Pets do not have to be cuddly. One interesting animal to look after is the pet turtle. However, acquiring one should not be done as an impetuous decision. There is an increasing number of turtles that escaped or dumped in Northland waterways and it is now causing problems to the ecosystem. Kayla Thompson, the Duty Manager at pet shop Barkleys on the River, suggested that people should research before getting a pet turtle because it requires a lifetime commitment.
“Dumping a pet turtle into the world is virtually giving it a death sentence,” she added.
Are you wondering how to look after a turtle? We at UKPets have listed important considerations for you before sharing your house with this reptile.
1. There are different types of pet turtles.
There are about 270 species of turtles that you can choose from. There are small pet turtles that stay small. Further, not all turtles can swim. There are tortoises that live on land. Others only need access to water to keep hydrated but will not necessarily live on it. Adopt a breed that can adapt well to your space and lifestyle. The following are the types of turtles that are suitable as pets.
This type of turtle has males that can reach the maximum size of 10 inches whilst females can grow larger. With proper care, the African sideneck can live for a few decades. Further, African sideneck is an active turtle. It will not demand most of your time but is known to be curious. It can also be aggressive towards other turtles especially during mealtime, mating or when kept in a small or dirty habitat. However, it is not known to become aggressive with people.
This is a semi-aquatic turtle that can grow from 7 to 10 inches. It is known to live for more than 40 years. The Caspian pond turtle is an active one that needs a lot of space as it can surely grow fast. It enjoys basking in the sun but will quickly hide in the water when it feels threatened.
The Greek Tortoise can only grow up to 5 to 8 inches with a lifespan of 20 years or more. It should be provided with an enclosure exposed to sunlight. Moreover, this is a turtle that cannot handle more than one male tortoise in the same habitat, especially with the presence of a female.
The Red-eared slider is one of the world’s invasive species. It is also one of the most popular and commonly kept pet turtles. It is a semi-aquatic reptile that can grow from 6 to 8 inches with a lifespan of 20 to 30 years. This pet turtle can be more cautious and will likely hide in its shell when hand-carried. Though with time, it will be able to recognise you and may even swim to you to beg for more food.
2. Turtles have long lives.
As you may have already noticed, turtles have long life spans. This means a lifetime of tending this little one. In fact, there are records where turtles have outlived their owners. For this very reason, their longevity should be considered before bringing one at home.
3. Turtles do carry salmonella.
Generally, many reptiles carry salmonella in their intestinal tracts and are unaffected by this type of bacteria. Along with those reptiles are turtles. The said bacteria can be found in their stool and can dangerously be transmitted to humans as well as to other pets such as cats and dogs. As such, it is crucial to handle turtles with utmost care. Owners should carefully wash their hands after washing the turtle tank.
A direct contact with salmonella may cause gastrointestinal problems that result in severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
4. One does not need to touch the turtle to get Salmonella.
Studies have found that exposure to reptiles can be passed on to infants or young children. For instance, when a parent is handling a turtle or cleaning its tank, then later holds the child, this can be a risk factor. Remember that the risk is highest in infants, young children, elders or people with low resistance to infection.
5. Females can produce eggs even without a male contact.
Yes! This is a proven fact. Females can lay eggs even with the absence of males. However, such eggs are infertile and will not hatch. In addition, it can cause health issues for the female turtle including impacted eggs and calcium deficiency. As such, it is best to provide your female buddy with:
- Good diet
- UV lighting
- The right vitamin and mineral supplements
6. Turtles require a big habitat.
One should create a turtle’s habitat that would fulfil its specific need. There are two categories to consider: land-dwelling (box turtles) and aquatic turtles.
If you have a box turtle, provide it with soil or shredded newspaper to satisfy their need to dig. It can live outdoors provided there are walls or barriers preventing any means of escape.
On the other hand, aquatic turtles will need muddy areas such as lakes and ponds. If you are living in a small apartment, provide it with a habitat full of clean water as well as a dry area where it can rest, hide or bask in the sun.
7. Turtles do not need daily feeding.
It is not necessary to feed your turtle every day. Feeding four to five times a week will suffice. However, if you are rearing a young water turtle, you should indeed provide it with daily nutrition.
The nutritional requirement will depend on the type of turtle you have. In general, turtles need Vitamin A that can be provided by a diet rich in green or yellow vegetables such as peppers and squash. The absence of Vitamin A in turtles can develop swollen eyelids and sight complications. If it does develop these signs, bring your little reptile to a veterinarian.
8. Turtles can recognise owners.
Turtles can indeed recognise their owners. Some owners would even share how their pets would swim right to them as a form of greeting.
9. Turtles do not like to be hand-carried.
Baby turtles are just as adorable as puppies and kittens. However, they are not as cuddly as your furry friends. It may be able to recognise you and may look happy, but it is not asking for a snuggling session. Instead, it is expecting to be fed. In fact, handling can cause stress to the turtle and at the same time, you are putting yourself at risk with infectious diseases. The right thing to do is to limit handling and enjoy observing them from a distance.