One unpleasant experience that will inevitably happen is having your turtle pee on you. There are a lot of myths on the internet surrounding turtle pee, so I want to dedicate an article to the topic.
What to do if Your Turtle Pees on You?
First off, if your turtle pees on you, there is no need to panic. Do not react in any way that could further scare your turtle.
This means no sudden jerking and certainly don’t drop the turtle. Gently place them back in their tank and then worry about cleaning up.
When it comes to cleaning up, the most important part is ensuring to keep the mess away from your eyes, mouth, and nose. If your skin was exposed make sure that area does not come in contact with your face. Quickly wash the impacted area with warm water and soap for at least 30 seconds.
My biggest concern in any scenario like the above is if young kids are involved. They should be trained beforehand before handling the turtle.
Because they often have a habit of putting their hands in their mouth, they should be monitored closely during and after handling the turtle. As soon as they are done, regardless of if you see turtle pee, you should make sure they keep their hands away from their face and then wash their hands.
Bacterial diseases can spread much more quickly with kids so keep a close eye on them! For example, your pet turtle can spread salmonella.
Why did my turtle pee on me?
More often than not, it is a defense mechanism and your turtle is reacting out of being scared. Make sure you do not surprise your turtle when you pick it up.
When you go to pick up your turtle, don’t do it from behind. Approach them from the front so that they can see your hand approaching them. Additionally, do not move them quickly when they are in your hands.
You should also not hold your turtle too tight. Remember that their shell is a form of their backbone, some pressing down on it can cause pain and cause them to pee on you.
If it becomes a common occurrence, I would recommend avoiding touching your turtle until it is more comfortable in its habitat. As it becomes more familiar with its tank and your company, you will have a much better shot at making it comfortable when you pick it up.
Just like humans, when they feel threatened, their biology can act in fascinating ways.
I will say that it is common for turtles to pee when you are transporting them. To help reduce their stress, you should check out my guide on how to transport a turtle.
Is turtle pee harmful to humans?
As long as the pee doesn’t get into your body, it should not be harmful!
On the other hand, if you somehow ingest the substance, it can be a cause of concern. This is because of the chemical urea (the waste product that helps breakdown proteins) that makes up a large concentration of urine.
The symptoms are similar to other bacterial infections but should never be fatal. They include:
If you do notice these symptoms after being around turtle pee, ingest as much water as possible and your body should naturally be able to flush out the toxins.
Common myths about turtle pee:
- It is a common misconception that turtle pee on the skin can cause warts. This is simply not the case! I have yet to read a scientific study proving this theory, and until that happens, I will stand firmly by this claim!
- Another common misconception is that turtle pee can cause brain damage. Again, this is simply not backed by any scientific evidence.
Do Turtles Pee in Their Shells?
Turtles do not pee in their shells. Rather, they have a small opening at the bottom of their shell and that is where they excrete waste. Turtles don’t have an anus, so this opening is where they excrete both urine and feces.
If you look closely at a turtle from underneath, you can see this opening, called the cloaca, at the bottom of their shell near the base of their tail. A related question I often get is, whether or not turtles can pee out of their mouths. In general, the answer is no!
However, there is one species of turtle, the Chinese soft-shelled turtle, that does mainly pee from it’s mouth. This is the only species known to man where this phenomenon is observed. Note that this is a saltwater turtle, and not a turtle known to commonly be in captivity.