Your child wants a turtle……
Turtles and tortoises are endearing animals and many kids want to have them as pets. However, these animals are reptiles and require very specific care. One of the first things you need to figure out…. do you want a turtle or a tortoise? Are they the same? No, they are not. 🙂 And, are you ready to care for the animal for a very, very long time?
As part of your decision, let’s find out what the difference is between a turtle and a tortoise. They are both reptiles but from different classification families. The major difference between the two is that tortoises live on land, while turtles live in the water some or nearly all the time, depending on the species. Tortoises have mostly large dome-shaped heavier shells, and feet that are short with bent legs. Turtles tend to have flat, streamlined, light-weight shells, with webbed feet and long claws. Knowing this, you can decide what kind of habitat you can provide for your new pet.
If you have settled on a turtle, it’s time to pick out a breed. The best and most common turtle breeds are as follows: (click here for our discussion on tortoises.)
- Red-eared sliders – (aquatic). Adults grow to approx. 7.5″ and live 50-70 years. Sliders are the most common pet species.
- Box turtles – (terrestrial). Adults grow to approx. 6″ and live 50+ years.
- Painted turtles – (aquatic). Adults grow to approx. 6″ and live 25-30 years.
- Central American wood turtle – (aquatic). Adults grow to approx. 8-9″ and live approx. 30 years.
- African Aquatic Sideneck – (aquatic). Adults grow to approx. 6-9″ and live approx. 50 years.
- Caspian pond turtle – (semi-aquatic). Adults grow to approx. 7-10″ and live approx. 40 years. This species is rare and needs lots of room. It is the least desirable as a pet.
*Aquatic – highly webbed feet, a low profile shell for swimming and spend most of their time in the water although they do need land for sun bathing.
*Semi-aquatic – Aquatic by nature, but they can spend a considerable amount of time on land. They have very little webbing on their feet. They need a habitat that allows them to live on land and in the water.
*Terrestrial (Land) – There are land turtles, such as the box turtle, that spend their life on land but are not a tortoise. They have the thinner, more low profile shell of a turtle and are actually a member of the pond turtle family.
Now, that you’ve picked your breed of turtle there are 11 things you need to know about your pet:
- 1. Your turtle can carry salmonella bacteria shed from their shell. Families with very young children should not own turtles as the child’s immune system is still developing and are more likely to put their fingers and other items in their mouths before they are washed. Best thing is to keep the turtle’s habitat clean and wash your hands after handling. Turtles can be fine pets for older children and adults.
2. Turtles are shy, reserved reptiles so handling comes with familiarity. Many turtles, because of their habitat, do not get a lot of human interaction. Many will begin to recognize their owner and become more friendly. If you do handle them, pick your turtle up with it’s bottom shell resting on your hand, and it’s feet touching your hand. No turtle likes to feel like their flying through the air with outstretched
3. Turtles live a long….long time if cared for correctly. They can live anywhere from 25-75 years or more depending on the species. You must! be ready, willing, and able to care for this animal for it’s lifetime.
4. Start-up costs can be expensive. The cost can range anywhere from $600 – $1,200, and then there is several hundred dollars of up-keep each year.
5. Turtles need a lot! of room in their habitats. They need a place to swim and a place to sun bathe on land. Habitat requirements will be discussed later in this blog.
6. They need fresh, clean water and bedding. This will take a minimum of 1/2 hour a day. You will also need a turtle sitter when you are away for an extended period of time.
7. Turtles can hibernate for 10-20 weeks. You must provide the right environment for this to happen.
8. Turtles will need food. The best is fresh fruit, vegetables. Some will also eat insects. In addition, you can supplement with pelleted food.
9. Choose your species carefully. For example, you do not want to buy a tropical pet that will live in a cold, arid environment. Also, choose your turtle according to how much room you are going to be able to allocate to their habitat.
10. Never purchase a wild caught turtle. Ask your dealer or breeder if the animal was captive bred and raised. This will ensure safe pet trade practices as well as provide you with a healthy turtle.
11. Never release your pet into the wild. You signed on to take care of this pet for it’s life. Many species of pet turtles can be a danger to the wild species that are already there.
Click the boxes for information on your turtle’s habitat, feeding and whatever.