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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes!
Welcome to the July 07 edition of the GliderVet News. This
month weíre going to delve a bit deeper into a specific bonding topic
concerning sugar glider biting. But before we sink our teeth into
this meaty topic,
be sure you check out "Dear Arnold" to see what appears to be
pre-historic sugar glider.
If you have a glider that likes to chomp down on you from time to time,
be grateful he / she doesnít have a set of chompers like this dude!
Before we glide on in, we have some news about a couple of products in our
online store this month. First, for those of you who have been holding off
on getting a Swing Thing, this is your last chance
to get one for $14.92. Despite receiving numerous manufacturing price
increases over the last five years, we have kept our price stable; but due to
continued cost increases in the commodities market, our price will increase by
$4 on August 1. The Swing Thing is a SunCoast Sugar Gliders' trademarked
design handcrafted with all natural, non-toxic components. Value is very
important, but safety remains our number one priority. As a result, we
cannot justify using cheaper - and potentially unsafe - parts to keep the price
Our second bit of product news is very exciting! Arnold has added
a brand new toy to his ever-expanding store. Glider safety and glider fun are always rule number one!
And this is a toy even the most over-achieving chewers will not have much luck destroying.
Please remember that this newsletter is intended to express the
wishes of the whole sugar glider community.
Every article published in this newsletter is a result of someone just
like you taking the time to write us with thoughts, ideas, stories and
Send your comments to us here.
If you ever want to find earlier issues of GliderVet News, you can access our
archives here. Fun pics of sugar gliders
sent in by our customers are found here.
If you are looking for sugar glider tested and approved products, check out our
ever expanding store here.
Are you new to sugar gliders or just in the early stages of trying to decide
if one is right for you? Questions you can ask yourself to help make this
very important and long term decision are here.
A very confusing area for those considering glider ownership (and for
some current owners too!) is diet. See what our vet has to say here.
And if you decide that a sugar glider (or two!) would become future members of
your household, then you might want to check out Arnold's great deals on starter kits,
with or without cages.
As the father of a proud glider owner ( Lauren ), I've become more
aware of all things even remotely "glider" and so I was intrigued today
by this news item. I think we all know what kind of animal they're
*really* talking about!
Best to you and yours,
Wow! Tanks sooooo much for this link! At last, Iíve
found me great, great, great (etc etc) Uncle Fang!
So fer those of you who ever wondered who taught the birds to fly,
check this out!
Us suggies have been around a looooooong time! So next time
someone asks you ďwhat came first, the chicken or the egg?Ē, you will
know the real answer is the
"sugar glider"! Rock on!
Some Stuff about Gliders and Biting
Is it common for sugar gliders to bite fingers and other parts of your body?
It's not a very aggressive bite. Is there any way I can get him to stop or is it just in
their nature to do that?
Justinís question is very common indeed. A summary of reasons why
sugar gliders bite is below. And a detailed explanation of each is
1. They are scared.
2. They are testing you.
3. You smell funny (to them).
4. They are tasting you.
5. They sometimes use this as a sign of affection (like love bites).
6. They are grooming you.
7. And the least common reason is they are aggressive.
Please notice that nowhere on this list does it say sugar gliders bite because they hate you.
Animals are not like people. They are not capable of the emotion we know as hate or dislike.
So letís take a look at each of these one by one and discuss some possible solutions to the problem.
Letís face it, even bites that are intended to be nice are still a bit rough on us humans
- and can often be startling. Handling bites appropriately will go along way toward curbing this undesirable behavior.
Reason 1: They are scared
So first up is gliders bite because they are scared. This is
what most people often encounter when bringing new gliders home for the
You should expect sugar gliders to be scared when they are first
brought into a new home.
Gliders bond by scent and are territorial. And when you change
the people they are used to and the home in which they live, they must
get acclimated to their new surroundings.
The time this takes will depend on the age of the sugar gliders
(younger is usually a lot easier), the way
they were handled as joeys (or not handled) and their individual
personalities (which we have no control over).
Scared gliders need to be handled with tender, loving care.
Letís put this in perspective.
If you have a little human baby that is scared, do you ignore it, give
it time to cry itself out, put it back in
its crib because it is crying and scared? Or do you hold the baby
gently, talk to it softly and try to coax the baby into feeling
safe? I hope you chose the last suggestion, as this is exactly
what you need to do with scared sugar babies.
