Sugar Gliders are small nocturnal marsupials native to Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. They were also introduced to Tasmania in the 19th century. In the past 20 years, they have become popular pets, especially in the United States.
Their scientific name means “rope dancer” and their common name, “sugar gliders,” comes from the fact that they eat sweet nectars and are capable of gliding.
They are similar to flying squirrels without being related. Sugar gliders belong to the same family as koala bears and kangaroos. Sugar gliders are also known as “honey gliders”.
Sugar gliders typically have grayish-blue to brown-gray fur, with a black stripe on the back and a light-colored belly. In captivity, some other colors have been obtained through selective breeding.
Sugar gliders have small heads, large ears (which move / rotate individually), and large black eyes that help them see in the dark. Their tails are long (about half of their total body length) and prehensile.
Their tails can grip and carry small objects, but they cannot hang from trees, as the tails are not strong enough to support the body weight of a sugar glider. Sometimes the tail end is white.
A sugar glider is 12 to 13 inches (24 to 30 cm) long. Males weigh between 4 and 5.6 ounces (115 and 160 grams) and females weigh between 3.35 and 4.76 ounces (95 to 135 grams).
On the back legs of a sugar glider, the second and third fingers are partially fused together, making it a perfect grooming tool. They have opposite toes on all four feet, making the feet more like the arms.
The opposing fingers are nailless and are used to grasp and hold tree branches. Sugar gliders have a thin membrane between all of their fingers and toes.
Sugar gliders have a developed sense of smell, this is important to stay away from predators, find food, and recognize their families. Its lower incisors are long but do not grow continuously.
The tongue is long, developed to easily lick water, juices, or other sweet things. Sugar gliders have a patagium, which is a wing-shaped membrane that helps them glide.
The patagium begins at the wrists and ends at the ankles. It is flexible, generally stays close to the body, and stretches just when the animal needs to slide. Sugar gliders can estimate distances very well and use their entire bodies to move in the air.
The first thing to do before getting a sugar glider is to find a good vet who knows how to handle exotic animals and who is knowledgeable about sugar gliders.
If you choose to get your new pet from a breeder, make sure he/she is a reputable person. The breeder must also be licensed by the USDA (in the US, Breeders must be licensed if they have more than 3 breeding females).
Prospective owners should also check the law in the country/district/state where they live as there are countries with different exotic pet laws. For example, in the USA. USA And Canada, there are states and cities where it is illegal to keep gliders.
Special permits are required in some parts of Australia and in the states of the European Union. There are also countries that do not allow buying only one pet, but a minimum of two.
One Or Two Pets
Sugar gliders are social animals that normally live in colonies of six or more. As such, they are best kept in groups of two or more.
There are many owners who have a single sugar glider and, with proper care, the pet is healthy. However, keep in mind that your company will not be able to replace that of another sugar glider.
You will not be able to groom or play with your sugar glider as another partner of the same species would.
Having a single glider means that you must spend a lot of time with your pet (at least 1-2 hours a day) before you start seeing it as part of your colony.
Using bonding pouches, cloth bags that allow you to carry your sugar glider for a few hours each day is one way to spend time with your new pet.
If you’re getting two sugar gliders, it’s good to know that they come together more easily when they’re young. Getting two joeys is the easiest way to have happy pets. If a second glider is introduced later, the process should be done slowly.
At first, the two will remain in separate cages with a little space between them so that pets can get used to each other’s scent without being able to touch each other. After about two weeks, they can be placed in the same cage and watched for a few days to make sure they don’t hurt each other.
Two adult males live well together only if they have been living together since joeys. A male and a female can live in the same cage as long as the male is castrated.
A joey should not be housed together with an adult glider who is not familiar with him. Male and female adult gliders have been known to intimidate joeys. In severe cases, this can lead to shock and even death of the child. In case you have a new joey that you want to host with an adult, it would be better to introduce it once the joey is old, about seven months, long enough to avoid any harassment.
Male Sugar Glider Or Female
This is another question that people who want to buy a sugar glider often ask. Veterinarians say there are no significant differences between them as long as the males are neutered and that everything else depends on the pet’s personality.
Both males and females are very smart, playful, and happy pets. The most important things are how the relationship between pet and owner develops, how the glider is trained, and how much time he spends with his family.
