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Can Turtles Climb? (Tips to Prevent Them from Escaping)

Can Turtles Climb? (Tips to Prevent Them from Escaping)

The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.

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Turtles make for quite the cute and interesting pets to have, and for many reasons. They are fun to look at, they have their own unique personalities, and most of all, they live for quite a long time.

As with adopting any pet, you are going to want to do what you can to research about the animal you are planning to adopt so that you can be properly prepared to keep the animal safe, happy, and healthy. This is often more time-consuming when you are adopting animals that are considered “exotic,” such as most animals that are not cats or dogs.

When researching the information for your turtle’s environment, you are going to want to make sure that you address the size and height of the enclosure to ensure that the turtle doesn’t have the chance to escape and find itself lost and wandering around your house without any food and under extreme stress.

One aspect that you will want to think about is whether or not turtles are capable of climbing out of their enclosures.

This most often applies to people who are keeping turtle ponds and need to set up a wall around the pond so the turtle doesn’t wander and get lost, but for people who are keeping their turtles inside a glass aquarium, you can rest assured knowing that turtles lack the ability to climb smooth surfaces.

For turtles that are living in an outdoor pond, it can be a little bit more complicated. Most turtles are not that skilled at climbing, but there are a few species that are, so it is important to make sure that you know whether or not the species of turtle you have is one that specializes in climbing, as you will have to take more measures to prevent it from climbing out of its pond enclosure.

There are a few different ways that you can go about creating an environment where your outdoor turtles have a wall surrounding their pond that they cannot climb over, with each method being more suitable for different kinds of turtles in different situations.

Creating a Wall for Your Turtle Pond

The most important thing to consider when making a wall for your outdoor turtle pond is that you will want to choose a material that turtles cannot easily climb. While turtles often lack the dexterity to climb up a wall, if there are footholds accidentally provided in the wall material that you choose, you may not have a lot of luck keeping the turtles in place.

The best material to choose for your turtle’s wall is going to be a smooth and tall material that does not offer any footholds for the more agile turtles to utilize to climb and is tall enough to keep turtle predators from getting in and harming your turtles.

Optimally, the material that you use should also be waterproof and nontoxic, as some curious turtles may try and take a bite out of the wall when it is first put up. This leaves you with a few different materials that you can use, ranging from metals and cement to animal-safe treated wood.

Wood is often somewhat inexpensive and it can be aesthetically pleasing for your yard, but it can also be difficult to waterproof it in a way that is safe for your turtles to accidentally take a bite of.

Cement is expensive and can be hard to work with, but will withstand just about any type of weather thrown at it, ensuring that you won’t have to worry about the wall for a long time.

Metal can be expensive, depending on the flexibility of it, and it can be a problem if the metal isn’t painted as it can reflect the sun onto other surfaces such as the water (and subsequently heating it up), into your window, or onto your neighbor’s property.

However, metal can be incredibly versatile in terms of planning out the custom design of the wall and there are many places where you can get metal work done.

Finally, there is plastic. Plastic is often pretty inexpensive and easy to work with, and it offers the option of transparency so that you can watch the turtles, but this can cause stress for your turtles as they may not understand why they can see more land but cannot access it.

Plastic also has the problem of being flimsy and not withstanding harsh temperature changes such as freezing weather or extreme heats, meaning that you may have to reinforce the plastic if you live in an area that is prone to large temperature changes during the seasons.

The wall will need to be tall enough to keep most turtle predators off the area, meaning that it should be at least a few feet tall. There is no real way to protect turtles from large birds aside from also covering the pond area, so that will be less of a problem to consider.

In short, turtles naturally cannot climb very well, save from a few species that are more agile than other turtles. To ensure that you are not giving your turtle an unintended boost in climbing, any walls that you have for your turtles’ enclosure need to be as smooth as possible to make sure that they do not have any footholds that could aid in their attempts to climb out of the environment.

Why Do Turtles Try to Climb?

If you notice that your turtles are regularly trying to climb out of their enclosure, far more than out of sheer curiosity, you might begin to wonder why they are trying to do this.

A turtle that frequently tries to climb out of its enclosure is trying to tell you something, and that something is that the turtle is exceedingly unhappy with its environment for one reason or another.

It may be that the turtle doesn’t feel that there are enough places to hide, as turtles feel happiest when there are numerous areas it can hide away in and feel safe. Turtles are surprisingly skittish creatures, and if too few hiding spots are provided, your turtle may feel as if it needs to escape or explore to find an adequate place to hide.

Turtles will also try and escape if the enclosure is too small, and this applies to both indoor and outdoor turtle enclosures. The general rule of thumb for turtle enclosures is that it should be the equivalent of 10 gallons for every inch of the turtle’s shell length, which can quickly add up to being a considerable amount of space that you need to make for your turtle.

Turtles will try and escape from an environment that they deem to be too dirty or not well maintained. Turtles are incredibly picky about how clean their water needs to be, making it all the more important for you to invest in a high-quality water filter, and for indoor turtles, to try and clean the tank as regularly as you can.

For indoor turtles, you need to do frequent water changes to keep them happy and healthy. If you are not changing out the water regularly to mimic the changes in water after regular rainfalls, your turtle may become displeased with the environment, which leads to it trying to climb out of the enclosure no matter if you have a wall set up for it or not.

Finally, the last reason is that the turtle is bored. Turtles are animals that arguably should not be kept confined to small spaces, as they require mental stimulation of exploring, interacting with their environments, and mental exercises.

It is important to provide that mental stimulation for your turtle, and there are many ways to do this through enrichment, interacting with the turtles, and making sure that its environment is full of items for your turtle to investigate and interact with.

Every so often, you will want to change out these items so that your turtle can feel excited and happy to explore, drastically reducing its desire to try and escape through attempting to climb the walls.

For the most part, a turtle looking up above the wall may just be a turtle that is curious and knows that there is more to explore out there beyond the walls that you have set up for it, especially if those walls are transparent and the turtle can physically see other strange things outside.

However, when the occasional glance up the wall turns into frequent attempts to try and climb it, it is an indication that your turtle is trying to escape one way or another because its current environment is unsuitable for your turtle either through the water being unacceptable or there not being enough room or enrichment for your turtle to truly thrive.

By making sure that you provide the best environment for your turtle, you can feel confident knowing that even though you set up some walls around the turtle’s enclosure, the turtle is not going to have any reason to try and climb those walls.

Instead, you can watch as the turtles are happy to move around and explore in their environment, content with the water, the space, and the mental enrichment that you have provided.