The only thing that is going to make the bond (trust) happen is
handling. Giving them space,
putting them back in their cage or otherwise leaving them alone is
never going to get you to the place you want to be with them.
So how do you handle them and not get
bitten? I have some suggestions, but the first and most important
thing to remember is donít pull back.
Itís a reflex response you must overcome if you are going to break the
You see, when gliders are scared, they often get into a defensive
their back or hind legs) that we affectionately refer to as the Mr. Miyagi
position (from Karate Kid fame). They will crab and strike at
you. Some will actually bite and
others will simply make the gesture. They are trying their
hardest to intimidate you, and for most people the intimidation tactics
It is our reflex response to pull back. However, when you do so,
you have just reinforced the
biting / striking behavior pattern. The sugar glider is saying
ďGet away from me, you big
ole lug - Iím scared of youĒ. So if you "get away", then the
just will continue until you can break the pattern.
Now I have found that if you hold your hand in front of the scared
glider in a flat taut position, they cannot bite taut flesh.
This can be very effective (and very scary for newbies). So here
is a simple tip you can employ to protect your hand and still get that
desired direct contact.
Cut up some fleece fabric (if you donít have any fleece fabric, an old
sweatshirt or baby blanket will do).
The important thing here is that you use a fabric that will not
unravel, so towels, socks, and other fabrics that fray or unravel
should be avoided.
Cut the fabric a little smaller than a face cloth. Put this
ďbonding blanketĒ in the sleep pouch with your gliders. Now when you go
to hold them, use the bonding blanket over your hand. This leaves one
hand free to use to pet the
sugar glider and comfort it to make it feel safe.
I typically donít recommend gloves because this will cover your
natural scent and that is one way a glider comes to know you. Leather
gloves have a distinct scent of their own and while leather gloves
would certainly protect you, they will not only hide your scent, but
put a new scent around the gliders that does nothing to facilitate
their getting to know you.
Another technique you can use is to keep an extra sleeping pouch
Turn it inside out and use it over your hand to gently capture your
it is running around the cage) and then flip it right side out).
Keep the top of the pouch closed with your hand and pet the glider from
Continue to do this until you are comfortable with putting your hand in
the pouch with the glider to hold it, pet it, let it sleep in your hand
inside the pouch.
Put in your time and you will be rewarded!
Reasons 2, 4, 5 and 6: Testing, Tasting, Love Bites and Grooming
Sugar gliders will also bite to either test you or test
boundaries. There is phenomenon in the glider community many
refer to as
"teenage nippiness". This happens when you have made great
bonding progress with your gliders, they are handling well, there is no
biting, and then things seem to go in reverse gear.
All of a sudden, the bites start again. We hear about this fairly
often with gliders that are going through the age of puberty.
This may be a time when lifetime pecking orders are established and
personality development is maturing, along with the animalís physical
Teenage nippiness is not usually done with a Mr. Miyagi posture and
there is often no crabbing.
Youíll just be holding your glider and all of a sudden, the glider will
just chomp down.
This can be annoying and I find most gliders just grow out of the
It is also hard to draw distinct behavior lines between teenage
nippiness, tasting, grooming and love bites.
The definition of all four of these biting patterns are so close in my
mind, that I handle them all identically.
I will try one of two things. The first thing I will try is
giving a treat.
Yeah right, Lisa, you mean reward them for a bad behavior? Well
this may sound bizarre, but gliders donít see it as a bad
Tasting you is a form of identification; grooming and "love bites" are
natural activities between animals in a colony - they are a show of
So while "teenage nippiness" may be better classified as a form of
rebellion, the other
three types are more affectionate and show up in a similar manner.
I find that the treat will often distract the glider from
biting. Arnold did this for years and I almost felt that I taught
him to chomp on me when he wanted a treat.
Heís pretty much fully outgrown the behavior by now, but we had several
years of obnoxious little guy
behavior that was never malicious. Iím not a big fan of licky
treats for this reason.
As some gliders will bite, rather than lick, I opt to use treats like
the dried papaya,
mango or yogurt
drops. Even hand feeding some of the regular meal like small pieces of fruits, veggies,
mealies or crickets can be effectively used for distraction.
Iíve also had some success with blowing on the back of the head. With this tactic, I try to be discreet.
