All About Sugar Gliders
Sugar Glider: The sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) is a small, omnivorous, arboreal, and nocturnal gliding possum belonging to the marsupial infraclass. The common name refers to its preference for sugary foods such as sap and nectar and its ability to glide through the air, much like a flying squirrel. They have very similar habits and appearance to the flying squirrel, despite not being closely related—an example of convergent evolution. The scientific name, Petaurus breviceps, translates from Latin as “short-headed rope-dancer”, a reference to their canopy acrobatics.
The sugar glider is characterised by its gliding membrane, known as the patagium, which extends from its forelegs to its hindlegs, one on each side of its body. Gliding serves as an efficient means of reaching food and evading predators. The animal is covered in soft, pale grey to light brown fur which is countershaded, being lighter in colour on its underside. The sugar glider is endemic to parts of mainland Australia, New Guinea and certain Indonesian islands; and it was introduced to Tasmania, probably in the 1830s. It is a popular exotic pet but is prohibited in some regions, including parts of Australia and the United States.
Sugar Glider Pet
While sugar gliders look like flying squirrels, they are not rodents. Sugar gliders are in the marsupial family, like kangaroos. And like kangaroos, they have a pouch in which females raise their young. They are called sugar gliders because they have a fold of skin stretching from their wrists to their sides which enables them to glide from place to place when their arms are outstretched. Gliders are nocturnal (active at night) in the wild and are very social animals, living in groups of 6-10 in New Guinea and Australia.
Other anatomical features that make them unique are their very large eyes, the scent gland atop the male’s head used for marking territory, the presence of a cloaca (a common chamber into which the rectum, bladder, and reproductive system empty before reaching the outside via the vent opening), a fork-shaped penis in males, and the existence of two uteruses and two vaginas in females.
Adult males typically weigh 100-160 grams (0.22-0.35 lbs.), while adult females weigh 80-130 grams (0.18-0.29 lbs.). Average lifespan is 5-7 years for both males and females.
Wild-type or classic sugar gliders have gray fur with a black dorsal stripe and a white under belly. Captive sugar gliders, however, have been bred with a variety of fur colors and patterns.
Sugar Glider For Sale
Sugar gliders, aka “sugar bears,” may steal hearts online and in person, but their very appeal is also their downfall. Shoppers may buy these social and sensitive animals while walking around in the mall and seeing them being peddled at a kiosk. But often impulse buyers quickly realize that they are unprepared for the responsibility of caring for these active, inquisitive, nocturnal animals.
Sugar gliders are available from shelters, breeders, and pet stores across the country. They make excellent pets for people who take the time to learn about their needs before acquiring them.
As they are extremely social animals that get depressed when housed alone, sugar gliders should never be kept singly as pets but rather should be housed in pairs. Males and females may be kept together, as long as the male is neutered after 5-6 months of age — a relatively simple procedure that is commonly performed by glider-savvy veterinarians. If not neutered, the male will mate with the female to produce 1-2 babies (called joeys) after sexual maturity (about 8 months in females and 12 months in males).
Sugar gliders are playful, curious animals that typically love to hang out with both their cage-mates and their human caretakers. Given their natural affinity for pouches, they generally love to curl up in a shirt pocket or in a fabric pouch. Pouches designed for sugar gliders are typically available in pet stores.
They must be handled daily by their owners to become tame or they tend to be nippy. Thus, they are not great pets for families with very young children. Since they are nocturnal, they are best for people who have time available to handle them at night. Given their quick movements and inquisitive nature, they must only be allowed out of their cages while closely supervised, in pet-proofed areas free of electric cords and other dangerous objects on which they might chew.
Sugar Glider Care and Housing
They should be housed in as large a cage as possible to enable them to jump, leap, and glide around. Minimum size cage requirements for a single glider are 3’ x 2’ x 3’. Securely locked, metal cages with bar spacing no more than 0.5” apart are best, as sugar gliders are notorious escape artists. They should be allowed out of their cages daily for exercise but only when closely supervised, as their curious nature tends to get them into trouble.
Cages should contain a small pouch or bag (commercially available) placed high in the cage for sleeping and hiding during the day. Cages may be lined with shredded paper or recycled paper-based bedding. Bedding should be spot-cleaned daily and thoroughly changed weekly.