When Is It Safe To Allow Your Sugar glider To Come Out Of The Cage?
All breeders agree that sugar gliders cannot be left free from the cage in their first few weeks in a new home. Once the pet is fully accustomed to its new family, it can be allowed to play for free in the room.
To avoid accidents, it is best to keep all doors closed and make sure there is no open fire (like a fireplace) that could damage the glider.
There are two main things you need to check before letting your pet out: the toilet seat must be down or the bathroom door closed, as it can kill if the sugar glider ends up in the water (they can’t swim).
Another important thing to keep in mind is to hide all chocolate products. Sugar gliders like sweets, but chocolates are toxic to most pets, including gliders.
A safe room has no holes in the walls, loose electrical cords, or dangerous furniture like reclining chairs that gliders can get caught in.
Sugar gliders generally do not chew on anything as they are not rodents, but special care must be taken. to keep them away from points of sale, medicines, houseplants, or chemicals. Going out with the pet should be done very carefully.
It must be fully bonded to its owner, this being the only way to ensure that it will return when called.
Trees should be avoided, as gliders can run down a tree and will be difficult to find if they do. Also, gliders are nocturnal animals, making their eyes more sensitive to light. It would be a good idea to avoid exposing them to excessive sunlight.
Note: Sugar gliders are normally very healthy animals. No vaccinations or regular visits to the vet are required if the animal behaves normally. However, if a sugar glider is injured or stops eating, a visit to a sugar glider vet is a must.
Housing And Accessories
1. Getting the Right Cage
In the wild, sugar gliders live in trees, so they need tall cages, with plenty of room to move and play. A good cage size would be 18 “x 30” x 36 “(approximately 46 x 76 x 91 cm), but it must have a cage as large as it can afford.
The cage must have at least one large door, which will allow not only pet’s access to the interior but also a more efficient interaction between the pet and its owners.
The best cages are made of mesh or have horizontal bars, which is ideal for climbing. The bars of the cage should be 1 / 2 “or smaller to avoid leaking overnight. The bottom of the cage should be easy to remove / clean.
The cage should be placed in a quiet, well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Powerful light can harm a glider’s eyes, but it should still be enough to turn on the glider to know whether it is day or night.
Since sugar gliders are nocturnal animals, they should not be placed in an area of the home where there is a lot of traffic and activity. Also, keep the cage away from heaters, radiators, and drafty areas.
The proper ambient temperature for sugar gliders is above 65 F (~ 18 ° C) so if the temperature is lower than that, a space heater is recommended for the room where the glider cage is located.
Fleece blankets and other cozy toys can also be provided in the cage to keep the sugar glider warm itself. Heat pads, heating rocks, and heat lamps are not recommended as they can cause more harm than good.
Gliders have been known to burn your skin by staying too long on a heating pad or rock. There is also a risk of heat stroke and dehydration when using such cage heating options.
2. Sugar Glider Accessories
An empty cage is not an appropriate environment for a sugar glider. These pets need to play to be happy. Shelves, swings, exercise ramps, leaves, ladders, there are many accessories that can make the little pet play safely.
The sugar glider needs a wheel to exercise at night. Most sugar glider wheels can also be customized with sand cutting strips that will help keep the pet’s claws at the correct length.
In place of the special glider wheel, a normal one for small pets can be used, but it must be at least 30 cm in diameter. The wheel should not have an axle bar, as this can damage the glider’s long tail.
A nesting box is also necessary to make the sugar glider feel at home and safe. It can be made at home or bought, in both cases, the materials must be checked so that they are not toxic.
Sugar glider pouches should be a constant presence. A fleece cage bag should be comfortable and should be large enough to hold more than one glider.
There are also bags specially designed for the transport or simply to bond with the animal. Sugar gliders like to hide and carry bags are the best tool to keep your pet close and comfortable.
Other decorations can be made from safe wooden branches that mimic the natural environment (ask your vet before introducing any wood into the cage, as some may be toxic), spinning toys, and baby rings.
Sugar gliders are very clean animals and spend a lot of time grooming. They never really need a bathroom, as they are able to clean very well by themselves.
On the other hand, it is necessary to clean the cage. Bedding should be changed daily or as needed. The best bedding is made from paper towels or special linings created for sugar glider cages.
The use of newspapers and magazines is not recommended, as they can be toxic and harm the pet.
Veterinarians do not recommend wood as bedding for gliders. All parts of the cage should be cleaned at least once a week.
A 25% bleach solution can be used, but everything should be rinsed and dried well before putting them back in the cage. Water bottles and bowls should be cleaned daily and disinfected periodically. Bedding in nests and boxes should also be replaced as needed (usually once a week).
In the wild, sugar gliders are omnivores and eat insects, manna (a substance produced by eucalyptus), acacia gum, eucalyptus sap, molasses (a sweet substance excreted by aphids, deposited on leaves), nectar, pollen, and invertebrates.
Their diet varies with the season. The right diet for them in captivity is constantly debated, as sugar gliders have special dietary needs. All breeders and vets agree that gliders need a low-fat diet that is also high in protein and supplemented with fruits and vegetables.
The special food for sugar gliders has been developed in recent years with more companies that produce pellets, supplements, and sweets.
Keep in mind, cat or other pet food is no longer considered a good option. Sugar gliders should never drink or eat cheese, milk, raw eggs, raw meat, soda, coffee, tea, ice cream, or chocolate. Small amounts of yogurt are allowed.
When buying special pet food, the expiration date should be checked, to make sure the granules are fresh enough not to damage the glider and have nutritional value.
If not frozen, these products should be used for a maximum of 5-6 months. Insects (such as beetles, grasshoppers, mealworms, hoppers, or crickets) can be purchased at pet stores. It is important to verify the source, so as not to buy insects that may be contaminated with pesticides.
The most common vegetables used to feed sugar gliders are apples, pears, sweet potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, carrots, kiwi, mango, and blueberries.
Some owners add cucumber, dandelion, squash, zucchini, banana (if the pet likes it), nectarine, peach, papaya, or apricot. Oranges can be offered once a week, only to adult pets.
The toxic vegetables for a sugar glider to avoid are onion, garlic, rhubarb, and lima beans (butter beans). Avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, and corn should be offered in very small quantities. Seeds and nuts are not part of the diet of sugar gliders. Even if the pet seems happy to eat them, they are high in fat and are not recommended.
Water: Sugar gliders must have permanent access to clean, fresh water. The best option is to use a glass water bottle, but there are some breeders who use bowls, at least during the training period when the pet learns to drink.
Sometimes, if a joey is not weaned properly, he may not be able to stay hydrated. In this case, homeowners must ensure that they still receive enough fluids. A simple trick is to add a drop of honey or other sweet juice to the part that gliders must lick to get water. Other sweet liquids can be offered, but not daily.
Bonding With Your Sugar Glider
The bonding process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the pet’s personality and the owner’s ability to understand the child’s needs.
Patience and perseverance are the keywords to become the glider’s best friend. It is best if, when the home is first purchased, the glider is placed in its cage without being touched.
The easiest way to do this is to just put the pouch in the cage, open it and let the joey go out on its own. In the first two or three days, owners should ensure that the pet receives enough food and water, without touching it.
Reliable breeders will teach the new owner how to bond with the sugar glider, using tutorials, videos, and other verified information.
Here are some tips to help you better understand how the bonding process works (all questions should be discussed with the vet or breeder who sold the pet):
- Even if it can be a long process, all sugar gliders end up bonding with their family.
- Too many toys in the cage from the beginning will keep the sugar glider busy and it will not be interested in bonding with the new owner.
- A scared pet is never friendly, Therefore, you have to pay close attention to see what things are scaring the sugar glider and eliminate them. (There are breeders who say that these pets are afraid of plastic bags and their sound.)
- A used T-shirt placed in the cage will help the pet get used to shipping from the owner (gliders can recognize each member of their family by personal odor). Perfumes are considered dangerous.
- A T-shirt with a pocket can be used to practice pocket training. After using the shirt, the owner must put it in the cage and remove all other sleeping options. In this way, the glider will sleep in your pocket and feel comfortable with it. After a week or more of practice, the owner can try wearing the shirt for a short time with the glider still in his pocket.
- The handling of any sugar glider must be done with care as if it were a baby. Do not grab, hit, or make sudden movements.
- Treats can be offered to gain the trust of the pet, but the quantities should be small. A mealworm or a little applesauce on the owner’s finger can help.