Turtles for Newbies-How to Choose and Care for Your Turtle Pet

Something to understand from the outset is that your turtle won’t interact with you much and can require a great deal of care, but in all other respects it’ll make a great pet. Turtles are quiet, beautiful and fascinating and it’s important to remember that you’re taking on the responsibility of caring for another life, small though it may be. So when you choose a turtle you need to put some thought into what type it is, its behaviours and needs and how well it will fit into your lifestyle. Generally, basic care for turtles is the same, but there are some differences between turtles. Below are three of the most common sorts of turtles people normally keep as pets:

The Box Turtle

The Box turtle is, surprisingly, one of the most popular choices as a pet for people the world over. There are different kinds of box turtles but most are characterised by a large, dome shell. These turtles average a lifespan of forty years (sometimes a hundred!) so be really sure about adopting one. If you don’t move around much that helps a lot since Box turtles are quite territorial and are compelled by instinct to stay near their birthplace for their whole life. They will spend the rest of their lives unsystematically searching for their ‘home land’ even though they may never find it. It is important to note that Box turtles require more care than most other turtles as they can be easily stressed by over-handling. Hence, not an advisable pet for small children or if there are other, bigger animals around like dogs and cats. If you live in the country or have a house with a garden then that is ideal as they need lots of sunlight and a varied diet (berries, insects and other food products.)

The Slider Turtle

Also known as Red Eared Sliders, these critters can grow up to a foot in length and can possibly outlive you. They make excellent pets and are popular despite a bit of a Salmonella scare back in the 70s. Initially, the tiny turtle babies will be happy enough in a decent sized goldfish-bowl of water (in fact, you can even feed them the goldfish!) as long as the water is kept clean, there is gravel at the bottom and there is enough sunlight for them to bask in everyday. Sliders are meat-eaters to start with and become more vegetarian as they grow older. So, the goldfish mentioned above, worm cubes and food sticks are a definite yes in the slider nutrient department which you can vary up with rabbit food. Interestingly enough, you can tell how well your slider is doing by its colouring: sharp and bright-eyed if healthy, dull skin with dull eyes if sick. Again, not recommended for small children but if you’re up for something different the Red Eared Slider will do you fine!

The Painted Turtle

With a beautifully ‘painted’ underbelly that is either solid yellow or with symmetrical red and black markings, the Painted turtle is a relative of the Slider turtle and also grows to just a little under a foot in length. Like their cousins, the Sliders, these turtles hibernate in the winter, and have been known to go up to five months without oxygen (they do this by slowing down their metabolic rate to an awesome degree). This should be taken into consideration when choosing a Painter as a pet – as well as that they need mud to burrow into when they hibernate, going down to almost three feet under ground level. Similarly to the Slider, the little ones prefer meat-food (insects and so forth) and graduate to vegetation as they get older. They are a little more complicated to look after than other turtles, but Painter turtles are gorgeous, fascinating creatures to have around.

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