Sugar gliders are popular exotic pets. They're small, cute, and unique little animals. But just as you would with any other exotic pet, a potential sugar glider owner should be aware of the care requirements and personality traits of a sugar glider before getting one. Sugar gliders are a long term commitment, living up to 14 years in captivity, and require a special diet, lots of attention, and space.
Sugar Gliders in the Wild
Baby sugar gliders start life off in their mother’s pouch and are referred to as joeys, just like kangaroos. Because of this unique start to life, sugar gliders are classified as marsupials, not rodents like the similarly looking flying squirrel.
All wild sugar gliders are from Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea where they live in tree tops. They get their sweet and airborne name from the food they eat and their characteristic mode of transportation. Their namesake diet includes nectar and sap from trees and they are often seen gliding between branches using unique flaps of skin called patagium. Sugar gliders are omnivorous, so in addition to the nectar and sap, they will also eat both plant material and meat including fruit, insects, and even small birds or rodents.
Sugar gliders in the wild live in social family units called colonies. This social life is very important to all sugar gliders and they thrive on the companionship and communication from their own species.
Sugar Glider Behavior
Sugar gliders can make endearing, playful, and entertaining pets but regular human interaction is very important if you want your glider to be friendly, especially if you have a colony of them. Sugar gliders will bond to other gliders that they live with. While these glider relationships are very important, you'll still want to make sure your glider is also friendly with you if you want to handle them.
Sugar gliders can be very vocal pets. The noises that a sugar glider makes are usually to tell you that they are upset, frightened, hungry, or to express other emotions. “Crabbing” is the most often heard sound of an upset glider and this audible warning should be heeded or you may be in for a nasty bite. You may hear this sound if you wake a sleeping glider up during the day since they are nocturnal.
Sugar gliders are quick, love to climb, will glide from place to place if space allows it, and like to cuddle up in a nest during the day to sleep. They cannot be potty trained but they are otherwise fairly clean pets.
Sugar Glider Diet
Pet sugar gliders have fairly strict dietary requirements. The ideal diet for a sugar glider is still a widely debated topic but more and more research has been done over the years to determine some of the best options for pet owners. Dietary imbalances from inappropriate calcium and phosphorous ratios are common but are thankfully easily prevented by feeding a proper, balanced diet.
Variations of the homemade BML diet are very popular with sugar gliders and their owners. Honey, calcium powder, and baby cereal are often used in these recipes to provide proper nutrition to your glider but fresh fruit and vegetables should also offered each night.
Formulated sugar glider diets are not readily accessible to most people and are also unfavorable my many breeders.
Sugar Glider Cages
A cage 24 inches wide by 24 inches deep by 36 inches high is a good minimum size for a pair of sugar gliders. Bigger is always better when it comes to housing a glider and the height is more valuable than the floor space due to the gliding activity of these little marsupials.
The cage wire spacing should be no more than 1/2 inch wide and the bars should be horizontal to allow climbing. The interior of the cage should contain lots of toys, a closed exercise wheel so your glider's tail doesn't get caught, and a nest box or glider pouch. Branches, ropes, and ladders will also provide lots of opportunity for climbing and exercise.
Bonding With Your Sugar Glider
Allowing a sugar glider to ride in your pocket or in a pouch that hangs around your neck is an easy way to bond and interact with them throughout the day.
If your glider is not tame and isn't used to being handled, it may take some time and patience to get them to the point where they are cuddly. Remember that they have sharp teeth and nails and although they are not aggressive pets they will bite if they feel threatened or frightened.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT