California woman goes viral for 22-year friendship with tortoise she received for Christmas as a child

Sydney Borchers (Fox News)

LOS ANGELES – Some friendships last a lifetime, especially when one of the pals is an African tortoise that can live up to 100 years.

Caitlin Doran, a California native, has gone viral on TikTok for sharing the long-lasting friendship she’s had with her 22-year-old pet tortoise, Tiptoe.

When Doran was 7 years old, she asked Santa for an African tortoise — and to her surprise, her Christmas wish was granted, she told Fox News Digital in an interview.

“I don’t know if I just loved the attention [from] having a unique animal,” Doran said.

“But I knew I wanted something I could just spend a lot of time with, so [a] tortoise was up there.”

Caitlin Doran of California always wanted a unique pet and Tiptoe turned out to be exactly what she hoped for, she said. (Caitlin Doran/@caitlinandtiptoe)

Doran’s hand-sized tortoise has grown into a 175-pound reptile that celebrated its 22-year-old birthday a few months ago.

“It is such a learning process, because each tortoise is so different and you have to learn the signals he gives you,” she said.

Doran gives credit to the “tortoise community” online; she said they’re all learning from each other to create the right plan for their pet.

Tiptoe and Doran live in Los Angeles — and have had to figure out the best way to navigate life in the city.

The 175-pound tortoise can be seen going on walks through Doran’s neighborhood; the block is just short of one mile and generally takes the pair over 40 minutes to complete, she said.

“Whether somebody is super outgoing or very shy, they’re going to come say ‘hi’ to Tiptoe,” Doran said. “It’s such an easy conversation piece.”

Doran, who holds a master’s degree in behavior analysis after earning her bachelor’s in special education, said she began introducing Tiptoe to her now-4.5 million TikTok followers once the COVID pandemic hit.

“About four or five months of just being in quarantine and just not really knowing what the next step was going to be, I was on TikTok a lot,” she said.

Doran said her feed was filled with videos of people showing the meals they were making for their significant others, so Doran decided to make a spoof of the trending video and created her first “here’s what I make my tortoise to eat” content.

Doran and Tiptoe have garnered over 4.5 million followers and some of their videos have surpassed 10 million views. In this photo, Tiptoe poses after finishing a snack. (Caitlin Doran/@caitlinandtiptoe)

n a matter of hours, her original video had blown up — with 12.4 million views to date.

“It was very shocking to me because it’s my ‘normal,’” Doran said. “I just wasn’t thinking that it would be as fun as it is.”

Doran has now been creating fresh and fun content for millions of viewers for three years.

While some videos are planned, others are completely organic because Tiptoe “is hard to direct,” she said.

Doran continuously thinks of new recipes for Tiptoe to try, from tacos to charcuterie boards.

As she creates meals for her pet, the various fruits and vegetables serve as enrichment for Tiptoe as he navigates how best to enjoy the dishes.

She is continually inspired by her followers who ask questions, she said, and share ideas for fun things for her to try with Tiptoe.

“You hear so much about hate and all this negativity online and — [and] you just can’t do that to a tortoise,” she said.

“I feel like it’s just such a place of positivity.”

Caring for a pet of this size and age can be a challenge, but Doran does not let that obstacle get in her way.

“Keeping up with him as he grows older has been challenging because we do have to make a lot of modifications,” she said.

Over the years, the two have become inseparable and have formed a special bond.

“He is with me forever. It’s literally a package deal,” she said.

Doran said that one of the biggest lessons she’s learned from Tiptoe is “just to slow down,” she said.

“Nothing needs to be as ‘go, go, go’ as you make it … Slow and steady actually works,” she said.

Doran and Tiptoe look forward to spending another 22-plus years together.

Doran also said she can’t wait to continue to share their journey with everyone.

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