Cages also should contain branches and shelves (also commercially available) on which gliders can perch at different levels within the cage. Bird toys and swings and smooth-sided exercise wheels meant for rodents also may be enjoyed by gliders. The location of toys within the cage should be varied periodically to keep gliders mentally stimulated.
The cage should also contain multiple food dishes, as well as a water dish or sipper bottle, depending on what the glider is used to drinking from, all of which should be refreshed daily. Ideally, cages should be kept in rooms maintained between 75-80°F, but gliders can tolerate temperatures between 65-90°F.
Sugar Glider Cage
Sugar gliders are small marsupials that make great pets in the proper environment. Like any other potential pet, you should make sure you spend time with one prior to making the decision to bring one into your home. You can spend time with a sugar glider at the pet store, a rescue or at the house of a sugar glider’s owner.
Like other marsupials, sugar gliders have a pouch. They are small, arboreal and agile with a body weight of barely four ounces. They are omnivores and insectivores, and therefore require a varied diet. Sugar gliders live for 10 to 14 years, though some are known to live longer. They are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and sleep for much of the day. Sugar gliders are social animals and often thrive better in groups. It is important to think about all of these factors as well as average costs for food, housing and veterinary care when considering a sugar glider as a pet.
Creating a Comfortable Home for Sugar Gliders
Sugar gliders should be housed in a cage that is as large as possible. The cage should be made of wire and have multiple perches as well as places to hide. Boxes, hammocks, pouches and tunnels are also recommended as they not only provide security but also give your sugar glider something to do. Proper bedding like shredded newspaper, Oxbow Pure Comfort Bedding or CareFresh must be provided.
The cage should be cleaned at least one a week. Sugar gliders may spend time out of the cage but must be supervised as other pets in the household may attack or play roughly with them. You should also supervise sugar gliders when he/she is with a child. Children may accidentally injure your pet with rough handling, or the sugar glider could potentially bite the child.
A Diet Full of Fruits, Veggies and Insects
Sugar gliders eat a variety of things in the wild, including plant material (eucalyptus gum), sap, nectar, pollen grains and insects. They will also eat bird eggs, lizards, small birds and other small prey items. This diet is challenging to replicate in captivity. A variety of food items have been recommended to mimic their natural diet and help them succeed in captivity. They have very low caloric requirements; the average adult glider requires only 20 to 25 calories per day. They also have low nitrogen (protein) requirements and only need 100 mg of protein per day.
There are several commercial diets available, including Mazrui insectivore diets and gel, Brisky sugar glider, high protein Womberoo Complete, Glider Kids Reduced Honey, Glider R Chow and Glider R Gravy, all of which are easily found on the internet and available for purchase. All of these diets should be fed in conjunction with fruits, vegetables and insects to round out the diet. Fruit and vegetables should include but are not limited to apples, pears, sweet potatoes, watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, carrots, kiwi, mango and blueberries.
If using insects, variety is important (crickets, meal worms, wax worms, moths and spiders, etc.), and the insects should be fed high-quality food such as commercial cricket food. Ideally, it is important to have a calcium phosphorus ratio that is in the range of one to-one or two-to-one calcium to phosphorus. Avoiding fats and refined sugars is equally as important as they are predisposed to metabolic bone disease. Feed your sugar glider once a day in the late afternoon/early evening. Food and/or insects may be hidden throughout the environment to encourage normal foraging behavior. Foraging provides exercise as well as mental stimulation.
How much is a sugar glider?
Buying a baby sugar glider, or joey, aged eight to twelve weeks, costs between $200 and $500, depending on the region and the pet’s personality and other attributes. Older sugar gliders cost less, between $100 to $150 because they’ll be harder to train and are therefore less desirable. Look for a USDA-licensed breeder.
Do Sugar Gliders bite you?
Such bites rarely hurt, but most likely will take a human by surprise. Once you have earned its trust and formed a bond with your sugar glider, it will enjoy grooming you. When it grooms you, it will bite lightly (more like scraping its teeth on your skin) and lick repetitively.
Are sugar gliders dangerous?