What is a Sugar Glider?
With a scientific name like Petaurus breviceps,
meaning "rope dancer" a sugar glider is guaranteed to be interesting!
They are small animals, about 12" from nose to tail tip, with huge
personalities and a ton of attitude! They are inquisitive little clowns.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal gliding marsupials that give birth to fetal
infants that mature for several months in the mother's pouch. They are
not rodents and are not related to rodents. They are closely related to
koalas and kangaroos!
Sugar gliders are a very primitive form of marsupial mammal whose basic design has not changed in over 114 million years.
Think about that a minute!
These little creatures were around during the Cretaceous when the world was filled with dinosaurs. They came into existence about the same time as the flowers which produce nectar - on which they still feed to this day. And while they slept during the day, tucked away in their nests, the mighty T-Rex walked the land and pterosaurs flew through the sky.
A sugar glider's diet in the wild is varied and includes nectar and pollen from the blossoms of
sweet gum, eucalyptus and acacia trees, and banksia bushes. They also lick the 'lerps' or sticky sweet
exudates left on leaves by insects like aphids. And they
injure the bark of the sweet gum trees with their very sharp bottom teeth to
get to the oozing gum underneath. About 40% of their diet in the wild is sweet gum.
In the wild sugar gliders are the main pollinators of the trees and bushes they visit nightly for pollen and nectar.
Sugar gliders also eat insects, but in the wild they do this mainly during their one breeding season, and they will pass them up other times during the year even if the insects are plentiful. Most of their protein requirements when not breeding are provided by the pollen they consume.
A sugar glider's fur is actually a very fine and silky wool. The normal coat coloration of wild type sugar gliders is varied and can range from deep golden brown to steely gray and black.
A very large and beautiful, but very rare and endangered, related species of wild sugar glider is the Mahogany Glider (Petaurus gracilis). These are more than three times the size of our Petaurus breviceps and they have gorgeous white tipped silver fur with deep mahogany red markings. Follow the link for pictures and more information on this very special sugar glider.
Sugar gliders are diprotodonts, a class of marsupial mammal that are now mostly extinct. Surviving species of diprotodonts are kangaroos, tree kangaroos, wombats, cuscus, koalas, Australian possums, and sugar gliders.
All diprotodonts have the first two toes fused together on the hind feet that they use as a specialized grooming tool. Sugar gliders also have opposable thumbs on all four feet. They have very sharp claws that act as Velcro and that they use mainly for gripping. Their large opposable big toes on the hind feet (hallux) do not have nails.
gliders are gliding marsupial and they have a very complex muscled
membrane of skin between their 'pinky fingers and their back feet that
is flexible and stretches out to form gliding wings. The gliding
membrane is called a patagium. A sugar glider's patagium is held close
to the body while not in flight and when extended enables the sugar
glider to glide up to 50 yards.
In the wild this adaptation makes it
easier for them to travel from tree to tree while foraging and helps
them escape potential predators.
Sugar gliders' tails make up around 1/2 of their overall length. Their tails are weakly prehensile, and they have been often
observed in captivity carrying lightweight objects with their tails. They use their tails to help maintain their balance, and use it for steering while gliding.
Sugar gliders are social animals and in the wild live in single colonies with between 6 and 12 members. They are territorial colony animals and will aggressively defend their colony's sleeping locations and food sources from strangers, and even from unfamiliar sugar gliders. They
identify members of their colony through smell.
The dominant male rubs
his head and chest scent gland all over every member of the colony and
in this way they all obtain one single odor identification. The odor
from the head and chest gland is mildly musky, sweet, and floral.
The dominant male will also urine mark the colony's territory. The male's urine odor is pungent and acidic. The amount of protein consumption affects how strongly odorous is the male's urine.
Sugar gliders' normal scent is sweet and mildly floral and a little 'dusty.' But when they are frightened or startled they let you know with a burst of odor that is skunky, very acidic and quickly dissipates.
Adult male sugar gliders will breed with every mature female in their colony that will allow it. In the wild to prevent excessive inbreeding the dominant female ejects all the males from the colony every two years and takes in a new mate. In the domestic setting to prevent inbreeding, breeding colonies are limited to one male and one or two adult females (usually sisters) and sometimes a neutered male. The Joeys are removed before maturity.
All members of a colony care for the joeys and take shifts keeping the Joeys warm and clean, and supervising them on their beginning night time excursions from the nest.
sugar glider's eyes are very specialized to gather in as much
surrounding light as possible. Their pupils can dilate almost
completely or shrink to mere pinpricks.
Their eyes are not reflective,
however, like a cat's, so they will not glow in the dark like a cat's
do. The photo to the left was obtained using a flash in complete darkness.
gliders sleep most of the day and part of the night. Young joeys can spend as much as 17 hours or more per day sleeping! They
enter into a torpor during the day and can be very hard to rouse.
A sugar glider's normal body temperature is about 87-88º F (31ºC), around 10º F cooler than a human's body temperature.
Special Topic: Environment Needs of Sugar Gliders
Sugar gliders have extreme difficulty regulating their body temperature and are susceptible to chill in environments below 65º F (18º Celsius), and they are susceptible to heat stroke above 87º F (30º Celsius). They should be housed only between 67º-85º F (19º-29º Celsius).
Joeys younger than 8 weeks OOP can't regulate their body temperature at all and if they need to be separated from their parent before this age they will have to be housed in an incubator at 86-88º F.
Sugar gliders' skin is very thin and susceptible to over-drying. Their delicate ears are particularly at risk for extreme damage if the air is kept too dry. The ears can chap and crumble if the sugar gliders are not maintained with enough humidity. The humidity where they are housed should be kept at a moderately elevated level to prevent irreparable damage to their silky, paper-like ears.
<---------- These are healthy sugar glider ears.
This is what ears can look like when damaged and scarred by low humidity. -------------------->
We routinely mist the cages during the winter and summer when the air is driest to maintain a slightly elevated humidity level for the sugar gliders. A cool mist humidifier can also be used.
If you own sugar gliders and you notice their ears becoming 'sticky' it is an indication that their air is too dry.
Sugar gliders are marsupial mammals that usually give birth to 1-2 very undeveloped joeys just 16-17 days after conception. The fetal joey weighs only 200 mg (0.2 grams) and is 5 mm in length (about the size of a cooked grain of rice). With its mother's help the joey makes its way into the pouch where it latches on to one of 4 teats, and where it will remain locked for the next 60-70 days before coming out of pouch for the first time. After the joeys leave the pouch they will continue to nurse for the next 50-60 days before becoming fully weaned.
Adult female sugar gliders are poly- estrous and if not bred or carrying joeys in her pouch will go into a new estrous cycle every 29 days. But they are not prolific breeders, and the female decides when and if she will mate. In the wild they usually produce only one litter of joeys per year, with 1 or 2 joeys per litter. Domestic sugar gliders can produce 1-2 joeys up to three times a year.
