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Adopting a Glider
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Breeding And Babies
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Sugar gliders, Petaurus breviceps, are very interesting little marsupials, meaning that their babies grow primarily in a pouch located on their mothers abdomen. They have only been pets in the US since about 1990. They are amazingly intelligent little animals. They are native to Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Solomon Islands and are very simmilar in size and appearance to the North American Flying Squirrels. However, Sugar Gliders are not related to flying squirrels, and their anatomy is quite different.
Sugar gliders are simmilar in size to other small animals kept as pets. Adult sugar gliders range from 60-180 grams (2-6oz). Joeys are much smaller, being born at about 15 grams. At 8 weeks old, the age most get adopted, gliders weigh 50-70 grams (about 2 oz). Just as in humans, the healthy size of an adult glider is variable from the petite 68 gram gliders to the husky 150 gram gliders. The size is largely genetics, however a glider will be at their own ideal weight when fed a healthy, balanced diet. Some gliders will be smaller or larger if they are genetically prone to be larger, or if they are overfed or fed a poor diet.
Sugar gliders have the capability to live 12-15 years as long as they have no health concerns and are fed a proper diet.
Sugar gliders are Nocturnal, meaning that they are primarily awake during the night. They usually wake up in the evening hours and stay awake until the early morning hours. It is okay to wake your gliders up during the day for a little while, but try to keep most interaction with them during their regular awake hours.
While sugar gliders do not need vaccinations or preventative medications as cats and dogs do, it is important to get them to the vet for checkups. There are different opinions on how often gliders should go to the vet. Many agree that twice a year is necessary. Some say only once a year is enough. Either way, you need to get your gliders to a vet as soon as you get them. This is to assure that they do not have any parasites and are not sick. The fist vet check is also important to get your vet familliar with your gliders. This helps the vet by providing a baseline for the gliders.
ALWAYS take a glider to the vet immediately if you suspect something is wrong with them. As prey animals, Sugar Gliders are excellent at masking illness and diseases. Your regular vet checks help screen for illnesses, but if your glider is acting sick, it is very important to get them in to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Sugar gliders are available in a variety of places, which is why it is important to get a glider from a reliable source. There are several companies out there who claim to be reputable but sell in bulk. Perfect Pocket Pets is the most notorious mill broker. They do not actually breed their gliders, but they sell them and claim that any information put out by others is false and misleading.
The BEST place to get a sugar glider is from a breeder (Or a rescue home!). There are many breeders out there, you need to take the time to choose who you feel most comfortable with.
Here is a short list of how to identify a good breeder/rescuer from a bad breeder/rescuer:
Have a competitive price
Ask you many questions
Allow you to see their gliders
Allow you to interact with their joeys (or gliders available)
Have good sized cages (bigger than 2x2x2)
Have many items of fleece and toys in cages
Have relatively clean cages (gliders are messy, but a good breeder/rescuer cleans cages at least monthly)
Know lineages on all of their gliders (not needed for a rescuer)
If they have non-lineaged gliders, they are not breeding them
Let you know about each glider's personality and how they will do as a pet
Play with their gliders frequently so that joeys are friendly
Share their vet and tell you how often they vet their gliders
Know about the aspects of breeding like the COI and what it means (only breeders)
Be willing to share and talk to you about their breeding and plans (rescue plans as well, and how they are doing as a rescue)
Contact you after the sale and check in from time to time to make sure that you are doing well with your new familt member.
May have animals priced significantly lower or higher than other breeders (this does NOT apply to rescues except if they want a large amount of money for a glider. Rescues often adopt out gliders for a smaller fee, or for free)
Not ask many questions (a good breeder/rescuer WANTS to make sure that you will be a good home!)
