Turtles and tortoises as pets
Posted May 11, 2018
you’re looking for a unique, low-cost pet that enjoys a relaxed
lifestyle, a pet turtle or tortoise may be for you.
What is the difference between turtles and tortoises? Most
turtles have webbed feet or flippers and primarily live in water,
while tortoises primarily live on land and do not have webbed feet.
In fact, if you took a tortoise to a body of water, it likely would
not know how to swim.
Whether you are interested in a turtle or a tortoise, Dr. Alice
Blue-McLendon, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said
doing your research before getting one as a pet is extremely
Different breeds of turtles and tortoises require a specific
diet and habitat.
Additionally, the adult size of turtles and tortoises vary by
breed. For instance, the sulcata tortoise can easily weigh up to
200 pounds, which may not make it a suitable family pet. Other
breeds are much smaller and can be easily held by supervised
The sulcata tortoise may not be the best option for a pet
(especially since they are capable of out-living humans), but other
tortoises, such as the Hermann’s tortoise and red-footed tortoise,
can make great pets. For turtles, Blue-McLendon recommends the
Be sure to get your pet turtle or tortoise from a reputable
“In almost all circumstances you should not take an animal from
the wild and turn them into a pet,” Blue-McLendon said. “You change
their life forever and potentially decrease their life
No matter the breed you choose, you should consider their adult
maximum size before purchasing a tank and setting up their habitat.
Additionally, doing your research will help you determine the
appropriate temperature, bedding (for tortoises), and amount of
lighting for your turtle or tortoise.
You should also determine through research an appropriate diet
for your breed and the life stage of the turtle or tortoise.
Although some commercial food is conveniently sold at pet stores,
this food may not be nutritionally balanced.
Blue-McLendon recommends primarily feeding your pet turtle or
tortoise leafy greens, since they are herbivores. Some species may
enjoy fruit as a special treat. Additionally, drinking water for
tortoises should be available at all times.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), nearly all reptiles carry Salmonella, including
turtles and tortoises. Salmonella is a bacteria that can
cause temporary infection in humans, especially in children under 5
years old, elderly adults, pregnant women, and anyone with a
compromised immune system. Therefore, these individuals should
avoid handling turtles and tortoises.
If you are set on getting a turtle or tortoise, the CDC
recommends washing your hands thoroughly after handling your pet.
Additionally, you should disinfect surfaces that your pet touches
and not let your pet come into contact with the kitchen sink or
other areas that might contaminate human food and drinks.
If you want a unique pet, a pet turtle or tortoise may convince
you to come out of your shell. However, be sure you are ready for
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Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be
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