A sugar glider's life span in the wild is about 7 years. With good care and proper diet they can reach up to twice that age in captivity.
Special Topic: The Hazard of Drowning
One of the
greatest hazards to a sugar glider is any form of standing water. Sugar
glider can't swim and cold water will send them into shock. In cold
water a sugar glider will almost instantly drown. The leading cause of
accidental death of pet sugar gliders every year is a toilet with the lid
left up. But any standing water is a hazard for them.
Special Topic: Bonding with Your Pet Sugar Glider
Sugar gliders are colony animals and they can and do bond very tightly to their human owners. Once they are fully bonded they make loving and infinitely entertaining pets.
But it takes know-how and patience to bond with a sugar glider,
especially when bonding older sugar gliders and sugar gliders that have
had the misfortune to be mishandled, mistreated, or passed from home to
Just weaned joeys are easiest to bond, but even older sugar
gliders do make terrific pets when they are bonded correctly. Once bonded sugar gliders are extremely gentle and loving with their humans.
To bond and have a happy healthy animal you have to take the world on their terms and play by their rules. They are extremely instinct driven. Taking the time to learn about and understand their instinctive drives will make bonding with them so much easier. If you do this you will not have difficulties with pouch and cage protectiveness and biting.
gliders identify each other by scent. So a large beginning part of the bonding
process is getting the sugar gliders conditioned to your odor. This can
be accomplished by placing small squares of fleece in their sleeping
pouch that have been worn overnight beneath your clothes.
Special bonding pouches are available that allow you to carry the sugar gliders with you during the day. In this way they not only get accustomed to your scent while they sleep, but to your voice and movement as well.
To the left is my favorite bonding pouch.
Giving a small amount of treats daily in the middle of the day while the sugar glider is lethargic is a terrific way to help strengthen newly forming bonds. These are given directly from your hand to each sugar glider, interspersed with strokes, pats, and sweet talk. This should be done with each sugar glider you own once a day if at all possible. It is one of the most enjoyable parts of my day.
use a variety of treats for daily treat giving, but only give one type
of treat a day. I use meal worms, super worms, yogurt drops, yogurt
(for newly weaned Joeys), and different types of dried fruit. I
like to mix it up to give them variety and also to prevent them from
getting too tightly attached to any one treat.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal and spend the majority of their waking time in the middle of the night. If you want active play, the majority of it will have to be during their awake time. You can wake them up for short periods during the day and most owners do so while transferring them into a bonding pouch or giving them treats. But they do not like the light and you can't switch their most active time to the day.
gliders are creatures of nearly pure instinct. In the wild they are
attached very tightly to their sleeping tree and their food source and
every member of their colony. In the bonding process you will become
all three of these things to them.
Once fully bonded you can go
practically anywhere with your sugar gliders and if you choose no one
will even know they are there, sleeping in your pocket, in a bonding
pouch, or down your shirt.
Your sugar gliders will bond tightly to every member of your family, since you will become members of their colony. Once bonded they are very gentle with you and they do make good pets for older children.
Because sugar gliders have special needs the care of sugar gliders should not be the sole responsibility of a child.
Children should always be supervised when interacting or playing with sugar gliders.
THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN BONDING YOUR SUGAR GLIDERS:
Give your new glider a couple of days of quiet to allow him to destress and become accustomed to the sights and smells of his new home. But do put your scented fleece pieces in his sleeping pouch.
When you begin interacting with your sugar gliders, always use slow, gentle movements, the slower the better, and talk quietly. You can set your bonding process back by being loud or using jerky movements around your new gliders.
Be liberal with treats.
Always ask questions of an experienced glider owner if you are unsure of anything.
Nearly any sugar glider can be bonded, some quicker than others. So, do be persistent, and patient.
It is easier to bond two sugar gliders at the same time than one. They can comfort and calm each other during the early bonding process.
Special Topic: Bonding with a Difficult Sugar Glider
Zombie vampire flying attack creatures of the night? No, that was just an unbonded sugar glider... Nearly any sugar glider can be bonded, but be forewarned:
stick your hand in the pouch of a sugar glider that is lunging at you,
screaming, trying to dig his way out of the pouch, or especially if you
see his inner lids snap even partially over his eyes. The inner lid
is a pale bluish white opaque membrane that covers the sugar glider's
eye to protect it when it is attacked or fighting. This membrane is
never seen when the sugar glider is perfectly calm. If a sugar glider
is startled you will also see this.
So seeing any part of it is a clear indication that your sugar glider is
at least frightened. The more inner lid is visible, the more likely
the sugar glider is to attack to defend itself. And if
he is that frightened that he is waving this white flag, he needs to have more time to acclimate to your
presence before you begin trying to gain his acceptance.
This is Duke, a very special red/brown series sugar glider called a lion. Duke had an unfortunate incident in his traveling to us and got loose in his airline shipping container. So he didn't have the normal comfortable and secure trip and was a real handful when he arrived. He was by far the angriest sugar glider I've ever met. The picture to the left was taken three days after he arrived. As you can see he wasn't happy.
The techniques below are partly based on tried and true methods which we adapted in working with Duke to meet his special needs and to gain his trust and bond with him. We haven't had him long, but he has come a long, long way in just a short time. In two months time he has turned around to being a gentle and loving pet. He's the first to greet me in the evenings and loves having my hands snuggled in with him in his pouch.
Be sure to put pieces of fleece in his sleeping pouch that contain your
scent. Make sure his cage is in a quiet place out of the direct flow of
traffic. Allow him to have his time in his cage for at
least several days without bothering him, except to give him food and
fresh water every day and to remove the food and water dishes every
morning. You can quietly exchange his old pouch fleece pieces with
newly scented ones during the evening while he is on the wheel or
foraging. Don't spend any more time doing this than is necessary. Patience a this stage will make the bonding process much easier for both of you.
Don't hover by his cage and watch him or try to interact with him in any
way at this point. Try to go about your business quietly and ignore
him as much as you can. When he is calm enough that he is just
complaining about you rather than frantic and screaming when he senses
you near, then you can start working with him a little more actively in
the bonding process.
When you first start working with your unbonded sugar glider expect him to be
crabbing, lunging, and trying to bite you. He doesn't know you and for all he
knows he is just lunch to you. If you go on the assumption that he will
do this you are less likely to be taken by surprise and bitten.
He may not do these things, especially if you were patient with him at the first and allowed him time enough to get acclimated to your scent and your presence before beginning to work with him.
To begin the active bonding process it is important to start in the middle of the day while he is the most sleepy. Remove him from his cage, still in his pouch, making sure that you move gently and with purpose and that you
have a firm grip on the top of the pouch so that he can't get out if he wakes up. If you are careful he may not wake up until you are ready.
