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A sugar glider (petaurus breviceps) is a small, nocturnal marsupial. Sugar gliders are in the same family as the kangaroo and koala bear, so they also have a pouch in which their babies grow. They get the name "sugar glider," from two facts: They feed on sweet gums and saps, among other things, in the wild, giving them the first name, "sugar." The "glider" portion comes from the distinctive flap of skin (patagium) connecting their front and hind legs on both sides, allowing them to glide surprising distances from branch to branch among the trees. They are social animals that live in colonies and love communicating with their colony mates, so I recommend that they always live with at least one other Sugar Glider at all times.
Do Sugar Gliders Make Good Pets?
They do make excellent pets and loving members of the family, but they are "exotic" pets. Like a smaller pet such as a rodent or bird, Sugar Gliders should be kept in a cage at night for their own safety. Because of their size, they should always be supervised if they are around other pets. They require the same amount of attention as a dog or cat (at least 6 hours) if this amount of time can not be provided you should purchase two gliders to keep each other company. Through your care & attention your sugar glider will love and bond to you. They will joyfully nap in your pocket or on your shoulder.
Though Sugar Gliders are exotic pets they do not require more financial care than other pets. Once the initial cost of a suitable kennel cage, food, vitamins and calcium, treats, and toys are paid for the yearly cost to care for these animals ranges from $60.00 up to $100.00 per year. They do not need regular vet attention, do not require shots, do not require constant cage cleaning, do not require bathing as they are like cats and self-groom.
Personality wise the closest thing I can compare these little animals to is a cat. If they are scared they make a noise called crabbing, their back arches and they will try and swipe at you with their front hands and may even hiss at you just as a cat would. When they are not sleeping their 20 hours a day, they are either grooming themselves, grooming you, or grooming their cage mate. Afterwards they may eat a little, explore their surroundings or play with you.
Sugar gliders are social animals, and truly thrive in the presence of other gliders. They can groom each other, play, and snuggle up to a warm companion while you are away or asleep. A single glider requires a great deal more attention than a group, and there is the possibility that they will become depressed if left alone for extended periods of time.
As your average pet store isn't equipped with the latest in sugar glider supplies, it's important to have everything you need ahead of time so that you're not waiting for items to come in the mail! Below is a list of items you need right away and other items you can add in later after your Sugar Glider is 8 months of age and has bonded with you fully. I recommend new glider owners have at least the following items ready for their new arrivals at home:
Sleeping Pouches (can be found on eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Exotic Pet Nutrition, ETC)
Water Bottle at least 2 cheapest I know of is Walmart
* Please note that a Pellet type food should only be used as a secondary food not their main food source as it doesn't hold all the nutrients the Sugar Gliders need
Bonding Purse/bag (again found on eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Exotic Pet Nutrition, ETC)
3 heavy easy clean no chew food dishes
Later on I suggest you get these additional items:
Exercise Wheel that is solid and has sand paper inside to file nails while they run
All of these items can be found by clicking the links provided or doing a Google Search. I DO NOT recommend heat rocks! The glider likes an average temp of 72-80 degrees F and a few fleece blankets will allow them to reach this temperature without heat rocks. Heat rocks can burn your Glider!
How Do I 'Glider Proof' My House?
One of the most important things to keep in mind is a sugar glider's small size, combined with their natural inclination to find hiding spots. If left unsupervised, they may find their way into nooks and hiding holes you didn't even know you had in your home! Try to look at things from a glider's perspective, and block off areas that they may crawl inside. This includes areas behind stoves and fridges, and well as any ventilation areas. Make sure there are no entry holes under cabinetry. Be careful with any body of water and keep toilet lids closed as gliders would be unable to escape and can drown.
How To Start The Bonding Process
Now that you've got your sugar gliders home, you're ready to start or continue the bonding process. They're likely a bit nervous about their new environment, so it's important to give them a day or two in their cage to get adjusted. You should still make yourself a part of their daily life though brief visits, treats, and their meals, but you want to avoid overwhelming them. Once a day or two has passed, you can move on to the next steps to bond with your new friend.
The rate in which your Glider bonds with you often depend on the glider itself and the amount of time you spend with it each day. Some may be perfectly calm when you bring them home, and others may be nervous from the journey and unsure of their new surroundings. My best advice is to "listen" to what your sugar glider is telling you, and take it at a speed they seem comfortable with. Don't push yourself on them, or confront them directly in their face too soon, as that can be pretty frightened at first. After all, you're a giant to them!
As they have a very strong sense of smell, an old piece of clothing with your scent in their sleeping bag can help them become used to you. They can also become used to the sound of your voice, so speaking calmly to them and it will help them get to know you. If they're ready for it, after a few kind, soft-spoken words and some encouragement, their favorite treat offered from your hand would be a great way to go. That way, you become associated with good feelings and treats, and it gives you a chance to gently pet them while they snack!
When your newly Adopted Glider willingly get on your hand in the cage and let you pet them you are ready to start carrying them around the house in a bonding pouch. It lets you hold them close to you, allowing them to get used to your smell and the beat of your heart, while keeping your gliders snug and secure.
My gliders love to go out with me in the bonding such. They feel safe inside it, but still get to look out the window of the bag and hear and see new things. Start off in short spurts with you new glider, then slowly increase the time they are with you each day in their pouch. This is also wonderful for the owner because the glider sleeps inside the pouch letting the owner take them everywhere. They say animals relieve stress, well this is a way to have your little Glider with you for a quick stress relief break any time you need.
