Turtles As Pets: Pros & Cons

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Turtles are considered a favorite pet among reptile enthusiasts as they are extremely docile and friendly to humans. Their lazy demeanor means they are not as high energy as more common household pets like cats or dogs. While they do not need to be exercised as much as other pet options there are still many factors to consider before adopting turtles as pets. So today we will look at the pros and cons of keeping a turtle as a pet.

Keeping A Turtle As A Pet: Pros and Cons

As mentioned above, they are not quite as high maintenance as more common mammalian pets. However they do have trade offs when it comes to their maintenance. For example, reptile habitats must be cleaned quite frequently in order to keep your pet happy and healthy. They also may require specialized veterinary care if they do become ill, which often tends to be more expensive than a trip to the vet for a cat or dog. 

If you are willing to clean their habitat more frequently, these pets are excellent companions which can live for decades. There are many considerations to be had before keeping a turtle as a pet, so let’s jump right into today’s article, turtles as pets: pros and cons.

Pro: Turtles Are Quiet

The first item in our pro column is the fact that turtles are very quiet creatures. In fact, they have no vocal chords and can only make noise by expelling air from their lungs, swallowing loudly, or when moving around and coming into contact with an item in their enclosure. This makes turtles excellent background pets to keep you company if you are frequently studying, working from home, or just prefer to come home to a quiet household. 

Pro: Turtles Are Easy Maintenance

Apart from frequent cleaning, which can be better managed with materials that allow you to spot clean their habitat (such as coconut fibers) these animals are low-maintenance and are quite easily cared for. They require daily feeding when young, but once they reach a year or so of age they can usually be scaled back to one feeding every other day, with mature and older turtles typically only need fed every third day. These feeding habits can save a decent amount of money over the years when compared to more common household pets.

Pro: Turtles Are Entertaining to Watch

There truly is something peaceful about watching your turtle waddle through their habitat. Apart from swimming and walking around, they will also climb onto decorations that are kept in the enclosure. Some species are better climbers than others and will climb several feet vertically when given the opportunity, so research is recommended into the specific species of turtle you intend to keep as a pet before making a decision.

Pro: Turtles Are Cheap to Care For

Most turtles will only run you for between 20 and 40 bucks a month in food supplies. As long as their habitat is kept clean and they remain healthy a yearly vet exam should remain under 100. The most expensive aspect of any types of turtles as pets is the adoption cost and habitat setup, which can run anywhere in the range of 300 and 1,000 dollars depending on the specific breed and their required habitats. However, if you can afford the upfront cost they are remarkably cheap pets to maintain in comparison to many other more common pets.

Con: Turtles Are Long-Term Commitments

Depending on the species of turtle you have in mind, it is worth knowing their lifespan can range from 10 all the way up to 150 years! While some turtles can make an excellent choice to have as a lifelong companion, the question may come up what to do with the family pet once its owner has passed on. Many of the shorter breeds of turtles you may be considering as pet can live for 20 or 30 years. Turtles can take up a measurable fraction of your life and while they are lower maintenance than other pets, it is the best practice to think of the long-term when considering which breed are the best turtles to have as pets.

Con: Turtles Aren’t the Best Pets for Kids

Turtles are not a great pet for children for several reasons. The first of which is they can transmit salmonella to humans and children often do not take care to wash their hands after interacting with pets. Second is that turtles don’t like to be handled in general, and if you have children you know they want to touch everything they see that catches their interest. While turtles only bite in self defense, they may feel threatened by an overly-excited child and in the worst case scenario may transmit salmonella when defending itself from the perceived threat. Even if they don’t bite when being handled, if your child fails to wash their hands before touching their eyes or mouth there is a chance they will catch salmonella regardless.

Con: Turtles Need A Spacious Enclosure

As we’ve covered, some breeds of turtles require more specialized habitats. Even if you are considering small turtles as pets, they require a fairly large habitat when everything is factored in. For a baseline, if you intend to keep one small turtle as a pet it will require a habitat of about 3 feet long by 1 foot wide with an extra foot added in length and half that in width for every additional small turtle you intend to house. Depending on where you live, an outdoor enclosure may be considered. However this opens up your turtle to potential health problems from exposure to the elements and predators. Be sure to keep in mind that in most cases the turtle will need to be kept inside for the winter regardless. 

Should You Get A Pet Turtle?

All being said and considered, the best candidates for keeping turtles as pets will be young adults to middle aged adults, with plenty of spare time and room on hand, and don’t foresee having children in the house anytime in the future. If you are an adult with spare time and room they can make excellent companions. Once you have done your research into the types of turtles to keep as pets, you will know which will be your best turtles to have as pets for your situation. Much of the maintenance that goes into these creatures’ care will be habitat cleaning and feeding.

If you are a parent to young children, be sure to consider the potential side effects that could occur from having a turtle around the house. Salmonella is the biggest concern as it can be picked up from poor hygiene habits after interacting with your pet turtle. Specifically with the types of turtles that can live for several decades, be sure to consider a plan for your companions continuity, especially if you are an elderly individual consider keeping a turtle as a pet.

Best Turtles to Have As Pets

  • Painted Turtles
  • Box Turtles
  • Dwarf Turtles
  • Red-Eared Sliders

Painted Turtles

Beautiful and intricately patterned turtles with a wide range of colors, the painted turtle is one of the best small turtles to keep as pet. They range from 4 to 12 inches long and can live up to 50 years. As with all of the turtles on our list they will require a heat lamp to absorb UVB rays to keep themselves healthy.

Box Turtles

A brown, orange or yellow high-domed shell adorning them these turtles can be easily confused as a tortoise to the layman. They can live for up to 40 years and grow to about 7 inches in length. Box turtles come in many varieties and need more specialized care (temperature, humidity, even salt vs freshwater preference) than some other species so be sure to do thorough research before making your selection for these reptiles. Like most turtles they do require UVB rays to maintain their health so be sure to invest in a good heat lamp.

Dwarf Turtles

With a somewhat shyer demeanor than some other turtles they do no bask in the heat lamp quite as much as their cousins, however they still enjoy the opportunity when the mood strikes and need some UVB rays to keep healthy. They are quite easy to identify among turtle enthusiasts as they have distinctive yellow stripes on the sides of their head. This breed grows to about 5 inches in length and can live for up to 50 years.

Red-Eared Sliders

Growing up to 8 inches in length and living for up to 30 years the distinctive red-eared slider is easily identified by the red stripes coming in just behind their eyes. They especially enjoy swimming and are much more active than more other types of turtles. Be sure to consider some extra aquarium space for these breed as they enjoy diving. They are also quite social and more likely to approach the glass of their habitat when they see you walk in the door as opposed to hiding in their shell. Be sure to invest in a heat lamp with this species as they require plenty of UVB rays.

FAQs On Keeping Turtles As Pets

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