Have treats handy and sit
down in such a way that you can support the pouch on your lap leaving
both hands free. One hand will be holding the pouch and one will be
offering the treats. He will most likely crab at you until he gets used to this new routine of treats in the middle of the day.
Try not to let his crabbing unnerve you. It is a very startling sound if you are not used to it. This sound is supposed to be unnerving. It is his first line of defense.
At first he may try to lunge and bite you and he may put up a very big show of being very fierce. He will crab at you and strike out at the
nearest object which will be the treat you are holding.
For an unbonded glider I like
to start off with yogurt drops. These are the right size that if he tries to lunge
and bite he will get a mouth full of yummy goodness instead of your finger.
gliders can't resist anything that is sugary and sweet he should stop
lunging long enough to eat the whole drop. He may make a combination of sounds like crabbing and chirping while he is eating the yogurt drop and that is just his way of telling you he is now very
confused! The sugar glider chirp is a sound they make when they are eating their favorite foods.
Grab another drop and have it held out towards him by the time he
finishes the first. If he lunges again the results will be the same.
Keep repeating this until he stops lunging and starts seeking out the
yogurt drops to nibble on them. Then you will be able to gently stroke his ears and cheeks while he is eating.
If he stops lunging but tries to dig down in the pouch and hide instead
of looking for more yogurt drops, he's telling you he is overwhelmed and
needs time to rest. Call it quits for the day and try again tomorrow.
Once he starts reaching out for the treat to hold it in his hands while eating it you
are safe to gently stroke him along the jaw and behind the ear with one
Usually at this point you will see his eyes begin to droop as he enjoys both the yummy and the touches. But be brief enough with your stroking that you can have another yogurt drop ready for him by the time he is finished.
I am very liberal with the yoggies during this phase of bonding and will offer as many as he wants. But, as a general rule you don't want to give sugar gliders too many treats or they will not eat their dinner at night and they can pack on a lot of unhealthy extra weight. So after the glider is bonding well he will then receive only one or two yogurt drops or other treat per day.
Talk to him during this whole process
letting him know that you understand he is frightened and that you will
take good care of him. They don't understand the words, but the tone of
your voice can be very soothing to them (and to you).
Don't be discouraged if you've lost a little ground the next day. You
are both making progress and soon enough he will be popping his head out
for treats when he hears you coming.
Once the glider stops crabbing at you you can then begin interacting with him in a more interactive way, like offering the back of your hand for him to climb on in the cage. If he crabs the first time you do this it is important not to jerk your hand back. Doing that can make him overly protective of his cage. You can withdraw your hand, just do it slowly without jerking.
gliders are prey animals that are easily startled and confused. If
your sugar gliders thinks you are going to eat them they can become quite
aggressive and are capable of giving some very nasty deep puncture
wounds with their very long and needle sharp bottom teeth.
If you ever see a sugar glider in the above attitude, who is yelling at you to stay back, have a little respect and proceed with caution! But don't despair! It is very easy to avoid these types of confrontations. Never act like a predator. That means move slowly, with purpose and be gentle with your little pals at all times.
Remember that sugar gliders act ferocious and aggressive when they are frightened or challenged. Even a completely hand tamed sugar glider may crab and swipe when confronted by a stranger who acts in a way that is frightening to them, or even if they are startled and don't recognize you right away.
You can try this gentling technique in their sleeping pouch during the day after the sugar glider has had ample opportunity to get used to your presence and your smell, and after he has begun taking treats from your hand. Move your hand slowly down inside the pouch, away from and under the glider. When trying this technique never move your hands above and toward your unbonded sugar glider, inside or outside of the pouch. Moving above and toward the sugar glider with your hands will signal either a challenge or that you are a predator.
If you can make your hand seem to be burrowing under the sugar glider the sugar glider is much more likely to see you as no threat, especially if you move slowly and with purpose. This burrowing behavior is how a new sugar glider acts when seeking acceptance by the group.
If you try the above technique take fair warning to expect a few nips and some bites if it is tried with an unsocialized sugar glider. (You must be extremely calm when trying this with a sugar glider that is not fully bonded to you or you will get bitten. We are not liable if you try this technique and are bitten.)
These nips and bites can be startling, but as long as your glider is not frantic and you don't panic and jerk your hand they will rarely break the skin. Just turn the back of your hand to the sugar glider and curl your fingers so that the pads of the fingers aren't presented to their teeth. You will find if you don't jerk your hand away the nips will turn to licks as the sugar glider attempts to get the full scent of your hand. When the gliders begin licking you can turn your hand and fingers back toward the glider and start rubbing, petting, and cupping the gliders. After a while let your hand go still and the gliders will curl up with your hand for their daily sleep.
This technique repeated daily can be a real turning point in your relationship with your sugar glider. Once the gliders have gotten your scent it is very rare for them to ever attempt to bite you again.
A sugar glider can be familiar with your hand and still crab when he or she sees your face. Likewise, a sugar glider can be familiar with your face and voice and still crab at your hands. For this reason, I always try to talk to the sugar gliders while I'm handing out treats or cuddling with them. By drawing their attention to my voice and face I make sure they are secure with my voice, face, and hands. I also repeat the sugar glider's name often while interacting with him or her so that they equate their name with good things, and so that I can get their attention if I need to by calling their name.
In the wild sugar gliders have the ability to recognize and respond to unique calls by members of their colony that are separated from them over distance. We can use this ability to familiarize the gliders with our own unique calls to them, namely, their names.
After the sugar gliders are completely comfortable with my hands, face, and voice we start taking short rides on my forearm or shoulder, gradually lengthening the time they spend on my body during their awake time. (I rarely use a tent for play, reserving it for intros.) Also during this time is when I start training them to sleep down my shirt during the day. Both of these are easy at this point. If the sugar glider startles and takes off he or she will come back to my hand and will stop and respond to my voice.
Bonded sugar gliders can be trained to simple commands with a little perseverance, repetition, and rewards. Simple commands, like "Up!" and "Jump" are the easiest, since they love to glide by nature and would rather be up high than at ground level.
Remember that giving your gliders a sense of security is the key element you are striving for here with bonding your gliders. If you only act in ways that foster that sense of security for them the whole bonding process will go very smoothly.
When they feel secure with you it is unmistakable. They will purr to your touch, will relax into your hands, will hold your fingers and groom your hands, will let you rub their tummies and handle them all over, and will give you prolonged and relaxed eye contact.
Things to never do:
Never swoop down on a sugar glider with your hand(s) from above.
Never chase them.
Never yell at them or speak to them in a harsh tone.
Never move in a jerky or fast fashion towards them or swat at them or hit them.
Never try to dominate them or force them to do something they just weren't designed to do.
Never lunge at a sugar glider with your hand for any reason. (This seems to be my biggest challenge - getting veterinarians that are unfamiliar with sugar gliders to understand that lunging and grabbing the sugar glider will only get them bitten, and undo a lot of hard work on my part!)
