Do Cats Eat Turtles? What You Need To Know

Do cats eat turtles - a white kitten on top of two turtles, isolated on a white background

When it comes to pets, cats and turtles are both popular choices for many households. These creatures have their unique appeal, with cats being the playful and affectionate companions, and turtles providing a more serene and intriguing presence.

But an often-asked question by pet owners considering keeping both animals is, “Do cats eat turtles?” It’s a valid concern, considering the natural instincts of cats as predators.

Cats, being obligate carnivores, are known for their predatory instincts, often chasing and playing with anything that moves. Their usual prey includes mice, birds, and other small creatures that pique their curiosity.

But does this mean your pet turtle falls under the same category?

Do Cats Eat Turtles? Turtles as Prey

The truth is, the likelihood of cats targeting turtles as prey varies greatly depending on the size and type of the turtle as well as how hungry they are.

Cats may be attracted to turtles of various sizes because their slow-moving nature makes them easy targets. However, most mature turtles are not in any danger from the cat as they can quickly retreat into the protection of their shells when threatened.

On the other hand, young turtles and baby turtles are at higher risk as they do not have the same level of protection with their shells yet.  If a turtle is small enough that the cat can pick it up in its mouth, it is small enough to to be seriously injured or even killed by the cat. 

Researchers have documented feral cats preying on newly hatched sea turtles (1). Turtles most at risk are those that have just hatched  from their eggs and are yet to develop the protection of their shell. These small, soft-shelled turtles are easy prey for cats who will not hesitate to attack them if given a chance.

Do Cats Eat Turtle Eggs? It’s Possible

Female turtles usually dig holes in the sand to lay their eggs, which provides them with protection from many predators, including domestic and feral cats.  While some animals like dogs and raccoons become adept at sniffing out and digging up turtle eggs, this is not a foraging strategy that cats use. 

While a cat may not dig up turtle eggs themselves, a hungry cat may take advantage if they find eggs that have been dug up by another animal.

The same researchers that observed cats feasting on hatchling sea turtles did not observe cats eating eggs, although they hypothesized that the cats  could potentially eat eggs dug up by other predators if they were hungry enough (1).

Can Cats Harm Full Grown Turtles?

In general, cats do not typically pose a significant threat to adult turtles. Adult turtles are usually too large and well-protected to be preyed upon by cats. They can use their shells for protection if necessary, making them less vulnerable than younger turtles.

If the turtle does not feel threatened enough to retreat into its shell, there is a chance  that a curious cat can scratch or bite an exposed part of the turtle’s body, causing injury.

Can Turtles Harm Cats?

While cats may pose a threat to turtles, the reverse is also possible, depending on the type of turtle. Some species have sharp claws and beaks that can injure a cat if they feel threatened or are provoked. 

A fully grown snapping turtle, for example, could easily kill a cat, and even a juvenile can do some serious damage. Fortunately, cats generally recognize the potential threat that large turtles pose and  will often avoid them.

Do cats eat turtles - an orange persian kitten sniffing the head of a red eared slider turtle, isolated on a white background

Keeping Turtles and Cats Together

There’s a good chance your cat will show interest in turtles, though it will mostly be simple curiosity unless the turtle is small.

While it’s possible for cats to harm or even kill turtles in certain situations, the likelihood is relatively low. Still, interactions between your pet cat and turtle could pose risks to both animals.

For turtles, the danger lies in becoming stressed or injured during an encounter with a cat. For cats, attempting to bite or ingest a part of a turtle that does not typically form part of a cat’s diet could lead to health issues.

For pet owners who have both cats and turtles, peace of mind comes with separation and supervision. If you’re considering keeping a pet cat and turtle together, make sure to provide proper supervision at all times.

When supervision is not possible, keeping your pet turtle in a secure enclosure, out of reach of your cat, is the best way to prevent any unwanted interactions.


So, do cats eat turtles? The answer is, not usually. However, depending on the size and type of turtle, there is a potential risk of harm or injury if the two pets are not properly supervised or kept separate.

It’s important for pet owners to be aware of the natural instincts of both cats and turtles and take necessary precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of both animals.

Providing proper supervision, creating a stimulating environment for your cat, and having secure enclosures for your turtle are all essential steps in keeping your pets safe and happy together.


  1. First report of feral cat predation on sea turtle hatchlings in Turkey
  2. Information About Sea Turtles: Threats from Predation
  3. FAQ’s About Turtle Nests
Do cats eat turtles - grey tabby kitten looking at a turtle, isolated on a white background


  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins DVM PhD.

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.