It’s always difficult to lose a pet. Whether your non-human family member was a dog, cat, or any other animal, a pet dying is never easy — saying goodbye is painful and can sometimes make us re-think the whole pet ownership thing.
However, when a pet turtle dies, there are always more questions than answers. These bewildering, majestic creatures are thought to be the longest-lived animals on the planet, many of them outliving their human companions.
There’s also the belief that a turtle dying is bad luck, or a bad omen foretelling something ominous. But how true is this myth surrounding turtles? Is it really bad luck when they die, or is this just an old folklore tale? Let’s explore this a little further.
Is it Bad Luck if a Turtle Dies?
So, is it really bad luck if a turtle dies? The short answer is maybe — depending on your personal beliefs. If you subscribe to this school of thought, then a turtle’s death may very well signify bad luck is in the cards. The long answer is also maybe, but let’s find out more about this, shall we? Here are some common opinions on the subject:
Opinion #1: Turtle Dying = Bad Luck
While any pet dying feels horrible, there are some opinions that take this a step further. In China, for example, the turtle or tortoise represents longevity, prosperity, knowledge, and perseverance. This is thought to be because they live so long and can go up to a year without eating. It would make sense that a turtle dying would equal bad luck in this case!
The turtle’s mythology goes back centuries, with many people believing that the world rested on the back of a turtle, with their shells containing markings of both heaven and earth. They’re associated with the creation of the world, so the opinion of them dying meaning bad luck or a bad omen makes sense here, too.
One example of this is the death of Vietnam’s sacred turtle, a rare Yangtze Giant Softshell that was the beloved resident of Hoan Kiem lake. His death sparked sadness and fear across the nation, and many believe it’s a bad omen foretelling that something is about to happen. The timing of this turtle’s death is also ominous: the Vietnamese people learned of it on the same day a new ruling party was taking the reins of the country.
So, as you can see, turtles are seen as important creatures in many places, which makes their death an understandable symbol of bad things to come. The meaning behind a turtle dying is taken more literally by those who believe in the turtle’s mythical power, so it only makes sense that the end of a turtle’s life would signify the end to all the good things they represent as well.
Opinion #2: The End of a Chapter
Another opinion in this debate is that of a more spiritual one. For people who understand the symbolism of the turtle in the spiritual sense, the death of one signifies something different than a bad omen. In fact — while no pet dying is a good thing — in terms of what it means for humans it can actually be considered beneficial in some ways.
This is because, in this opinion, the dying of a turtle signifies the end of a long chapter in a person’s life. Specifically related to a period of struggle or difficulty, limiting beliefs or circumstances, the death of a turtle can simply mean that the cycle is about to renew: an opportunity to start fresh is coming.
While turtles are the symbol of longevity for many, we also have to remember that no one lives forever. This relates to the period of struggle or difficulty as well — hard times are rarely permanent — so it’s a myth that makes sense in many ways. It might be more comforting to a turtle owner whose beloved pet has recently passed away as well.
This is a more positive way to interpret the death of a pet, and something a grieving turtle owner may want to consider — depending on your own beliefs, of course. How we choose to interpret the death of a pet is always an individual choice. Personally, I’d be more interested in believing in a fresh start than a bad omen, but that’s just my opinion.
Opinion #3: No Meaning Attached
While there are several different arguments about the meaning behind a turtle’s death, some people don’t think it means anything beyond the obvious. While of course losing a pet is a sad event, putting extra symbolism on top of it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. These people understand that pets just die sometimes, and while it’s no fun for us humans, it doesn’t have any specific meaning.
This is one way of dealing with the death of a pet, and many people subscribe to this way of thinking. While they may wonder if they could have done more to preserve the life of their turtle, they’re more accepting of the situation than some people might be. Not saying that this would be my way of handling things, but it may be easier than worrying about what meaning is attached to the death of a beloved pet.
Some turtles die due to neglect, untreated health issues, improper feeding, and other types of human error. While we may do our best to care for our aquatic friends, it’s not always a simple thing to do. A proper setup, correct nutrition, and many other elements go into keeping a turtle happy and healthy — they’re not as easy to care for as many people think.
When they die of old age, which many of them do, pet owners can be proud that they were able to give their turtle a good, long life. If you’ve had a turtle for the duration of its life, good for you! You’re clearly a dedicated pet owner, and hopefully through your grief you’ll be able to take comfort in knowing your turtle lived a long, healthy life in your care.