Turtle Myths, Facts and Urban Legends

Box Turtle

Since turtles aren’t the most common of pets, many people hold mistaken beliefs regarding them. Here are some of the common myths and the true facts:

Myth: Turtles are an easy to care for pet.

Fact: All reptiles are challenging pets and require knowledge of their specific dietary requirements and habits.

Myth: Turtles are a great children’s pet.

Fact: Like other reptiles, turtles can carry salmonella, so they are not recommended for young children.

Myth: Turtles only live about 5 years.

Fact: If properly cared for, turtles will live about 50 years.

Myth: Turtles don’t really need veterinary care.

Fact: Turtles do get sick, but it is difficult to spot the symptoms until they are very ill. Therefore it is essential to consult with a vet knowledgeable about turtles, and to visit him or her whenever you spot something wrong. Symptoms to look out for include swollen or closed eyes, remaining in one place, lack of movement, loss of appetite and discharge from nose or eyes.

Myth: All turtles hibernate underground.

Fact: Some, like the box turtle, will burrow underground to hibernate, but others have different habits, such as hibernating in a pile of leaves or underwater.

Myth: Turtles hiss like a snake when annoyed.

Fact: This is actually the sound of air being forced out as the turtle quickly pulls its head in to its shell. The turtle is not annoyed; this is a reaction to a sense of impending danger.

Myth: Turtles only need artificial lighting.

Fact: Actually, turtles need sunlight to stay healthy, grow normally and maintain healthy bones. Without it they will contract metabolic bone disease.

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