Box Turtle Pet Care

Box turtles range between the truly aquatic turtles and the terrestrial tortoises with their need for bodies of water in which they soak and their need for grassland and wooded areas with moist and humid soil. Box turtle forage for food on land and spend the time they sleep dug into the earth in burrows, under logs and under rocks.

HOUSING:

Box turtles need a big size enclosure in order to provide for the proper range of heating and humidity.

The smallest size indoor housing for one box turtle to be kept in is 3 x 3 x 2 feet. For two turtles, the minimum size should be at least 4 x 4 x 2 feet. Aquariums are not appropriate housing for an adult box turtle. Babies may be kept in aquariums, but as they grow larger enclosures are needed.

Create a land area using 2 to 3 inches of good quality plain sterile potting soil slightly moistened. Do not use backyard dirt of soil from a garden.. Do not used coarse substrates such are gravel or sand, as these tend to scratch the shell and open the way for bacterial infections.

Box turtles require a hide box in which to get away from it all and feel secure. A good size box in one corner of the enclosure, filled with hay in which to burrow. is essential. The hide box can be anything from a cardboard box to a plastic container with a door cut into it.

A water area must be provided with its deep enough that the water comes to just about the nose of the turtle. It doesn’t need to be able to swim, just to soak. If using a kitty litter pan, it is best to sink this into the substrate and provide a ramp to get in and get out for the turtle.

The water area must be kept clean at all times. Box turtles not only use the water to soak in but also relieve themselves in.

LIGHTING:

Full spectrum lighting is required for indoor enclosures. Full spectrum light mimics the beneficial effects of natural sunlight, enabling the turtle to metabolize vitamin D3. The full spectrum lighting is an essential part of the calcium metallization process. Without the specific wavelengths and proper diet, calcium deficiencies will result which may ultimately prove fatal. Box Turtles need 12 to 14 hours of light each day. NOTE: UV waves cannot pass through glass, and 40% of the available waves are lost when the light passes through an aluminum screen, try to have the light shining directly on them.

HUMIDITY/TEMPERATURE:

Day Time temps: 85 to 88 degrees

Night Time temps: 70 to 75 degrees.

Most box turtles require a relative humidity of 60 to 80% in at least one area of their enclosure. Turtle that are not provided with the correct humidity often suffer from infected and swollen eyes and ear infections. Providing humidity is simple, in one corner of the enclosure provide some peat moss and wet it down with water until it is fairly moist. A hiding area, such as a cardboard box or large plastic container with ventilation holes should be placed over the wet peat moss. Be sure to check the moss constantly to ensure it is moist and has not dried out.

HIBERNATION:

It is a good idea to allow your box turtle to hibernate, especially if you keep it in an outdoor enclosure during the summer months.This is to allow the box turtles internal clock to remain normal. If you choose not to hibernate the turtle, you must keep it warm and provide plenty of UV lighting along with their normal dietary needs.

To prepare a box turtle for hibernation, do not feed the animal for two weeks, but keep the heat on to allow the animal to fully digest any food remaining in its stomach and intestinal tract. Soak the box turtle in a shallow container of lukewarm water a few times during this period for about 10 minutes, this will help to hydrate the animal and to remove any food left in their system. Box turtle that hibernate with food still present in their intestinal tract can die from massive infections as the food rots inside them.

Hibernating box turtles indoor requires a hibernation box. A cardboard box half filled with moist sterile potting soil or peat moss with holes punched in the sides for aeration is an appropriate hibernation box. After all the food has been cleared from the turtle’s system, introduce the turtle to the hibernation box. If the box turtle buries down into the substrate and remains still, it is ready for hibernation. If the animal is moving restlessly around after 20 minutes in the box, return if to its enclosure, wait a few days and try again. If the box turtle is ready, move it to an unheated room, such as a garage, where the temperature will remain between 40 to 55 degrees. Check the box turtle weekly to make sure is has not surfaced prematurely. Box turtles usually come out of hibernation after experiencing temperature above 65 degrees for a few days. After the turtle comes out of hibernation, return it to its regular enclosure, provide water, warm it up for a couple of days, and then offer some food. Pay close attention to the turtle during the time after hibernation to observe for any health problems that may occur.

DIET:

It is best to offer food after the turtle has had a few hours to warm up in the morning. Young turtle require feeding on a daily basis, while adult can be fed every other day. Make sure you combine their diet with both plant and animal matter. Vitamin supplements should be added twice a week.

Plants: A variety of vegetables, greens and fruits are a must. Such as a “salad” of carrots, squash green beans, strawberries, cranberries, blackberries, cherries, and plums. Some cantaloupe (with the rind), mustard greens, dandelions, and collard greens can also be mixed in. For treats you can add flowers like hibiscus, rose petals, and geraniums.

Meat: High quality low-fat canned dog food, finely chopped cooked chicken or raw beef heart. Live food can also be offered, like meal worms and crickets.

Young turtles require more animal matter in their diet due to their need of protein. As they grow into adults this should be reduced over time to no more than 10% of their total diet.

Leopard Gecko Digging: What Does It Mean?

Is your leopard gecko digging non-stop? This can start to trouble you and you should know that this may mean something is not right in their little world. To learn more about this leo activity, read on.

Why do They Dig?

