The World of Sugar Gliders
Sugar Gliders are tree dwelling marsupials from Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia. Adults weigh about 90 to 130 grams and measure about 12" from nose to tail tip. Sugar Gliders have a thin membrane that stretches from their wrists to their ankles and allows them to glide from branch to branch like a flying squirrel. Sugar Gliders are nocturnal and are usually most active at night. They are communal animals and live in the wild in groups of 4 to 40 animals. They adapt well to humans and can develop strong bonds to their owners, but this takes time and patience. How close your pet bonds with you will depend on the time you spend together. A minimum of 2 hours a day is recommended, but more time is always better. Sugar Gliders can live from 12 to 20 years with proper food, housing, and companionship. Unfortunately poor care and/or companionship can severely cut the Sugar Gliders life expectancy.
Your Sugar Glider should have a cage large enough to allow plenty of room for exercise. The wire spacing should be no more than 1" by 1/2'' wide. The cage should be as large as possible to allow for the Glider to jump and play. A 2' by 2 1/2' by 6' cage is ideal for one to five Gliders to have plenty of running room. The temperature should be kept between 60-90 degrees Fin an area free from drafts and heating/air conditioning vents. You can give your Sugar Glider toys to play with. Large parrot toys, thick ropes, and ladders make good toys. You can also put an exercise wheel in the cage but make sure it is the larger, guinea pig size, NOT the smaller gerbil type. Sugar Gliders can catch their long tails in the smaller wheels and hurt themselves.
You can put branches in for your Sugar Glider to climb on but be VERY careful what type of wood it is. Some types of trees that are fine to use are: Apple, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elm, Fir, Magnolia, Pine, Poplar, and Willow. Remember, though; if you aren't ABSOLUTLY sure about the species of the tree DON'T use the branches! Here are some trees to AVOID - Almond, Apricot, Black Walnut, Cherry, and Peach.
You also need to give your Sugar Glider a hiding place to sleep in. A wooden hiding box or a cloth pouch works well. This will be a safe place for it and is very important to your Gliders mental well being. They will become very stressed and ill if they never have any place to retreat to and hide.
When deciding what to feed your Sugar Glider there are a few things to keep in mind. First, in the wild, they have been found to have a 75% fruit/veggie/sap and 25% protein diet. This means that they mostly eat fruit, nectar, and sap and also insects and small animals/reptiles. Their fat intake should be kept to an absolute minimum! Even though they look very cute eating cookies, doughnuts, and candy, this will severely stress out your Gliders digestive system and can even kill them. Obesity is a serious problem with improperly fed Sugar Gliders and can shorten your pets life expectancy by many years. Some other toxic foods to avoid feeding are - any member of the onion family including chives, garlic, shallots, and leaks, seeds from peaches, cherries, plums, and nectarines, and ANY form of chocolate!
Here is a list to give you some ideas on things that are good to feed your Glider - apples, baby food (no preservatives) , apricots, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, carrots, cherries, corn, dried fruit (no salt/preservatives) , eggs (boiled WITH shell), figs, grapes, honey (small amounts), honeydew melon, insects (crickets-mealworms) , small pinkie feeder mice, peaches, pears, pineapple, pl ums, raisins (small amounts), strawberries, and sweet potatoes .
You can also give your Sugar Glider food treats from your own back yard if you do not use ANY FORM of fertilizers or pesticides of ANY KIND. Clover, dandelion flowers, honeysuckle , rose flowers, squash, melon , and cucumber flowers will all be fine to give your Glider. Always remember though, even a minute amount of pesticide or fertilizer can kill your Sugar Glider within a matter of hours, so if you’re not sure if a plant has been treated with anything, it 's best not to use it at all. There has been a lot of discussion about feeding dairy products to Sugar Gliders. Most marsupials are known to be galactose and lactose intolerant and it seems logical to assume Sugar Gliders may be as well. The best course of action would be to refrain from feeding dairy products altogether until there is conclusive evidence. Most Veterinarians tend to recommend that you try to keep Sugar Gliders' diets as natural as possible and yogurt is not found in the wild. Ultimately, when in doubt about the effects of a new or different food, don't feed it to your Sugar Glider until you consult with a qualified veterinarian familiar with these animals.
Sugar Gliders can be kept singly, in pairs, or in groups but several considerations should be kept in mind. If two or more males are housed together they will probably fight and injure one another, so it is best to only have one male in a group. Two or more females can usually be housed together without too much fighting or fussing. If you put an intact male in with an intact female YOU WILL GET BABIES! If you do not want a house full of Sugar Gliders you need to have one or both of the pair neutered or spayed. If your Gliders do breed there are a few things you need to know. Gestation is only 16 days. The babies are born, usually I to 3 of them, tiny and hairless and have to make their own way into the mothers pouch. Once there they attach themselves to a nipple where they stay for approximately 2 months before they start making ventures outside the pouch. You might at first see only a foot or even half a baby hanging out of the pouch, but under NO circumstances should you ever try to pull the baby out of the pouch! They are still physically attached to the nipple and removing them forcefully can cause serious damage to both mother and baby, and probably kill the baby. Male Sugar Gliders are usually very good with the babies and help with care and feeding, so removing the male after breeding is not necessary or recommended. Also remember to keep your Sugar Gliders routine the same after breeding occurs and until the babies are completely weaned. Sugar Gliders will kill and eat their babies if they become too stressed out so moving them or changing their environment is not recommended at this time. The babies open their eyes about I 0 days after completely leaving the pouch. A month after that, they are completely weaned and the mother may become slightly hostile toward them at this time to get them to leave her alone so she can raise the next litter. Sugar Gliders reach sexual maturity at about 6 months of age, so proper care should be taken to remove any babies before inbreeding or male fighting occurs.
You should always keep daily tabs on your pet to make sure your Glider is doing fine. If your pet suddenly starts acting in ways that are not consistent with it’s normal behavior, it could be a sign of illness. If you do suspect you Sugar glider is ill take it to a veterinarian immediately! Gliders are very small and can quickly become dehydrated and/or irreversibly ill if they don't get medical attention very quickly. Here are some things to watch for:
- lack of appetite
- coughing or sneezing
- vomiting or diarrhea
- difficulty breathing
- difficulty walking or dragging hind legs
- loss of fur
- runny eyes or nose
If you have any questions or concerns about your Sugar Glider the best thing you can do is call your local exotic veterinarian as soon as possible. Remember your Sugar Glider can be beyond help in a matter of hours so if you have any suspicion that your pet is ill, contact your veterinarian immediately.