Seem uninterested in what you will do with them once you have them (HUGE red flag that the animals are not their priority)
Not know or not share lineages (unless it is a stipulation of a pet-only sale or its a rescue)
Have smaller than recommended cages (sometime necessary in different situations, but a good breeder/rescuer will have good sized cages for all of their animals)
Have dirty, smelly cages that are overdue for cleaning
Not want you to see gliders
Have very few or not appropriate things in the cages
Not be willing to share information about their vet
Not be honest about personalities of the gliders
Have gliders that are afraid or bite, clearly does not handle gliders
Not stay in contact with their customers
If anything seems off about a breeder/rescuer, find another. There are many breeders out there, some are excellent and some are terrible, its up to you to buy gliders from a breeder you are comfortable with. I try very hard to be a good breeder, and there are many other good breeders out there.
Sugar gliders are not "easy" pets. They do have requirements.
That said, an owner who makes a committment will find that the work associated is less of a trial than the fun of playing with them. Gliders need to be fed an approved diet each night. Every morning this must be removed and a staple placed in the cage. Glider cages must be cleaned regularly, however, the frequency depends on your preference to an extent. Some owners clean the cages completely every week, others may change certian things more often than others in the cage.
Personally, I change the newspaper under my cages twice per week, I launder the pouches and cage sets, and scrub the cage every other weekend.
It is important to not change everything in the same day, as gliders need their scent on their cage. If you clean all items at once, the gliders will get busy remarking all of their items, so the odor will come back sooner.
Multiple gliders can be housed in the same cage, and although they will make it dirty faster, the cleaning is the same. Gliders in the same cage can be played with together, so playtime does not need to be longer. It just takes more food and patience to have multiple gliders. Each sugar glider has its own distinct personality and will bond at a different rate. I reccommend at least 2 gliders in a cage. My cleaning ritual is for 2-3 gliders per cage.
Sugar Gliders are very social animals, so spending time with them is a must. The amount of time you spend with your gliders is a personal decision. The more time spent with a glider, the more friendly and bonded that glider will be. Since Gliders live in colonies, you spending time with your gliders gets you accepted into the colony, and the gliders will bond to you faster and better.
I would try to spend an hour a day with your gliders, but if you can't do that much, at least half an hour every other day is necessary to maintain the relationships with the gliders. If even that is a struggle, then sugar gliders are probably not the pet for you.
NO reputable breeder will sell a joey any less than 8 weeks OOP. This will be within days of being 2 months old. If a breeder wants to sell gliders younger, they are more into the money than the welfare of the gliders. After 8 weeks, some gliders may not be ready, so be understanding if the breeder feels that the glider needs more time with its parents. There are sites and places that sell gliders younger than 8 weeks, however, this comes with a risk of the glider not being weaned, or not socially capable yet. It is important when you do you research that you know what a glider looks like at 8 weeks old. Most of my joey pictures are of gliders less than 8 weeks old.
In the wild, sugar gliders live in colonies of up to 30 gliders. Since sugar gliders are very social animals, they do require a companion of the same species. One glider alone will not be happy. They are used to sleeping together, and spending time socializing. As much as a person can try to be there for a single glider, they can't be awake all night, sleep, eat and play with the glider. So, while you don't need to have 29 other gliders, one companion is definitally recommended.
There is not a difference in temperements between males and females. Males could fight if they are not neutered, so neutering males in the same cage may become necessary. Females get along a bit better, but you still need to be sure that they are getting along.
Do not keep a male and female together in the same cage unless you have lineage on both of them and they are appropriate to breed.
The best decision is to buy two gliders together as joeys. Whether males or females or one of each, you raise them and play with them so they are friendly. The advantage and disandvantage to males is neutering. It may be necessary, however, it can also decrease scenting and aggression.
This answer depends on the context of the question. If you are thinking about buying your 8 year old a pet for their birthday and just saw gliders, absolutely not. Gliders are not a good pet to belong to a child, a much better pet for a child is a rat. Because of their complex social and dietary needs, sugar gliders are not appropriate for a child. Their life expectancy is also much longer than the interest that a child may have in a pet, and neglected gliders are frequently re-homed because owners or children tired of them.
However, if the question comes from a parent who is looking for a household pet that they are willing to take complete responsibility for, then they would be appropriate for a home with kids. Because of their complex diet, social behaviors, and long life, an adult needs to be the one committed and responsible for their care. Children can be allowed to handle gliders UNDER SUPERVISION only. Sugar gliders are very fragile animals that can be easily harmed by a child, so adults need to be vigilant when a child is holding a glider. Since gliders can be very sweet, the relationship with a child and a glider can grow, but the responsibility and control of the animal needs to be handled by an adult who is committed to the gliders.
