Babies, Children, and Turtles
Entertainment Value: Turtles are primarily display animals. Some enjoy being petted. Many don’t mind to be held for short periods of time. Feeding turtles is fun. They are interactive, might follow someone they know around at times, display many behaviors, are cute and beautiful, and not the usual pet. However, most children prefer animals that they can carry, take places, pet, and order around.
Committment: Water turtles have a minimum life expectancy of 30-40 years, boxies live over a 100 years, and some tortoises are known to live several centuries. The pet attention span of a child is usually a couple of year at best; for teenagers, going to college usually means separation from their childhood pets. Consider a pet that is compatible with a shorter term committment.
Care: If the setup is good, turtles can easily be left alone for a few days. They don’t need to be fed daily. Indoor setups that are large enough and have filtration for water turtles only need to be cleaned every few days or even just once a week. Outdoor enclosures require even less maintenance. However, daily checking and care taking, fresh water in the water bowl every day, and some food are much better.
Germs: Like all animals (and people), turtles carry germs and may have some parasites. Some turtles carry salmonella. The risk of getting salmonella is estimated to be a fraction of the risk of getting salmonella from eating chicken and eggs. However, just like in the kitchen, good hygene, handwashing after handling a turtle, keeping the turtle enclosure clean, and keeping turtle feces away from children's mouths is essential. Turtle cleaning chores should not be done in the kitchen, or if you do themin the kitchen sink, clean the skin with a desinfectant when you’re done. It should be obvious, but don’t kiss, lick, or put the turtle in your mouth.
Handling: My children ares not allowed to play with the turtle unuspervised, and we always wash hands afterwards. Until they were old enough to keep things out of their mouths, they was not allowed to handle the turtles at all. Chidren need to be taught how to hold a turtle safely (for the child and the turtle).