The Scratching Post is a weekly newsletter from pets columnist Kate Karp, bringing you all the latest news on pet adoptions, animal welfare and ways to get involved.
To celebrate World Turtle Day on May 23, the California Turtle and Tortoise Club and the El Dorado Nature Center hosted a mini-show featuring local turtles and tortoises last Sunday. The event also welcomed a snake, a walking stick, some arachnids, froggies, a trio of costumed bearded dragons and an alligator lizard, the last to answer any question about what America might or might not have been singing about.
Attendees happily shelled out the $8 parking fee and snapped up information about all creatures chelonian—any reptile protected by an external shell and also my new favorite word.
Although they won’t come when you call them or guard the house, enthusiasts say turtles and tortoises make excellent pets.
“They don’t bark, they don’t claw the furniture, and they don’t have late-night parties,” said box-turtle dad Jerry Weir. “But when I adopt a turtle out, I see if they have any knowledge of turtles because if they don’t, they’re going to die.”
Caring for turtles and tortoises may not be as frustrating and exhausting as housebreaking a puppy or trimming a cat’s claws, but they need specific care. Yolanda Keh and Richard Roosman, respectively treasurer and past president of the Turtle and Tortoise Care Society, Long Beach, talk a lot about turtle needs. Well, they tort me, anyway.
First, they all need space, even the smaller ones in terrariums. Tortoises are strict vegetarians and will eat any veggie or fruit you put in front of them. Turtles are omnivorous and need their greens; they’ll also eat any meat from mealworms to dog kibble and flies you have buzzing around.
Sunlight is crucial to processing calcium and other nutrients. Both turtles and tortoises can be kept in the house, but they need to either be brought outside to catch some rays or placed under a special UVB light if they’re kept indoors. Tortoises who live outdoors need to be able to move from sunlight to shade to avoid constant heat—doghouses work nicely for this, Yeh said. They also require shelter at night to keep away predators such as raccoons.
As for the news stories of tortoises found wandering in the streets, Roosman said the owners should have done more diligence.
“Check your enclosure to make sure they can’t get out,” he said. “They’re not like dogs—they can’t find their way home!”
Yeh said that microchips can be glued permanently to the shells to help ensure a safe return home.
Because of the California Turtle and Tortoise Club’s thoroughness in educating people about turtle and tortoise care, it’s the only organization approved for adopting out the endangered California desert tortoises. These animals may not be bred or sold, and they must be returned to the organization if the new owner no longer wants them. On that note, Yeh urges anyone with an unwanted turtle or tortoise to contact the club.
If you’re looking to adopt a chelonian, most of the club’s chapters do that. Know that they have a checklist that’ll make dog adoption at the strictest rescue look like a marketing-research questionnaire about breakfast cereal. Like all responsible rescuers, the club members want to make sure that the adopter seriously considers all aspects of turtle ownership.
“You have to think about where the turtles will go if you die, because you likely will go before the turtle,” Yeh said.
For more information about anything chelonian, visit the pages for the California Turtle and Tortoise Club and its Long Beach chapter, the Turtle and Tortoise Care Society. The Long Beach chapter meets the third Saturday of the month, 7:30 p.m., at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, 6201 East Willow St., Long Beach. Guests are always welcome.
“You don’t have to have a turtle to go,” Keh said.
The tortoise clubs don’t feature photos of their adoptables because they come and go quickly. But box turtlers Maggie and Akane had three of their protégés at the event. Follow this link to see their adoption process.
Cats & Mats Yoga: Friday, May 26, 11 a.m.-noon, Feline Good Social Club, 301 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, $25. Inhale. Streeetch. Exhale. Streeetch. Cats know how to relax, and you’ll know how, too. Feline Good’s Cats & Mats sessions are back with a highly paw-sitive experience shared by a certified yoga instructor and about a dozen cats. Dress comfortably, bring your mat, and arrive about 10 minutes early to set up. The class provides a gentle, relaxing and restorative yoga session for all levels, and you’re guaranteed to end up purring. Hang out with the cats before and after the session—maybe you’ll want to adopt one! More events are available here.
Second annual Long Beach Summer Adoption and Craft Fair: Saturday and Sunday, July 8-9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Marina Green Park, 386 E. Shoreline Drive, Long Beach, free to attend, adoption fees apply. Practically every rescue within the reach of Long Beach will be at this great event, so if you’re looking for your best friend forever and ever, you have no excuse to not shop but adopt! Of course, you’ll want to shop at the vendor booths! Stay tuned for more info.
Sound healing, with cats: Friday, July 28, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Feline Good Social Club, 301 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, $30. It may not be as healing as relentless purring, but the sound healing experience, brought to the Feline Good Social Club by Illuminate Life, is sure a close second-best! Lie down, close your eyes, and let the ancient instruments revitalize your mind, body and spirit. Dress in loose, comfy clothing (wear your jammies!) and bring a yoga mat, a blanket, a pillow, a water bottle or anything else you need to be comfortable. Also, we suggest wearing loose and comfortable clothing. Oh—almost forgot! The cats will be there, too, so you get it all! Access this link for the other scheduled healings.
To see a list of local animal rescue groups, click here.