Sugar Gliders do have teeth, any animal that has teeth is capable of biting. However, sugar gliders do not bite nearly as often or hard as other animals of their size, and some do not bite at all.
Sugar gliders each have a distinctly different personality. Gliders that have been well socialized as joeys and handled often do not bite frequently. However, a glider that has not been handled much, has been neglected, or has been abused will be more prone to biting. There are always signs that a glider is prepared to bite. If a glider "crabs" or makes a noise in fear, or has a fearful posture, do not get closer to the glider. As you learn your gliders, you will become accustomed to their body language and personality.
I have only been bitten a handful of times by my gliders, mostly when they are scared or upset. As long as you take the time to bond to your gliders, and get to know them, biting should become a non-issue.
Sugar gliders have schedules as far as when you can expect them to go to bathroom. They do not like to use their pouch as a restroom, so, every single time they wake up or come out of their pouch, they go to the bathroom. If you take them out of the pouch and put them directly on you, they will use you as a restroom. However, sugar gliders are not like rodents who will go to the bathroom frequently and unexpectedly. If you wish to avoid being used as a restroom, the best option is to wake your gliders and let them stay in the cage for a few minutes to go to the bathroom before you take them out. Some individuals have succeeded in training their gliders to identify a paper towel as a place to go when they are out with their owners, however, it is not so much training as being there with the paper towel at the right moment.
There are several noises that a sugar glider can make.
Barking is generally a happy noise, although I have heard it more often than not when a glider wants attention. Sometimes they want my attention, and other times they want the attention of the males in the room... This noise is LOUD, as heard in the sound byte.
Crabbing is the irritated noise that they make when they are upset. This is a loud noise that frequently scares new owners. I don't want to harass my gliders to get them upset enough to crab, however if I happen to hear it, I will get it up on the site. Gliders that are crabbing should NOT be approached unless absolutely necessary.
Crying is a sound that we hear from newly OOP joeys. They are calling out to their parents for food or comfort and they do it in a loud squeal. Parent gliders respond to this immediately, and come to see what the fuss is all about. This noise usually dissappears from the glider's vocabulary by the time they are weaned, but I have heard of very bonded gliders using it for up to a year. (spoiled babies!)
Sugar Gliders also make hissing, clicking, and chirping noises that are significantly quieter.
Their nighttime sounds can vary a LOT. Every glider has a different level of noise that they make. Some may be upset and crabbing or crying for the night (especially at first), others may only make noise as they play with their toys. The only way you can really reduce the noise is to be sure you have the quietest toys. Wodent wheels are significantly more noisy than Stealths. I have heard that Custom Cruiser wheels are also quiet, but I haven't had one.
Sugar gliders can carry very strong odors if they are scared, sick, or on a bad diet. They usually do have a musky odor, but it should not be very strong, and if the cages are cleaned regularly, the odor is not noticable in a home. If you hold the glider up to your nose, there will be an odor simmilar in scent to a ferret, however, the sugar glider odor is much less strong than that of a ferret.
If a glider is on a poor diet, they will have stool that reeks, and will cause them to smell more. This can also be a sign of an intestinal parasite, so bring a glider with smelly stool to the vet.
Also, when joeys are frightened, they have the capacity to "skunk" you. This is a bad odor, but it is a very small quantity and it will quickly fade.
A healthy sugar glider does not have any zoonotic diseases, however, they are suceptable to intestinal parasites, some of which can be transferred to people. The best way to prevent and treat parasites is by getting your gliders checked out by a vet. Giardia can be acquired through tap water, so it is important to get regular fecals on your gliders. Also, crickets carry many intestinal parasites and should not be fed to gliders or housed near gliders.
A genji tent, or small pop-up tent is the best for gliders. It is available for about $50 on Amazon.com and pops up and stores easily. if you want a bigger tent, just be sure that it has plenty of screening that they can climb on.
