Whether you have a cat and want a turtle or have a turtle and want a cat, you may want to know if they’ll get along. After all, neither do you want the cat to carry the turtle off for a tasty meal, nor would you appreciate having your cat being bitten by a turtle. So can the two become friends?
Cats and turtles get along if introduced correctly. As a start, a cat shouldn’t be introduced to a turtle small enough for the cat to carry away. During the introductory period, observe their behaviors. Even if they dislike each other, a turtle is safe in its shell and is too slow to harm the cat.
You can certainly have both cats and turtles as pets. Even if they never become best buds, they can learn to tolerate one another. Keep reading to learn what you can do to help a turtle or pet cat develop a beautiful friendship.
Do Cats Prey on Turtles?
It’s unlikely for cats to prey on turtles unless they’re hungry enough to kill one. Even if a housecat attacks a turtle, the chance of it killing the turtle is slight. House cats might eat baby turtles, so if your pet turtle is still a baby, you should keep it beyond your cat’s reach.
If you feed your cat well, it’s unlikely that your cat will try to eat your pet turtle. You do have to watch out for feral cats that might visit your house while hungry. Hungry feral cats might attack turtles and eat one out of hunger.
Some predators will prey on turtles. Raccoons, for example, have the skills to catch and kill a turtle. Not only can they climb and swim well, but their hands also have sharp claws and can unlatch a gate. So if they get access to a turtle, they’ll carry it away and use its claws to kill the turtle and eat anything it can.
Possums, skunks, coyotes, and foxes will also consider prey on turtles if they can get access to them. They’re not as effective in eating them, but if they can get a hold of a turtle’s legs or head, they’ll make a meal of it, or at least an appetizer.
Large predatory birds will pick up turtles and carry them off. If there are seagulls in your area, cover the turtle’s pen. Water jet sprayers with motion detectors can protect turtles in a pond.
A housecat isn’t likely to look at a turtle and think it’s food. Depending on its personality and age, it might think of it as a toy or nuisance to be ignored. Why try to eat a large animal with a hard shell when a mouse or bird is smaller and easier to swallow?
Are Cats Dangerous to Turtles?
Cats aren’t dangerous to turtles unless the turtles are small enough for the cats to swallow them. Being the cautious animals they are, cats may instinctively run from danger to avoid injury. A cat may be curious but will retreat the first time a turtle takes a swipe at it.
The opposite is also true—turtles aren’t a physical danger to cats. Although they can take a swipe, your cat is probably primed to move out of the way.
Cats run a small risk of catching salmonella from a turtle. Even if they test negative, turtles can carry salmonella, spread through their feces. Although the chance of them passing the bacteria to a cat is small, it’s still a possibility.
To avoid this problem, keep a cat away from a turtle’s feces and don’t buy turtles smaller than 4 in (10.16 cm). It’s illegal, even if a seller says the turtle is free as long as you buy a tank.
In this short video, watch what happens when a kitten meets a turtle for the first time—although the kitty jumps toward the turtle, it avoids touching it:
When Would Cats and Turtles Get Along?
Cats and turtles would get along if their personalities mesh. Turtles have personalities, too, just as cats do. Some turtles are shy, some like bullying cats, while some seem to have no idea about their cat housemate.
As far as cats are concerned, more aggressive cats may be motivated to attack a turtle.
However, playful cats will interact and try to play with a turtle. And a standoffish cat will simply ignore the turtle—unless the reptile attempts to eat the cat’s food!
The age and size of the animals also determine how well they get along (and if they should be together).
When Would Cats and Turtles Not Get Along?
Cats and turtles wouldn’t get along if their personalities didn’t mesh or when they felt stressed out from each other’s presence. In this case, it’s best to keep the turtle in a separate enclosure.
For territorial cats, the stress would come from having to share their living space. As long as cats have some room to roam and perches to climb onto, they have areas they can call their own.
Turtles can become stressed by the presence of cats if they feel threatened. If you notice signs of stress in the reptile, your turtle might need to live in a separate enclosure.
What Can You Do To Help Them Get Along?
To help your cats and turtles get along, introduce them to each other slowly. Monitor the process to help your cat know acceptable behavior. Additionally, you can set them up for success by following a few guidelines, like keeping an eye on your cat’s behavior whenever it’s around the turtle.
As you monitor how they get to know one another, be on guard for too much curiosity from the cat. A kitten is less likely to be cautious approaching a turtle, so watch out for any signs of trouble.
Before introducing a turtle, you should already have established a positive and negative feedback system with your cat, whether with the tone of voice, look, or something else. Cats quickly become adept at knowing if you’re unhappy with them.
Also, you should have a cat-proofed home for the turtle if you see trouble and need to separate them. Although both cats and turtles can get stressed, it tends to affect turtles more.
The following guidelines will help create psychological “boundaries” between a cat and a turtle:
- Have a turtle that’s large enough. A turtle needs to be large enough that a cat won’t be able to carry it off. If so, then the turtle is less likely to see the cat as a predator, and the cat won’t think of the turtle as prey.
- Keep the turtle away from a cat’s food, water, and litter box. A cat will not look highly on a turtle eating its food. And cats are territorial about their litter boxes.
- Give the cat a perch that the turtle can’t reach. A cat is less likely to attack if it can retreat to safety.
If the turtle knows to stay away from the food and the cat knows it can retreat if needed, they should be able to respect the “boundaries.” If not, then they might need physical boundaries to keep them apart.
Why Do Turtles Sometimes Attack Cats?
If you don’t believe that turtles will attack cats, then Google “turtle attacking cats.” You will find videos of turtles doing exactly that. Why do turtles do this? At first, you might think that the turtle thinks the cat is invading its space, but the truth is stranger than that.
Turtles sometimes attack cats accidentally. During courtship, male turtles bump the shells of females. Turtles, which are not known for their intelligence, most likely confuse the cats with another turtle.
You can check out this video to see a turtle persecuting a cat:
The best way to find out if your cat will get along with a turtle is to introduce them slowly. Give them time to get used to one another. If they keep nipping and annoying each other, that means the turtle needs to be kept in an enclosure that the cat can’t access, such as a tank.
Who knows—maybe the turtle will get lonely, and your cat will ignore it as long as the turtle stays away? There’s still a chance they can become best friends.
- Humane Society for Shelter Pets: Litter Box Behavior
- The Verge: Here’s Why Turtles are Attacking Cats
- All Turtles: Cats and Turtles
- Senior Cat Wellness: Cats and Tortoises
- YouTube: Turtle That Persecuting a Cat
- YouTube: Kitten Meets Turtle: Has No Idea What To Make Of Him | The Dodo
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.