If you are packing your bonding bag a few thing you need to know: Gliders will not use the restroom where they sleep. Therefore you will have to give your gliders 'potty breaks'. You may take them out and place them on a paper towel to do this. Glider will have to use the restroom normally right after being let loose from the bag. Also to make the Glider feel secure inside the bag include a blanket or paper towel inside the bag. For food and water include one or two slices of apple in the bag as well.
I have tried to include as much information below about Sugar Gliders in general and their care for anyone who is as passionate about these little animals as I am. Some of the information a new owner receives can be confusing. Most of the Sugar Glider books out there are out of date and therefore the care information provided may no longer be correct. There are many websites out there that have information about Sugar Gliders, some website contradict others and can give confusing information to the new Glider Parent. The information below has been collected from various respectable sites and my own personal experiences with Sugar Gliders, and is meant as a guide only. As always I stress if your glider is sick, showing severe signs of stress, or just not acting like the active friendly pet they should be PLEASE SEEK PROFESSIONAL VETERINARY ATTENTION FOR THE ANIMAL.
Please read through the specific topics below. If you have any other questions not covered on this page feel free to contact me. I am always available to offer advise or answer questions. If there is a questions I do not know the answer to, I will tell you just that, and then try to steer you to the correct resource that may have the answer. I will not feed you false information.
For the uninitiated, the first time they hear a scared or annoyed Sugar Glider "Crabbing" can be a surprising one. One of the most common noises when discussing sugar gliders is called "crabbing," which can be described as sounding somewhat like an electric pencil sharpener. It signifies that they feel threatened or scared, and is usually a sign that they want someone to "back off." It can be more common during the early periods of bonding, as they are still getting used to their surroundings, and there's a rather large person that's trying to handle them. As they become more comfortable, and see you as a friend, their crabbing should decrease. Another interesting sound is a "barking" sound, which can be a way of communicating with their fellow gliders. It can serve as both a "here I am" as well as a "where is everyone?" It also can be a way for the Glider to get its Owner's attention if it wants a cuddle or just to be let loose to run around and get rid of some pent up energy. It can also mean they are scared. Leaving a little very dim night light on may help them feel more comfortable. Their 'happy sound' is very similar to human whispering. They will make this to communicate with each other as well as to let you know you are doing something right.
A sugar glider is naturally a very clean animal, grooming itself and the members of its colony regularly. A healthy sugar glider should not require bathing unless there is a particularly messy incident, such as a drink spill or other outside influence. That being said, they can be messy eaters, and so the area around their food bowl will require regular cleaning.
Using either a standard nail clipper or a trimmer designed for small animals, you can trim the tips of the glider's nails. You will likely have to hold them securely in a towel or nail trimming pouch with one leg extended at a time. If you look closely at a glider's nails, you can see that there is a point near the edge of their nails where it changes color, which is the "quick". Do not cut down to this point, as that can cause bleeding. When it doubt, it's better to trim too little than too much. There are exercise wheels custom designed for Sugar Gliders that come equipped with nail trimming patches on the wheel's track, to help keep their nails trimmed as they run.
There are three parts to cage maintenance: their litter (puppy pee pads), their accessories, and the cage itself . Do not use cedar or pine as a litter source as they can cause respiratory problems and digestive problems in Sugar Gliders. Regular litter replacement reduces odor and leads to healthier gliders. I personally like using puppy pee pads that get replaced 1 or 2 times per week depending on how messy the Gliders decide to be.
Glider accessories, such as toys (bird safe or child safe), fleece pouches, water bottles, etc., should be cleaned bi-weekly. Plenty of hot water is recommended (soap is fine if rinsed well), and avoid any cleaning agents that are toxic or have a strong odor. As gliders rely heavily on their sense of smell, you don't want to irritate them with a strong, unfamiliar odor.
Their cage itself should be cleaned roughly once a month, depending on the number of gliders you have. While the cage or cage accessories are being cleaned, you can move your gliders to their bonding pouch or to a small travel cage to keep them safe from other family animals. Vinegar and hot water is a non-toxic cleaning solution that will help clean your cages safely. If you have access to a pressure washer or water hose, that can also be used.
No, a sugar glider does not need vaccinations, and is not a typical carrier of disease. They can, however, become ill for many of the same reasons that other animals do, so be aware of common dangers or signs. With a healthy diet and clean environment, a glider should rarely become ill.
Sugar gliders are a prey animal, and take care to hide their illness to as to not signal predators that they are weak. This means that it can be difficult to tell that anything is wrong until the late stages of whatever may be affecting them. A sugar glider should have perky, upright ears, wide eyes, a clean coat, and be fairly active. If your glider has drooping ears, eyes that are "droopy" or continuously half-shut, cracked fur or balding patches, appears dehydrated or is generally listless, you should consult your vet immediately.
It is true that many veterinarians have not worked with sugar gliders before, which is why it is important to research your local vets to find those with exotic animal experience. When it doubt, give them a call and ask a few questions. It will be a great relief to know you have someone available should something unfortunate happen. If you live in GA I will be more than happy to provide a list of Vets that see and treat Sugar Gliders.
When your Glider first arrives due to stress it may have some diarrhea. I recommend to have a bottle of vanilla flavored pediasure on hand (found in the baby isle of grocery store). Give them seven drops a night for the first week. Keep the bottle refrigerated after its opened. The pediasure will give your Glider the sugars it needs and balance its electrolytes. If the stool is loose give your glider some banana or sweet potato to eat. This will naturally harden the stool. If the loose stool persists take your Glider to your local vet immediately. When purchasing a Glider most Adoption Contracts stipulate that the Glider must be checked by a vet within the first 72 hours of ownership anyway. This is to protect you, the breeder, and most importantly the Glider.
Sugar Glider Care Guide & Other Information