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Why Does My Turtle Stare at Me? Tips, Reasons, & Behaviors

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

pig nosed turtle in the aquarium

All pets, no matter the species, seem to have strange habits. Dogs, for example, get the zoomies, and cats love to knock things off counters and shelves. Many other pets do strange stuff, including turtles who, for some reason, like to stare at their owners. The question is, why does your turtle stare at you?

From our research, the answers are varied, and veterinary researchers provide several reasons for this seemingly odd behavior. For example, hunger is one reason most experts believe turtles stare at their owners, but there are several more to consider. To discover these reasons and better understand why your turtle wants to engage in a staring contest with you, read on!

What are the Various Reasons Your Turtle Stares at You?

There are various reasons why a pet turtle will stare at you. Below we’ll look at all the reasons and the ideas behind them.

Your Turtle Knows You Bring It Food

Turtles are relatively intelligent animals, and if they know they will get food when you come around, they may stare at you because of that. Think of it like a dog that salivates when you tell them it’s “dinner time,” or a cat that comes running when they hear the unmistakable sound of a can of cat food being opened.

Knowing you’re the “giver of food,” your turtle may stare intently when you’re nearby expecting to get a tasty treat. According to veterinarians and pet experts, it is the main reason a turtle will start at its owner. After all, hunger is what drives most animals in the wild. It’s a powerful force of nature.

turtle eating raspberry
Image By: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

Your Turtle Recognizes You

It’s long been known that after being with a certain person or family long enough, turtles start to recognize them. For example, if you have an aquatic turtle in a tank, and they see you coming, they will often swim to the side of the tank to “greet” you.

This is also one reason your pet turtle might stare at you because they recognize you from sight and also, in some cases, from the sounds you make. For example, if you call your turtle’s name and ask them how they’re doing every time you approach them, they will begin to recognize your voice.

Your Turtle Wants Attention

Although the scientific evidence isn’t completely sound, many believe that a turtle will stare at their owner when they want attention. The truth is that turtles can’t communicate as well as many other types of pets and don’t make a lot of sounds like dogs, cats, and other pets do.

Turtles can stare like champions, however, and many believe they do so when they want you to take notice and give them attention or help. If your turtle is well-fed but still staring at you intently, they may want something besides food from you. In some cases, they might be injured or sick, so be sure to take their staring seriously.

Your Turtle Likes You

There are two trains of thought on whether or not turtles have and show affection toward their owners. The first is that they don’t because they aren’t capable of true affection and thus don’t show it toward other animals. On the other hand, many believe that turtles can show affection towards their owners and show it by staring at them.

Many turtle owners believe that because their turtles don’t hide in their shells when they engage with them or pick them up, they have affection for them. However, this may just be that your turtle trusts you because they know that you aren’t going to harm them. Is it affection? The jury is still out on that.

owner holding a diamondback terrapin turtle
Image By: Miiko, Shutterstock

Your Turtle Is Curious About You

It’s known that turtles are curious and inquisitive creatures, which might be one reason your pet turtle is staring at you intently. It might be wondering what you are, why you’re so large, or other basic thoughts. Whatever those thoughts are, if your turtle is staring at you, it likely means they’re interested in knowing more about you.

Your Turtle Wants to Show Dominance

Depending on the breed and sex of the turtle you own, they might be trying to show dominance by staring at you. As with many animals, males are more aggressive and will try to show dominance more than females. Once a turtle realizes that you aren’t going to harm them, staring at you intently might simply be their way of trying to be the “boss” of you.

Tips for Keeping Your Turtle Healthy, Safe, and Happy

Whether your pet turtle stares at you or not, it’s always good to know tips on how to keep them healthy, safe, and happy. We’ve listed a few of the best ones below!

Don’t Handle Your Turtle Too Often

Even if they don’t seem to be scared of you, handling a turtle can cause your pet a lot of stress. It’s best to enjoy looking at them as they go about their daily life. Plus, since many turtles have salmonella and other bacteria on their body, handling them could make you sick.

Clean Your Turtles Tank Twice a Month

A clean tank will go a long way toward keeping your turtle healthy, safe, and happy. It’s best to remove everything from the tank and wash it thoroughly at least twice a month. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands afterward to remove any possible salmonella bacteria.

turtle swimming in aquarium
Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

Provide Your Turtle the Right Lighting

Unless you keep your turtle outdoors, where it can get natural sunshine, it’s imperative that you purchase a UV light for them to bask. They need UV light to make vitamin D and keep their bones, shells, and joints healthy. Also, you should change the UV bulb every 6 months or so because, in time, their ability to emit UV light deteriorates.

Use a Separate Tank to Feed Your Turtle

Veterinarians recommend using a separate tank when feeding your turtle. That will help keep their main tank clean and reduce any bacteria or germs that could harm your pet. Once they are finished eating, you can put your turtle back into their main tank.

Put Plants in Your Turtle’s Tank

Aquatic turtles are used to having several plants in their environment, which is simple to replicate in their tank at home. Be sure that any plants you put in their tank are safe because it’s highly likely your turtle will nibble on them from time to time.

Some of the best plants for a turtle tank include the following:
  • Water fern
  • Water lily
  • Duckweed
  • Water lettuce

Final Thoughts

It can certainly be a little unsettling when you notice your pet turtle staring at you, but in most cases, it’s simply their way of communicating with you. Your turtle may want attention, food, or to show they like you. Which reason is the most likely? It’s difficult to tell with most turtles.

Whatever the reason they’re staring at you, you can feel good knowing your turtle isn’t scared of you and trusts you. This is especially true if you pick up your pet turtle and they stay outside of their shell while they stare, which means they trust you implicitly.

We hope this information has shed some light on this rather strange turtle behavior and given you insight into why your pet likes looking at you so much.

Featured Image Credit: daniilphotos, Shutterstock

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