NEVER grab and forcefully hold a sugar glider
still or squish it between your hands until it can't breath or coat your hands with foul tasting substances while trying to bond it. These are
unspeakably cruel breaking techniques promoted by some pet brokers selling at malls that are unnecessary and counter-productive.
The only time that forcefully holding a sugar glider is acceptable is in an emergency situation when you must restrain the sugar glider for its own safety or to protect yourself from harm. (See emergency restraint information and video below).
You will do well bonding with any sugar glider if you can use their own language and actions to help understand their pleasure and displeasure. So watch them and learn how they communicate and act with each other. They are very vocal, using a variety of yaps, barks, hisses, buzzes, burbles, chirps, clicks, cries, purrs, and a variety of other unique sounds to communicate with each other and with you.
They make a long soft hissing sound that means, "no" or shows they are not pleased with something or are mildly unhappy. We have one young male glider that used this sound every time we tried to work with him. He seemed to be soothing himself with it. This sound is very similar to a human shushing to calm a baby, and by accident I found that using this shushing sound calmed this baby glider down immensely and relaxed him. He has since bonded well and no longer shushes himself.
They also make a short hissing "chsst" or "tsst" sounds often. This is the sound of mild annoyance that they give to each other to say, "Cut it out!" or "Stop bothering me," or "Get your foot out of my eye!" Sugar gliders use this short hiss sound to tell each other off all the time. Very much like many sugar glider owners, sugar gliders can be quite opinionated and don't mind letting each other know about it!
They may make a short honking sound when they are being groomed too roughly, and this sound indicates discomfort.
Some other sounds sugar gliders make:
made when sugar gliders are calling to each other or to you to come and
play or to find out where you are. Some people have interpreted this
sound to be a predator alert sound, but my gliders never make this noise
when they are frightened. They do make it when they can hear the TV
playing some repetitive sounds, and also in the middle of the night when
all is quiet. And joeys bark at their parents when they are coming back to the pouch after being out by themselves the first few times, or when being returned to the pouch as joeys after cuddle time.
We think this particular sound is a social call to keep members of the colony connected to each other. When one colony member barks the others stop everything
to stand still and listen.
made when sugar gliders are mildly annoyed with each other or with
you. If a glider makes this sound while going to the bathroom it could
indicate a urinary tract infection - in that case see your vet. But
usually it is made when there are too many sugar gliders trying to run
on one wheel or everyone is piled in one sleeping pouch. A shorter, sharper hiss is also used and seems to be universally accepted by sugar gliders to stop whatever behavior they are doing that caused the other glider to hiss. I use this sound with them when I want to stop a particular glider from grooming me too hard. It works like a charm.
Chirps or Burbling:
made when the glider is very pleased, usually by a favorite food, but
sometimes when you are petting them, or they have found a new fun toy or
are just really happy about something.
made by a mother sugar glider to encourage her joeys to detach for the first time or to stop nursing
for a while. Each mother has her own unique song, but each song is
beautiful and rhythmic.
Mating or fussing:
made when sugar gliders are seriously annoyed with each other. Newly
introduced sugar gliders can make this sound with each other as they
work out the new pecking order. Sugar gliders sometimes also make a
noise very similar to this when mating (although some can be totally
made by a joey when he is separated from his mother, usually when he is
hungry or frightened. Notice how similar this is to fussing and mating sounds.
made when the sugar glider is very contented, usually when being
petted. This sound is like a cross between the purr of a very young
kitten and the sound of popcorn popping. They make this sound when they
are being petted, or when they are just feeling very secure and
made when a sugar glider is just waking up or senses your presence. We
think this is a kind of greeting, but it may also be a way for the
glider to just let you know where he is. We do hear sugar gliders in
larger groups greeting each other with chattering when they are
reconnecting with each other after waking up. Sometimes they will chatter at me when I am passing out the dinner trays. This may be the way they let others know that they are a sugar glider, and not a predator.
Sneezing: sounds made when a sugar glider is grooming itself. This is the sound sugar gliders make as they spit into their hands before cleaning their faces. It sounds exactly like a sweet, "Choo!"
Spitting/Buzzing: sounds made when an intact male sugar glider wants to fight with another male. This sounds like a loud fight between a tom cat and a hornets' nest. Think of it as a ramped up crabbing sound.
WARNING: If your sugar glider is in a pouch or toy alone and
is hissing or making fighting sounds this could indicate entanglement,
an injury, or self mutilation! Check your glider immediately!
Special Bonding Tips:
*Calm yourself before you interact with your sugar gliders and keep yourself calm even if they seem upset. Your own calmness, gentle movements, soft voice, and confident and loving attitude will help keep them calm or calm them down if they become upset.
Sugar gliders are extremely sensitive to your moods, so much so that they will seem psychic. I can't stress this enough. If you are upset, even if you look outwardly calm, your sugar gliders will know it and they will respond in kind. If you are calm and loving, they will respond to that, too.
*If you are working with an unbonded sugar glider and he leaves the pouch and takes off, stay calm and don't chase or try to grab him. If you keep a piece of fleece handy you can drop that on him and use it to pick him up. I haven't had much luck with that technique. What I do is follow him and herd him into a corner if he is on the floor and offer him his pouch back. They will usually return to the pouch quickly if offered because it has their scent all over it. If the glider is up high I just raise the pouch up under him and coax him back into the pouch that way. If you move slowly he shouldn't panic further and run.
*When you are working with a new unbonded sugar glider they usually won't leave the pouch unless they need to relieve themselves. So, when they start trying to climb out of the pouch it is better to just gently push their heads back down (use a small piece of fleece if you are concerned about being bitten) and return the pouch to the cage. You can always pick back up where you left off later.
The Importance of Diet
Sugar gliders are susceptible to a number maladies caused by nutritionally deficient diet. Feeding an improper diet, a diet lacking in essential nutrients, or imbalanced in essential minerals can lead to serious illnesses, seizures, severe muscle spasm (tetany), blindness, bone fractures, paralysis, liver and kidney destruction and death.
Sugar gliders need very little fat in their diet. Feeding too much fat can lead to liver ailments and cataracts, and cause blindness in joeys whose mothers are fed a high fat diet.
Sugar gliders need an adequate amount of simple carbohydrates in their diets. Without them they can go into hypoglycemic shock or suffer serious life threatening seizures. In the wild this is provided in the sweet gum that they consume and the nectar from the bush and tree blossoms they visit nightly.
Sugar gliders need a balanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus (1.5-2:1). Without that balance they are susceptible to bone fractures, hind leg paralysis, seizures, and tetany.
Sugar gliders need very little additional iron supplements as adults. They have difficulty removing excess iron from their bodies and can develop iron storage disease if they are supplemented with too much iron.
