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It’s common knowledge that turtles have an incredibly long lifespan compared to most animals. The same is true for pet turtles. By the time you bid goodbye to one turtle, you might have done so to five dogs or more depending on the breed.
But just how long do pet turtles live for?
This post shall offer a conclusive answer to that question, with additional tips on how to increase your pet turtle’s life expectancy.
How Long Do Pet Turtles Live For?
Some tortoise species are known to live for 100 years or more. However, pet turtles have an average lifespan of 40 – 50 years. That’s still way longer than most household pets.
So, if you’re looking for a lifelong scaly partner, you might want to look in the direction of turtles.
Why Do Turtles Live So Long?
The reason turtles live for so long is largely a mystery. However, scientists have come up with various explanations why these reptiles don’t seem to be in a hurry to kick the proverbial bucket. One possible reason is that turtles have a relatively slow metabolism.
The logic here is that it takes longer for a turtle’s body to break down food and make it available for assimilation. The slow food metabolism translates to a fairly slow growth rate. For comparison, rats have a remarkably fast metabolic rate, a factor that contributes to their shorter lifespan.
A turtle’s slow metabolic rate also means food stays longer in its stomach. This induces feelings of satiation for longer between meals. So, while other organisms deplete their food reserves much faster, a turtle will take weeks making the most of his last meal. And that’s precisely why hunger-related fatalities are so uncommon among the turtle population. During periods of diminished food supplies or otherwise hostile conditions, a turtle will easily enter the hibernation-like states of brumation and aestivation.
But metabolism doesn’t only entail food digestion. It also encompasses other essential physiological processes, such as respiration and blood circulation.
Scientists opine that since turtles have such a slow metabolic rate, they process diseases more effectively. Note that metabolism plays a huge role in the proliferation of pathogens. With their slower heart rate and blood circulation, it takes exceedingly longer for pathogens to travel and infest various parts of a turtle’s body. Before that happens, the animal’s defense mechanisms will have kicked in and averted a potentially life-threatening infection.
Will All Turtles Live For 40 – 50 Years?
40 – 50 years is only the average lifespan of most pet turtles. There’s no guarantee that your turtle will make this age. The animal may die before celebrating his first birthday. And given the right conditions, he might even surpass the 40-50 years life expectancy.
Food availability is the most significant factor that will influence the actual number of years your turtle lives. Despite their slow food metabolism, a turtle will need to eat on a long enough timeline. And if food proves hard to come by, the animal could easily starve to death.
A turtle’s general health condition will also determine the exact number of years the animal clocks before breathing his last. The fact that these reptiles are fairly disease-resistant doesn’t make them 100% immune from infections. Like any animal, turtles become more susceptible to diseases as they age.
There are also environmental factors to contend with. Although they’re cold-blooded reptiles, turtles are intelligent enough to process cues within their surroundings. Turtles that do not receive enough attention from their owners may develop stress and anxiety, which might subsequently reduce their life expectancy. Other environmental factors like uncomfortable sleeping areas and noisy neighborhoods might also reduce your turtle’s quality of life.
Last but not least, different turtle species have different life expectancies. So, bear that in mind before adopting a turtle.
How to Increase Your Turtle’s Lifespan
1) Know the Species
There’s little you can do to change a turtle’s species. But simply knowing which species you’re dealing with might clue you in on his expected lifespan.
The following is the average life expectancy of the most popular pet turtles;
• Map Turtle – 15 to 25 years
• Painted Turtle – 20 to 30 years
• Red-Eared Slider – 25 to 35 years
• Wood Turtle – 40 to 55 years
• Russian Tortoise – 40+ years
• Eastern Box Turtle – 50+ years
• Greek Tortoise – 100+ years
• Leopard Tortoise – 100+ years
Generally, larger turtle species live longer than smaller ones.
2) Feed Your Turtle a High-Quality Diet
Turtles, like all pets, should consume a high-quality, balanced diet.
The actual foods your turtle will prefer depends on his species. Some species only eat meat and seafood. Others may have a taste for insects and veggies in addition to meat and fish.
One best practice is to go for foods high in vitamin A to avoid vitamin A deficiency, a common health issue in pet turtles. Most importantly, remember to consult your vet on a turtle’s proper nutritional requirements before adopting these reptiles.
3) Keep Your Turtle Stimulated
Turtles require far less exercise than other larger pets like cats and dogs. But that doesn’t mean they should be couch potatoes.
Make provision for regular walks around the backyard. It’s best to do this around the mid-morning so your scaly friend can take in vitamin D from the sun.
Note that vitamin D deficiency, another common health problem in turtles, can cause poor shell development and stunted growth.
4) Enrich Your Turtle’s Environment
Like any pet, a turtle will live longer in an enriched environment. So, invest in plenty of toys for your scaly friend.
Besides, make your turtle’s living space comfortable by eliminating unnecessary physical barriers and noise.
5) Schedule Regular Visits
This is arguably the most important strategy as far as increasing a turtle’s life expectancy.
Regular clinical checkups might detect underlying diseases before they degenerate into unmanageable levels. These routine examinations may also help uncover if your turtle is infested with pests.
Most pet turtles have a life expectancy of 40 – 50 years. But as we’ve seen, there’s so much you can do to ensure your scaly friend lives longer and possibly even outlives you.