Handling your box turtle - good or bad?


Aug 25, 2019
Location (City and/or State)
Issaquah WA
After reading some threads on here, I am under the impression that you should leave your box turtle alone as much as possible. My rescue box turtle, Spike, was VERY skittish for about 6 months - but recently he has started doing something very bizarre! I'm not sure if he is being friendly, or if he is agitated?

He seems to love BOOTS. Any time someone is nearby with boots on, he just circles them and does a thorough inspection. I have wondered if he thinks shoes are other turtles...haha. Last week, he started climbing up on my feet and trying to get up my legs! I let this go on for about 15 minutes, and finally just picked him up and set him on my lap. He stretched out his little neck out and let me gently pet the top of his head. Seemed pretty calm and relaxed. This has happened a few times now, and I am mostly just taken aback - he was scared of just about everything for a long, long time. I'm not sure if this is his way of begging for worms, or what!

I guess I'm wondering if it is harmful/stressful to them for me to have such close contact? I wish I knew what he was thinking!


Well-Known Member
Feb 27, 2020
Location (City and/or State)
New Jersey
As long as it is contact he initiates, and he does not display any aggression, then sure! Boxies do associate caretakers with food, and have been known to lose their fear of people to the extent of enjoying a toasty-warm lap. Individuals that tolerate handling are easier to evaluate for health status.

This is not exactly like the cuddling we are used to from other social, domesticated species (dogs, cats, rats, etc.). Be observant and take a hint when he's ready to be apart (or suffer the pants full of pee lol).

Be careful to wash your hands after handling...reptiles have been known to carry a number of infective agents that our immune systems are not the best at regulating. Change your clothes as well if you are frequently in the company of people with poor immune function.