GliderVet Newsletter  |  Sugar Glider Vet Newsletters 2006

GliderVet # 54: Follow-up on Grapes; Sugar Glider Cages - Build or Buy?

This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
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Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes! Welcome to the August edition of the GliderVet News.

Last month we offered an article about Grapes (safe or not?) I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the response we received. Our favorite Glidiator (a.k.a., Arnicus the Beastmaster) will offer a brief followup this month. Around here, we just call him "Arnold", but make no mistake about the wisdom, power and strength of our favorite three legged fuzzy wuzzy warrior!

Our feature article this month concerns housing. Should you go with a store bought cage or build your own? What features should a great sugar glider “happytat” have? What are the best materials to consider and what should be avoided?

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.

 

Followup on last month’s article about Grapes
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by Arnold (and Tibidado)


Note: Some of Arnold's fan mail may be edited cause Arnold wants some of them to be shorter so he can have more space all to himself! Yuk Yuk Yuk! And now … for more "thinking outside of the pouch" advice … here's Arnold!

Hello Arnold, Tibidado here...

On the issue of grapes. I had a sister, before my time, Samantha. She was a canine and loved raisins. They were her favorite food and she experienced unexplained kidney failure. There appeared to be no connection to her diet so we did not think anything of the raisin issue.

My younger sister, Shelby, is a skunk. A bossy girl, but most gentle...although I don't jump on her head unexpectedly since skunks cannot see too well and are bigger than us, so a startled skunk next to my ears is not a pleasant thought. Anyway, Shelby was consuming grapes morning, noon and night. I would get them too in afternoon as a sweet drink item and at night in my dinner. Well, my mom was told by her canine vet about the grape issue and now we are banned from them, however, mom replaced grapes with blueberries…supposedly great antioxidants, and we both are enjoying them very much. We all were afraid Shelby, my skunk sister, would rebel without her daily grapes, but even she is a happy girl, so substitutions can be done. Thanks for your help.

Love to you and your friends,

Tibidado

Yo Tibidado,

So great to hear from ya, me ole pal! Methinks yer right on the money! So sowwy to hear bout yer canine bud. Sounds like ya have a really smart vet! There are so many food choices available to us in the fruit and veggie lists that have the right nutrition, the right calcium/phosphorus ratios (betcha didn’t know me knew big werds like that!) and low in fat content. Why take a risk? Us suggies are far too important to world peace to be risked over a raisin. Thanks for sharing your story, Tibidado.

Off to find my thrill … on blueberry hill!

Luvya,
Arnie
Cages: What makes a great sugar glider home? Build or Buy?
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By Lisa


Creating the right environment for new pets is always an important consideration. Because sugar gliders are territorial, I think it wise to make the best decision on habitat before you get your new sugar gliders so that you will already have a home established for them that they will occupy for many years.

Baby sugar gliders are quite agile and athletic even at young ages. You don’t need to keep them in a smaller cage until they grow up. Once they are weaned, I recommend that you put them into the home they will occupy as adults. The reason is that change equals stress. If you plan to keep them in a “baby cage” for a couple of months and then change them to an “adult cage” as they get bigger, you are just adding undue stress to your pets and your wallet.

We have many customers that get just weaned babies (8 weeks OOP) from us that immediately move into a cage as large as our deluxe cage or even larger! This does not present a transitional problem for the young gliders. They manage just fine.

So let’s move to the question of build or buy? I think the best reason to build is because you have a custom space that you want the glider habitat to occupy. I’ve talked to literally hundreds of people over the years who have built their own cages. If your reason is to save money, don’t count on it! If you use the right materials, it will cost just as much, or more, than to buy a pre-fabricated cage. And procuring the right materials can in itself be a challenge.

The standard for build your own cages is to use a PVC or vinyl-coated wire (see PVC warning here). Do not use chicken wire as it is unsafe for gliders. Do not use hardware cloth, as this is made of galvanized material. Hardware cloth is unsafe because the glider urine will interact with the galvanized material, causing a chemical reaction that produces a white powdery residue that can become an irritant to sugar gliders. Galvanized wire has often been blamed for urinary tract infections in sugar gliders. Do not use wood as the frame, as the wood will hold the smell of urine and you won’t be able to live with the smell.

I’ve called all over the greater Tampa Bay area to find PVC coated wire with no luck. I’ve tried the home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes. I’ve also contacted ALL the feed stores and fence companies in the area with no luck. I finally found a place online at www.klubertanz.com that has the right type of wire, but they are out of state for me, so you will pay a hefty price for inbound shipping. If you go this route, ask for ? inch by 1 inch 16-gauge wire.

Another opportunity for a cage building material is to use the coated wire shelving which is sold at stores like Home Depot and Lowes. Cable ties work well to fasten the corners and sides together. The shelves are stiff enough that you don’t need any type of corner bracing. The paint on the shelving is powder coated, which is the same type of finish that we have on the cages we offer for sale. Powder coating is a paint process similar to the type of baked on paint that is used in the automotive industry, so it’s much more durable than paint you and I can buy. And it’s also safe. You have to be very careful of the types of paints and sealants used on pet cages that are homemade, as they could be highly toxic to small animals.

