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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes! Welcome to the September 2009 edition of the GliderVet News.
This month we will start with a discussion on temperament changes you may experience with your sugar gliders when they are
breeding. Do gliders change when they are breeding, and do they change
Next, we're going to offer a “prequel” to the many articles we have already
written on bonding with sugar gliders.
Just about everything we’ve written in the past starts off the
discussion of bonding with what to do once the new sugar gliders are
out of the cage. But how do you get them out of the cage in the
Finally, last month we told you about a brand new staple food for sugar gliders and this
has led to a bunch of questions. The primary questions were these: how do
we switch from one food to another? And is it OK to use multiple staple foods?
We’ll wrap up this month with a discussion of using different staple foods.
So sit back, enjoy and keep those great questions coming. We’ll do our best to keep great answers coming as well!
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.
Temperament Changes in Breeding Sugar Gliders
I have finally finished reading ALL of the GliderVet newsletters
and I was right about them answering most of my questions.
I still have a few though so I’ll start with one of my most
important. I read in the newsletters that sometimes when gliders
have joeys their attitudes can change. Is this usually a
permanent change or do they usually go back to being your lovable
Good question Shannon,
They usually go back to a calmer state, BUT some gliders will have
new joeys in pouch as older joeys are old enough to remove from Mom and
Dad. Some gliders can get protective when babies are in pouch or
out of pouch. If protective with babies in pouch, then it may
seem like they are always protective as some gliders will breed again
before the last set of babies is not fully weaned yet, so it becomes a
continuous cycle. And removing the male to slow down production
is not a good idea as he is very helpful in raising the young.
Breeding sugar gliders is one thing. Keeping sugar gliders as
is often a completely different experience. I do
both! My pets are my pets and my breeding gliders are my breeding
gliders until they retire and become pets.
Most of my sugar glider breeding pairs are fine with us putting our
hands in their homes, touching them, and in most cases touching their
joeys. But I would say about half of our breeding colony is not
that thrilled with it. You can see by their jerky movements and
suspicious looks that humans might be tolerated, but not really welcome
into the space with new joeys. And some sugar gliders can be
downright vocal and physical about human presence when joeys are about
or have recently emerged from pouch.
With joeys at hand, you may see temperament changes in either the
male or the female or both! Hormones are a powerful force of
nature and even the most bonded gliders may surprise you by their
turnaround in attitude toward you when they have young.
Most gliders will revert to that self that you knew prior to having
young when they are out of the breeding cycle. Most of the people
I speak to are most interested in having the best pet experience.
If that is what you are looking for, then don’t breed your sugar
gliders. Having male gliders neutered is always an option.
Some people really want to have both experiences. They want to
breed once or twice, and then have the males neutered to focus on the
best pet experience going forward. You can certainly do that but
I encourage you to find out the going rate for neutering prior to going
there. It seems like the pricing is quite varied and widespread
across the country. Some areas are as low as $125.00 and if
you’re lucky you might even find a vet that will do it for
$75.00. This is quite a bit lower than the averages in my own
area. I’ve spoken to some folks that are being quoted $400.00
My best advice is to have a game plan before starting the game. Know
what your costs will be to neuter the male(s) and know what you are
going to do with the joeys that are ultimately born. The wrong
reason to breed gliders is to just see how the marsupial process works
(and figure the rest of it out later). Figure it all out first so
that you have no unpleasant surprises down the road and make sure you
are prepared to find good and responsible homes for your joeys.
If you plan to keep your joeys, which many people do, make sure there
is no opportunity for inbreeding.
Done responsibly, the breeding experience can be quite
know you may find some attitude changes associated with breeding, and
you will have more odor with a breeding male. Have a solid game
plan for responsible placement of the joeys once fully weaned.
Bonding Step Number One: From Cage to Pouch
Many prospective glider keepers will read everything they can get
their hands on prior to bringing home new sugar gliders.
This is a good thing and something we encourage all new pet keepers to
do in advance.
The better prepared you are for your new friends, the easier it will be
for you and the better life your pets are likely to have.
I have the opportunity to speak with a great many people and while
most people understand the basic concepts of bonding, many have a hard
time taking the very first step.
