Pokey the Turtle
I bought a box turtle at the neighborhood pet store. It came with "turtle food" but little information about how to take care of it -- I call it Pokey. Can you help?
Turtles are easy pets if you provide proper housing, bedding, light, temperature and food. Let's start with housing. Your turtle needs an area that is large enough for it to move around a lot. You can use an aquarium or build a pen. For heat, you can install a heat lamp at one end of the enclosure where Pokey can come and go as needed to regulate body temperature. Also keep a small bowl of water in the pen for him to drink. Bedding should be easily cleaned and changed. Avoid corn cobs, sand and other materials that Pokey could eat. They could cause intestinal blockage. Ideal bedding is Astro-turf or newspapers. Turtles seem to find security by crawling into hiding places. A cardboard box with the end cut out is an ideal solution. You can set it in a corner of Pokey's pen. As a final touch, you can dress up his "house" with plastic plants. If you plan to keep your turtle outdoors, be sure the pen is secure against dogs, cats, raccoons, and other predators. From time to time, box turtles like to immerse their entire body in water. You can run water in a sink or bathtub until it reaches about two-thirds up the side of the turtle. Allow him to soak 15-30 minutes two to three times a week. Just watch that he doesn't turn upside down and drown. Ideal daytime temperatures for turtles is 78-85 degrees. They can fall to 68 degrees at night. Turtles need about 12 hours of light during the summer and eight hours during the winter. Keeping the pen in a room with windows usually satisfies the light requirement. In summer, the pen can be outdoors if there is shade and water. An ultra-violet light can help turtles absorb calcium. You can feed Pokey every day or at least three times a week. Box turtles like a lot of insects, earthworms, larvae, and slugs along with fruits and vegetables. Sprinkle the turtle's food with a vitamin supplement once or twice a week. Signs of illness are runny or puffy eyes, a runny nose, any unusual swellings or prolonged lack of appetite. I hope, however, that your turtle lives a long and healthy life.