Many of our sugar glider diets today include an extremely high amount of protein, as much as 44% dry basis. A 44% protein diet equals about 2.2 grams of protein or 2,200 mg per day per glider serving. This is about nine times the protein an adult, pet, non-breeding sugar glider needs.
Published diet trials with 1.0%, 3.1%, and 6.5% protein (dry basis) determined that a sugar glider's requirements for a 100-gram animal is only 248 mg crude protein per day. (See: Smith AP, Green SW:
Nitrogen requirements of the sugar glider Petaurus breviceps, an
omnivorous marsupial, on a honey-pollen diet. Physiol Zool 60:82-92,
Sugar gliders have the ability to recover the nitrogen that other animals excrete in their urine in their
specialized gut pouch called a cecum and recycle that nitrogen into amino acids and proteins.
Too much extra protein in the diet can lead to serious health problems, including
severe kidney damage and sudden death from kidney failure.
Female sugar gliders need extra protein in their diet when raising and nursing young, especially during the time they have out of pouch young still nursing - up to 4 times as much as a non-breeding pet sugar glider. More protein than this, however, even in a nursing female sugar glider, must be excreted through their kidneys, which can be very hard on them.
Do not feed much sugar or sugary foods to your gliders. The past few years has seen a rash of problems in sugar glider breederies all over the country with outbreaks of pathogenic bacterial skin infections and yeast infections in young, still nursing joeys. These animals seem to be particularly susceptible to these infections with devastating consequences. After discussing some of these cases with our exotic vet and the difficulties their breeders had treating the infections, our vet has recommended increasing the amounts of acidic fruits, eliminating simple sugars and honey completely and replacing them with more complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber. Providing a good source of probiotics in the diet will also help acidify the gut flora. (See more discussion of this below.)
Sugar gliders should never be fed peanuts or peanut containing foods. They are extremely sensitive to the toxin from mold that can grow on peanuts and have a high chance of developing liver failure or liver cancer if fed peanuts or peanut containing products.
As a general rule, sugar gliders should not be fed pellets or seeds and nuts. Their teeth and mouth are not designed for these, and many seeds and nuts are very high in minerals the gliders can not easily tolerate, and high in fats and oils that are detrimental to a sugar glider's health.
Sugar gliders should not be fed chocolate, spinach, beets or beet greens, or dark leafy greens, or any fruit, vegetable or other food that is high in oxalates or minerals. New research is coming out that sugar gliders are very susceptible to sudden death from kidney failure when they are fed foods high in oxalates. Sugar gliders suffer from iron storage disease when iron is overabundant in the diet. Neurologic problems are seen with diets high in manganese and copper. Our little friends are very sensitive to too many minerals in the diet.
Low oxalate containing foods include:
Moderate oxalate containing foods (should be limited) include:
| mandarin orange
For a more complete listing of high, moderate, and low oxalate containing foods, please visit this link.
Special Topic: Pellet and other dry food diets
Cat food, dog food, and monkey chow are not nutritionally complete and do not contain the necessary balance of nutrition needed by a sugar glider, and feeding these alone can cause serious health issues. These ino substitute for a well designed sugar glider diet.
Sugar gliders are nectar, pollen, sweet tree gum, and insect eaters in the wild. They also eat flower blossoms and sugary exudates from insects such as aphids, and they will prey on small lizards and baby birds. Their mouths and teeth are not well designed for chewing a dry pelleted diet, and their bodies are not well adapted to eating a diet formulated for other mammals.
Sugar gliders also lack the lubricating mucus in their digestive tract that is found in most mammals. Non-soluble fiber is extremely rough on their intestinal tract. So any dry kibble that you give should also be low in non-soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is fine, and sugar gliders can digest this so it is a source of nutrition for them. The eucalyptus gum they eat in the wild is mainly soluble fiber.
We are no longer recommending pellets or kibble for teeth cleaning.
A much better alternative is to offer them Eucalyptus branches to chew on. You can find distributors of Eucalyptus leaves and branches online.
Cereals are another potential problem source for mold growth. (If you must feed pellets do not leave them in the cage for more than a few hours.)
Please do not attempt to feed your sugar gliders a slurry made from dried Eucalyptus leaves. Eucalyptus gum, not leaves are part of the sugar glider's natural diet. Eucalyptus leaves are high in turpenes and aromatic oils that are extremely toxic to sugar gliders. Only Koalas eat Eucalyptus leaves.
Providing the Correct Nutrition
Providing the correct diet for sugar gliders can be confusing, time consuming, and labor intensive - if you let it. We don't have the ability to easily provide the sugar glider's complete natural diet. But we can provide all the nutrients a sugar glider needs to remain healthy - and we can do it economically.
We are recommending the following diet, which produces large, very healthy joeys with silky coats, and maintains pet gliders in a very healthy condition.
The Highland Sugar Glider diet was designed for us by Dr. Heidi Bissell, Exotic Aninal Nutritionist to specifically address sugar glider needs.
Highland Sugar Glider Diet
(Analysis at the bottom of section)
Purchase links for ingredients in this diet are listed at the bottom. Please note if you decide to switch your gliders to this diet you will need to wean them off of their old diet and onto HSG Diet by increasing the percentage of HSG Diet while lowering the percentage of their other diet by 10% per day.
This staple diet can be made up in advance and frozen in ice cube trays and the cubes of staple stored in the freezer in a zip lock bag. Frozen staple is good for several months.
A note on weighing out ingredients instead of measuring by volume - be sure your scale is accurate to 0.1 gram. If you can't find a regular mail/diet scale to do this then do purchase a gem scale for weighing out the vitamins, calcium and taurine powder.
600 grams no sugar added applesauce
150 grams full fat live culture yogurt (NOTE: You can substitute freshly fermented 24-hour Kefir or your own fermented probiotic yogurt)
70 grams finely ground oatmeal
60 grams chopped boiled egg (no shell)
75 grams Soldier Fly Larva meal, defatted - (NOTE: You can substitute 75 grams chopped boiled chicken for the SFL meal, but I highly recommend going with the SFL because the SFL meal is high in calcium and high in a type of fiber that sugar gliders need.)
3 grams flaxseed oil
6 grams Soybean oil (Wesson)
1 grams Vionate Vitamin and Mineral powder
2 grams Calcium Carbonate powder
1 gram (1000 mg) Taurine powder
1 drop Vitamin E oil equaling 20 IU
1-2 Tbsp of the above mixture served with 1 tsp sweet peas (shelled), 1 tsp mixed chopped fruits, and 1 tsp mixed, chopped vegetables. Feed extra to nursing mothers and mothers with joeys in-pouch - let them be your guide. If they leave a lot feed less. If they lick the plate feed more.
