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Do Turtles Get Attached To Their Owners? [Can You Bond?]

If you have had your turtle for a number of years you may feel that you have developed a bond with your pet. Naturally, you wonder whether turtles can become attached to their owners. I decided to conduct some research into the topic. I would like to share this with you today.

So, can turtles get attached to their owners? Turtles can become attached to their owners. They can learn to recognize them and even learn their owner’s voice. However, the bond that is formed is not the same kind one would have with a pet like a dog.

Turtles are very playful creatures, and quite active.

There is a common misconception that turtles are slow and sluggish, but anyone who has ever owned a turtle can tell you that the opposite is true if you let them out of their terrarium they will suddenly run around your home.

They are fascinating to watch but are naturally shy and nervous creatures so they tend to be skittish with people and other animals that they don’t know.

Let’s now look more closely at how turtles become attached to their owners.

Do Turtles Recognize Their Owners?

Turtles do seem to recognize their owners, they can pick up your sent and know you by your voice. Many owners share how their turtle swims up to the water level to them as if to greet them.

It’s in their best interest to recognize and become attached to their owners as they provide for them.

Turtles can show affection to their owners, they do this through their body language and making sounds, which signifies that they are happy.

Turtles are mainly preoccupied with 5 main things necessary for their survival, and if you can make provision for these things they will be your best friend, and they are:

  1. Healthy food
  2. Warmth
  3. Space
  4. Exercise
  5. Mating

Do Turtles Know Their Names?

Many turtle owners believe that their turtles know their name and will turn their heads or come over when it is called.

Whether they know their name instinctively, or not, is up for debate, but, if they approach you when offered visual stimuli, then it makes sense that audible stimuli should work just as well.

Many reptiles are capable of learning “target training” – this is where they receive a reward for following an object.

Turtles are not stupid, however, their intelligence is subjective and hard to quantify, but they know how to get the essentials.

It has yet to be proven if turtles have the ear structure and cognitive ability to recognize their name.

However, they are trainable, so it seems food is the way to motivate them.

Your turtle is likely to associate their name with treats being offered, even though it’s nice to think that they know their name and are paying attention to you.

Do Turtles Like To Be Pet?

Generally speaking, turtles don’t like to be picked up and petted. You will find however that some turtles don’t mind and may even enjoy it.

There is a correct way to touch them and you must be careful. If you touch their shell they’re likely to hiss and even bite you. Let’s look at the correct way to handle your turtle:

  1. Always approach your turtle from the front, it needs to see you. If you are not in its view and suddenly your arm appear, this will likely frighten your pet and it may bite you.
  2. Place them on the floor, you can pet them and they will feel safe having been placed on a low surface.
  3. Pet the top of your turtles head. If it constantly puts its head up and opens its mouth every time you pet this area, it’s trying to tell you to stop doing it.
  4. Gently pet the chin and cheeks.
  5. Gently massage its neck. You may only do this if you feel you have earned their trust. This will prevent your turtle from sticking it’s neck inside it’s shell to hide.
  6. Gently stroke the turtle’s shell with your finger. Take note, that this is a very sensitive area so you must be gentle when petting the shell. If it helps, you can use a soft toothbrush to stroke the turtle’s shell.
  7. Allow your turtle to have time on your lap. This will allow you and your pet to bond without the pressure of petting.
  8. Be patient yet persistent. The more you handle your boxie th more it will get used to you. But, don’t expect it to be receptive every time.

How To Handle Your Pet Turtle Carefully

It’s best to avoid picking up your turtle unless it’s necessary. If you must, be mindful of the fact that while their shells seem rugged, their exposed legs and head are fragile. Let’s look at the correct way to pick up your pet turtle:

  1. Pick up a smaller turtle by placing your open palm under their belly making sure that their legs can touch your hand.
  2. Pick up your turtle by its back and not its front. Lifting them from the front may cause them to bite you if they feel frightened.
  3. Don’t think that a turtle’s shell is invincible. Some shells can get easily scratched, leaving your turtle susceptible to contracting a fungal infection.
  4. Don’t place your turtle on the edge of surfaces, especially if they are high. They can walk off the edge, fall, and injure themselves.

Practice Proper Hygiene

Turtles carry diseases on their skin that are harmful to humans, so you must wash your hands thoroughly after handling one.

Just to play it safe, it might be better to wear gloves when handling a turtle.

Making Sure Your Turtle Is Happy

If you want your turtle to demonstrate love towards you, you must make sure that they’re happy. You must be sensitive to the needs of your pet.

Make sure that they are warm – they are more energetic and receptive in the warmth. Moreover, make sure that your turtle gets sufficient natural sunlight, this is to prevent bone disease.

The best time to handle a turtle is when it’s sunning itself or sitting under a heat lamp. If you do not have a heat lamp, be sure to invest in one.

You can get excellent lamps on Amazon for a good price.

Read their body language, turtles are not the most expressive creatures but they can let you know what it doesn’t like by hissing, making snapping or biting gestures, lifting their head, and opening their mouth.

Make sure that you offer tasty treats that are high in protein and that it has lots of room to exercise.

Another fantastic investment that will aid your turtle’s happiness and general well-being is getting a hanging turtle ramp shelf. It’s ideal for basking.

LaBrinx Designs Narrow Hanging Turtle Ramp - Aquatic Reptile Basking Platform
  • VERSATILE DESIGN: This clear acrylic ramp can be mounted either with suction cups on the inside of the tank or hung up to 11” from the upper edges of tanks. This allows you to place the ramps exactly where your amphibious pals need them.
  • RAMP DIMENSIONS: Your amphibious friends should have plenty of space to explore in their home, and that’s what our ramps provide. At 8.5” wide, 6” deep, and a total length of 13” including the ramp, they can be comfortable in and out of the water.
  • CREATES TURTLE OASIS: It allows your turtles to easily crawl up out of the water and bask just as they would in their natural habitats. This accessory creates multiple levels and makes greater use of the terrarium space.
  • BUILT FOR MANY PETS: These platform ramps can be used in almost any tank and for many different animals, be it lizards, frogs, hermit crabs, tortoises, and of course, turtles. The height is adjustable depending on the tank and pet.
  • PERFECT GIFT: The LaBrinx Designs Hanging Turtle Ramp Shelf is great for someone getting their first pet turtle and experienced aquatic animal owners alike. This dock’s low maintenance material is easily cleaned and maintained and built to last.

If you can keep your turtle happy, it is more likely to trust you and enjoy being petted.

In Summary

So back to our original question. Turtles can become attached to their owners. While your relationship with them will differ as a pet, you can form a close bond.

Just be sure to handle your turtle properly and carefully, keep them warm, offer them plenty of treats and invest in the appropriate infrastructure for their aquarium. They’ll appreciate it; in their own little way.

Looking to learn more about turtles? My following guides may be of interest: