If you’re like me then you may consider turtles to be one of the cutest pets there are, but this begs the question, do turtles like being pet and handled?
Turtles can like being pet, but not all turtles. Turtles are generally more solitary creatures and like be left alone a lot of times. With patience, gentleness and the right techniques you can over time acclimate your turtle to enjoy being handled. Though they will probably never be as fond of cuddles as a dog or cat.
Almost all creatures like being pet in one way or another. Even sharks have been found to enjoy the occasional pet. However the key to petting any animal is to slowly build up rapport with them and to pet them in the way that they like to be pet. Which may be different than how you want to pet them. Also its important to always respect an animals boundaries, disobeying this rule could cause them to distrust you which will hurt your relationship in the long run.
Turtles are not renowned for being the most cuddliest of animals. They generally like to be left alone. If you want a pet that you can cuddle with then a turtle probably isn’t the right pet to choose. They’re more for observation and just the all around coolness of having a pet turtle.
However you can build up enough trust with a turtle for them to allow you to pet them. But to do this you may have to be very patient. With some turtles the process could take years even. And you always have to be prepared that the turtle may simply not ever want to be handled and be at peace with that and love and care for them anyway.
If you keep reading i will give you some of the best tips that I have found for building up trust with your turtles and eventually petting and handling them.
To do this you will need to understand the right way to approach and handle them. As well as knowing the signs that they simply want to be left alone. Unless there’s a medical or logistical need to handle your turtle, if you want them to trust you then most handling needs to be on their timeline not yours.
This builds up trust and rapport which are essential if you want to create truly loving bond between yourself and your turtle.
The Right Way to Approach Your Turtle When Petting
The first things that you need to pet your turtle are patience, and extreme gentleness. Without these two things then the interactions will be guaranteed to be unpleasant ones.
When you approach your turtle come at them slowly from the front so that they can see you clearly. If they don’t see you coming than they’re much more likely to get startled and scared. And you don’t want that as over time they may associate you with negative emotions like fear.
When you’re moving to pick them up, bring your hand from behind so as to avoid any biting. Turtles can bite if they’re scared and it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like you or anything like that, it just means their was a miscommunication between you and your turtle somewhere.
You can try petting them in the tank or take them out to pet them. When taking them out handle them gently and place them on a low flat surface preferably the floor. You don’t want to put them somewhere high up as they could fall off and be injured. Also you don’t want the surface to rock or be unstable in anyway as that will definitely not put your turtle in a friendly mood.
Before handling your turtle make sure to wash your hands so that you don’t give them any germs from outside their tank. Make sure to definitely wash your hands after handling them as turtles can carry salmonella and other nasty bacteria. Everything should be fine as long as you practice good hygiene when interacting with your turtle.
How to Know if Your Turtle Wants to be Left Alone
One of the most important parts of creating a strong bond with your turtle is to know when they want to be left alone. Boundaries can be very important in many facets of life, family, friends, significant others. And this is no different in the relationship of you and your turtle.
Be respectful of your turtles boundaries and they will trust and love you more. But in order to do this you need to understand a little about how turtles communicate that they want you to leave them alone. Turtles communicate very subtly, but they do if you know what to look for.
If your turtle doesn’t want to be handled they might make a hissing noise. This is a kind way for the turtle to let you know to leave them alone. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you its just their way of saying they need some turtle time.
Another way they can communicate their displeasure is by having their mouth open while sitting motionless. This can happen by itself or will sometime be accompanied by hissing. This is just another way that they set their personal boundaries.
Your turtle might also withdraw in their shell. This one isn’t too bad but it does mean your turtle is not completely comfortable with you handling them. Still you will need to handle them from time to time and they can’t get comfortable with it if you never do. So this one is more normal and you don’t have to worry too much about it signaling an aggressive action in the future like biting.
