Perhaps you already own a turtle and you are thinking of getting a cat. Or maybe you are planning on building an outdoor enclosure for your turtle but you are afraid that feral cats might harm your pet.
Do cats eat turtles?
Yes, cats do eat turtles. Although turtles and tortoises have hard shells or carapaces that offer formidable protection, in the face of a persistent predator, these shells can be rendered useless. Whether a cat actually do this will depend on a few variables, including the size of the turtle and how persistent the cat is. Technically, if your cat is bent on eating a turtle, especially a small one, he can.
But as gruesome as that may sound to you, most pet cats do not eat their prey. Most kill small animals as an offshoot of their hunting instinct, not out of a desire to eat. If your cat is well-fed, he will hunt animals simply for fun.
Cats will eat turtles if there is an opportunity
Simply put, turtles are not a staple of a cat’s diet, including wild or feral cats. To put it succinctly, there are several other animals that are far more easier for a hungry cat to catch and eat.
Although a turtle may be a slow-moving animal, the challenge lies in getting its fleshy parts beneath the shell. For your cat, or any predator, for that matter, eating a turtle entails too much work for too little a reward.
Larger predators, including big cats, on the other hand, can make a quick meal of turtles because they can easily break the shell off a hapless turtle.
However, a baby turtle, with its small size, maybe an easier target for your cat. Given the opportunity, your cat can feast on a small turtle. The same thing applies to turtle eggs. Although your cat will not actively seek turtle eggs, if the opportunity arises, he will certainly eat the eggs.
Can you keep turtles and cats as pets?
Whether you own a turtle or a cat and you are planning to get one or the other, you are probably thinking if that would be a bad decision for you and your current pet.
It is possible to keep both cats and turtles in the same house. However, you cannot allow both animals to roam freely in your home unsupervised. For one, most turtles are relatively smaller compared to cats. Plus, they move too slow. Both can leave them susceptible to attacks or even bites from a persistent cat.
Even if your cat does not kill your pet turtle, your reptilian friend can end up hurt and stressed. And just like cats, turtles that are constantly stressed can succumb to various health problems. Plus, even if your cat does manage to pry off the turtle’s shell, a major wound can lead to fatal results.
That is not to say that all cats will try to harm turtles. Some felines may find turtles to be boring because of their slow movement. Cats are more likely to hunt small animals like mice and other rodents.
You also have to factor in the cat’s personality. For example, a timid and skittish cat might even be afraid of a turtle, especially if the latter is territorial.
It is possible to keep cats and turtles as pets but you have to take the necessary precautionary steps to prevent a fatal outcome, especially for your reptilian friend.
Do turtles attack cats?
Although cats are predators, it is not unlikely for turtles to turn the tables around and terrorize your feline friend. Some species of turtles are highly territorial and will defend themselves against other animals, including your pet cat.
Another reason why a turtle might attack a cat is that the reptile has mistaken the female for a potential mate. But in this case, the term attack may not exactly be the appropriate term.
Some male turtles may hit and lightly bite the females they are trying to court. And when there are no suitable mates available in your home, your pet turtle can turn his amorous attention to whatever is nearby. In this case, that would be your pet cat.
This behavior has been seen not only in land-based turtles. There are several anecdotes of divers getting courted or even mounted by sea turtles.
Protecting your pet turtle from cats
Even if you have kept your turtle and cat since they were little, it is never a good idea to leave them together in the same room unsupervised.
Keeping your turtle in a separate room is not enough, especially if you have a confident and persistent kitty. Simply put, if you want to keep your turtle inside your home, you should take the proper steps to protect it from your cat.
For hatchlings and small turtle species, consider investing in a tortoise table. Most of these that you can find in the market are manufactured to be cat-proof.
Ideally, the tortoise table should have a screen door that will serve as the first line of defense. This screen door can be made out of either mesh or hardware cloth. The gap between either material should be small to prevent your cat from entering the enclosure.
If you cannot find a suitable tortoise table, you can use a rabbit hutch.
Cats can be a threat to turtles
Although turtles and tortoises have strong shells that offer a good degree of protection, these may not be enough when they are confronted by a persistent predator like your pet cat.
Although it is unlikely that your cat will eat your turtle, your furry little pal can wound and hurt your reptilian friend.
And even if you have raised the two animals since they were little, you should not be complacent and leave them together unsupervised. Your cat may ignore the turtle when you are around but he can pounce on the reptile when the opportunity arises.
Err on the side of caution and make sure that you protect your turtle from your pet cat.
Image: istockphoto.com / yanjf