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Do Cats Eat Turtles? Are The Healthy for Them?

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	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you have a cat in your home, you may find yourself constantly on guard against the random creatures they are known for bringing through the door. Most cat owners have experienced a cat that goes outside for a little stroll in the backyard and comes home with a mouse to show you, or in some instances, bigger animals they encounter. A cat’s natural instinct to hunt is one of the main reasons cat owners avoid bringing smaller pets into the home when a cat is roaming around.

One animal found in your backyard, that may also interest you as a potential pet, is a turtle. Turtles are cute to look at, and if you choose one for a pet, they’re relatively easy to care for, but what about your cat? Do cats eat turtles? Is it healthy for them to eat turtles from the backyard?

The answer is not exactly reassuring for cat owners. Yes, if given the opportunity and your cat feels the need, it will eat a turtle. Now, will this meal harm your cat? Absolutely not. Cats are smart hunters. They know they can’t eat a turtle’s shell. Instead, they will stick with only the turtle meat which isn’t harmful to them.

Now, for cat owners with a pond in the yard or those who are considering the possibility of bringing a turtle into their home as a pet, let’s explore the relationship between these two creatures a bit more. We’ll even give you a few tips for keeping the turtles in your area safe from your carnivorous cat.

divider-catclaw1 Cats Are Great Hunters

One thing that many of us seem to forget, especially when we see our cats lounging around the house or crying out due to their food bowl being empty, is that cats are amazing hunters. As obligate carnivores, the majority of their dietary needs come from protein. A domesticated cat doesn’t need to hunt for this protein but may still enjoy doing so. Wild cats do need to hunt and find small animals to reach their dietary needs.

Cats in the wild, or your neighborhood feral cat population, will not hesitate to eat a turtle or another small animal if they are hungry. While this may sound a bit upsetting to you, it’s the way of life for a cat without an owner. In a hungry kitty’s eyes, a turtle is no different than a mouse that crosses its path or a bird that touches down a little too close. Survival is their main goal.

black cat looking at the aquarium fish
Image Credit: DMITRII STARTCEV, Shutterstock

Will a Cat Eat a Baby Turtle?

Again, sorry to upset other cat owners, but yes, your kitty may eat a baby turtle. Honestly, it’s the smaller turtles that are in more danger. Larger turtles may be off-putting to some cats due to their shell. While no cat will attempt to eat the shell, simply dealing with it may be enough to send a cat looking for other options. Baby turtles don’t have this luxury. They are much smaller and in many cases, their shells haven’t properly formed. This makes them extremely vulnerable to cats and other prey-driven animals.

While they aren’t exactly easy to find, turtle eggs are also an easy target for a hungry cat or animal on the prowl. While most cats may be deterred by the outer shell, those that are hungry may decide to get past that protection and go for what’s waiting inside. You may also find that cats will play with turtle eggs if they find them. While this isn’t exactly safe for the eggs, it is better than breaking through the shell and having a snack.

Do All Cats Attack Turtles?

No, all cats aren’t turtle killers. As we’ve mentioned, hungry feral or wild cats will eat almost anything they can, most of them don’t choose turtles. In some instances, the cat may just be curious about the turtle. Turtles don’t move as fast as an outdoor cat’s other prey. This may make them take an interest in learning more about the slow-moving creature they’ve uncovered. Instead of attacking for a quick meal, cats may try to interact with the turtle, pounce a bit, and even play around. Every interaction between a turtle and a cat doesn’t need to end in bloodshed.

Image Credit: Pixabay

A Turtle’s Shell Is Helpful

If you’ve interacted with turtles, then you know just how strong their shells truly are. This could be the saving grace for them when it comes to cats. A hungry cat is often very determined when it sees something it considers prey. However, removing a turtle’s shell isn’t the easiest feat for a feline. With many turtles having the ability to hide their head and limbs, a cat that is attempting to make the turtle its prey may get bored after a bit and realize this meal is too much work.

Cats and Turtles Playing

Yes, it would be cute to see your kitty and a turtle playing in the backyard, or inside the house, if you decide to make a turtle part of the family. Unfortunately, this isn’t always safe for the two parties. If you plan on allowing your cat and a turtle to interact, you should always be close by to monitor the situation. Cats have very sharp claws. Your kitty may not plan on hurting the turtle it is playing with, but accidents may happen. One good swipe could injure the turtle, fatally. It’s also important to remember that some turtles can and will bite if they feel threatened. If your kitty gets too rambunctious, they may get a good reminder that certain adult turtles aren’t afraid to defend themselves when needed.

divider-catclaw1 Final Thoughts on Cats and Turtles

Hearing that your cat will eat a turtle isn’t the greatest news for a pet owner’s ears, but it is the information we need. Understanding how your cat thinks is crucial if you plan on letting them out into the world around them or attempting to bring another pet into the family. Cats and turtles may not become the best of friends, but not every cat is going to try and make turtles their favorite snack. Stay vigilant as a pet owner and your kitty can explore the backyard, meet turtles, and maybe even make a friend.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay