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This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” - Anatole France
Greetings Glider Groupies, Glider Newbies and Glider Wanna-bes! Welcome to the September 2011 edition of the GliderVet News.
As you probably know by now, a lot of the content in these newsletters is driven by the conversations we have had with glider owners in the past month. Lately, it seems some of "the basics" are being lost in the shuffle - like the importance of human emotion in bonding with gliders, and the "facts of life" when you put a male and female glider together, including how to handle the result.
Oh, and some advice on how to get bit if you really want to!
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.
Calm People Bond Faster
I am very blessed to live in daily life surrounded by the unconditional love of animals. As of the writing of this newsletter, I share my home with an abundant number of sugar gliders as well as two lovely dogs. I've had many traditional pets including cats, birds, fish, and turtles.
Many of us who have found ourselves venturing into the world of exotics like sugar gliders have had experience with other types of pets. I will start here as most people have at least some familiarity with the Bowser's and the Princess’s of the world.
I am sure that you have had a personal experience or vicarious experience through friends or family where the Kitty Cat hides under the bed when an overly rambunctious or group of high-energy children enter the sacred domain of Kitty Meow’s home. There are an unlimited number of examples that I could cite to drive this concept forward. Can you think of any time that your dog behaves differently when someone is angry, upset, exuberantly happy, or exceedingly sad? I personally find it very interesting to observe how my dogs react differently to different human personalities and moods. I might suggest that you tune in and really notice how your different pets react to different people who may visit your home.
Sugar gliders are also extremely sensitive to the moods and attitudes that we bring to our interaction with them. Let's get into some specifics of the type of situations that can affect our moods, thus glider's ability to bond in the most efficient and effective way possible.
I find that many new owners are so, so excited about bringing home their new family members that they can hardly contain that contagious feeling of utter excitement. I will be the first to agree that bringing home new fuzzy friends is a wonderful, exhilarating feeling.
But here's a word of caution: try to control your excitement.
Behaving in an overly excited way around sugar gliders during the initial bonding stages may not serve you well. Most of my new customers are from out of state. About 10% of my customers are local or local enough that we get to meet in person when they pick up their new sugar gliders. Those that are just so excited that they can barely contain themselves are subjected to my suggestion that we sit and do some relaxing breathing exercises before I bring their new sugar gliders in for the introduction. The calmer we are, the calmer the baby sugar gliders will be.
Many people work regular 9 to 5 jobs. Those of you who have commutes and find yourself in a giant traffic jam, amidst a large storm, finding that it takes exceedingly longer to get home that day may find yourself in a less than optimal mood. You're tired, subjected to road rage, hungry and just ready to relax. Does this sound familiar to any of you? I’ve spoken to many people who have made a possibly unfortunate commitment - the first thing they are going to do when they get home is spend time with their sugar gliders. These folks want to bond, especially if daylight hours are limited. I will suggest to you, if this is your daily routine, beware of the possible downside and take a few minutes to compose yourself first. Bring yourself to a state of mind more conducive to a better bonding moment. The calmer we are, the calmer our sugar gliders will be.
I've met several people over the years who had sugar gliders and sadly experienced tragedy often at the paws or mouth of another fuzzy family member. Knowing how important it is that sugar gliders have their own sugar glider companions, these glider keepers will often seek out a new sugar glider to keep their surviving glider company. Unfortunately, many of these folks are still experiencing the grief and guilt of not suitably protecting the dearly demised.
If this is an experience that you had the misfortune of going through, my advice to you is to know that you've done the best you can do. Sometimes accidents just happen. Even with the very best intentions and our very best efforts, stuff happens. You are doing no good service to yourself and especially to your new family member by carrying around deeply sad feelings. The calmer we are, and the better we are feeling in the moment, the more effective we will be in bonding with our newest family member.
I find the energy of children to be delightful and fun. When I have the opportunity to experience childlike energy, wonder, and excitement I enjoy myself immensely. Keep in mind, however, that this hugely energetic state may not promote the quickest and most efficient bonding opportunity for your family. My suggestion is that you are mindful not only of your present mood and state of mind, but you are also mindful of your children's state of mind when it is their turn to be involved with your sugar gliders, and calm them as needed.
I've always felt that there are three distinct events that affect how well new sugar gliders will bond. The first event starts with the nature of the organization through whom you procured your fuzzies. There are good breeders, bad breeders, good pet stores, not so good pet stores, brokers, and all sorts of options that you should consider, while understanding the breeding experience will make a difference in the quality of bonding. This is a decision you have control of.
The second event has to do with the individual personalities of the sugar gliders themselves. This we really have little if any control over. I will say I never met a sugar glider that with gentle love and patience will not become a great future friend. Of course, this is all relative to the age and background of the sugar glider.
The third event is completely under our own control. The moral of the story is the calmer and more relaxed / patient you are with the process, the quicker you will be rewarded. It is ironic that those people who are naturally patient by nature tend to bond quicker than those who simply can't wait for the bonding to be evident.
So practice staying cool, calm and collected. It will not only serve you well in your relationships with your animals, but your boss might even notice and reward you with a raise!
Asking to Get Bit
Speaking of keeping calm during bonding, trust works both ways.
I'm going to let you guys in on little secret. I tend not to be bothered too much by stuff going on around me, but I do have a pet peeve. It's one of those feelings that I find somewhat annoying, silly, and comical in a weird kind of way all at the same time.
I tend to be attracted to places and events where there are animals. Okay, that was a duh comment. Really, Lisa, who would have known? My peeve often happens in these places with animals.
What I am talking about is when someone walks up to an animal in a cage and feels fully compelled and justified to stick their fingers inside of the cage wires and then become totally shocked and horrified when they get bit. I don't know about you, but if someone were to stick their index finger in my face I may even be inclined to bite. I will admit I'm tempted myself if I find an unwelcome finger in my face!
Think about it from the perspective of the cage "owner", the one whose living space the finger is invading - sticking your finger into the cage of an animal who does not know you is a pretty aggressive act. This behavior especially cracks me up when “the finger” looks away from the cage and asks the nearest stander-by, does it bite? Well darlin', fact is anything with a mouth can bite.
So next time you're somewhere and see someone giving the index finger to some poor unsuspecting animal, please give them a gentle suggestion that anything with a mouth can bite. This includes friends, relatives, family members, etc. who can't wait to see your new sugar glider. Together we can change the world - let's start by discouraging biting one person and one critter at a time!
Opposite Sex Pairs WILL Have Joeys
Here is a question we get asked a lot and it's a very legitimate question - if I get a Male & Female pair, what's the likelihood they will have joeys? Answer: Very good, almost a certainty!
As sugar gliders are still relatively new as pets, we've found that many new glider owners have had experience with all kinds of other animals in the past. Some people have bred dogs or cats, or perhaps horses or reptiles, and many of them have bred birds. While I don't know a great deal about breeding animals other than sugar gliders, I have learned over the years that many birds must bond with each other before they will breed. Some birds can be paired with an opposite sex bird for years and never reproduce.
This is not the case with sugar gliders. If you have a male and a female together in the same cage, you can pretty much count on them having babies at some point in time. Sugar gliders are colony animals in the wild and will live with many. They do not "pair" off and mate for life. In captivity, we have seen that gliders kept in pairs will develop extremely strong bonds and can experience depression or other issues when a mate is lost. Some are easily accepting of new mates, while others seem to pine for a beloved lost companion. With good introduction procedures, however, even the ones who were "in love" will eventually accept a new mate and continue life happily.
If an opposite sex pair of sugar gliders does not reproduce, then there may be a medical condition in either one of the gliders making reproduction improbable. Or they may be actually breeding and due to stress, or poor diet, or some other condition may lose their babies when they are still in the embryonic stage or in the pouch. We have found when gliders have too little protein in the diet they will on occasion cannibalize their own young. While cannibalization is not a common occurrence with sugar gliders, it can happen. Too much stress can also contribute to this very undesirable behavior.
OK, now that we know if you get a male and female that they are likely to have babies, let's discuss what you can expect in numbers. Sugar gliders will generally have one or two babies at a time. And they will breed generally two times a year. Sometimes we have gliders that will breed three times a year. It is possible for sugar gliders to have three babies at once, but this is rare. At SunCoast we have seen triplets 9 times since 1999.
On average up until 4 years of age, gliders tend to have 2 joeys at a time two to three times per year (at least they do at Suncoast on our diet plan). From 4 - 6 years, some pairs will begin to produce only 1 joey twice a year, or have 2 joeys at a time but breed less frequently. After 6 years of age, more pairs begin to slow down either the number they have at a time or the birth frequency, though some "over-achievers" will continue to have 2 joeys twice a year for several more years. That's potentially a lot of young 'uns!
If you have male and female sugar gliders co-habitating and decide you do not want them to have joeys, or any more joeys, then consider having the male glider neutered. Spaying is not presently a good option for females, but male neutering can be done quickly, safely and effectively.
We are only aware of one documented case where a sugar glider female had four same age offspring. It is not possible for sugar gliders to have more than four babies as they only have four teats and babies "stay attached". It's similar to how an umbilical cord works with placental mammals. In other words, there is a continual attachment direct to the mother for a significant period of time. Detachment generally leads to demise of the joey. Frankly, we would prefer to see only one or two as we believe that having so many babies will ultimately take a toll on the female's body.
So what happens now? Your sugar gliders have bred and the presence of babies becomes obvious when you see what looks like a "peanut" under the skin of the female's abdomen. Or you may see "two peanuts" indicating that she is carrying two joeys. The babies are in the pouch for quite a long time so remember the adage "a watched pot never boils." The females belly area will keep expanding, and getting larger, and getting bigger and you will think you "just know" you will have babies out of the pouch any minute.
Well, it may still take another month! First time human sugar parents are always anxious when joeys are in the pouch. You will see the emergence of the babies over a few days. You might see a tail sticking out of the pouch, or perhaps a limb. And it still may take another three days before the baby fully emerges. You might check on your new glider parents and see a tiny pink baby or two and check the next day and not see them any more. Guess what? They will sometimes get fully back in the pouch!
Do not start holding the babies immediately. When they first emerge they are just barely furred and the eyes are still closed. A good rule of thumb is to hold the babies after eyes are opened, on the condition it does not upset either the Mommy or Daddy Glider. This is not a time to be causing stress in the environment. We know its hard to be patient, but its so important that you let nature take its course.
If the parent gliders are OK with you holding the baby, start off with just brief periods of holding initially and we advise that you stay in plain view of the parents. Some will get quite upset if you leave the viewing area. You might start off with just five-minute spans of baby holding time. If you see any signs of either parent fretting, return the baby to the nest immediately. It's not worth taking any chances - you've come this far already.
As the joey or joeys get older, you can hold them for longer periods of time, but remember that babies need to feed often, so don't stretch that time out too long. At some point you may notice that the female leaves her babies behind and she will take some time for herself to stretch the legs or get a good meal. Generally during this time the male will stay behind and baby sit. Male sugar gliders make very good fathers and it is not advisable to remove the male from the cage while babies are present. He will give a lot of relief to the female and help care for the babies by keeping them warm and clean.
Now that you know some basic information about sugar glider birthing, it's only appropriate that we advise you on how the government expects you to handle this blessed event.
Sugar gliders are presently classified as exotic pets. For this reason, if you intend to sell glider joeys, there are government regulations you need to be aware of. The APHIS division is responsible for handling licensing under the Animal Welfare rules. Here is a link directly to the USDA for more information on the process:
As of the date of this newsletter, you are not required (nor are you even able) to get a USDA license until you have four or more breeding female animals. So if you have three breeding females, no USDA license is needed. Best to check on this supplied link for time to time as this rule has changed over the years. It used to be than no matter how many sugar gliders you were breeding, a license was required. This is no longer the case and that law may change again.
Be sure to check with your State Wildlife Dept as well as you may have state or local rules that may apply depending where you live. We are in Florida and are required to carry a State of FL license issued through the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Some localities also require licensing, so make sure you are fully informed on these issues before your sugar gliders start breeding. Failure to do so could result in fines and / or possible confiscation of your gliders.
Now here's a helpful insider tip for you. Let's suppose your sugar gliders had joeys and you want to find them good homes. Do not name them! Once you name them, you will never let them leave. Ooops, you already named them? If you do keep the offspring, it is very important to understand that you cannot keep babies with the parent gliders forever, unless all males are neutered. Sugar gliders will breed to their own offspring given the opportunity. While we are on this topic, you should also be aware that male and female siblings cannot be housed together as they too will try to breed upon maturity. This sort of close lineage inbreeding can lead to a number of serious health issues for the offspring of closely related parents.
'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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