Why Is My Turtle Making Squeaking Noises? (7 Reasons)

Many people are unaware that turtles can make noises. However, any experienced turtle owner will tell you that they certainly can. These noises range from the probably best-known hissing through to grunting and even the squeaking mentioned above. But what causes a turtle to squeak?

Is it something an owner should be worried about? In this article we look at some of the noises turtles make, why, and why squeaking should be taken seriously by all turtle owners.

How do turtles make squeaking noises?

It was long thought that turtles lacked the vocal cords to do so, but recent research shows that some species actually have what’s thought to be rudimentary vocal cords in the form of two fibrous elastic-like tissue.

However, the majority of turtles communicate simply through the expelling of air from their lungs. The well-known ‘hiss’ is simply the turtle’s lungs deflating as they withdraw into their shell, usually in protest at being handled. There is little room inside their shell and they need to expel the air to fit. It is this release of oxygen that causes the hissing sound.

Reasons behind turtles’ squeaky noises

There are a number of reasons that your turtle might be making a squeaky noise. Here we’ll list seven of them then examine them in detail:

  1. It could be a serious respiratory illness that causes the lungs to make squeaking noises
  2. Food that although is small enough to swallow, gets stuck and causes choking
  3. Your beloved pet is begging for food
  4. The water parameters are wrong and they want to let you know
  5. They may be adjusting their beaks/jaws or eating
  6. They may squeak when being handled
  7. They may be enjoying their basking

1. Respiratory illness

A squeaking noise should always be taken seriously by a turtle owner. When turtles suffer from respiratory illness, their breathing becomes labored. This is due to both respiratory tracts – the upper and the lower – malfunctioning.

Due to this problem, the turtle’s circulatory system lacks oxygen and they may gasp or breathe through their mouths to try to inhale enough air. Another sign is a nasal discharge of filament, excess mucus in their mouth, lethargy and loss of appetite. Respiratory illness is a common cause of death in captive turtles but, caught early enough, it is preventable and treatable.

If you notice signs of respiratory distress in turtles, as described above, then you must consult a vet immediately. Antibiotics administered orally, via injection or in the form of nose drops, are usually enough to solve the problem. However, for sicker turtles, an inpatient stay may be required.

2. Food stuck in the throat

Again, squeaking can be a sign of distress in turtles. Sometimes they will squeak if food is stuck in their throat. As turtles have no teeth, they have to swallow their food whole, assisted only by movements of the tongue.
If a piece of food is too large it may get stuck in their throat.

This causes them to squeak in distress as they try to draw attention to the fact that they are choking. In addition to large pieces of food, turtles are also prone to swallowing gravel and stone from their tank for essential minerals, which can also cause choking if they get stuck.

To prevent this problem from occurring, ensure that their food is small enough to be swallowed easily. And make sure that their food is in water, as water is required for them to swallow their dinner.

Sadly, if a turtle is choking there are no home remedies. They will need an immediate visit to a vet to have the offending article removed. But be careful not to turn your turtle upside down, as this can cause further problems.

3. Begging for food

Just like a pet dog or cat, a turtle may beg for food. In fact, they are infamous for begging. They are smart enough to recognize someone’s presence near their tank and will begin to demonstrate that they want food through desperate swimming and squeaking, all the time looking towards you to make you feel guilty!

You shouldn’t take squeaking and begging for food as an indication that you’re not feeding them enough. Many turtles, especially juveniles and babies, have an almost insatiable appetite and will make their feelings known. However, as turtles can be prone to obesity, diets should be carefully monitored.

4. Wrong water temperature

Turtles are very temperature sensitive, particularly when it’s too cold. The wrong water temperatures can cause turtles to squeak to let you know that they are unhappy.

Disregarding squeaking in these circumstances can lead to more serious problems, such as the respiratory infections mentioned above. Always ensure that their water temperature is kept warm and stable for optimum health.

See also: How long can a turtle live without water?

turtle in water

5. Adjusting their jaws and eating

All kinds of turtles will make noises while adjusting their jaws or eating. This isn’t due to air escaping their lungs but their beaks rubbing together as they eat and swallow, causing the squeaking noise.

However, as already mentioned, turtles can be gluttonous. For this reason, they may also squeak in excitement when eating, as they enjoy their food. Oh, to be so easily pleased!

See also: Why does my turtle not eat?

6. Squeaking when handled

When being handled, turtles may hiss or squeak. A hiss is a sign that they’re not yet happy being handled by someone as they withdraw into their shell. A squeak is a sign of protest.

Turtles particularly hate being turned upside down. This position reveals their underbelly and makes them most vulnerable to predators, as well as not being able to right themselves. For this reason, they will squeak when upside down.

However, once familiar with an owner and handler, they should learn to trust them, and will eventually stop squeaking when picked up.

7. Enjoying their basking

As already seen, squeaking can be a sign of both distress and enjoyment. Turtles have to bask for several hours each day to ensure that they get enough UV-A and UV-B, which are vital for their health to prevent metabolic bone disease, and help regulate their temperature.

Turtles love to bask in a warm, bright spot, and may adjust their jaws as they do so as a sign of contentment. This causes the squeaking sound mentioned above.

In conclusion

Turtles are surprisingly vocal animals, even if the majority don’t have vocal chords as such. They can bring much entertainment to their owners and families, as they can let their feelings be known quite vociferously.

Squeaking is one such noise that they can make, and it’s a good indicator of their sentiments. However, it can be a sign of both contentment and distress, and owners need to rule out problems quickly to keep their turtle in tip-top health.

Squeaking may be a sign of respiratory illness, choking or incorrect water temperature, and these causes should be investigated first. However, it may be that your pet is simply happy, in which case – enjoy!