0.9% Calcium (target is 0.6%)
0.4% Phosphorus (target is 0.35%)
Ca:P ratio - 2.3:1
Links for purchasing ingredients
Soldier Fly larva meal, defatted
Vitamin E Oil -
Don't feed: nuts, chocolate, peanuts, high oxalate containing foods, high phosphorus containing foods, high mineral containing foods (spinach/kale), pasta, bread, beans, cat food, or dog food. Avoid dark leafy greens that are high in oxalates and minerals. Don’t feed crickets! Crickets have been known to carry pinworms and salmonella bacteria – both very bad for sugar gliders. Don’t feed honey. Honey can be contaminated with Clostridium bacteria spores. Since sugar gliders are susceptible to infection with Clostridia, we don’t recommend you feed it even as a treat. DO offer eucalyptus branches for them to chew on to clean their teeth.
Sugar gliders are prone to periodontal disease. Keep sugary treats to a minimum.
Special Topic - Ick joeys
"Ick" is not an illness or disease that is recognized by the veterinary profession.
Ick is an infection mainly with Staphylococcus aureus which may also present with secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections. The gliders present with wet brown or orange fur, anorexia and weight loss, and fur loss from hair pulling.
Treatment consists of
- bathing to remove debris using warmed 10% Nolvasan or vetericyn soaks
- increased high calorie diet for adults, hand-feeding or supplement feeding of joeys
10-20 mg/kg by mouth, once or twice daily, 7-10 days
- antibiotic therapy with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole or Bactrim
Bathing to remove debris
Bathe once per day to remove debris and cleanse the skin and fur of bacteria, preferably with Nolvasan 10% solution. Rinse with warm water. Dry as thoroughly as possible with paper towels and place in a clean pouch. You may want to use a heat lamp over the hospital cage to warm the gliders until they are completely dry. Avoid chilling the gliders. You may only need to bathe the gliders for a few days.
Increase the caloric content of the diet to help put weight back on emaciated gliders. If joeys are infected give additional nutrition through hand feeding. Ensure powder or liquid is recommended to increase the calorie content of adults’ food. Joeys should be hand fed if they are not able to nurse adequately or if mothers have lost the ability through illness to nurse them.
Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole or Bactrim
- as directed by your vet.
- Prevention -
To prevent these infections in your joeys or reinfection in your colonies - follow the same general guidelines you would follow if you were plagued with yeast or bacterial infections.
Remove most simple sugars from the diet, replacing them with healthier complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber. Feed acidic fruits rather than sweet fruits - this will help acidify the gut environment and the urine and keep overgrowth of intestinal yeast and urinary tract bacteria to a minimum. Include plain yogurt with live probiotic cultures in their diet and/or supplement with Bene-bac or other probiotic supplement.
If you feed your own diet or one of the popular sugar glider diets, check your ingredients. Replace any apple sauce that contains high fructose corn syrup with all natural brands that contain only apples. If you use baby foods in your diet, make sure these also do not contain added simple sugars, sucrose, fructose, etc. If you use yogurt in your diet replace any that contain sugar with plain yogurt. Replace honey with all natural orange juice and non-sweetened apple juice. Where at all possible use all natural ingredients in your sugar glider diet.
Clean your cages regularly to remove environmental bacterial residue. Always provide clean cage sets and sleeping pouches at least weekly.
And most important of all Wash Your Hands. Be sure that you wash your hands before handling any of your gliders or joeys and be sure to wash your hands after examining each pouch of sugar gliders. If you have multiple gliders and a sick joey, handle and treat that joey last, be sure you change your clothes afterwards and throw them directly in the washing machine, and wash your hands again. One sick joey is heart-breaking. Multiple sick joeys is inexcusable.
The Importance of Regular
A sugar glider's nails can grow very fast. In the wild they use their nails as a kind of Velcro to help them stick to the trees they are gliding to. In the wild the constant wear and tear on their nails keeps them short.
In captivity the nails grow very fast and they are very sharp. The nails can very rapidly become an entanglement hazard for the sugar glider and must be trimmed once or twice a week.
A trim trax insert for their exercise wheel can help extend the time between nail trimming, but it can't completely replace it.
We trim while the gliders are sleepy and while handing out treats. We don't disturb them any more than is necessary to get the job done.
Below is a video showing the trimming process.
It is important to not trim below the nail's quick. Keep corn starch or styptic powder handy while trimming to stop bleeding just in case.
The two 'grooming' toes on each hind foot are never trimmed.
If for some reason you just can't trim your sugar glider's nails you must have your vet do it regularly or get help from an experienced sugar glider owner. Cage deaths that could have been avoided have been reported from sugar gliders getting entangled because of untrimmed nails.
The Importance of Housing
More Than One Sugar Glider Together
Some brokers of sugar gliders have claimed that sugar gliders can be easily kept as a single pet because they can sell more single sugar gliders than pairs. It is unfortunate that sugar glider brokers tend to charge the same for a single animal what a breeder would normally charge for two animals of the same color and quality.
Sugar Gliders are very social colony animals and they are geared towards living in a family/colony pod with up to a dozen sugar gliders per colony. Two is the minimum that should be housed together.
Sugar gliders are studied in university settings to research serotonin deficiency types of depression. The reason sugar gliders are used is because all it takes to rapidly induce severe depression in a sugar glider is to house them alone. If they are housed alone they are more susceptible to stress related illness and they are prone to develop severe behavioral problems, which can include chronic over grooming, obsessive stereotypic behavior and self-mutilation.
Below is a video of a sugar glider exhibiting obsessive stereotypy.
Some sugar glider brokers have been telling potential sugar glider owners that you can make up for their lack of a companion of their own species with your interaction with the animal.
This is not true.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal and spend the majority of their waking time and social time in the middle of the night.
higher light level triggers a torpor in the animal that is very hard
for it to resist. You can wake the sugar gliders for short periods
during the day to interact with them and give them treats. But you
can't keep them awake during the day in hopes they will sleep at night.
to keep them awake for long periods during the day will only stress
them out. They will tolerate it to a certain extent, but they do not
like the light.
Sugar gliders need companionship of their own kind while they are awake for their emotional and behavioral health and well being.
The Importance of Regular
Sugar Gliders are susceptible to a number of bacterial and parasitic diseases and they can carry parasites without symptoms until stressors compromise their immune system allowing the organisms to cause disease. For this reason it is highly recommended that you have regular vet checkups including fecal exams at least once a year, preferably twice a year. These disease organisms are treatable and if found should be eradicated in your sugar gliders.
Sugar gliders do not need vaccinations.
Sugar gliders should be seen by a vet any time the animal seems sick, lethargic, wobbly, is vomiting, or has diarrhea, or otherwise seems off. They can become dehydrated easily with dire consequences from vomiting or from diarrhea, or if they stop drinking because of illness or because their drinking bottle has malfunctioned.