Gliders donít like to be blown on, so I donít want them to ďseeĒ me do it.
I donít want them to associate me with something they donít like.
Instead, I want them to associate something they donít like with something I donít like.
Reason 3: You smell funny (to them)
Sugar gliders will bite because they donít recognize your
scent. When I started working with gliders, I gave up something I
used often, which was wearing colognes. I have since given up on
all the great-smelling girlie stuff, including scented soaps, scented
lotions or anything that can change my smell.
Iíve mentioned this in a past newsletter, but it is worth mentioning
again to drive home this point.
I lost some of my recognition value with my most bonded gliders when I
Why? Because I smelled different and they had to get used to the
new, improved Lisa.
Now Iím not suggesting that you go through life never smelling good
you may want to shower before you handle your gliders, especially if
youíve indulged in some nice smelling products since your last
It could go a long way to more consistent behaviors between you and
Now I have not personally tried this, but I have no reason to believe it could not work.
If you must have colognes, lotions or soaps in your life, try sticking to one brand in each category.
That way, your smell will be consistent and that will help a great deal in your relationship with your fuzz buddies.
Reason 7: Aggression
The most common email we get from the community about biting is
regarding the ďaggressionĒ of these animals.
Aggressiveness is not a trait we typically see in sugar gliders.
This is not to say that gliders cannot be aggressive, itís just not
Remember above, we were discussing the Mr. Miyagi position. This behavior is completely defensive.
It is a warning to stay back and if you calmly push those boundaries, you will break through to a great relationship.
Here is my definition of an aggressive glider:
If you open the cage door, and the glider wakes up immediately,
flies out of the bonding pouch or nest box right at you, chomps down
and doesnít let go, then you can safely say you have an aggressive
glider. If this is not what happens, please do not see your animal as
Aggression and fear are on two opposite ends of the biting
spectrum. But even true aggressiveness can be overcome.
I rarely see babies show signs of true aggressiveness. I have
seen it more often with adult gliders that have come from abused or
neglected situations, and you can hardly blame the critter for
developing bad behavior patterns from being exposed to people
who have mistreated them. To rebuild trust in these situations
can be very
challenging and this is something you should not undertake if you are
not willing to commit many, many months
- or even years - to the process. This is a rescue effort and
with that comes the likelihood that your are now primarily a
The ultimate pet situation may never develop under these circumstances.
Baby gliders that show these tendencies are more than salvageable as
great future friends.
They may take more time and more patience, but if they havenít had any
good reasons to learn to distrust people, you have a very workable
situation on your hands.
The techniques are no different from what has been discussed with
scared gliders, but the commitment is bigger and the time frame may
longer. But persevere, because you will ultimately be rewarded.
When you have the opportunity to handle as many gliders as we do,
and you know they are all treated equally throughout their time with
us, you really get a chance to see just how broad the range of
personality traits can be.
But so far, I've not met a baby that I've been unable to make friends
One situation I have not yet mentioned on the topic of biting is the
increase in protective behavior when
sugar gliders are breeding. This may show itself as a more
aggressive position with human caretakers when gliders have
Normally easy-to-handle gliders can get more protective when they have
young about to emerge from the pouch, or
babies that have newly emerged. They may not want you around
times. Since I personally feel the commitment to keep stress
levels low with breeding animals, I acquiesce to their behaviors in
This is one reason why breeding animals may not give you the best pet
But it doesnít always happen this way. Most of my breeding
gliders are quite fine with my hands in the cage, petting them, petting
and holding the babies and otherwise being a part of their
But some of them let me know - with very distinct behaviors - they
would rather me leave them alone at certain times.
So if you see this happening, and you really canít handle the mood
swings, consider having your male neutered and discontinue the
If you want your gliders to simply be your pals, breeding is not always
supportive of that goal.
You do have options.
'Til next time, in good health for you and your gliders, we sign off
in appreciation of all of you who share great glider adventures with
----->=< ---->=< ---->=< ---->=<
Your resource for safety first, expert
advice on our sugar glider friends!
>=<---- >=<---- >=<---- >=<----
That's it for this month's GliderVet Newsletter. I hope you liked what
we had to offer! If you have any stories, questions, pictures, suggestions
for topics - anything glider - you would like to share or see covered in the
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