And of course the most obvious sign of a turtles displeasure is when they make any biting or snapping gestures towards you. This means it might be a very good idea to leave them alone at that time unless you want to risk getting bitten. Sometimes handling them when they’re doing this is still necessary at certain times. For example my turtle is largely fine with me picking her up but when she goes for her vet checks she almost always tries to bite the vet.
The Best Ways to Pet Your Turtle
Turtles, as most living beings, like to be shown affection and can return affection back. This may not be in the same way as a cat or dog, but they do this in their own unique turtle way.
If your turtle has not expressed any overt signs of displeasure or anything that might serve as future warning of a bite. Then you may proceed to petting them. There are several ways that you can pet a turtle.
One way is to very gently pet them on top of their head. Make sure to be careful with this one as this can leave you exposed to a bit if they become unhappy. Run your finger very gently and lighter along the middle-top of their head. Make sure to avoid the eyes or nose.
If your turtle responds to this by throwing their head up in the air with their mouth open then this is not a good sign. It means that the turtle is trying to communicate to you that they don’t like their head being touched. This is okay as not all turtles are going to like their head being touched and their are other ways that you can pet them.
Another thing you can do is to pet them very gently along their chin and cheeks. Do this very gently as even large turtles are rather small and their skin can be very sensitive. So your touch should be as light as a feather at first until you become more in tune with your turtles reactions.
If you have built up a lot of trust between you and your turtle. Then one of the more advanced petting techniques you could say would be to pet their neck. They have to have a lot of trust in you for this otherwise they’ll just quickly withdraw their head back into their shell.
Probably one of the easiest ways to pet your turtle is to simply pet their shell. Turtles can feel somewhat through their shells. You can pet their shell either with gentle circular scratching motions or running your fingers gently and slowly up and down the length of the shell. In fact when caring for your turtle you should be gently brushing their shell with a toothbrush from time to time to keep them clean.
Follow up every petting or handling session with some food or even better yet a special treat that your turtle particularly likes. This will help build positive feelings in your turtles towards you and reinforces the idea that you, pets and handling are associated with yummies.
Establish a Safe Zone for Your Turtle to Build Trust
When turtles feel safer they also tend to be more friendly and amiable. There are some things that you can do for your turtles enclosure that will help them to feel safe and cared for.
Giving your turtle some nice little spots where they can hide inside their enclosure like a log, plants or commercially sold houses can all help to make your turtle feel safer. In this way if he ever gets scared he knows that he has somewhere where he can hide.
That sense of having a retreat can help to reduce your turtles stress levels. Its important though to respect your turtles safe zone, as that shows your not a threat.
Never Harass Your Turtle
While there are many things you can do to bond with your turtle you may also have to accept that your turtle may not be that social with you. So never try to force an unnecessary handling or interaction with your turtle if it can be avoided.
While it is possible for your turtle to bond they are still largely solitary creatures. That like to generally be left alone to do their own thing. Its important as a turtle owner to respect that and love them anyway. So make sure you love and care for your turtle no matter how interactive they may be.
Some turtles are simply loners and that’s okay.
More Methods to Bond With a Shy Turtle
Here is something that you can try when trying to bond with your turtle. Block off a safe room, that has no other animals or objects that the turtle can be harmed by. Simply having a closed door may not be enough as the turtle might try fitting underneath the doors crack. So maybe take a piece of cardboard or something and block off the crack under the door.
Place your turtle on the floor, and leave them alone for a little bit. You should keeping looking in on them and remember to make sure the room is completely safe for turtle roaming. After the turtles have gotten used to the area and come out of their shells so to speak. Then talk to them and slowly enter the space and sit on the floor with them. Do not try to touch them or reach for them.
Just sit calmly and quietly while your watch your turtle. Wait for them to touch you or them may even climb on you once their used to their presence. Once they’ve touched you then you can handle them but don’t constrain them in anyway. Let them set the pace of the interaction. You mainly be passive and let them do what they want and you might have some very interesting results.