Learn how to care for pet turtles and tortoises

October 9, 2015

Though they aren't everyone's first choice, turtles are wonderful pets that don't bark, scratch, or pee on your rug. If you're curious about owning a turtle as a pet, here's what you need to know.

Learn how to care for pet turtles and tortoises

Properly care for water turtles

  • Choose a healthy turtle at least 10 centimetres (4 inches) in length. Any smaller and the person selling it to you is breaking the law.
  • Look for clear eyes and energy. A runny nose or swollen eyes means that you're getting a sick turtle, which can carry salmonella.
  • Water turtles should live in a pond. Tanks are cruel, as these creatures are used to travelling from pond to pond in the wild.
  • They need a safe area, protected from predators like raccoons and dogs. Electric fencing is a good option, as is a screened cover over the pond.
  • Water turtles hibernate underwater all winter and need protection from predators during this time.
  • These turtles are carnivores, so live food like feeder fish and prepared turtle food is essential to keep your small friends healthy.

Learn how to care for tortoises and land turtles

  • These animals don't come from the pet store: they're usually found in the wild. There are lots of rescue chapters around the country that can help you find the right tortoise.
  • Find the type that meshes with your household. Smaller ones include Russians or box turtles, both of which hibernate and like cooler weather. Larger ones include desert, leopard, or sulcata tortoises, which are vegetarians.
  • If you get a desert tortoise, know that some areas require a permit because they're endangered.
  • Keep in mind that sulcatas can grow to 200 pounds, so you'll need at least a fenced half-acre to accommodate them.
  • Box turtles are carnivores and can subsist off of snails, worms, and some greenery. The larger tortoises are vegetarian.

They're certainly an unorthodox pet, but a turtle can be a lovely addition to your family. Just make sure that you understand how to properly care for your new shelled friend.

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