PVC cages make fine habitats but there is risk. They are certainly durable, but not nearly as attractive as factory manufactured cages. Personally, I prefer to have something that looks nice in my home. I have used PVC playpens for my breeding colony at the Sugar Shack, but for my “home” gliders, I use only attractive powder coated cages.
PVC cages also hold more odor than manufactured cages because the bar spacing requirement (for this type of cage) is ? inch by 1 inch. This mesh is tighter than manufactured cages and thus creates a lot more surface area on the cage, and more surface area means more material to hold the stink. Products like Clean+Green will help a lot, but cages with less surface area will naturally hold less odor.

The universally accepted standard for minimum cage size is 3 feet high and between 2.5 to 3 feet wide. This is a minimum suggestion and as you go larger, the goal should be to go higher rather than wider. Also, if you live in a state that requires that you be licensed to keep sugar gliders, please check with your state wildlife commission, as they may require that you provide habitats larger than the universally accepted minimums.

The bar spacing needs to be 1/2 inch in only one direction. Many of the manufactured cages may have second dimension spacing as much as 5 to 6 inches. As long as one of the two dimensions is 1/2 inch, you are safe. Cages that measure 5/8 inch (which is just a teeny bit bigger than ? inch) can be highly risky with baby sugar gliders. Most 8 week old joeys can escape 5/8 inch spacing if they try to, and they're naturally inquisitive, so they will.

I’ve heard many people argue the point over the years on whether gliders need at least 1 inch spacing on the horizontal bars. The manufactured cages will often have larger spacing, sometimes up to as much as 6 inches. The contention is that gliders cannot navigate well if there horizontal bars are not closer. Folks, please let me share my observations on this topic. We’ve used mostly manufactured cages over the years and I’ve also had a significant number of “homemade” cages with the tighter mesh PVC and I see no difference in the animals' ability to navigate. BUT, I have noticed that sugar gliders that were raised and lived in manufactured cages for a long period of time have an adjustment period when going to a homemade cage of tighter mesh and vice versa. Gliders that are used to tighter mesh cages will initially slide down the bars of manufactured cage, while gliders used to manufactured cages seem to get a little “stuck” in the tighter mesh cages. My conclusion is that sugar gliders will have adjustments to make in either direction. Both cages ultimately navigate well for the animals so don’t be alarmed when switching from one type to another. The sugar gliders may look a little off balance at first, but they will adjust.

A lot of people think gliders need shelves and ramps. I’m here to tell you they do not. We employ cages of all sorts of configurations, as we’re always trying to figure out what best suits our little friends. We don’t use any shelves any more. When we did, we thought it would give them an easier place to perch while they ate their food. Most of my gliders go to the food dish, grab a morsel and will often go to the other side of the cage to eat. Some of them go elsewhere and actually hang upside down to eat dinner. I have no clue how they can digest in this position, but many of you out there know exactly what I’m talking about!

What sugar gliders do need are climbing apparatus like branches, vines, and ropes. Used together, these items can help you create your sugar gliders' very own "Rainforest Retreat". Creating a stimulating environment is important for the highly active and extremely curious sugar glider. Give them things to do lest they become bored - bored little critters often turn into depressed little critters, and you don't want that!

I also get a lot of calls from folks asking if multi-level cages are a good idea. Well, maybe for a ferret, but not for sugar gliders. The whole point of having a large cage is so they can run AND jump! Jumping is a favorite sugar glider activity and if the cage has levels, you have severely limited their jumping room. Cages that are wide open from top to bottom, with the exception of branches and other stimulating play things, is the ideal way to go.

Whenever buying a big ticket item like a cage, I know a lot of people like to see what they are getting before they get it. Shopping on the internet carries certain risks with it. All I can speak to you about on this topic is the care we take in our product selection. I’ve looked at literally hundreds of cages over the years, and as you can see, we only offer four models on our online store. The reason is because we are every bit as picky as you are and quality does matter. Also, we don’t have the overhead that pet stores do, so we can offer you a better price for the same exact product (if you can find the same exact product).

Unlike other online companies, we won’t sock it to you on shipping either. We only charge $8 to ship anywhere in the Continental U.S. There are ways to “check up” on online vendors. One way is to go to a sugar glider community message board like Glider Central and inquire about the vendor in question. It’s easy to find out the reputable vendors on venues like Glider Central.

Also, find out if the company you are considering actually keeps sugar gliders. Lots of companies sell stuff, but don’t really know about the particulars of your favorite species. This can be particularly true of the large pet supermarkets (many don’t even sell pets!) If they don’t personally handle sugar gliders on a regular basis, how can trust that they are qualified to give you the best advice? And many pet stores will not allow return of cages. So before buying, please check return policies and ask about any hidden restocking fees.

And last but not least, one of the major hazards of online shopping is to watch for knock offs. We see it all the time with Rolex’s, pharmaceuticals, you name it - somebody is going to try and sell you one “just like it” but cheaper. And the same goes with cages. We’ve seen at least ten “versions” of the cage we sell as our sturdy cage. We brought some of these “identical” cages in to review and - no surprise - we found very good reasons why they were cheaper. The fact is, if we could find similar (or better) quality in supplies for similar (or better) prices, we’d offer it too! So please don’t glide into areas unknown without a chaperone!

'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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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.

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Viva La Glider! Arnold

Lisa
SunCoast Sugar Gliders

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