What to Do When Your Pet Turtle Goes Missing

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On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, Malti and I were out on the lawn together as usual for her daily play time.

One moment she was there – the next moment she was gone.

I share the full story of my search and our reunion in this blog post.

My baby girl just moments after I discovered her hiding under a flowering bush next to a neighbor’s driveway!

But here, I want to share what I learned about what to do when your turtle goes missing.

First things first, go ahead and panic. Hyperventilate as well if you need to (but if you do this, be sure to call someone close to you so they can rush over and calm you down).

Panicking accomplishes 2 things:

  • It reminds you how much you love your turtle.
  • It pushes you to take action (on account of how action eases panic).

Next, try to reframe your interpretation of what has just occurred. Is your turtle really “lost?” Or could the departure have been a conscious choice?

Here is why I say this….

Turtles, like people and all other animals, are conscious beings with free will and the power of choice. They have their own reason for being, their own life purpose and their own goals.

Let’s say you are a captive turtle like, oh, Malti. You’ve never had an experience of being a “wild” turtle. You’d like to, though. So one day when you are out on the lawn and your mommy isn’t looking at you, you engineer your own departure and head out into the great unknown (aka the large vacant fields across the street from your casa).

While your mommy and her mommy and the whole neighborhood are searching frantically for you, you are out in the high grass and the mud and the sun and the rain having a fabulous time.

This is because you – unlike the panicking large shell-less beings who are frantically looking for you – are living in the moment, and in the moment everything is new and fresh and interesting and absorbing.

But then after awhile, you decide it was kind of nice to have an assistant to fix your meals and hand-feed them to you. You rather liked the controlled weather and temperature in your home enclosure. And it was wonderful to have clean water to drink and soak in anytime you wanted to do so.

So you decide you are ready to go home.

And here is where things can get dicey, or seriously “out there,” depending on how you feel about human-to-animal communication and vice versa.

For this reason, I will cover the basic “missing turtle” to-do list first.

When I was searching online for steps to take to find Malti, I realized pretty much all the articles and posts on this topic were focused on finding pets like dogs or cats. Searching for a missing dog or cat is different than searching for a missing turtle. For starters, missing turtles are slower and lower to the ground. They also have great natural camouflage and for that reason they tend to be much harder to spot!

Missing turtles also don’t make any sounds – they don’t bark or meow or hiss. And all things considered, their hearing isn’t their best sense. So you can call all you like, but unless you have a particularly deep bass voice, it is unlikely your turtle will hear you well enough to relate to the sound as “you.”

So what you need to do instead is to recruit others to help you search. The best searchers are person-dog teams. The dog sniffs out the turtle and then the person brings your “found” turtle home to you.

Here is what to do to get the word out as fast as possible in as wide a circle as possible so you have lots of eyes looking for your turtle with you:

  • Make lots of flyers with the following info: LOST or MISSING in large block print at the top, your contact info, area where your turtle went missing, a large colorful photo of your turtle, a brief description of your turtle (size, colors, tame or not, bites or not, et al).
  • If you offer a reward, do NOT specify the amount!!
  • Paper the area with these flyers out to a 1 or 2 mile radius of where your turtle went missing.
  • Contact local veterinary clinics and hospitals to ask if your turtle has been turned in to them.
  • Contact any local zoos or animal parks with the same question.
  • Visit local businesses (especially pet stores and coffee shops/juice bars) and ask to post your flyers there.
  • Visit schools (if school is in session) to alert teachers, kids and parents that your turtle is missing (kids are almost as good as dogs at finding low-to-the-ground hiding turtles).
  • Talk to everyone you see while you are out posting flyers and searching – pay particular attention to anyone you see walking a dog!
  • If your neighborhood has a community website, post a message asking everyone to help you look for your turtle.
  • Visit your city’s Facebook Lost Pets page (most cities have one) and post your turtle’s information there.
  • Post an ad on Craig’s List for your area with information about your missing turtle.
  • Use the heck out of your social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al) to plead for help. Post lots of cute pictures so people will be very motivated to share your turtle’s description with their networks as well.
  • Visit the websites for your city’s animal shelters (such as the Humane Society and the SPCA) and use any online forms you find there to post a missing pet notification.
  • Contact your local community newspaper(s) and ask if they offer a free missing pet listing – many will.
  • Post a flyer on the back of your car so neighbors can read it when you are out running errands or parked in front of your house.

Of course, continue searching while you are doing all this.

Here are some helpful search-related tips other turtle and tortoise parents shared with me when I was looking for Malti:

  • Often missing turtles don’t travel far. Rather, they hide near the area where they went missing, so look under anything (cars, trash cans, logs, rocks, bushes – I found Malti hiding under a bush!).
  • Depending on your local weather, just after dawn and before/during dusk can be great times to search since these are cooler times and turtles often come out to hydrate and hunt for food.
  • Also try placing a few tempting morsels out during dawn/dusk times. A turtle’s sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses.
  • If you search after dark, you might get lucky by shining a flashlight and seeing your turtle’s eyes reflected back at you.
  • If your turtle or tortoise is a hibernating species and it is near the time when hibernation might naturally occur (seasonally speaking), do NOT give up hope! There are some cases of turtles going “missing” in late fall and all winter that suddenly turn up again when spring’s warm temperatures bring them out of hibernation.

