SUGAR GLIDER/SUGAR BEARS BASICS
Q: What is a sugar glider? Sugar gliders are marsupials (animals with pouches) & they're nocturnal (they spend most of the day asleep). They are social animals that naturally live in colonies & in captivity they do best kept in pairs or more.
Q: Do sugar gliders make good pets? They are high maintenance in terms of diet & care. They are omnivores and require a specific diet consisting of a balance in fruits, veggies & protein. They form unique bonds which requires patience and consistency. As such, gliders are better suited for older children or as a family pet.
Q: What is their lifespan? Gliders live 10-15 years, so they are a long commitment.
Q: Can they be with other pets? Because of their size, they should always be supervised if they are around other pets. We don’t recommend you leave pets unsupervised, not matter how tame your dog or cat is. Some gliders don’t mind other animals, some hate them. Depending on the gliders - they all have their own personalities and preferences.
Q: Sugar gliders are nocturnal? Yes, they sleep during the majority of the day and are active at night. Towards the late afternoon and evening, they will become active and playful. It is best to start bonding with them during the day/afternoon and after you have bonded you can join in their playtime with them at night.
Q: Can I use a harness or leash to keep my sugar gliders near me for walks? Sugar Gliders have special skin membranes called patagiums, which extend from their front feet all the way down to their back feet. This is what stretches out and allows them to glide, or "fly". Because of this extra skin, you should NEVER use any type of harness, collar, leash, or other restrictive gear on these animals! These devices can cause serious injury to the fragile skin membrane.
See our Glider Injuries & Ailments blog for photos of a harness injury.
Q: What is the best way to pick up my sugar glider? While your glider is on a flat surface, place your hands cupped on either side of the glider and scoop gently under its stomach to lift all 4 feet off the surface. Sugar gliders do not like to be grabbed with a grip hold. Do not reach directly at a glider’s face or stick your fingers near their mouth.
Q: Do I have to trim their nails? You will need to trim their nails once every 3-4 weeks. Cork toys will help wear down their nails as well as our raptor wheels with the nail trimming inserts. It is important that you keep their nails trimmed so they do not get their feet caught in their pouches or fleece toys.
Q: How do I give them a bath? Gliders are self-cleaning animals and do not need baths. Their fur is very densely packed so they do not get fleas or mites. This fur density also makes them hypoallergenic pets.
Q: How to bond? When you first get them home, let them settle into their cage for a few days. While you are waiting for them to get settled in to their surroundings, you can place a small piece of clothing with your scent in their cage to allow them to get used to your scent. Use a bonding pouch (pouch w/ zipper & mesh) to slowly get them used to you or try “tent time” (a tent or glider proof room where you can sit on the floor with your gliders and they will come out in their own.) Have treats and toys scattered around for tent time.
Q: What is their ideal temperature? Do they need a heater? The ideal temperature range for a sugar glider is between 70 and 76 degrees, with about 45-50% relative humidity. The colder it is, the more they’ll sleep and the less they’ll eat. Heat rocks or lamps should NEVER be used with gliders! These are very dangerous items, allowing your glider to overheat, become dehydrated, and suffer severe burns or even death. You may place a space heater near their cage if your house is below 70 in the winter, about 2 ft away from the cage to prevent burns. Double lined sleeping pouches are also helpful in colder weather. If you live in a very humid region, you may need a dehumidifier in your glider's room to prevent illness caused by moisture.
Q: What do I need to get started?
- Cage needs to be at least 3 feet tall, 2.5 feet wide with bar spacing no more than 1/2 inch apart.
- Sugar Glider safe wheel. (No rat or hamster wheel. Completely flat backing with no moving bearing mechanism on the inside of the wheel. Gliders also need tracks to grab onto.)
- Sleeping pouch (something for them to sleep in)
- Glass Water Bottle (no water bowls or plastic bottles)
- TPG Nutritional Package (Brunch, Monkey Biscuits, & Essential Vitamins)
- Toys to keep their mind active
- Bonding pouch (to start the bonding process and to take them with you anywhere out of the cage)
Q: Aside from supplies, how else can I make my home "glider ready"? Block off any small places that they may crawl inside. This includes areas behind stoves and fridges, and well as any ventilation areas. Make sure there are no entry holes under cabinetry in the kitchen or baths, and make sure there are no holes where they can enter mattresses or couches. Ensure that all windows are closed before opening the gliders’ cage. Be careful with any body of water that they can access and keep all toilet lids closed, as gliders would be unable to get out of a toilet and can drown. We do not recommend letting a glider run loose in your house. Gliders should never be taken outside unless they are in a glider tote where they are secure and cannot run off. It would only take one time for your glider to get spooked, run up a tall tree, never to be seen again. Please don’t take that chance.