Sugar gliders are delicate when it comes to general anesthesia and only a highly qualified exotic animal vet who has knowledge and experience with sugar gliders should be allowed to perform any procedure on the animal that involves anesthesia.
Female sugar gliders can not be neutered because the procedure is too invasive and they do not survive the procedure.
Male sugar gliders have been known to self mutilate at the site of their neuter when the entire pom is removed or when surgical glue is used to seal their incision. Sometimes adequate pain medication prevents this and wearing a restrictive collar for 24-48 hours can also help prevent self-mutilation. The males seem to have less complication when the pom is left on during the neuter and when the vet takes the caution of hiding the stitch. Another promising alternative with few side effects are the new laser techniques that seal and cauterize during the surgery.
Sugar gliders teeth do not continue to grow throughout their lives. Under no circumstances should a vet be allowed to trim a sugar glider's teeth. To do so will result in a painful disability for the sugar glider correctable only through restoration of the teeth (good luck finding a sugar glider dentist!) or extraction of the teeth.
Special Topic: Self Mutilation
If a sugar glider is injured it is vitally important that the animal be gently but fully restrained until it can be seen by a vet. When a sugar glider is in pain it perceives that it is being attacked, and it will attack the site of the injury further injuring itself. This causes more pain and a vicious cycle is established that can rapidly cause the sugar glider's death.
For this reason the owner of a sugar glider should have the means on hand to restrain the sugar glider or to isolate the injured part from the mouth of the sugar glider. This can be accomplished temporarily by wrapping the sugar glider in a 'burrito wrap' of fleece and securing it with non-adhesive vet wrap. Another item to keep on hand is a pre-made shot-glass type or satellite type e-collar.
Top is shot glass style e-collar.
Bottom is satellite style e-collar.
Both can be purchased from:
For instructions on how to make your own e-collar, Suz's Sugar Gliders has a full page with step-by-step instructions.
It is vitally important that all sugar glider owners become familiar with SM. Please take the opportunity to read Mambo's story on Glider Central about self-mutilation, and the importance of being prepared. Mambo's story is tragic, but his owner's willingness to share his story can save your glider's life.
How to Burrito-Wrap an Injured Glider
And Get Him into an E-collar
Below is Connie's technique for burrito wrapping and putting a collar on a difficult sugar glider when you must work alone. This video is a must see for all sugar glider owners.
A special thank you to Connie, aka Suggiemom1980, of Small World Suggies for producing and making this video available, and for giving us her permission to show it here.
Thank you, Connie!
Please visit Connie's website: smallworldsuggietoys.webs.com
Special Topic: First Aid and Minor Wound Care
Because of a sugar glider's tendency to over-groom wounds which can lead to self-mutilation episodes, even minor wounds need to be treated carefully and watched diligently.
Most, but not all wounds can be isolated with an e-collar.
Always consult your vet before you perform any minor first aid on any sugar glider, and always take your sugar glider to your vet if more than minor first aid is needed.
The following were discussed with and approved by our vet.
For minor wounds, such as very small mating bites or scratches, the wound should be cleaned well with sterile saline. A small amount of triple antibiotic cream can be applied. And if the wound is where the sugar glider can get at it with his mouth, a very tiny amount of numbing solution, such as benzocaine can be applied. Make sure you don't overdo the application of benzocaine! Watch the glider carefully to make sure he/she isn't licking off the numbing solution.
The wound should be cleaned with Veteracyn solution one to three times a day to prevent infection and to speed healing.
As the wound heals it may begin to itch and this can lead to further self-injury. A very small amount of 1% hydrocortizone cream can be applied to minimize the itching.
If your sugar glider continues to rewound or if you have any questions about the care and treatment of your sugar gliders, always consult your veterinarian. And always consult your exotic veterinarian with any treatment or questions before you treat your sugar glider at home.
Housing Your Sugar Gliders
What every sugar glider needs:
Minimum Size Cage: A sugar glider cage should be large enough to allow the animal room to leap from side to side. Recommended interior size for two sugar gliders is 35"h X 32"w x 21"d. It is a good idea to provide the biggest cage you can personally afford.
Above is a picture of the type of cages we use. This is an HQ model 13221 that can be purchased in stainless steel or enamel powder coat at a very reasonable price. Below is another picture of the cage showing the wheeled stand storage area beneath.
Purchase Here (Tell them we sent ya!)
WARNING: Sugar gliders are extremely susceptible to heavy metal poisoning and for this reason should never be housed in bare zinc galvanized cages.
Special Topic: WARNING - PVC Coated Cages
gliders have been having a very hard time this year (2011) when they were placed in cages made of PVC Coated wire purchased from October 2010 to
the present. Sugar gliders placed in PVC Coated cages manufactured in the Northeast US have been suffering seizures and dying, and these cages and wire have shown up all over the US.
Physical exams and necropsies have not uncovered the underlying problem but the PVC coating on the cages is highly suspect at this time. Sugar gliders that have been removed from these cages at the first sign of irregular behavior and clumsiness have been surviving at about a 60-70% rate. With the popularity of these lightweight cages and a 30-40% death rate, numerous sugar glider breeders and private pet sugar glider owners have been affected by this tragedy. Our own vet was seeing up to 5 individual cases per day.
Toxicological testing on the cage material is ongoing. These cages are purchased from brokers, from pet shops, from cage manufacturers and made from wire purchased from wire vendors. Scrubbing the cages has been ineffective at preventing sugar glider illness and death.
Until the wire manufacturers track down the problem and ensure that 100% of the contaminated wire has been pulled from the market we recommend that you do not house any sugar glider in PVC coated cages manufactured after October 2010. If you currently have sugar gliders in PVC Coated cages purchased after October 2010 we highly recommend you get them out of those cages immediately and throw the cages away.
If your gliders have become sick or showing symptoms from being in a PVC-coated wire cage, remove them to another cage; take them to your vet and ask for Calcium EDTA and B12 injections and subcutaneous fluids. This is the new recommended protocol for these cases.
WARNING: These cages are still on the market, can be found in multiple selling venues, and may be available to unsuspecting sugar glider owners for purchase for many years to come.
UPDATE: As of mid November 2011 some PVC coated wire distributors are still selling this toxic cage material and are denying any responsibility. At this point PVC-coated wire must be deemed unsafe for sugar gliders from any source. Don't put your babies at risk!
UPDATE: As of mid January 2012 some PVC coated wire distributors are still selling this toxic cage material and some mill bred glider mall sellers are still selling these toxic cages. These items are still resulting in sugar glider deaths. Do not put your gliders in PVC Coated cages for any reason!
