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can a turtle recognize you

This Week’s Top Stories About Can a Turtle Recognize You?

Turtles are, after cats and dogs, the most amazing pet one can own. The sight of the turtle swimming and playing in the water is simply eye-pleasing. Naturally, turtle owners grow a strong bond with their pet as he feeds, cleans, and plays with them.

But can a turtle recognize you the way you perceive and take care of it?

I, too, was curious about it in my initial days of turtle petting, box turtle, to be exact.

And guess what? The answer was startling to me-

Yes, turtles can recognize their owners. However, their ways of perceiving the owner as well as the causes of recognition are incredibly different from cats and puppies.

Want to know about them?

Then, please read on.

How Can a Turtle Recognize you?

I have already said that a turtle can recognize you. But have you ever wondered how a turtle knows you? Or what physical or biological aspects it uses to identify you?

So, here is the answer-

A turtle will recognize its owner with the help of three primary senses of it. These three primary senses are-

  1. Smell
  2. Sound
  3. Sight

Although earlier people thought that turtles’ eyesight is much inferior to humans, recent studies have found different ideas. In fact, now we know turtles have almost a similar vision likewise, humans with a bit of redness on it.

Also, turtles have a better auditory sense than humans, so, they can even pick up the slightest vibration in the land. It is essential for their survival.

So, now get to see the use of these three primary senses of the turtle to recognize you or the owner.

The First Recognition Comes From Sight

The eyesight of turtles is as good as humans if not better. However, due to the presence of the CYP2J19 gene, turtles see everything with a bit of redness mixed on it.

But the surprising fact is yet to come.

Yes. Turtles have developed a unique way to see the UV or Ultraviolet spectrum that humans can’t see. So, we have already got two characteristics of turtle eyesight-

  1. It identifies the UV spectrum
  2. It can see more shades of red than us.

The increasing number of visual palettes within the turtle eye makes this seeing possible. So, when you continuously change the turtle tank water and feed it daily, it will almost immediately recognize you as its caregiver.

In fact, I have heard people saying that sometimes their turtles have seen them on the other half of their garden or room and then have walked all the way close to them.

Can you guess what happened then?

The turtle behaved in a way that had only one meaning- give me some sweet turtle treat, master! Have you had such kinds of experiences?

The Smelling Power

During the million years of evolution, turtles have mainly developed a brilliant smelling power. Sometimes, you will be surprised to notice that turtles will address their food only by smelling it. Also, it senses the live food from a distance.

Thus, the turtles’ smelling capacity is linked to their well-being.

Hence, the turtle will soon address your distinctive smell as you feed it regularly. So, whenever you are close to it, it will sense your scent in the air and sometimes try to come to you. However, don’t expect your turtle to recognize you from a really long distance as such dogs.

Identifying Your Vibrations

Probably, the auditory sense is the weakest of all turtle senses. It can only recognize low-frequency sounds. However, it fails to address high-pitched sounds.

Henceforth, it might not pick up your vibrations immediately unless it is a Super Turtle. Nonetheless, once it gets used to your frequency level while walking around it, you can expect the turtle to recognize you with the vibrations.

One of my turtle friends claimed that his turtle recognizes him even in darkness only by the sound he creates while walking.

However, there’s no evidence that the turtle responds with a given name– poor at recognizing him!

Why does A Turtle Recognize Its Owner?

We know that a matriarch elephant carries a lifetime memory with her until death. Turtles’ heads and consciousness are both miniatures compared to those of elephants. In fact, a study on the Giant turtle showed that turtles’ memory lasts only about two to three minutes.

So, why does the turtle recognize the owner with such stress to keep him in memory?

The answer is straightforward- a turtle recognizes the owner for survival. In captivity, a turtle is entirely dependent on the owner for his food, health, and other survival facilities. Hence, the turtle must recognize you for a better survival chance.

We have found three main reasons that influence a turtle to recognize you or its owner-

  • Food: In the wild, turtles always chase and fight for their food. But in captivity, the owner provides all food regularly that helps the turtle live peacefully. So, for food, the turtle eventually becomes dependent on you, and it recognizes you as a source who has an unlimited provision of food for him
  • Differentiating between predators and friends: In their natural habitat, turtle continuously faces the danger of being eaten by bigger predators. As in captivity, it doesn’t face such hazards and see you providing everything necessary to turtles’, it sees you as a friend. Hence, with an increasing number of interactions with the turtle, you will create a good bond with it.
  • Curiosity: Turtles are naturally curious. Hence, it addresses you as a different animal that he hasn’t seen in the wilderness. So, when you continuously spend time with it, the turtle becomes curious about you. It helps the pet to recognize you.


So, the answer to the anecdotal question, “Can a turtle recognize you,” is, of course, YES. Your turtle will not only recognize you but will remember you for a brief time, even if you remain absent.

The recognition mainly comes from the auditory, eyesight, and smelling sense. But the vision plays the most crucial part in it. Also, a turtle recognizes you as a friend of it who provides ample food for it. So, if you want to build a strong bond with your pet turtle, be kind to it and ensure the secure provision of proper food items.

Sometimes, a nice turtle treat will never be a bad idea!

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