Q: How often do I have to clean their cage? You want to alternate between cage cleaning & pouch/fleece cleaning. If you washed everything at once, that will encourage over-marking since the gliders can’t smell themselves in their cage. Typically cage cleaning is once a month and fleece items or toys can be every 2 or 3 weeks.
Q: Should I get 2 males, 2 females, or a male and a female? It’s a matter of personal preference. Neutered males are essentially the same as a female and they can be introduced to other gliders. Intact males should not be introduced to other males or any females besides their breeding mate as they will start fights for breeding. Intact males will have a bald spot on their head and their chest, as well as a pom (testicle) underneath. Once you neuter a male, the scent glands will go away and the hairs on the top of the head will grow back. After a few months the testosterone will fade from his system and he can be more easily introduced to other gliders.
Q: I have a single male glider but he’s not neutered. Can I get a neutered male to go with him? Intact males are a bit more aggressive & territorial. Even if you are getting a neutered male for him, he will still want to attack the glider since he’ll feel like someone is invading is personal space.
Q: What if I would like to breed my sugar gliders? If you decide to breed we will be happy to work with you to make sure you know what is involved and help to make sure your experience is a successful one. It is important to know the lineage of the gliders you intend to breed to ensure healthy joeys! We can run genetic backgrounds on our gliders to help find you the perfect pair. Just remember that if you breed your sugar gliders they will not stop breeding until you get the male neutered. Even after this, females can sometimes hold embryos for a period of up to 11 months! Do your research and make sure you're ready for the commitment. If you've never owned sugar gliders before, we encourage you to start with a non-breeding pair as pets.
Q: Once I receive my sugar gliders from The Pet Glider, can I contact you with more questions? We pride ourselves on our after-adoption support, and you're more than welcome to ask us any questions you may have! We'll gladly give advice and answer questions you may have on bonding, nail trimming, behavior, health, and more.
Q: What are all these noises they're making? I don't speak "glider!" One of the most common noises when discussing sugar gliders is called "crabbing," which can be described as sounding somewhat like an electric pencil sharpener. It signifies that they feel threatened or scared, and is usually a sign that they want someone to "back off." It can be more common during the early periods of bonding, as they are still getting used to their surroundings. They also crab sometimes at other gliders if they get surprised or irritated with one another. Another interesting sound is a "barking" sound, which sounds like a little chihuahua. Usually a sign for attention from other gliders or yourself.
Q: How about snacks? If they're great for bonding, how much should I use? Too much of any certain food is a bad thing. Gliders need a well-balanced diet with a healthy moderation in sugars and fats (yes, even if they’re natural!). The more treats they get, the fatter they’ll be and less likely to eat their main food which contains all of their nutrients and vitamins. A list of safe fruits and treats is included in our diet, as well as some foods to avoid. When in doubt, don’t feed it to them!
Q: Since sugar gliders are an unusual pet, do I need to go to a special veterinarian? They are not disease-harboring animals and they DO NOT require any vaccinations, however, regular wellness exams by a licensed veterinarian are recommended as with any pet. It is important to research your local vets to find one with exotic animal experience. Give them a call and ask a few questions to ensure that the veterinarian is willing and able to treat sugar gliders, and to gauge how much glider experience the vet may have. A fast way to test the knowledge of your vet is to ask if they can spay female gliders. If the vet says yes, then you need to find another vet! Females CAN NOT be spayed due to their small size - it is too invasive of a surgery. For a list of some veterinarians with sugar glider experience, please consult Sugar Glider Help's Vet Database. We are not medically licensed to give out any sugar glider medical advice. It is best to call around your area to get an idea of which veterinarian you would consult in the case of a medical emergency.
Q: How can I tell if my sugar glider is sick? Sugar gliders are a prey animal and will often hide their illness until it’s too late. A sugar glider should have perky, upright ears, wide eyes, a clean fluffy coat, and be fairly active. If your glider has drooping ears, eyes that are "droopy" or continuously half-shut, cracked fur or balding patches, appears dehydrated or is generally listless, you should consult your vet immediately. For more info on potential illnesses, click here.
Q: I only have one sugar glider, and he is biting himself and pulling out his hair! What is happening? Sugar gliders are social animals, and are much happier in groups of two or more. A single glider is a lonely glider, and that can actually lead to depression and self-injurious behaviors. While it is possible that over-grooming and odd behavior can have other causes, it is most probable that they need a companion.