Helpful Tips for Keeping Pet Turtles and Tortoises

At The Village Pets, we spend a lot of time talking about dogs and cats because they’re our two most common clients, but we don’t want to forget about the other small animals we provide pet care services for! 

We recently started taking care of a tortoise named Ramone and we thought we might share some helpful tips for keeping pet turtles and tortoises. Plus, World Turtle Day is on May 23rd, so why not give these magnificent creatures a bit of time in the sun!?

Before we dive into it, it’s important to differentiate between turtles and tortoises. Did you know that all tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises?! Here are some key differences between the two:

  1. Tortoises have rounded shells that are dome-shaped, while turtles often have thinner, more streamlined shells which aid in swimming.
  2. Tortoises spend the majority of their time on land whereas turtles spend most of their time in water.
  3. Tortoises have thicker legs, especially in the back, which have evolved to help them move the heavier weight they carry than their turtle counterparts.
  4. Turtles have narrow legs and webbed feet that resemble flippers. This is another adaptation that makes water life easier. 

Have you ever thought about owning a pet turtle or tortoise? While they might seem like an easy, low-maintenance pet, they are not! They can live very long lives and require unique environments and safe hygiene practices to ensure they’re healthy and well cared for.

And like we always say: ADOPT, DON’T SHOP! Believe it or not, turtles and tortoises are commonly rescued from neglectful and abusive situations and need loving, forever homes. A simple web search will help you find rescues near you. For our Georgia friends, here’s a link to the Georgia Reptile Society Adoptions & Rescue Facebook page.

Because turtles and tortoises like to spend their time in two distinct habitats, their enclosures and diets will look pretty different. Here are some general tips for keeping these fun reptiles:

  • Turtles will need access to a lot of water while tortoises will need a pretty dry environment. Both require specific temperature environments; This can even be species specific, so do your research!
  • Tortoises need protein from small live insects (mealworms or crickets, for example) in addition to a lot of leafy greens and vegetables. Turtles like fresh produce, small insects, and some speciality flaked turtle food. Many vets suggest adding calcium and vitamin A to their diets using a supplement once or twice a year.
  • Cleanliness and hygiene is very important. Salmonella is very common in turtles and it can spread to humans. The easiest and most effective way to prevent salmonella and other common illnesses is to keep their environment clean. Some vets recommend a water conditioner to help as well.
  • Proper, routine veterinary care is important. Just as you would with a dog or cat, you should watch out for physical signs of illness and maintain a regular veterinary schedule to make sure your reptile friend is healthy and happy. If possible, locate a small animal vet to increase the likelihood of finding someone who is well-versed in turtle and tortoise care.

Please remember, these are *very general* tips. Each turtle and tortoise species has its own unique needs and qualities, so we highly recommend speaking with someone who is well-versed in the type of reptile you choose to get. You can also review reputable websites to ensure you have all the knowledge you need to provide a safe and healthy habitat for your new reptile friend!

Last but not least, if you do get a turtle or tortoise and need help with pet care while you’re away, don’t forget to call us at The Village Pets! We have several pet sitters who have specific reptile experience and would love to help with your new friend! V



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