Digging is a natural instinct for these animals. Leopard gecko digging is a normal part of their lives in the wild. Their front claws are actually designed for such purposes. They do this for a number of reasons: to get away from the sun, to hide from predators, or to hunt for food. If your substrate is deep enough, it isn’t strange to find your lizard digging paths underneath the ground. Most substrate depths won’t allow this though. Should the digging just keep going on, try to get to the reason behind it.

Tank is Too Hot

This is one of the biggest reasons behind digging. If the tank is too hot, they will attempt to escape the heat somehow. The quickest solution is to bring the heat down. However, the best solution is to get a proper sized tank that can have two areas of temperature. Leos are happy in temps of about 90 degrees but they sometimes need cooler temps to cool down their bodies. An area that remains in the low 80s or mid 70s should be maintained in any lizard habitat. Check your temp and make sure you have two distinct areas. Getting an accurate thermometer is crucial and is well worth the investment if you want to keep your lizards happy.

Lack of Hideaways

This is another reason behind constant digging. Your leos are nocturnal and they prefer to stay out of the light during the day. To duplicate their natural habitats somewhat, many keepers employ hideaways. These can be constructed out of simple plastic containers with holes cut into them so the lizard can get in. You’d also want some humid hide boxes just in case your lizard has problems with shedding.

Sand Problems

Sometimes your lizards can get irritated by the sand you use as a substrate. This can make them do unpredictable things. Make sure your sand is not too rough or too thick. Also, some keepers suggest staying away from sand as there are many alternative substrate materials out there. Although sand is easy to clean and use, it causes many problems including sand ingestion and sand impaction. This occurs when the lizard eats too much sand and their digestive systems start to get clogged or even damaged by rough sand. This can be a dangerous situation for your lizards so make sure you have the right kind of sand or use alternatives like newspaper, pea gravel, paper towels, or even the bare bottom of the tank.

Unexplained Digging

Should the digging continue, you may have to check other areas of your lizard’s lifestyle. Check anything that may be causing stress that could lead to unpredictable behavior. However, if the lizard maintains a healthy diet and is normal the rest of the time, you might just have to give him some time to adjust.

A Feline Soap Opera?

Does living with an Animal Communicator mean everyone gets along?

There’s no question that integrating cats can be very, very challenging. In my last post about Melissa’s integration I thought I had finally turned a corner. Well, maybe that was just another corner in a complex maze.

In the wild, domestic cats naturally live in multi-generational female family groups, like lions do. But when confined indoors and when the cats are not related to each other, conflict may be difficult to overcome.

In our human families, we bring cats together who have no biological relationship to each other. That can make for great challenges, as it’s not natural for them to live this way.

When Starlight came nearly 5 years ago (That long ago? Really?) and was quickly integrated in about 2 months, I could hardly believe it was that easy.

Of course, there had been lots of preparation done, even before she was born. Furthermore, Starlight has a very sweet disposition. She doesn’t like to challenge anyone about anything. So naturally, the existing hierarchy was never questioned and all was well.

Then came Melissa.

Melissa, by personality and possibly genetics, is a very dominant cat.

She wanted to take over the cattery where she was born.

Then at 6 months of age, she expected to dominate all 3 cats in my family.

Despite all my efforts to dissuade her, Melissa knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t about to back down.

She refused to listen to anything I had to say (a perpetual teenager?) and still screams at me when I start to tell her something she doesn’t want to hear.

Sometimes I get an image of a child having a tantrum, screaming and putting her paws (fingers) in her ears.

From her very first day here, Melissa never showed the slightest subservience to the top cat, Sakhara, and never intended anything but to rule the household.

I have explained that there are various way to express dominance, and that violence is not always the best way. But of course, with “paws in ears” Melissa hasn’t heard me and completely rejects my requests.

Melissa is now over 2 years old.

Melissa is now the dominant cat.

Her relationships with Violet and Starlight are, overall, well balanced and respectful, most of the time.

However, with Sakhara, the conflict continues unabated.

Sakhara refuses to officially give up her position.

Melissa continues to hit Sakhara at least once a day, and goes out of her way to do so. Even if Sakhara’s sitting in my lap and minding her own business, Melissa will attack. I can see in Melissa’s eyes and body language when she’s getting ready to strike.

Nothing I’ve done to try to stop this has made any difference at all except in the moment. If I hiss at Melissa or admonish her, she backs off and then just waits until I’m not watching.

Because of Sakhara’s age and overall health (around 21 years old), I still run interference. To me, Sakhara is due some deference, as she’s always been kind, caring, and considerate to others.

Sakhara has chosen to sleep in a room by herself with the door closed. This way she doesn’t have to get past Melissa to get to a litter box after I’ve gone to bed. I’m fine with this, but when I open her door in the morning, Melissa charges in right past me at lightning speed.

In my efforts to resolve things between these two, I discovered a past life in which Melissa and Sakhara had a terrible conflict that resulted in horrible torture and death for Melissa. Melissa is unforgiving, and Sakhara won’t even forgive herself.

So the karma continues.

While I haven’t completely given up my efforts to help each of these beautiful beings find inner peace, there’s a powerful lesson for me in all this. While meditating one day, I was told to use this affirmation:

“I accept God’s Perfection in everything.

I let go of having to fix everything.”

Truly a powerful lesson. It’s not up to me to resolve this. It’s up to them.