratio.

In conjunction, these two minerals facilitate the development of the torts shells, bones, and skeletal structures.

The absorbability of calcium is also directly affected by vitamin D, you should always make sure that your tortoise is getting enough sunlight or UVB light so as to be able to process enough vitamin D, alternatively, there are some commercially made supplements that contain both calcium and vitamin D which should be offered to your tortoise as the recommendation.

Importance of calcium in tortoise include

  • Regulates heartbeat and blood health and clotting
  • muscle growth, contraction, and nerve transmission
  • growth of shell and bone structure
  • Facilitates iron utilization
  • Importance of phosphorus in tortoise
  • Facilitates transfer of genetic material
  • Facilitates the growth of the shell and bone structure
  • Promotes kidney function

If phosphorus is higher than calcium it impedes the absorption of calcium by forming calcium phosphates which are insoluble.

However, this does not mean that you should not feed veggies that have a high phosphorus content when compared to calcium. It means that you should feed them moderately.

Other trace elements found in cabbage that are beneficial to tortoise can be found in the table above.


Like minerals vitamins are very important in the body of a tort, vitamins work in conjunction with minerals to promotes a tortoise’s optimal health.

Vitamins are divided into two groups namely,

  • water-soluble
  • fat-soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins rely on fats so as to be absorbed in the body, the downside of this fact is that these vitamins can be absorbed in excess and result in complications.

Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins which when absorbed in excess can lead to hypervitaminosis.

However, vitamin A serves a very vital role in the health of a tortoise such as.

  • Promotes health skin and mucous membrane
  • promotes the health of the eyes
  • Promotes reproductive health

Most plant material fed to animals contains both vitamin A and its precursor beta carotene.

The advantage of beta carotene over vitamin A is that the body can convert beta carotene into vitamin A only in the amounts needed and get rid of excess beta carotene.

Vitamin K also found in abundance in cabbage is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important in blood coagulation in tortoises.

The other category of vitamins is the water-soluble vitamins, these vitamins will be excreted via urine when they are fed in excess eliminating the risk of health issues.

These vitamins are collectively known as vitamins B complex.

The table belwo shows a list of Vitamins considered as vitamin B complex.

Vitamin B1, thiamineregulator in the carbohydrate metabolism
Vitamin B2, riboflavinis a co-enzyme in energy release 
Vitamin B3, niacin,also crucial to the energy metabolism 
Vitamin B6, pyridoxineinvolved in energy conversion from glycogen and in the synthesis of hemoglobin and antibodies

How to prepare and feed cabbage to a tortoise

  • Look for organically grown cabbage
  • Wash it thoroughly
  • Cut it into pieces that are easily palatable for your tortoise
  • You can dust it with calcium supplements
  • Mix it with other veggies or fruits
  • Remove any uneaten cabbage to avoid contamination
  • Misting the cabbage can improve your tortoise hydration

Related Questions

Can a desert tortoise eat cabbage? Desert tortoises can also eat cabbage. However, cabbage should be fed moderately and only as part of a balanced diet. Cabbage contains compounds known as goitrogens that can harm tortoise kidneys and liver.

Can Russian Tortoises eat Cabbage? Russian tortoises can eat cabbage, like all other Mediterranean tortoises such as Hermann tortoises. However, experts advise feeding cabbage sparingly due to high goitrogens levels in cabbage that can damage the liver, thyroid glands and cause kidney and bladder stones when cabbage is fed excessively.

Can sulcata tortoises eat cabbage? Like all desert tortoises, Sulcata tortoises can eat cabbage. However, sulcata tortoises should have cabbage moderately due to the high levels of goitrogens that can harm the thyroid gland, kidney, and liver.


The herbivory nature of tortoises makes them an easy pet to keep when all of their diet needs are properly met. Tortoise needs lots of fiber in their diet since they derive a large amount of their energy from carbohydrates derived from fiber processing.

Therefore always make sure that your tortoise is getting enough fiber in their diet daily. Cabbage is one of the veggies that can act as part of a tortoise balanced diet when fed sparingly with other veggies.

However, given that cabbages have goitrogens care should be taken not to overfeed since goitrogens affect the thyroid activity and may harm the kidney and liver.