A lot of people see the bonding starting place as carrying the sugar
gliders around during the day in a
bonding pouch. Well, that
is not really the starting point.
The starting point is getting the gliders from their cage to the
bonding pouch and this is something that can intimidate a lot of
people, especially when the gliders are not acclimated to the new home
fussy as a result.
While we don’t really recommend wearing gloves (in most cases) to
handle the sugar gliders, you might find that wearing some sort of
protective hand cover during this first step will not only make the
process easier for you, but can be more comforting to your new sugar
gliders as well.
I’ll expand on this in a moment.
The easiest way, and least stressful way to get gliders from cage to
bonding pouch is to do this during the day, while they are asleep.
sleeping pouch with the gliders
Either use your bare hand, a bonding blanket, or a paper towel to
remove the gliders from the sleeping pouch, which should now be in your
lap, and relocate the sugar gliders one at a time to their own,
If you are not sure what a bonding blanket is, then here’s the
scoop. Take some fleece fabric either purchased from the fabric store
or cut from an old baby blanket or sweat shirt and cut it a little
smaller than a face cloth. Let the babies sleep with this little
You can now use a blanket that smells like them to transfer them to the
Spritzing the blanket, your hand, and the inside of the bonding pouch
with some bonding potion will help to relax them as well.
Easy enough? Well yes, if they are in the sleeping pouch when you are ready to spend some bonding time.
What do you do if they jump out of the sleeping pouch and are running around the cage?
This tends to be the bigger challenge for most new glider keepers.
The more you chase them around the cage with your bare hand, the
more excited (stressed) you are making your new pets.
A big part of developing that relationship of trust with your sugar
gliders is to make them feel safe.
Chasing them around with your big giant hand is not usually going to
make them feel safe.
So here’s a simple tip on how to manage a glider on the go. Keep
a spare sleeping pouch handy. This is what you are going to use as your
Again, spritzing with some bonding potion will help to relax the
With the sleeping pouch hand cover, use this like a baseball glove to
capture your sugar glider.
Sugar gliders like to be wrapped in fabric. Of course, you do not want
to squeeze them or put pressure on the body.
You will simply wrap them loosely in the fabric as this is a comforting
position for most sugar gliders.
Now transfer the sugar glider to your bonding pouch and let the bonding
As a reminder, whenever your sugar glider crabs, you should take
this as an opportunity to calm them down and make them feel safe.
Hold them from the outside of the bonding pouch, speak in a low, soft
voice until the crabbing ceases.
Use a shh shh sound as you would with an infant. When you are
able to find that right combination of holding and sounds that comforts
your glider, do it
every time they crab. By becoming their comforter, you build the
trust more quickly.
Changing, Mixing, and Alternating Staple Foods
Last month we introduced a brand new staple food to the sugar glider community called
Wholesome Balance Chicken and Brown Rice Blend.
I’m pleased to say that we are getting a lot of reports from gliders
coast to coast
of two patagiums up! Remember Mikey from the cereal
commercials? He likes it! And he doesn’t like
anything! We’re really happy to know that so many others are
having the same experience we did.
This new product has raised questions, however, about how to go
about changing diets. Most of us know from past pet experiences
that sudden dietary changes can often be hard on the digestive systems
of animals (on people too!). It is often encouraged by the
veterinary community that when changing food plans for pets that it be
done gradually over a one to two week period. Now, most household
pets are of the domestic variety
e.g. dogs and cats. Most of us feed our dogs and cats pre-made
dog foods or cat foods. We don’t typically supplement dog and cat
diets with the variety of fresh foods that we do with sugar gliders and
In the case of dogs, it is easy to mix Kibble Brand A with new food,
Kibble Brand B in varying proportions so that there is more Kibble
Brand A in the mix at first, weaning away from Kibble Brand A until the
bowl is ultimately filled with only Kibble Brand B. As said
above, this process should take place over a one to two week
period. Most dogs won’t pick around
their food, although I’m sure there are some that will. They will
eat what is in their bowl, often gobbling with unbridled enthusiasm
until dinner is finished.
