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GliderVet # 74: Starter Cages; When are Sugar Gliders Too Young to Adopt, Too Old to Bond?; Can Gliders Get Mad?

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GliderVet Newsletter
Your resource for safety first, expert
advice on our sugar glider friends!
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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
==========================

Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes! Welcome to the April edition of the GliderVet News.

Last week, the St Petersburg Times contacted us and came by for a visit with Lisa and Arnold.  Next Friday, April 18, you can read all about it by going to www.tampabay.com and reading the article for yourself.  The writer is Dalia Colon.  When they publish the story we  will update the link above to take you directly to it. (updated now)

We expect that Dalia will be offering a responsible article about glider keeping.  I agreed to the article if this was the intended approach because I think the last thing the world needs is a bunch of hype about animals like sugar gliders.  They do indeed make great pets, but they are not the right pet for everyone and they require commitment, much like bringing home a new puppy requires commitment.

We also got several calls last week from residents of the Miami / West Palm Beach area.  Apparently there was a TV news story about sugar gliders as pets that was not very favorable.  To make a long story short, it seems a lot of people purchased sugar gliders at an event or series of events that were not very well informed.

I didnít see the news story, but allegedly most of these purchasers were not at all familiar with gliders when they made the spontaneous decision to bring a glider or two home.  These people later complained about normal glider behavior (activity at night, for example) indicating they didn't even know the simplest of facts about sugar gliders.  One would think the sellers would at least tell people about gliders being nocturnal, as well as provide some direction on  feeding and care.  As a result, pet shops and rescue groups in the area are being inundated with unwanted sugar gliders at such a rate that a major TV station thought the story was newsworthy.

We spend a lot of time talking with people before they adopt one of our gliders, and we turn away people who "want one right now".  This assures families consider their decision seriously, and allows for research and the opportunity to correspond with other glider keepers to make a well informed, long-term decision.  

My most focused goal in working with prospective glider keepers is that they have researched enough, asked enough questions, and after all that feel that they are capable of making a lifetime commitment to sugar gliders.  The animals deserve no less than that.  If you happen to be someone who fell for a great sales pitch, just remember, itís never too late to learn as much as you can about gliders.  Iíve been around these guys for about nine years now, and continue to learn about them.  A lot of what you should know is contained in our newsletter archive here.  The more you know, the better your sugar glider's life will be!

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 questions.  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.


Dear Arnold: When to upgrade from starter cage?
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by Arnold

Dear Arnold,

I bought a new sugar glider and she came with a starter cage, a supply of food, some vitamins and a running wheel.  She is two months old.  Iíve been researching more about sugar gliders and I will eventually need to get a larger cage. 

When should I plan to do that?
Justin
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Dear Justin,

Methinks you asked this question "justin" time!

What the heck is a starter cage anyway?  As ya know, we raise baby gliders here.  Baby sugar gliders donít need a special size starter cage.  Methinks it's best to just get 'em in a habitat they can be happy at for a long long time.  Ya see, movin 'em to a new home later just causes stress.  Stress on the suggies cuz they like their own space and big stress on your wallet cuz you ended up spending extra money you didnít need to.

Most gliders (and even peeple) in the know agree that a minimum size housing should be at least three feet high and about the same or a bit smaller width.  But bigger is better and taller better than wider, because Gliders like to climb up high (like in a tree).  Most of our customers get a starter kit with a cage from us before their new joeys come home and some of ' em even start their new joeys off in our big super duper deluxe cage!

Also, it also sounds like ya only got ya one suggie.  Who is keeping her company other than you?  Puhleeze consider getting her a pal asap!  If ya wanna keep her at her happiest and healthiest, get her a habitat suitable for her needs and a pal to play with.

Got it?  And Justin, just in case ya need to know where to get super cool stuff fer gliders, come look me up.  I can hook ya up with Arnold tested and approved products and ideas!  Lots of peeps have companies that sell stuff fer sugar gliders, and they donít even raise sugar gliders.  Nobody knows sugar gliders like sugar gliders do.

Otherwise itís like asking a vegan how to cook a steak.  So ask a real pro, not some furless two legger that canít even glide .. whadda they know?  Nyuk nyuk nyuk

Luv,
Arnold, the Great Glidin' Guru


When are Sugar Gliders Too Young to Adopt, Too Old to Bond? 
===================
by Lisa

We get a lot of calls and emails from people whoíve made the decision to bring gliders into their home.  Theyíve done their homework and are ready for the commitment.  And the question comes down to whether they should get young newly weaned sugar gliders, or give a good home to unwanted older gliders.

I think all sugar gliders deserve a good home, regardless of where they came from, how old they are, what their past history is, etc.  But you must make a decision that is going to meet with your personal expectations, and I hope to give you some general guidelines on what those expectations might be as you are making a decision on the age of the gliders you are prepared to accommodate.

Animals with sketchy histories either as a result of abuse or neglect are likely going to come with some behavioral challenges that may be a tall order for an unprepared human.  If you are looking for the ultimate pet experience, I think with most animals, the younger you can get them, the better the pet experience will be. 

If you are driven by admiration for the species and have a heart full of compassion and patience, you may derive great satisfaction in giving a home to older animals that havenít found a permanent home yet.  If that's the case, be fully prepared to supply them an environment that meets their needs both physically and emotionally.

Itís one thing to have animals as pets and an integrated part of your extended human and animal family.  Taking in previously unwanted animals is a completely different path.  While you may meet with a range of success in developing a relationship of trust with animals in this group, the rewards of giving a new chance in life to these animals may be enough for you.  

If you are expecting that unwanted animals will eventually become fully connected to you, your expectations may not be met.  In most cases, the best glider/human relationships are developed when the gliders are brought home as babies.  Now keep in mind here, I am not saying that you want to get them as young as you possibly can. There is a lower age limit - you donít want to get them too young.  Eight weeks out of pouch is the accepted standard as the appropriate youngest age to get your sugar gliders.  Anything younger than that is not going to be fully weaned yet. 

It is best to let the weaning process happen naturally.  This is not only true because of the simple fact that Mother Nature can always do it better than we can, but this is also a time when a sugar glider learns to be a sugar glider.  Much of their behavior is learned. 

Spending time with other gliders, particularly parents, is going to affect the mental development of these tiny beings for their lifetime. It is fascinating to see how the parentís teach their offspring how to eat, and also how they exhibit different behavior patterns towards offspring that teach them other life lessons as well. 

For example, pecking orders are an integral part of colony lifestyle.  I strongly suspect that sugar gliders taken from the parents too early produces adult gliders that often turn out to be bad parents.  It is well documented with dogs that pups taken from litters too early tend to have behavior related issues that can produce a lifetime of challenges.

Now, how do you know how old a baby sugar glider is when you find what you think are the perfect little companions?  How does a person not familiar with gliders tell the age?  Do you have enough trust, faith and confidence in the stated age by the breeder, pet store, private party or other vendor you may be dealing with?

I like to think that most of us are honest people, but Iíve had local people come by with gliders they were told were 8 weeks old and because of my experience, I can tell they are really only 4-5 weeks old.  If you get gliders too young, the risk of them dying on you early is greatly increased.  So here are some general guidelines that should apply in most cases. 

If you have an average sized hand, the body length (not including the tail) should be about the width of your hand, or slightly longer.  If the body is smaller than the width of your hand, that baby may be too young.  Also, the hair on the tail should be fluffy and full.  If the fur is laying somewhat flat on the tail, that baby is definitely too young.  Tails start getting pretty fluffy around 6 weeks out of pouch age, so flat tail hair is a sure sign the joey is too young to be leaving home.

On the flip side, weíve had people call in claiming their joey was stated to be around 8 weeks out of pouch, and the body length exceed a hand length and goes half way up the fingers.  This is not a baby animal, this is a nearly fully grown sugar glider.  And if the glider is a male and starting to show the bald spot on top of the head, this is definitely not a baby.  The bald spot starts showing around 4-6 months out of pouch age.

These tips might help you make a few decisions on whether a person is being truthful or not about the gliders they are selling.  But my best advice goes like this: Trust your gut instinct and do some simple checking on the company that you are considering buying from. 

Itís pretty easy to Google almost anybody, any company or anything these days.  Make sure you are comfortable that you are getting sugar gliders from a company that is reputable and will guarantee the health of the animals you are getting.  

