Kids have a natural curiosity about the world around them, so it’s no wonder why turtles are becoming a popular pet option for kids. Turtles can be fun to care for, interesting to watch, and they make for a unique and unconventional pet.
Like any pet, you’ll need to do some research beforehand so you know what you’re getting into. Turtles can prove more time consuming and expensive than you anticipate, since they have specific habitat requirements to keep them healthy. Not all types of turtles are the same, and once you decide to adopt a turtle, you’ll need to find out which species is most appropriate for you and your family.
Here are some considerations you need to take into account if you’re interested in adopting a turtle:
Bacteria and salmonella
The main concern parents have about turtles is the risk of salmonella contamination. Turtles (along with other reptiles) commonly carry salmonella on their skin and outer shell surface. Salmonella infections can come from handling a contaminated turtle, but also handling anything the turtle has come in contact with, including table surfaces or items in the turtle’s habitat.
Children should always be supervised when handling a turtle and must wash their hands thoroughly afterwards. Turtles should not be handled very often; not only to minimize risk of contamination, but also to reduce any stress this may cause your turtle.
Turtles may start off small, but they can grow considerably large. As they grow, their habitat requirements will grow with them, which can be difficult to accommodate and expensive. Keep in mind that small-sized turtles may be easier to accommodate, but they’re also more tempting for your child to handle, which can increase the likelihood of salmonella contamination.
A turtle’s habitat will need some essential pieces of equipment to make sure it stays healthy and has access to all the necessities it would get in the wild. Each species has its own special needs. Some turtles need special light for basking to keep their shells strong. Aquatic turtles will need lots of space for swimming and an area to warm themselves. Land tortoises will also need adequate space, as well as soft soil for digging, light and warmth.
The turtle’s habitat will tell you what type of food to feed it. Most adult turtles are omnivores, or meat and plant eaters. But young turtles are usually carnivores or meat eaters. The ideal diet for most adult turtles includes protein (including cooked meat, insects, and cooked eggs), and leafy vegetables. Don’t forget that a turtle needs a lot of calcium in their diet to keep their shell healthy. Since turtles cannot have any dairy products at all, a multi-vitamin supplement is a good way to ensure the turtle gets the calcium it needs.
Where does the turtle come from?
An important question you have to ask when adopting a turtle is “Where does this turtle come from?” Some turtle species can’t be raised in captivity, so these turtles are sometimes caught in the wild and sold as pets—a practice that is harmful to wild turtle populations. Likewise, if you find a wild turtle in your backyard, resist the urge to keep it as a pet. It’s better off being left where it is.
If for whatever reason you’re unable to care for your turtle anymore, contact your local shelter. Releasing non-native turtles into the wild can be fatal to your turtle and have a devastating impact on the local ecosystem.
Remember that research is key when adopting a turtle. If this is your first turtle, you may want to look at species that stay relatively small. Turtles can live several decades long, so adopting one as a pet is a serious time commitment. Make sure you’re willing to invest the time, energy and care needed to care for your new pet.