Getting a pet turtle is a handful, despite their slow and simple reputation. However, they’re much more complex creatures than they might seem and come with several warnings attached.

Don’t buy a pet turtle from a store

If you’ve thought through the reality of owning a pet turtle and still want to go ahead with it, you should adopt one rather than buying from a pet store. Mini pet turtles are popular but suffer under horrible conditions when they are bred for stores to sell.

What the shell are you thinking?

Make sure you have a true passion and appreciation for turtles before committing your life to one. Turtles can live for decades. How many relationships do you have that have lasted so long? Do you really want a pet turtle or does it just sound like a bit of fun? You will have to care for this specialized pet for much of your life.

How long does a pet turtle live?

Turtles live between 10 and 80 years, so this creature could outlive you. While it’ll start out in the palm of your hand, it may grow to over a foot long. So, you can’t keep the poor guy in a small tank indefinitely.

Turtle care needs

Turtles require strict dietary, temperature, and lighting requirements. They’re not a low-maintenance pet just because they can’t outrun you. They also outgrow their tanks, so can get expensive and require more room than you might expect.

Turtles need their nails cut

Yes, you need to cut your turtle’s nails! Turtles often need their nails cut twice per year, however most owners do so once per year.

The problem with turtles

There are no pleasant outcomes when people find they can’t actually care for their pet turtle. Animal shelters struggle with the care and rehoming of turtles that people have left with them.

Some people even release them into the wild, kidding themselves that it’s their natural habitat. This is incorrect. Once an animal has been raised in captivity, that becomes its habitat. Turtles will not survive when competing with their wild cousins for shelter and food. They can also carry diseases which devastate the natural order of the area they end up in.

Red-eared slider turtles are cropping up all over America in areas they don’t belong. They are now considered one of the world’s 100 most invasive species.

Turtles carry salmonella

Turtles and other reptiles carry salmonella bacteria and can easily pass it along to humans. Selling mini pet turtles is actually illegal in the US since 1975 as parents mistakenly buy them for children and the risk of disease is high. Some states and regions prohibit possession of turtles. Call the local shelter or animal control to find out about turtle ownership laws.

Salmonella gives a nasty dose of fever and diarrhea, sometimes resulting in further complications, particularly if you’re immuno-compromised. You don’t need to eat contaminated food or even hold the turtle to get salmonella. Most turtle owners will pick it up from surfaces.

Owning a turtle can be a wonderful experience, it’s just important to understand what you’re getting into. Have you ever owned one? We’d love to hear any stories from someone whose owned turtles.