Tortoise sweaters: Cozies for your cold-blooded friends

VANCOUVER, Wash. -They're warm outfits for your cold-blooded pets.

Katie Bradley has turned crocheting cozies for tortoises into a part-time business pulling in tens of thousands of dollars.

"It started out as a family joke," Bradley said. "I had seen a picture of a tortoise with a doily and thought it was really silly so I crocheted this really funny cover for one of my tortoises."

The idea took root with her friends and eventually Bradley started an Etsy page to sell the small costumes.

So far, she said she's sold about 1,400 of them. Despite the minutes it takes her to crochet each cozy, the waiting list to get your hands on one is long.

"Right now I quote people six to eight weeks," Bradley said.

Bradley said she can crochet anything you want to cover your tortoise - except copyrighted images.

"If a customer says, 'Hey, can you make me a cozy that looks like a crab,' I can say, 'Sure, why not.' 'Can you make me a cozy to make my tortoise look like a taco or a burger? Sure, why not?'" Bradley said.

But Bradley said she cautions each customer: Cozies are a sometimes costume.

"They won't hurt (the tortoises). And I make sure every customer knows these are not for constant wearing. They're not meant to be worn without supervision and not near a heat source," Bradley said.

Lest you doubt Bradley has the best interests of tortoises in mind, know she keeps eight of the shelled reptiles as pets and, she said, fosters others for the International Reptile Rescue.

"There was one [rescued tortoise] that had been left in a barn stall for half a year without food or water. He was missing some toes from having rats gnaw on him, and he weighed a quarter of what he should have weighed. And he made it. He survived," Bradley said.

The idea of tortoise cozies has apparently caught on across the pond.

"About 80 percent of my orders come from the U.K.," Bradley said. "A lot of people have been keeping tortoises there because a lot of homes have greenhouses."

Bradley said she also crochets cozies for snails and hopes to branch out into the greeting card business.