Welcome to the Tortoise Rehab Center.
Due to the fact that our beloved Alexander is not allowed to hibernate this winter....hence the rocks he ate that are still in his gut, we have learned lots and lots about how to keep a tortoise awake.
1. Need lots of light. We have a UVB light (which are expensive) suspended in the basement over his habitat to give him the light that he requires to prevent him from wanting to sleep during the short days of winter. 15 minutes in natural sunlight is equivalent to 12 hours of UVB light. So we put him in natural lighting as much as possible.
2. Keep him warm. We have ceramic heating coils (much like your electric burners on your stove but safer and probably more expensive) hanging next to his light in the basement as well. Of course he keeps moving to the cooler part of his habitat to sleep. So we put him in a box, place him in the sun and let him warm up until he is literally trying to crawl out.
3. Exercise. How do you exercise a tortoise? Easy. After you warm him up in the sun, and hand feed him (Kaleb is the most patient for this) place him on a cut off slide from 18 years ago and let him walk on it like a treadmill.....right in the kitchen where it is warmest. He has always used this slide as a treadmill. He climbs up and slides back. When we upgraded to a much bigger slide and play structure that Kirk built, Alex was sad that he couldn't get on the new slide. It was too tall. So Kirk remedied it and sawed it off, leaning it against the wall. Ever since we have had a DIY Tortoise Treadmill. I just never expected for this to be occuring in our kitchen.
4. Keep him hydrated. How do you do this? I actually didn't know how to do this. We srynge fed him critical care food for a couple months so he was getting fluid this way but how do you hydrate a tortoise? In the bath tub. Reptiles absorb fluid their skin so soaking in a tub of warm water for half an hour keeps them hydrated. He loves it. At first he could care less. He was very week and not very perky. But lately he has been walking around inspecting all edges of the tub. We all take our turns monitoring him in the water with a temperature gun to make sure that the water is 105 degrees.
It was a little stressful at first knowing that we needed to keep him awake all winter. We have had lots of day with fog or when it was snowing and there wasn't much sun shining. He still hangs out in the light but with a heater warming the air. The dogs love it. They don't mind sharing their space with Alex. Hopefully Alex doesn't mind sharing his space with them.