So earlier I mentioned that sometimes, when you really want to find your turtle and nothing else you’ve tried is working, it may become time to try something totally “out there” and new.

This is what I did. I hired an animal communicator to help me locate Malti.

Now, this wasn’t my first time working productively with an animal communicator, and I’ve also read several helpful books on the topic. I was quite open to this resource and eager to make use of it.

Not only did hiring the animal communicator give me extra emotional support and practical search ideas at a time when I really needed both, but I gained valuable new insight into why animals sometimes go “missing” and how to consider a possible return from their point of view.

For example, sometimes a pet will go missing just to have a “wild” experience (this was Malti’s reason).

But other times, a pet will leave because they are being bullied by another pet or they are unhappy for some reason (food, enclosure, interaction time, et al).

And sometimes a pet will depart because they have work to do that relates to their life purpose and goals.

Sometimes, of course, a pet legitimately gets lost, either right away or after some time, and at that point they cannot find their way back to you without help (for example, Malti had a geo-location issue crop up after a day or so because the grass she was walking through was quite vast and high and she couldn’t see the natural light from the sun well enough to get her directional bearings).

In any of these cases and many more besides, working with an animal communicator can really help.

For instance, you can find out what is going on with your turtle – here are some of the aspects we explored while searching for Malti:

  • Did she leave deliberately?
  • Does she know where she is and how to get back?
  • Does she feel safe?
  • Is she getting her basic needs met (food, water, shelter, et al)?
  • Does she want to come home?
  • If she doesn’t want to come home, is there anything you could do or offer that might change her mind?
  • Can she share any details – what she is seeing, smelling, hearing – about where she is to make finding her easier for the searchers?

As you can imagine, working to find Malti on this level was eye-opening, mind-opening and heart-opening on so many levels!

I can’t explain how animal communicators do the work they do, but I can share that both of the communicators I have worked with have been extremely humble, practical and educated professionals.

Both have also continued to assert throughout our consultations that anyone can learn to communicate with animals – it is something human beings used to do naturally and we have just forgotten how to do it in this modern age where humans and animals are largely separated from one another.

But most of all, because the information they’ve shared with me in our consultations with Malti (and my other pets, Pearl and Bruce, during other sessions we’ve done) has always resonated so deeply with me, I have become willing to kind of just suspend mental analysis of the “how” and “why” and focus on being present for the rare gift of being able to have a facilitated and productive relationship-deepening conversation with my beloved pets.

Also, you do need to select the communicator you work with using both your mind and your intuition. If something feels “off,” trust that. If you feel a “click,” trust that too.

Other things to research before you select a communicator to work with:

  • Who taught them?
  • What animals do they work with (domestic, wild, both)?
  • Do they handle missing animal cases (not all do)?
  • Are they available ASAP (not all are)?
  • What is their process (what to expect in a consultation)?
  • What types of follow-up are available for longer-term missing pet cases?
  • What do other clients say about their experiences?

I highly recommend this website as a resource for locating an animal communicator who fits your needs (Penelope Smith, who maintains the directory, is a pioneer in the field).

Another benefit of working with a professional animal communicator is the opportunity to receive closure – this would be in the event that for some reason your turtle is not able to come home or does not want to return home. (Or at least I see this as a benefit – I would much rather know than not know.)

Above all, if your turtle goes missing, do NOT give up hope! Ever!!

Prayer, affirmations, positive visualizations, daily action and reaching out for help – these are the ingredients that make for a successful reunion with your turtle.

I hope this page is a help and support to you if you are searching for your missing turtle. I know the heartache, the self-recrimination, the bad dreams, the fear, the pain that comes along with having a pet go missing.

And now I also know the incredible, indescribably JOY of a reunion when it occurs. It is worth the search. It is. Truly it is. Please do not give up hope!!


Shannon & Malti 


May 21, 2016: ‘Nuff said.


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Published by Shannon Cutts

Animal sensitive and intuitive with Animal Love Languages. Parrot, tortoise and box turtle mama. Dachshund auntie. www.animallovelanguages.com

6 thoughts on “What to Do When Your Pet Turtle Goes Missing

  1. Wonderful post! So glad you found her! My husband and I are newby turtle guardians. We have an Eastern Box Turtle, Princess Maple Ann, for whom we have built a large outdoor Turtle enclosure. She seems to be doing well–the only thing is that I never see her eat. I’m thinking that she may be too nervous to eat with us looming over her and eats when we’re not there. Should we be concerned? I greatly appreciate any advice you can share!

    1. Oh my gosh-congratulations!! Love her name! What are you offering for food? Definitely my box turtle is shy and prefers to eat in private, so you can try putting her food in a more secluded space. My box turtle likes live prey like mealworms, earthworms and snails. He likes blueberries and figs and salmon (cooked). So you could try those foods also. Try to cut them up into smaller bite size pieces. Let me know how this goes!

      1. Awesome! I’m so glad it’s not just her! We’ve been giving her a variety of worms and she appears to be nibbling on the clover and hostas in her enclosure. She doesn’t seem very interested in the fruits and vegetables we’ve left for her, but I have heard that younger box turtles are more carnivorous. We will definitely see if she goes for some cooked salmon.

        1. Mine adore salmon! I know temperatures can also affect their appetites, as can time of day-most will forage dawn/dusk and hide out when it gets hot and bright.

  2. Hello, I would love to say that this post helped me with my panic over my lost turtle. Thank you for giving me hope.

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