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Sugar Glider Care

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Sugar gliders do indeed make extraordinary pets.  It is not, however, the best pet for every household.  Gliders, like all exotic pets, have particular needs specific to their species.  They also live 12-14 years in captivity.  The decision to add a glider to your household is one that we hope you consider carefully.  Our glider friends are not difficult animals to keep. 

Some people you talk to will make it sound like rocket science.  It's just a matter of knowing basic information concerning housing, nutrition, socialization, and potential health hazards.  You are always welcome to correspond with us and we will gladly share the wealth of experience we've enjoyed while successfully raising and caring for a significant colony of wonderful sugar gliders and joeys. 

So now you've decided to get a sugar glider.  What do you do now?  Let's take a crash course in the four top subjects that you will need to become familiar with in order to make this adventure great for you and your new pet. 

Sugar Glider Housing 

Your sugars glider cage should be big enough for the critter to have ample room to jump and glide.  We suggest a minimum size of  30 x18 x 36.  It's better to go taller and narrower with housing than shorter and wider.  The bigger the cage is the better.  You will want to outfit your cage with hanging food dishes, a hamster type bottle, perches, and a variety of toys.  Vertical branches and climbing ropes  work well.  Our favorite glider toy is the Wodent Wheel as it gives them lots of exercise and sugar gliders weally wike it a wot! 

Cages made of wire construction are the most desirable.  Glass  surfaces, like aquariums, or other surfaces that prohibit a glider from climbing are extremely detrimental and likely to lead to hip fusions and other joint problems.  You want your glider to be able to scale the walls of the cage easily, hang from the top and have perches, ledges or other types of platforms they can jump and swing from.

Sugar Glider Nutrition

By now you've probably read all kinds of articles on feeding sugar gliders and may even feel a little overwhelmed by the variety of opinions and suggestions that you see.  Let's simplify the whole feeding issue.  This is SunCoast Sugar Gliders feeding plan easy as food groups 1- 2 - 3.

1) Feed your glider a portion of fresh fruits or vegetables.  We feed them a single fruit or veggie each day and vary the choice each day.  For example, tonight may be apples, tomorrow pears, the next day sweet potatoes, the following day cantaloupe, etc. 

2) Feed your glider an almost equal portion of protein.  We are strong advocates of sugar gliders getting at least 50% protein in their diets.  We use the following for protein sources and vary them each night: Chicken or turkey baby food, mealworms, crickets, boiled eggs (plain or mixed with a protein cereal and a dab of honey or apple juice).  We also alternate yogurt (with fruit) as part of this category as they babies seem to do very well with yogurt.

Food groups one and two should be fed in the evening with any uneaten foods removed in the morning to prevent spoilage. 

3) Feed your glider some source of dry food that will be left in the cage for twenty four hours.  We use a combination of dry foods and mix them in a coffee grinder until the babies have developed a taste for them.  The glider should be getting most of its nutrition from the previous two categories, but they will eat more some days than others and the dry food is a great supplement for them to snack on. 

We use Wholesome Balance Chicken and Brown Rice Blend and berries & bugs.  Fresh portions of the staple food should be left in the cage 24 hours a day.  Sometimes sugar gliders will soil the staple food and the food should be changed out when that happens.  Never give your glider an inexpensive dry cat food as it could cause intestinal blockage or urinary tract problems.

Be sure that your glider is eating some from each group 1 & 2.  If they don't eat a lot of group 3, it is not a cause for concern as they are filling up on the fresh, healthy foods found in the first two categories.  If your glider seems to be eating all of its fruit and barely eating from the protein sources, then skip the fruit one or two nights a week to force them to consume more protein.  Some gliders can be picky eaters and only pick out the things they like best, so observation is key to maintaining your gliders' healthy diet. 

There are certainly other diet plans available such as Leadbeater's mix or the Taronga Zoo Diet.  You will want to keep your glider on a diet similar to ours when you get it, and if you choose to use a different formula, then make the change gradually. 

Last, but not least, you will want to supplement your gliders' vitamin and mineral intake.  We use Vionate and Rep-Cal daily and sprinkle it on the serving of fruit or veggies.  You may also administer vitamins and minerals by adding to a small serving of apple juice or nectar.  You never want to mix vitamins with the glider water supply as this can create growth in the water bottle that may not be healthy.

For details on suggested diet, see the newsletter archive here.

Socialization and Bonding

Now we get to the fun part about being owned by sugar gliders.  You want a pet that will be your companion and "connect" with you in a special way.  You will need to go through this process with the same attitude as you would with a puppy.  You may very well get results within a couple of days, but it is a work in progress and your glider can continue to learn and learn and bond and bond as long as you put the time in.  You wouldn't expect a puppy to be housebroken, know its name, know how to sit, and not to chew within a few days of bringing it home, right?  Well, your sugar gliders will need time to acclimate to you and the new environment as well.  The bonding process is what creates a "tame" glider - they want to be with
you and are happy to see you when you approach.

When you first get your glider, it may fuss a lot.  The funny sound they make when they are afraid is called crabbing.  Some gliders talk more than others, some gliders will make the sound along with a defensive posture, and some gliders will get in "attack" mode while crabbing.  Do not let this behavior put you off.  Your new friend is just a little scared. 

It’s now living in a new house with new humans and needs to get used to the new space.  Carry your glider with you frequently.  If you take your glider out for more than 45-60 minutes at a time, make sure it has access to food and water.  We often drop apple pieces into the bonding pouch so the baby doesn't get hungry.  We also offer the tip of the hamster bottle with fresh water and, if the joey is thirsty, it will take a drink. 

As you sense that your joey is acclimating more to its environment and getting more comfortable with you, then put your hand in the pouch and pet the glider.  If it continues to crab, that's OK, just stroke it calmly until it settles down.  If the glider tries to bite you, you may want to pet it from the outside of the pouch until it settles.  A word of caution: do not pull away from a glider trying to bite.  If the animal senses fear, your reaction will actually motivate the glider to try and bite again.  Keep calm.

Gliders bond by scent and we’ve found that leaving items in the cage with your scent on it will help to expedite bonding.  Wear an old T-shirt for several hours and when you take it off, put it in the gliders’ cage.  Or you can rub a paper towel on your face and neck.  Your body oils will “scent” the paper towel and you can put this in the sugar gliders’ sleeping pouch.

Spend time with your glider.  The more time you can spend with your new found friend, the closer your bonds will develop.  This is the fun part of having sugar gliders as members of your family. 

Many people have successfully kept single sugar gliders without the glider developing any social problems.  If you choose to get just one, you really need to spend a lot of time with it - at least three hours a day.  Sugar gliders are incredibly social by nature, and when lacking companionship are prone to depression.  The depression can lead to a variety of disorders from overeating, to extreme shyness to not eating at all.  We recommend that most people consider keeping at least two sugar gliders together.

Is it fact or fiction that keeping more than one glider makes it harder to bond with them?  Sugar gliders are capable of loving many.  In the wild, sugar gliders live in colonies made up of multiple animals.  In our own household, we keep four sugar gliders strictly as pets.  The four all live together in one sugar glider mansion. 

They love each other dearly.  They all love the humans in our household.  And one of these gliders has developed an incredibly strong bond with both our dog and our cat (see Arnold and Fais Do in this picture).  Please be cautioned, however, that gliders cannot compete with bigger animals and you must supervise your gliders interaction with other pets to prevent injury or worse.  The moral of the story is that keeping multiple gliders will not affect their ability or desire to develop a strong bond with their human companions.  Arnold

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