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Cats and turtles

Turtles and Cats

Cats and turtles shouldn’t be in the same vicinity without any boundary. This is because cats can attack and harm turtles.

Unlike dogs, cats are amazing climbers and can easily get up high.

As such, simply having the turtle’s aquarium or enclosure high isn’t enough to keep the turtle safe from the cat.

You need to go the extra mile and cat-proof the enclosure. This involves installing a tank cover.

Once you install the cover, you’ll need to adjust light and heat intensity as the cover will block some light and heat.

Quick Reference Section

Do cats and turtles get along?

Cat sniffing a marginated tortoise with lettuce in between
Cat sniffing a marginated tortoise with lettuce in between

Domesticated cats generally ignore turtles and tortoises.

However, cats are quite curious and may approach the turtles.

Some cats may sit in front of the turtle’s tank and watch the turtle swim.

Since cats are predatory, this may just be their predatory instincts.

You can even find videos online of territorial turtles chasing cats around. While in most cases, cats get along with turtles, in rare cases, cats will attack turtles.

Do cats eat turtles?

This depends on who you ask.

For many, cats may be curious but never go as far as killing and eating a pet turtle.

However, a curious or bored cat can harm a turtle enough to kill it or permanently injure it.

Cats can’t attack large turtles but can do serious damage to turtles smaller than they are.

Also, even if the cat doesn’t succeed in harming the turtle, they can stress the turtle out.

A scared and stressed turtle may refuse to eat.

Cat-proofing an aquatic/semi-aquatic turtle tank

British Longhair kitten playing with a pond slider turtle
British Longhair kitten playing with a pond slider turtle

If you want to keep your turtle safe in a home with a cat, then you have to cat-proof the enclosure/tank.

You need to use a heat-proof metal tank cover.

These screens are easy to find and are generally inexpensive.

Not only do these protect the turtle from cats, it also protects the turtles from broken glass from exploding bulbs.

This happens when hot heat lamps get splashed with water.

To ensure that there is no way for the cat to reach the turtle inside the tank, you should go with screens that clamp to the tank.

You can also acquire clamps/clips separately.

The screen/cover should allow UVB light through. As such, it shouldn’t be opaque or made from Plexiglass or glass.

The screen surface should be made of a mesh.

The mesh will reduce the amount of light and heat that gets to the turtle depending on how large the gaps are.

Get tank screens made of hardware cloth with ¼ inch openings or larger. Measure your turtle tank so you get the right size.

If the gaps in the screen are tiny, use a 10.0 UVB lamp such as the ReptiSun 10.0 Mini Compact Fluorescent Lamp or the Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB T5 HO Lamp.

Land Turtles And Cats

Kitten sitting on two egyptian tortoises (kleinmann's tortoise)
Kitten sitting on two egyptian tortoises (kleinmann’s tortoise)

Cats unlike dogs can easily reach places where you don’t want them to.

Keeping your cat out of the land turtle or tortoise’s enclosure can be a challenge.

Land turtles (box turtles) and tortoises and cats generally get along well, but on rare occasions, the cat can attack and severely injure the tortoise.

It is a good idea to let the turtle/tortoise and cat get acquainted.

While doing so, ensure that the cat doesn’t harm the tortoise.

Regardless of how hard you try, without a physical boundary a cat can easily enter the tortoise enclosure.

Even if the cat does mean to harm the turtle, this interaction can be very stressful for the tortoise.

As such, it is important to keep the cat away from the tortoise.

This is particularly true of small tortoises that the cat can harm. Similarly, a cat-proof enclosure also ensures that a larger tortoise doesn’t harm the cat.

From experience, kittens are generally curious and more playful.

They will want to play with anything that moves and that includes turtles.

Cat with greek tortoise
Cat with greek tortoise

A curious kitten is less likely to harm a land turtle or tortoises than fully a grown adult cat is.

Expect the kittens to sniff the turtles, and even try to move them around. All of this has to be done under strict supervision.

Once the kitten grows with the turtle, it will come to realize that the turtle isn’t food. Expect the cat to ignore the turtle or tortoise.

However, with adult cats, such an introduction is not advisable. Since adult and even sub-adult cats are fully capable of seriously harming a small turtle in the blink of an eye.

Dog cat and egyptian tortoise
Dog cat and egyptian tortoise

Here is my say on tortoises and cats –

  • Don’t leave your adult cat around a tortoise without supervision. Even with supervision, make sure you’re very close to the action at hand.
  • With kittens, you can be less vigilant. However, similarly never leave the two alone without supervision.
  • If the kitten grows up with the turtle, it will most likely get used to the turtle or tortoise by the time both are adults/subadults. Expect the cat to generally ignore the tortoise.
  • Tortoises and land turtles can be terrestrial and aggressive. If the turtle is aggressive towards the cat, separate them at all times if you can. And when you are not around, keep the turtle in a cat-proof enclosure.  Similarly, keep all playful adult cats away from turtles or tortoises.

Protecting A Tortoise Or Land Turtle From Stray Cats & Pet Cats.

Apart from your own pet, stray cats can damage small turtles or tortoises.

Feral cats are more vicious and are more likely to attack a turtle or tortoise.

While tortoises have strong shells that can withstand a lot of damage and harm, they are not invincible.

Tortoise Table

Tortoise tables are best for small tortoises such as hatchlings, pancake tortoises and Kleinmann’s tortoises.

Conveniently, most commercially made tortoise tables are cat-proof.

To ensure that the enclosure is cat-proof, carefully inspect the opening of the tortoise table.

The opening  must be protected by a screen door made of hardware cloth or mesh.

The gaps in the mesh or hardware door must be small enough so a cat can’t enter.

A great tortoise table is the ROCKEVER Indoor/Outdoor Tortoise House Habitat.

If you can’t find a tortoise house, rabbit hutches can also be used as they also offer protection from cats.

Alternatively, you can build your own cat-proof enclosure.

The interior should be about 3 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot tall. It can be larger if you want. Similarly, install a screen door made of hardware cloth or mesh.

Conclusion

Turtles and cats can coexist quite peacefully and uneventfully as long as the right precautions are taken.

Although cats raised alongside turtles are generally accommodating of turtles, it isn’t advisable to take the risk of leaving them together unsupervised.

Not only can a cat injure or potentially kill the turtle, they can also stress the turtle.

A stress turtle is an unhealthy turtle. As such, if you have to ever leave your cat and your turtle unsupervised, it is best to cat-proof the turtle’s enclosure.

This involves having a screen over any openings on the enclosure. This screen should be made of hardware cloth/mesh that has an opening of at most ¼ inch.

If you have any remarks, questions, or extra insight on the relationship between turtles and cats, feel free to leave a comment below. 

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Monday 5th of October 2020

just interested