If you’re looking for a relatively low-maintenance pet, then you can’t go wrong with cats and turtles.
Of course, you still have to feed them, keep their habitats clean, and make sure they’re safe, but you don’t have to worry about dropping them off to doggy daycare or hiring a sitter every time you go to work.
So, some pet owners just think, “Why not get both?”
In today’s post, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about turtle and cat interactions.
If you’re considering adding both pets to your family, we’ll also go over all of the safety precautions that you should take to make sure both your cat and your turtle are comfortable!
Cats And Turtles: Do They Get Along?
For the most part, cats and turtles will get along just fine. Of course, you should never leave them unattended together. You should also take some proper safety precautions to limit the chance of an accident happening. However, as long as you’re careful and don’t push your pets’ limits, they should get along.
Cats and turtles are about as far apart from each other as fish and dogs.
Turtles spend most of their life in water, while cats seem to spend most of their time avoiding water like the plague.
Cats are quick, nimble, and athletic, while turtles are slow, steady, and easy-going.
In fact, if you really think about it, the only things that a turtle and a cat have in common are that they both like to eat fish and both have four legs.
Alright, we admit,
This doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven; instead, it sounds like they would be arch-rivals.
However, this isn’t always the case.
For the most part, cats and turtles will leave each other alone.
This depends heavily on your turtle, your cat, and both of their attitudes as well.
A younger, more playful cat could easily provoke a turtle, just as a younger, more energetic turtle could provoke an older, calmer cat as you can see from video clip below.
So, that being said, let’s start answering some of the most commonly asked questions regarding turtle and cat interactions.
Do Cats Eat Turtles?
So, first off, we should address the elephant in the room. Namely, cats are predators.
This means that they’re biologically programmed to hunt and eat smaller animals.
It’s not uncommon for cats to bring home the prey they’ve caught, such as mice, rats, lizards, large bugs, and even snakes!
However, turtles aren’t quite as defenseless as the usual prey that cats hunt.
Their entire bodies are covered by a giant protective shell in which they can protect all of their vital organs, head, and legs from any attack.
In fact, in the wild, a turtle’s only real enemy is the alligator.
Alligators are one of the few freshwater creatures that possess the crushing bite power necessary to break through a turtle’s shell.
So, to answer the question, no; cats do not eat turtles (normally). Turtles are too well protected, have a sharp beak to defend themselves with, and spend most of their time in water (the one place where cats hate).
Now, let’s just say that your cat found a flipped-over turtle with a broken shell.
In that case, the cat might take advantage of an easy meal. However, for the most part, cats won’t bother your turtle.
That being said, it is common for cats to play with turtles.
You may see your cat try to pounce on the turtle, paw at it with their paws, or even hiss at them.
However, most of these are just warning signs that the cat is giving off to let the turtle know to give them personal space.
Very rarely do these interactions end with an injury.
As long as you follow proper safety measures (discussed below), there shouldn’t be too many problems.
Can Cats Get Sick From Turtles?
Another common concern among cat owners is that their cats could get sick from turtles.
While turtles may seem cute and harmless, they also carry salmonella on their shells.
Salmonella is a deadly bacteria that’s found in rotten meat, stagnant water and often finds itself on the outside of turtle shells.
Cats can get sick from turtles if salmonella is passed to them through contact.
Although it’s uncommon, it has been recorded in the past.
Additionally, turtles can also catch “colds” and other sicknesses, which can be passed along to cats as well, especially if they’re in close quarters.
Obviously, the turtle (along with other reptiles and amphibians) has built up a natural immunity to the bacteria.
However, mammals (like humans and cats) don’t respond so well to salmonella.
When consumed, it can make cats very sick.
The first sign is that the cat may lose its appetite. Next, there’ll usually be some diarrhea and vomiting.
If you have a turtle and you notice your cat exhibiting these symptoms, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet.
They’ll take a stool sample to test for the bacteria and administer a round of antibiotics to kill the bacteria before it becomes deadly.
Are Turtles Harmful To Cats?
For the most part, turtles won’t hurt a cat (unless it’s a snapping turtle). Many turtles may intentionally keep their distance from the cats out of caution.
Now, if your cat starts harassing your turtle or trying to bully them, some turtles may attempt to defend themselves by using their sharp beak.
If they land a bite, this can definitely draw blood, and you may need to take your cat to the vet for bandages or stitches.
However, these instances are rare and almost always preventable.
Why Do Turtles Attack Cats?
By now, you’ve probably seen that viral video of the turtle repeatedly head-butting the cat.
It was an internet sensation and quickly racked up millions of views. However, this is not what we would describe as “normal” behavior for turtles.
In most cases, the turtle would never go out of its way to head-butt a cat, and the cat would never sit there and let themselves be head-butted without running away.
How To Protect Turtles From Cats
So, given that turtles are rarely the agitators in any confrontation, it’s important to keep your turtles protected from cats.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid an accident is just to keep your turtle separate from your cat.
However, we also understand that many pet owners enjoy playing with all of their animals together.
That being said, if you do choose to allow your cat and turtle to play with each other, always make sure that you’re supervising them.
Here are some tips to protect your turtle from getting attacked or bullied by your cat:
- Always keep an eye on your turtle and cat. Don’t leave them in the same room with each other unattended. No matter how much you trust them with each other, they’re animals at the end of the day. This means that you can never truly predict how they’ll react.
- Make sure that your turtle has a “safe zone.” Leave a box, cave, or small protected area within easy access. This ensures that if they feel threatened, they have somewhere protected to hide.
Tips To Keep Turtles And Cats Safe From Each Other
Ensuring a good relationship between your cat and turtle involves more than just protecting your turtle and giving them a safe space.
You also need to make your cat feel comfortable around your turtle.
By making both animals feel safe and comfortable around each other, you reinforce positive associations and reduce the likelihood of a negative confrontation.
Here are some helpful tips to keep your turtle and cat safe and protected from each other:
- Again, always keep both animals under observation.
- Slowly introduce the two animals to each other in a neutral space (i.e., not the cat’s bed or the turtle’s aquarium). Try somewhere like the kitchen or living room.
- Keep initial interactions short. If you notice that either animal is uncomfortable or agitated, remove them from the situation. You never want to force a cat or turtle into a situation they’re not comfortable with.
- Reward good behavior and positive interactions with treats (for both your turtle and cat).
- Don’t allow them around each other during feeding time or around food dishes (which is when they’re more protective and aggressive).
Other F.A.Q.’s About Cats and Turtles
In the past couple of months, we’ve also gotten a few other questions regarding turtle and cat interactions.
Here are a few of the most common and relevant questions, along with our answers.
Do Snapping Turtles Attack Cats?
Out of all turtle species, snapping turtles tend to be the most aggressive when provoked.
Their beaks can easily rip through flesh and crush bones. If you have a snapping turtle, avoid letting your cat anywhere near it.
A simple disagreement between the two could turn into a very expensive vet bill.
Can Cats Eat Turtle Food?
Cats can eat turtle food, but it doesn’t have high enough protein and fat content to be an adequate source of food for your cat.
You’re better off using traditional cat food that’s formulated for cats.
Can Turtles Eat Cat Food?
Due to the high fat and protein content, it can cause turtles to gain weight rapidly, which can cause them to outgrow their shell and cause pain, lethargic behavior, and discomfort.
Cats and turtles will usually get along fine in the same house.
However, if you plan on letting the two animals interact with each other, make sure that you follow the tips above.
Never leave them alone together, use positive reinforcement to create a good association between the two, and keep their food separate!