Can Turtles Eat Cat Food? 4 Reasons They Should Not

Jun 3, 2021

can turtles eat cat food

If you’re one of those lucky pet parents with both reptilian and furry pets, you know their personalities and needs are drastically different. Well, they belong to two distinct species. What can we expect? If you’re someone with an eye for detail like me, you might have noticed that commercial pellets for cats and turtles have eerily similar labels. So, can turtles eat cat food?

If they could, why should anyone ever spend so much cash to buy costlier turtle feed, right? 

Excited with the prospect of cutting my expenses, I put my thinking hat on and started researching on the internet. And oh boy, was I wrong! 

Let’s cut to the chase now! 

Can Turtles Eat Cat Food?

No, cat food should never be a part of your turtle’s staple diet routine. Commercial food meant for cats is very high on protein, fat, and fiber – all of which can be bad for your turtle if overfed. Plus, cat food contains several kinds of inexpensive filler used as low-grade fiber content, which can be hazardous to your pet’s health. 

For starters, cats are carnivores. Most turtles are omnivores with an inclination toward a herbivore diet as they get older. So, as you can guess, the nutrition needs of these two animals are fundamentally different. 

Feeding cat food can result in many health complications and stunted development in turtles, which will ultimately shorten their lifespan by many decades! 

Well, that was a brief summary. Now let’s have a more detailed look into the possible caveats one by one. 

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4 Reasons Why Cat Food Is Bad For Turtle 

cat food
Cat food

Protein Overdose Can Cause Pyramiding 

Animal protein undoubtedly tops the chart of nutrients cats need. As a result, most cat food varieties available commercially are loaded with protein. And while this compound is equally important for turtles, high amounts of protein present in cat food can cause pyramiding. 

Pyramiding is a form of the metabolic bone disease (MBI) and is characterized by deformed and elevated shell scutes. Likewise, it often also invites complications of the kidneys and digestive tract. 

Fatty Food Leads To Obesity 

For cats, fat is a concentrated energy source that helps to carry nutrients to cell membranes. So, cat foods often contain generous servings of fat – at least 10%. Naturally, this amount is much higher than what a turtle needs, leading to obesity and other consequent problems. 

Your pet reptile won’t get fat immediately after a few servings. But if cat food starts making regular appearances in your turtle’s diet, it’s definitely going to be problematic. For instance, your pet may not be able to pull his head into the shell, support his own weight, or swim well.

If you’re interested to know the tips to help an obese turtle lose weight, check this out! 

Filler Food May Not Be Compatible 

Commercial cat food often includes low-quality and cheap filler food like corn cobs, peanut hulls, citrus pulp, weeds, and feathers as low-grade fiber content. And they’re usually bulky, starchy, and laden with carbs. And while these filler foods may be ‘safe’ for cats, we can’t say the same for turtles. 

Consuming low-grade fiber can lead to bloating and constipation in turtles. Likewise, they’ll definitely not supplement a turtle’s nutritional requirements. 

Different Nutritional Needs 

Vitamin D is imperative for turtles as it helps in metabolizing calcium and phosphorus in their bodies. I skimmed through dozens of cat food labels but didn’t find a single one that listed this nutrient. Likewise, commercial cat food contains negligible traces of calcium and vitamin A. 

As you already know, these 3 are indispensable nutrients for turtles. Lack of any one of these can invite severe health complications. Thus, you should always feed pellets formulated and specified for turtles. 

I Gave My Turtle Cat Food. What Should I Do?

Turtles can eat and digest cat food without any problem if they’ve consumed a small amount once or twice. There’s no need to panic. However, it’s wise to monitor his behavior and bowel movement for a day or so to see if anything’s suspicious.

If you suspect anything wrong, make sure to ring the vet and seek his advice. 

Well, I don’t want to sound too preachy, but it’s important to address why and how your pet turtle ate cat food. Did you give it yourself out of curiosity? Or does he have easy access to cat food? 

Either way, make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Although there are no immediate repercussions, it can open doors for a host of complications, as you read above. 

Our Favorite Pellets For Turtles 

Through recommendations, trials and errors, and hours of internet research, I have curated a pretty healthy and well-rounded diet plan for my turtles. And while I primarily try to feed veggies and greens, there’s one commercially available option that I swear by! 

It’s Tetra ReptoMin Floating Turtle Food. 

First, Tetra is a household name for anything related to turtles. Second, these food sticks are formulated with the right amounts of nutrients turtles need. 

But what I like the most is that these floating pellets help recreate a turtle’s natural foraging behavior. It’s fun to watch them swim to the top and grab a stick. 

These easy-to-digest sticks will keep your pet’s gut happy. 

Honorable Mentions

Omega One Floating Turtle Pellets 

  1. Fortified specifically for juvenile turtles 
  2. Contains calcium and vitamin D3 for proper shell development 
  3. Made with omega and fatty acids for healthy growth

Fluker’s Buffet Blend Aquatic Turtle Food 

  1. Contains frozen river shrimp and mealworms turtles love 
  2. Optimized protein and fat content 
  3. Fortified with calcium and vitamin A

Frequently Asked Questions 

Kitten
Kitten

Can Turtles Eat Kitten Food?

No, kitten food is just as bad as cat food for turtles, if not more. They contain high amounts of protein, calcium, and fat that can be overkill for a turtle.

I know people that claim kitten food is better for primarily carnivore species like wood turtles. Still, I have personally stayed away from it. 

When there are so many great, turtle-exclusive options available, why skate on the thin ice, right?

Can Turtles Eat Dry Cat Food?

No, dry cat food does not contain nutrition optimized for turtles. They often have high amounts of protein and fats than what’s deemed healthy for turtles.

Thus, you should strictly stick to pellets and dried food made and sold for turtles. 

Can Turtles Eat Canned Cat Food? 

No, canned cat food isn’t good for turtles. Besides the usual culprits, it contains oil, artificial preservatives, rendered fat, and several other ingredients bad for turtles.

Also, imagine the mess wet cat food creates in water. That alone should be a reason enough! 

Can Box Turtles Eat Cat Food?

Box turtles should not eat cat food, although accidental consumption once shouldn’t pose any harm.

A box turtle’s ideal diet should contain animal protein, leafy veggies, turtle pellets, and occasional fruits. 

Can Box Turtles Eat Canned Cat Food?

No, box turtles, or any other turtle for that matter, should never consume canned cat food. They contain specific ingredients like butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) to elongate shelf life. And their effects on turtles haven’t been studied. 

Conclusion: Can Turtles Eat Cat Food 

Although the nutrition label printed on the back of cat and turtle foods may look quite similar, the nutritional needs for these two species are quite different. 

Thus, you shouldn’t give cat food to your turtle. If they consume small amounts accidentally, it should be fine. In most cases, there are no immediate reactions. 

However, cat food includes high amounts of protein and fat, which can be detrimental to turtles. For instance, they could suffer from pyramiding and obesity. 

Keep Reading!

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.