Can Turtles Eat Cat Food (Nutrition, Toxins & More)?

When it comes to food, turtles are pretty tolerant of what they eat, but obviously, there will be some foods that are a definite no-go. Designated turtle feed is pretty accessible and affordable in pet stores so trying to feed them anything but what is best for them seems like a ridiculous thing.

However, you may sometimes find yourself in a situation where you’ve run out of turtle food and you can’t get to the store. Maybe you’ve considered giving them some of your cat’s food just for the meanwhile until you can replenish the turtle food.

The labels of cat and turtle can look similar and surely they can’t be that different in ingredients. So can turtles eat cat food?

We’ll be revealing the truth in this guide and explaining why cat food is not suitable for turtles.

Can Turtles Eat Cat Food?

No, despite what you might hear from some turtle owners, they should not eat cat food, and why you may ask? Well because cats have totally different nutritional needs than turtles that’s why.

Cats are predominantly carnivorous animals and will require a high protein and fatty diet so they can thrive, whereas turtles are omnivorous and merge into herbivorous as they reach their later years. 

An omnivorous and especially a herbivorous turtle will not meet its dietary requirements on an all meat cat food diet which could be detrimental to their growth and development. 

Most generic cat food also contains low-quality fiber content to bulk it out with the meat which can be harmful to a turtle’s health as they’ll struggle to break it down. 

So there’s a brief answer to your question, but let’s delve deeper into why cat fat is so bad for turtles and also what to do if your turtle happens to eat it. 

Why Is Cat Food Bad For Turtles?

They Have Different Nutritional Needs

You wouldn’t feed dog food to a fish, and the same thing goes for feeding cat food to a turtle. Every animal will have individualistic nutritional needs to survive and thrive in its life. 

Turtles must have Vitamin A & D and calcium in their diet. The calcium helps keep their bones and shell healthy, however, it cannot be utilized without vitamin D. They can get vitamin D from the environment however incorporating it into their diet is an easy way to keep up their intake. 

Vitamin A is needed to keep their skin healthy and to help develop mucous membranes and ducts in their organs. 

However, nearly all cat food does not contain any traces of these valuable nutrients so your turtle will then become deficient and soon develop problems. 

Cat Food Contains Too Much Fat

Obese turtles are quite rare although you’ll want to reduce the risk the chance of your pet turtle developing obesity as much as you can. 

Cat food is high in fat content, which for cats is useful as fat helps carry nutrients to their cell membranes. However, this content is too high for what a turtle requires which will lead them to quickly putting on weight and causing additional health problems. 

Don’t worry, your turtle won’t double in size after a serving of cat food, but continuous consumption of cat food will soon make it more difficult for your turtle to swim, hold its own weight, or even fit its head back in its shell. 

Too Much Protein Can Cause Issues

Protein from meat is a necessity for cats in their diet, so most cat food is packed with protein. Protein is still an important requirement for turtles however, too much protein in a turtle’s diet can lead to pyramiding. 

This is a metabolic bone disease that can lead to deformed or elevated shells that interfere with lung functioning and also prevent females from laying eggs. It can make their legs weaker and cause them to move in abnormal ways which could lead to arthritis. 

They Can’t Digest Low-quality Filler Contents

As we briefly touched upon, cat food contains a lot of filler content that is mostly made up of low-quality fiber and carbohydrates. These ingredients may be safe for cats to eat but will cause bloating and constipation in turtles as they’ll struggle to digest them. 

I think my turtle has eaten cat food, what should I do?

Kudos to your turtle for managing to find its way to your cat’s food, however, try to prevent this from happening again by putting your cat’s food on a higher surface where your turtle can’t reach.

If this has only occurred once or twice and your turtle is displaying no irregularities in its behavior or bowel then all should be fine, just make sure to keep an eye on them.

However, if you’ve been feeding your turtle cat food for a long period then you’ll probably have noticed some changes to them and even some irregularities, at which point you should ask, why are you feeding them cat food?

If you think something may be wrong with your turtle as a result of you giving them cat food, take them to the vet immediately for a check-up.

Even if you think your turtle is doing just fine on a cat food diet, you’ll begin to see the repercussions for your naivety further down the line. 

What should you feed a turtle?

Turtles should eat a balance of vegetables and leafy greens with a mix of specialized turtle pellets you can buy from the store. 

If your turtle is on a predominantly pellet-based diet and you happen to run out, you’ll have better luck looking in your refrigerator for vegetables in comparison to giving them cat food. 

Below are some foods that you’ll commonly find in your own refrigerator that you can feed to your turtle:

  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Sprouts
  • Cooked sweet potatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Mushroom 
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Asparagus 
  • Berries
  • Fruits