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Caring for Pet Turtles with Kids

A pet turtle is really neat pet. How many other animals are able to carry their own home on their back and duck into it whenever they feel threatened (or just sleepy)? Well... there's snails and a handful of assorted sea creatures, but as far as animals you'd actually want in your house go, turtles are your best bet. Kids tend to have a natural fondness for turtles, so you may wind up with one in the house sooner than you think.

Pet Turtles: Caring for them with Kids

So, what does a turtle need, in terms of pet care, to be safe, happy and healthy? Here's everything you, and your kids, need to know before bringing home your pet turtle.

  • Outside or Inside? Hibernation is part of a turtle's natural life cycle, but it can be difficult to recreate the right conditions at home for a turtle to hibernate. An indoor turtle isn't likely to hibernate unless you create just the right conditions, whereas outdoor turtles will hibernate naturally, but that means you won't see them between the start of their hibernation, and late spring. If you want to keep an outdoor turtle, make sure your kids know better than to dig them up to play with them in the middle of winter. For inside turtles, know that a turtle that never hibernates may develop liver troubles later in life.
  • Sanitation. Whenever you handle the turtle, make sure to wash your hands afterwards. A lot of turtles carry salmonella and other bacteria. They can handle it, but we generally can't, so keep your hands clean, and make sure your kids know to do the same whenever they play with the turtles.
  • Environment. If you're keeping an indoor turtle, make sure that her habitat is outfitted with a good ratio of dry land to water, that she has heat lamp (turtles like about twelve hours of warm sunlight a day) and that she has something to hide under should it get too warm. It can get pretty hot inside those shells.
  • Set up a turtle pet care chart for your child to track her responsibilities in caring for the turtle. This is a fun way to involve your child and teach her responsibility at the same time.

Turtles as Pets: Important Tips

  • Don't paint the turtle's back, and don't let your kids paint the turtle's back. This fad was big in the sixties, and some people still do it now and then, but when the paint dries, it actually restricts natural growth and can severely shorten a turtle's lifespan.
  • Make sure that your turtle's tank is well out of the way of small children and other pets. To you, the turtle is a cool little amphibian. To a hungry dog or cat, it's a mouse with a hard candy coating.
  • Normal tap water might not be best for your turtle, even just to fill her bathing area, as the chlorine can affect her natural Ph levels. Some people recommend natural spring water, but since this can contain certain minerals that might disagree with your turtle, your best bet is clean, distilled, filtered water.

Just make sure that your kids know everything that you know about pet care and turtles, and keep them active in caring for your new little buddy.