SPECIAL WARNING: Some sugar glider forums are reporting that the PVC cages from Pocket Pets are now safe, because Pocket Pets is telling them they are safe. Sugar gliders are still dying in Pocket Pet PVC coated cages purchased as of the beginning of January 2012.
of August 2012 some PVC coated wire distributors are still selling
this toxic cage material and Pocket Pets is still selling these toxic cages. Sugar gliders are still dying in them! Do not put your gliders in PVC Coated cages for
Wheels, wheels, wheels: A running wheel is a must for every sugar glider cage, and one wheel per every two or three gliders is recommended.
We use the Raptor Wheels, but there are several that are very good and come highly recommended.
Any of the following are sturdy and safe choices for sugar gliders. These come with a stand or with a cage hanging kit and each of them comes in a variety of colors that you can mix or match: grey, white, black, green, yellow, blue, red, pink (Raptor or Custom Cruiser only).
- Special Topic -
The Most Dangerous Wheel
Wodent Wheels are injuring and killing sugar gliders. I can't stress this enough! Wodent Wheels are injuring and killing sugar gliders!
Please make sure your gliders have a glider-safe wheel or treadmill in their cage, not one of these death traps.
Do not use wheels designed for rodents with sugar gliders! These can catch nails, deglove tails, rip off tails, and kill your gliders. Don't use metal wheels, silent spinners, hamster balls, or any runabout or wheel designed for rodents. Rodents run and move differently than sugar gliders. These are never going to be safe for sugar gliders.
We just heard of another glider that was tragically killed by a Wodent Wheel when her patagium became entagled with the center bar.
The following photos are disturbing and we apologize for that. But it is important that this message get out there. The owner of the glider in the photos below has given permission to share them so that other sugar glider owners do not have to face what they are facing with the death of their beloved pet in a Wodent Wheel.
Please remove any items in your cages that are not specifically designed for sugar gliders with safety in mind.
single or several fleece hanging sleeping pouches are required for each
cage. To prevent the possibility of entanglement hazard, sleeping
pouches should have interiors made of fleece, have hidden seams where
possible, and have very small tight stitching where the seams can't be
hidden. Below are the types of colony pouches that we use. The picture on the left are the traditional side hanging pouches, and the picture on the right is a corner hanging pouch.
We have fleece cage sets in various patterns and colors available and you can find these on our store page.
gliders thrive on a stimulating environment and do not do well in bare
cages. They should always have a variety of interactive toys to play
with and forage through, and places to hide and climb. The toys should
be made of durable plastic so that they are easy to clean and
sterilize. We regularly run ours through our dishwasher, but they can
be soaked in detergent and rinsed in a 10% bleach solution as well.
Below are some ideas for toys for your sugar gliders.
Cage Sets: Because
of their tendency for nail entanglement and urine marking, sugar
gliders do best with cage items made completely of fleece. These are
easily removed and thrown in the wash, but should be dried on your lowest heat setting or air dried.
DIY Toy Parts
items that can be used for sugar glider environment enrichment are any
plastic rings or toys made for human babies. These can be picked up at
the drug store or at Walmart very inexpensively.
Kinnon loved this hamster toy when he was a baby.
Sugar gliders love to chase feathered toys, and you can have endless hours of fun getting them to chase one. But be very careful in selecting a feather toy. Cat toys that are impregnated with cat nip should never be used with sugar gliders. Cat nip is extremely toxic to sugar gliders.
items tend to soak in urine and can quickly become unusable, so normal
wooden dowel perches are not recommended.
typical fleece cage setup will have one or two hanging pouches, a
bridge, several corner hammocks, and perhaps a climbing vine made from
Cage set showing regular sleeping pouch, bridge, toys,
With a sewing machine and a little know how you can create your own fleece cage sets. If you don't sew, cage sets can be purchased pre-made or ordered online fairly inexpensively.
and fleece wrap-around
There are many private cage set manufacturers that can be found on the
web. Just be sure that any items purchased for sugar gliders made from
fleece have hidden seams where possible, very small, tight stitching
where hidden seams are not possible, and no loose threads.
To the right is one of the cage sets I made for my sugar gliders.
Some cage sets are available on our Web-store page.
The sets to the right were made for me by Rachel.
Below are several pictures of one of my favorite fleece cage accessories - the honey comb, created by Rachel.
It is both a daytime sleeping pouch and a night time toy. For
crabbers and sugar gliders who have decided to become pouch protective,
this item is terrific to break them of those habits. Because they can
just pop their heads up and see everything they no longer feel the need
to be so defensive. I've seen immediate reversals in unwanted behavior
using this item as a sleeping pouch.
Davie also makes wonderful custom cage sets and her work is very good. Be sure to check out her decked out cage pictures!
Special Topic: Cleanliness
Sugar gliders are busy little creatures at night, for the most part they are fairly clean. However there are several steps that should be taken to ensure that their environments are kept clean and comfortable and to minimize or eliminate the little mess that they do make.
Sugar gliders urinate and sometime defecate while they are on the
move, and they do urine mark their territory.
Their cages and wheels in particular can get very messy fairly
quickly. It is easiest to wipe down the bars of the cage several times a
week with a damp or wet cloth and remove and wash their wheels at least
once a week.
Since we are breeders with intact males who are adamant about marking their territory we tend to swap out the sleeping pouches several times a week. We don't swap out pouches the same days we are pulling and washing the other fleece cage items since this tends to trigger the male to mark more strongly.
Pet owners won't need to change pouches as often as we do, but it is a good idea to give them a clean pouch once a week.
Because the wheels can fling urine it is a good idea to wrap the sides of the cage in fleece, which can be removed and washed once a month during your regular deep cleaning. A large diaper pin or safety pins can be used to attach the fleece to the sides and back of the cage.
Once every two weeks to a month each cage should be thoroughly power washed or hosed to remove any dried on urine from the harder to reach areas. The single cages we use fit in our shower and we scrub them down once a month and use hot soapy water to remove all traces of urine. The bigger cages are taken outside for deep cleaning.
When sugar gliders eat they tend to suck all the nutrient juices from their food and spit out the pelleted remains, which fall to the catch tray beneath their cages. These are easiest to keep clean by either using disposable tray liners or by removing and wiping down the tray every other day or so.
We don't recommend using normal litter or bedding in the trays. The sugar gliders will just grab fistfuls of the stuff and have a ton of fun flinging it at each other and out of the cage.
Sugar gliders do seem like they take a lot of work, but they really are easy to keep as pets as long as you take the time to bond them and plan for their few special needs.
They are a complete joy to own, and with a little forethought they can be an incredibly rewarding addition to your family. Once they are bonded to you they are the sweetest pets you can imagine, completely loyal, trusting, and infinity entertaining.
A Special Thanks!
A special thanks is owed to all those who took a chance on these very special little treasures when they were first introduced into the US less than two decades ago; to all those who sweated and worked and never gave up; who built up the extensive knowledge base for these animals; who pioneered the art of keeping and breeding sugar gliders. We can never know all that you have gone through. But thank you for sharing what you have learned so that those of us who come after can benefit from all your efforts.