Does your turtle seem skittish around you or retreat into its shell when you get near their tank?
You may think your turtle is scared of you, but the truth is turtles have a shy nature and are incredibly nervous around people they don’t know well.
So how do you make your turtle more comfortable around you? The best way to make your turtle not afraid of you is to slowly interact with them daily and be patient.
There are a few things you can do to help coax your turtle out of its shell. Turtles are happiest when they’re active and can even be playful.
Please keep reading to learn what you can do to make your turtle more comfortable with you being around them.
Four tips to make your turtle not afraid of you
Making your turtle more comfortable around you is a timely process that requires patience. Follow these steps to build trust with your turtle and make them not afraid of you.
Regularly observe your turtle
The most crucial step is observation.
Learn their routine. Stand close to their tank so they’re aware of your presence and don’t make any sudden movements or sounds that might scare them.
Where are they most comfortable? Do they like playing in the water or basking in the light? If they seem to be hiding a lot, they still haven’t gotten comfortable with your presence.
When are they most active? Find out if your turtle is more active during the daytime or at night. You want to spend time with them when they’re the most active.
What makes them nervous? Find out what scares your turtle. It could be loud noises, sudden movements, or many people around their tank.
If you discover that any of these make your turtle nervous, try to limit them. Turtles are also afraid of predatory animals like birds, cats, dogs, and other reptiles and amphibians.
Create a safe zone for your turtle
Determine the best location for the tank. Most pet owners suggest putting the tank in a quiet room in your home.
However, some think it’s better to put the tank in the busiest part of the house so your turtle can get used to all the action.
Make sure the tank is large enough. Turtles need space to thrive. Make sure you provide ten gallons of space for each inch of shell length.
If you have a baby turtle, find out how big it can get and use that size to determine tank size. Also, consider giving them enough room to swim around and have a basking area.
Create a safe zone inside the tank where they can go when they’re scared.
Even if your turtle gets comfortable around you, they’ll still need a place to go if they do get scared. Half logs and similar tank accessories make good hiding spots.
Do not interact if they are resting or in their safe zone. If they are hiding or resting, leave them alone.
Help your turtle make the connection between you and food
When your turtle learns you’re the one that feeds them, that will help build a relationship with them. Here are some things to keep in mind when feeding your turtle:
- Feed them at the same time every day.
- Start by placing food in their tank, then gradually build up to hand-feeding.
- Do not overfeed your turtle.
Handle your turtle with care
When your turtle is comfortable enough to let you pet and handle them, there are some things you need to know.
The following are proper handling and petting procedures for turtles.
- Approach from the front so they can see you.
- Lift the turtle from their backside and not the front to minimize the chances of biting.
- Place the turtle on a low, flat surface.
- Pet their head and shells first. Once they’re comfortable, you can work up to their chin, cheeks, and neck. Avoid their claws and legs.
Additionally, some species of turtles are going to be more comfortable being handled than others. These include:
- Red Eared Slider
- African Sideneck Turtle
- Reeve’s Turtle
- Wood Turtle
How long does it take a turtle to trust you?
The most important thing to remember is to be patient. It may take your turtle some time to trust you, or they may warm up to you quickly.
If you follow the steps listed above, you should be able to gain your turtle’s trust. Here are a couple of tips to remember:
Build up trust through hand feeding and petting
You can earn their trust quickly by hand feeding them, so they learn that you are their food source.
You can then transition to petting them. If they show interest when you try to feed them by hand but still won’t let you do it, try giving them live food like crickets.
This will get them interested and provide them with something to do so they are not so focused on their fear.
Consistency is key
In order for them to trust you, be consistent. They like routine. Feed them at the same time every day.
Observe and spend time with them around the same time every day if you can.
Three signs your turtle is fearful of you
Are you not sure if your turtle is afraid of you or if they are just acting like they are because it is their nature? Here are three ways you can tell your turtle is scared of you.
They hide when you come close to their tank
If your turtle retreats to its hiding place or ducks into its shell when you come near their tank or when you even walk into the room, then they are most likely afraid of you.
Keep doing it, though. If your turtle continues to see you and see that you won’t hurt them, they will probably get over their fear of you.
They suddenly retreat into the water while basking
If they are basking and suddenly duck into the water, they are probably scared.
If you got close to their tank when they retreated, then it is probably you that they’re afraid of.
If you were already in the room when it happened, you might have made a loud noise that startled them.
They retreat into their shell when you try to feed them by hand or pet them
If you can get close to them without them hiding, but your turtle retreats into its shell when you try to pet it or feed it by hand, it is not entirely comfortable in your presence yet.
Just be patient and keep doing what you’ve been doing to earn their trust.
Four potential reasons your turtle is scared of you
Now you know the signs that your turtle may be scared of you, and you know ways to make them more comfortable and gain their trust.
But why is your turtle scared of you in the first place? Here are four reasons why your turtle might be afraid of you:
They see you as a potential threat
For whatever reason, your turtle may see you as a threat, and therefore they will retreat to a safe place or hide when you get near them.
Be patient and continue to try to come close to show them that you are not a threat.
They associate you with loud noise
Many turtles are scared of loud noises.
If you have a loud voice, constantly play loud music or keep the television turned way up, then they are most likely to be afraid of you because they will associate you with a loud noise.
You’ve made sudden movements near their tank
If you’ve gotten too close to their tank and caught them off guard, they may be scared of you.
It may also have scared them if you made any sudden movements when you’re near their tank.
Like noise, sudden movement takes them by surprise and makes them nervous, and their instinct is to hide.
They are still getting used to their surroundings, including you
It may not be anything you’re doing or not doing. Your turtle just may not be used to you yet.
There is no exact period of time it will take your turtle to warm up to you. Some will take longer than others.
In summary, turtles are shy, solitary creatures. In most cases, they will be skittish and show signs of fear when introduced to a new environment.
Each turtle is unique, and how long it takes them to get comfortable will depend primarily on them.
It may take them a while to open up to you, but through watching and learning their routine and patiently interacting with them, you can earn the trust of your turtle, and they will no longer be afraid of you.