I hope some of this information helps you to verify the age of the animals you are getting is what you expect.  I call it the Goldilocks approach when seeking the best age sugar gliders.  You probably donít want gliders that are too old.  You definitely donít want gliders that are too young.  You want them to be just right!


I went on vacation and my glider got mad at me!
======================
by Lisa

Hi Lisa, 

I have a 7 month old male glider named Cookie.  I adore this little rascal.  I am the primary caretaker of Cookie but I get help from my daughter and husband and my daughter's fiancť when I need it.  I'm disabled at the moment so Cookie and I spend a lot of time together.

OK, now to the problem.  Recently my husband and I went on vacation and my daughter took care of the critters for me.  I asked her to come here rather than take them to her place so they wouldn't go through the stress of an unknown environment.

After 2 days Cookie stopped eating and rarely came out of his sleeping bag.  I'm assuming it was separation anxiety since she works long hours and could only come by after work.  I came home 2 days early because I was terrified he was going to make himself sick. 

When we got back, I went straight to his cage and he crabbed at me. So I just sat and talked to him and finally he came to me.  When he climbed onto my hand he bit me and I don't mean the little playful bites he does when I tickle his tummy, I mean he clamped down and held on.  I just gritted my teeth 'til he was finished. 

Then he sat there in the palm of my hand and made this noise that I can only describe as sounding like a high pitched "creak creak creak" very loudly, looking me dead in the eye.  I felt duly scolded.

He did start eating again as soon as I fawned all over him for a couple of hours but he didn't play with me again for a couple of days.  He didn't want his tummy rubs, he didn't want to do tug-o-war, he didn't play hide and seek in his cups on my bed, he ignored the tickles with the feathers, he wouldn't play with his toy soldiers, nothing.  He would sit on my shoulder like usual but he was pouting and he wanted me to know it.  

Ok, now that I've written you the entire drama, here's my question.  Soon I have to go in to the hospital for a while.  Is there anything I can do to keep him from stressing out so badly while I'm gone?  I'm afraid he'll stop eating again and well, I can't even think about what would happen then.  My family love him and play with him when they're around but they work long hours and can't spend a lot of time here.  That's one reason he has imprinted on me so much, I'm always here.  I know he needs a companion and it's in the plans but I just can't afford another glider right now.  Any suggestions you have for me would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks for your time!

Angie C
---------
Hi Angie,

This is a great question and one I think that goes to the heart of main reason I donít suggest keeping gliders as solo pets.  This is, in my opinion, the main issue of solo-kept gliders being at high risk for behavior disorders.  You see, they tend to become overly dependent on one human to meet their social needs.  When that person is out of the picture, they often stop eating and I agree with you that I think he was mad that you left him.  When keeping two or more gliders, we donít hear much about this sort of thing, but it is rather common with the solo gliders that have a strong relationship with one person.

I do think a companion glider for Cookie is your best bet along with the support of your family.  Keeping him in his space is helpful, but obviously wasnít enough for Cookie.  Some gliders will stop eating and literally starve themselves to death.  Others may start over-grooming to the point of self mutilation. 

The fact is, none of us has a crystal ball and we never know when our own life events will make it impossible to care for our own animals. You might try the Sugar Glider Exchange on our website.  There are people out there looking to re-home sugar gliders.  Some people want to be reimbursed something for the sugar gliders and supplies, others are happy to just find a good home for them.  And following good quarantine and introduction procedures is highly recommended. You can access the Glider Exchange by clicking here.

You might even try contacting some rescue organizations as many charge very low adoption fees when re-homing animals.  Also, when I have retired gliders that I think would do well in a new home, Iíve offered that opportunity in the past.  I donít have any now, but you also might contact other breeders and see if they have any retired gliders to give you, as many breeders are happy to help with a good cause like yours.

I hope the best for you personally along with a speedy recovery from your disability.  And I also hope you are able to find Cookie a permanent playmate.  That would be the best of all worlds.

'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 us! 

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GliderVet Newsletter
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 GliderVet newsletter, please send them here

If you liked the newsletter and know someone who might benefit from reading it, why don't you forward this one to them right now while you are thinking of it?  Instructions for subscribing and unsubscribing are:

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Viva La Glider!  Arnold

Lisa
SunCoast Sugar Gliders

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