Terrapin pets make wonderful companions, and because they and their habitat do not take up much space, they are ideal for the millions of urban dwellers who live in not-too-spacious apartments or condominiums. Dogs make wonderful companions too-no one will argue that-but they want constant attention in return, require training, need to be walked, and larger dogs may feel cramped in even a modest-sized home and yard. Cats take up less space, as they properly should, and birds take up even less space, but for many people, terrapins are definitely the pet of choice. They eat little and may live 60-100 years.
By the way, if you’re American or Canadian, you’re probably wondering what on earth a terrapin is. No surprise, really! It’s simply the British way of saying turtle. If you are dazzled by the word terrapinarium, that would be a turtle tank.
In America, semi-aquatic terrapins like Red-eared Sliders and Painted Turtles are the favorite breeds, and American imports are popular in Britain as well, since the UK has no native species of terrapin, tortoise or freshwater turtle. Now, of course, since many people have released their pets into the countryside, and these once-tame terrapins have found each other and bred, there are wild turtles in England.
Box Terrapins or Box Turtles are also popular in Britain-so popular, in fact, that it would do well to spend a little time describing them and their requirements. Box terrapins stop growing when they reach about six inches in length — try getting your dog to do that! and their small size is a big factor in why so many people choose them as pets.
An added benefit is that a moderate-sized tank or backyard pen can house more than one pet-although if you do get a few, it’s generally recommended that you have only males or only females to avoid fighting. Yes, it’s wonderful to imagine your male and female producing lots of cute little baby terrapins, but terrapin breeding is a specialized career and not to be done lightly. And though they are little at first, they will grow, and then where will you house them all? Giving them as gifts to people who don’t have the proper setup, and “setting them free” in the English countryside should not be options.
As for what Box Terrapins eat, they are omnivores, meaning that they eat many different kinds of fruits and vegetables, as well as meat-this includes cooked turkey and chicken as well as (non-cooked) lean beef, earthworms, feeder fish, crayfish. Terrapin must be fed properly if they are to stay healthy. Their terrapinarium must also be maintained at a constant warm temperature, and be cleaned regularly that is no small task, if you don’t wish them to get sick.
Most terrapins-especially Box Terrapins-require very careful handling, which is why they are not recommended as pets for very young children. If they are dropped it could prove fatal or cripple them. In addition, terrapins commonly carry the disease known as salmonella, which means that every time you handle them or their utensils, or clean their terrapinarium, you must thoroughly scrub your hands with soap.
Terrapins do require a certain level of maintenance to stay healthy, but they reward you in return if you care for them, providing you with 60-100 years of cuteness and antics.