In the case of sugar gliders, we promote a diet plan
of a good high quality (animal- based protein) staple food in
conjunction with a rotation of a fresh fruit or vegetable and fresh
proteins with vitamin and calcium supplementation. So the staple
food portion of the diet only makes up a portion of the overall plan of
Unlike the case of changing a dog diet, which is usually just a one
course meal, changing the staple portion of the sugar glider diet only
constitutes part of the diet.
This is not to imply that one should not offer the staple food as a
mixture with old Brand A and new Brand B. You can certainly do
and it's probably a good idea to do so. BUT, don’t be surprised
if your sugar gliders prefer the taste of the new food, they will only
eat the new food and either ignore the old food or use the old brand of
food as baseballs which you will find strewn around the habitat (inside
and out). Unlike dogs, sugar gliders are not gobblers that will
eat it simply because it came from you.
Because most of the diet is remaining the same, you may not have
problems with disturbed digestion from changing the staple portion of
the diet. I found this to be the case with my own colony of
gliders as we did try the mixed approach and many of the gliders ate
the mixture, but most of them picked out the kibble they
preferred. The ones who ate new food over old food did not have
diarrhea or other signs that can happen when diets are changed too fast.
We are strong advocates of a quality pellet food being incorporated
into the overall plan of nutrition because it is important to have free
feed access to food around the clock, even though sugar gliders are
nocturnal. Young (growth stage) sugar gliders and breeding sugar
gliders will often eat during the day as their bodies require more
calories to support their own growth or their joey’s growth and
development. I also find that older gliders will eat during the
day. Gliders that are sick or recovering from illness will also eat
during the day and this is often one of those behavior changes that can
clue us in to illness. So the bottom line is that a free feed
staple food is important for all gliders in all life cycles.
One of the most important factors in defining a high quality pellet
food (staple food) is that the primary source of protein is animal
protein and not vegetable protein (often some form of grain or
soy). When reading nutritional labels you should know some basic
facts about how nutritional labels are written. You will not
likely see how much of each ingredient is included in the
product. However, to comply with labeling requirements, there are
some standards that are employed by food manufacturers.
The ingredients are listed in order of percentage inclusion in the
food product. So ingredients listed first comprise the largest
percentage of that ingredient in the food. The ingredients listed
toward the end of the list are included in much smaller amounts and
maybe even just trace amounts in the food product. Some companies
include these trace ingredients often to persuade consumer choices.
For instance, they might include a miniscule amount of something
simply so they can claim it is in the food because people see this food
element as really good and healthy. An example of this practice
might be “probiotics” or “taurine”, things we see on labels that most
of us see as good but
are they necessary for sugar gliders or our other pets, really?
Something like probiotics may be great, but if left at room temperature
for too long, the “good bacteria” are no longer alive
- thus no benefit at all.
The point here is simple. The first several ingredients listed
on the label are the most important. Animal proteins are superior
to vegetable proteins, but vegetable proteins are really cheap, so most
often employed in the manufacture of feeds given to many species of
animal. Do you want cheap or do you want the healthiest?
That is up to you to decide.
Some people are perfectly happy with the staple food they are
presently giving their sugar gliders. But since so many of us are
really into diets of variety for our sugar gliders,
could this concept apply to the staple food as well? Sure.
If you are using a high quality staple food now and want to try something else like
Wholesome Balance or Zookeepers
you can do that. You can use one today and another tomorrow, or a
mixture of the two. One thing I know about sugar gliders is that
too much of the same thing over and over again can cause some of them
to get bored with the diet. Variety is the spice of life and if
you choose to employ that idea even in the offering of staple food, I
can find no reason not to go that route. Of course, I did run
this thought by a couple of our vet associates as well, and they concur
that this approach can be fine.
Other than during times of food testing, we tend to stick with one
brand of staple food with our colony of sugar gliders.
It's the easier way to go. If you are more comfortable mixing it
up, then go for it. I’m going to go out on a limb here and
guess that most of you don’t have quite as many sugar gliders to feed
each day as we do! If that’s the case, saving time may not be as
high on your list as it is on ours.
'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
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Your resource for safety first, expert
advice on our sugar glider friends!
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That's it for this month's GliderVet Newsletter. I hope you liked what
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