Do Turtles Get Attached to Their Owners?

  • Author: Liana Carroll
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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Turtles are one of the longest living creatures on the planet and on average, a turtle can live between 10 – 80 years. That’s a long time to live and many pet turtles will often outlive a family’s generation and be passed down to the next one. 

For a pet that can live for so long and potentially outlive their owners, you might wonder whether or not a turtle can actually get attached to (or even recognize) their owners. 

Turtles can get attached to their owners as they view them as providers of food, shelter, and protection. This form of attachment should not however be confused with affection as a turtle’s attachment to an owner will be less personal than that of a cat or dog. 

The reptile brain is still not fully understood yet and it can often be very difficult to tell what a turtle is thinking based on its actions, however, there are a few signs that indicate that a turtle can, and will strike up an attachment with their owner and if you read on we’ll dive into the potential connection. 

pet turtle owner and turtle
Tortoises and Turtle do get attached to their owners like many other pets

Do Turtles Get Attached to Their Owners

A turtle will get attached to an owner in a very unique and individual way. This means that essentially each turtle will have its own individual personality (just like a human will) and therefore the level of attachment will vary. 

There has, however, become a more uniform understanding of a turtle’s attachment to an owner based on a few common factors that numerous owners have come to realize. You’ll find that primarily, a turtle will become attached to an owner once it recognizes them as a primary source of food. 

We have a bit more detail on whether turtles will actually recognize their owners a little later in this article but a turtle will display signs of an attachment to an owner due to this positive association with food. 

Providing a positive association is just one of a few factors that can help a turtle get attached to an owner and below are a few of the other more common factors that you could expect to see one your turtle feels safe in your company:

  • A turtle will swim or walk up to the glass of their tank to greet their owner. This habit is what many believe to be recognizing their owner and therefore going to them for either food or exercise outside of their enclosure.
  • They will roam around the room freely in an owner’s presence and will even come up to them for interaction on occasion. Around humans or other animals that they don’t recognize you’ll find that they will often hide instead as they are unsure of whether or not there is a potential threat.
  • They will let an owner handle and pet them. This is a strong sign of affection as they will only allow this kind of interaction if they feel comfortable and safe. It’s important to note however that not all turtles like to be held or petted regardless of their attachment to an owner. 

A turtle’s attachment to an owner will be more apparent as it accepts you as a part of its environment and as such it will behave normally around the owner.

pet turtle

Can Turtles Recognize Their Owners

Whether a turtle recognizes its owner or not is a very sensitive topic that is closely related to whether a turtle can be attached to an owner. It’s hard to argue that a turtle can be attached to an owner if it doesn’t recognize them in the first place!

The reason it’s a sensitive topic is that pet owners will of course have affection towards their pets and this naturally leads the owner to want to believe that they share a bond with their turtle and that in turn, the turtle will recognize them as their owner. 

This Reddit thread shows just how varied opinion is over whether or not a turtle can recognize an owner. 

We may not have a full understanding of a turtle’s ability to recognize an owner but in general, a turtle will tend to recognize an owner as someone who provides them with food, shelter, warmth, exercise and safety so this positive association is often displayed through scent and visual interaction. 

It’s hard to say whether a turtle can recognize their owner by sight alone or whether or not they respond to their name for example, but what we can see from interactions is that they will typically recognize their owner as someone who will give them food, let them out to exercise or even on occasion pet them. 

In Summary

While we still are not at a stage whereby we can say that turtles can become attached to their owner from an affectionate viewpoint (which is what this question is indirectly asking), there are some factors to indicate that a turtle will form an attachment to its owner(s).

You’ll see positive signs of this when they come towards you for food, exercise or just to be playful and even petted which you may find they don’t tend to do with strangers and can ultimately demonstrate an attachment in the turtle’s own unique way.

pet turtle

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