However, if you are technically challenged as I frequently am, this video will help you figure out how to collapse the genji tent.
Sugar gliders require a variety of fruits, vegetables, and protien sources in a careful balance of calcium and phosphorus in order to be healthy. Their diet is complex, and when feeding sugar gliders, it is important to stick to a recognized Diet. On my diet page are links to the 4 most popular healthy diets.
Pellet foods are NOT appropriate for a sugar glider's diet. Some pelleted formulas are appropriate staples for the gliders, meaning that they can be in the cage for snacking between meals. However, the pellets should not be a main source of food. Anyone who promotes pellets as any more than a staple is attempting to sell pellets and is offering inaccurate information that could potentially lead to harming your gliders. Many mill breeders sell pellets to convince new owners that sugar gliders are an "easy" pet.
The reason that gliders cannot eat pellets as other animals can lies in their oral anatomy. When a sugar glider eats, they do not chew and swallow as we do. Because they are naturally sapsuckers, they suck the nutrients from their food and spit the remainder out. It reminds me of a wedge of lime. When we use a wedge of lime, we squeeze the liquid out and the pulp is leftover. That is simmilar to what a glider does with their soft food. If you look carefully will find tiny wedges of food in the feeding bowls each morning (they look like pieces of oatmeal).
Gliders also are not rodents, their teeth will not grow back. Pellets are made for rodents who continually grow their teeth and need something to knaw on to file their teeth down. Since sugar gliders teeth do not continually grow, this hardness can be very rough on their mouth.
Sugar Gliders are marsupials, meaning that they are only pregnant for a short while and carry the babies (called joeys) in a pouch on their abdomen. The female is pregnant for 16 days, then the joeys (about the size of grains of rice at that point) crawls from the birth canal to the pouch via a trail that the mother licks. Then each joey attaches to one of the mothers' nipples. The nipple swells in the mouth and the joey stays attached to it for 9 weeks. Towards to end of the time in the pouch, the joeys are too big to fit comfortably in the pouch, so they can be seen occasionally hanging out of the pouch. Their head will still be firmly attached to the nipple until their official OOP date. The OOP date is determined by the first day that the mother leaves the joeys in the sleeping pouch with the father while she steps out for food.
The joeys can go to new homes at 8-10 weeks OOP, depending on how quickly the joeys wean.
Cages for Sugar gliders cannot be made of plain metal as found for rats and other rodents. Sugar gliders must have larger cages that have coated metal or PVC. There are several options, depending on the space and price you are looking at. The minimum cage size recommended is a two foot cube. See my cages photos for a better idea.
Sugar gliders do not require and should not have traditional "bedding" materials. The shaved wood beddings can be very harmful to gliders, causing irritation, infection, and toxic fumes. Do NOT use these bedding for gliders, not even under their cage. I use newspaper in the tray under the cage. This is an easy way to contain the mess. Others use fleece that fits, or other flat cleanable liners. Gliders can and will reach down into the tray, so things in small pieces can create a large mess!
They sleep in fleece pouches that hang on the side of the cage. You can add strips of fleece, of little fleece "blankets" to their pouch for added comfort. Wood is not reccommended for their cages, as it can hold bacteria and other organisms. You should have a fleece cage set for your gliders. You can make it yourself, or find one online.
Sugar Glider Help is a great place to find lists of veterinarians who treat gliders. Those listings may not have any vets in your area, or you may want to be sure that the one you do choose will be good with your gliders. I have compiled a list of questions to ask a veterinarian before bringing your gliders to them, however it is also important to note that there are some excellent vets that are willing to learn and be educated.
Each web forum has its pros and cons.
I recommend Glider Central the most, as many people are on it, and there is a lot of archived information that is helpful. Other breeders get frustrated with GC as there are too many people repeating questions and not listening to advice given. GC also tries to keep it clean, so some discussions can't happen there.
Lauries Glider Gazette is another option. They are a good source of information, as many good breeders are on there and there are no limits on discussions. Any bad information posted on LGG is quickly challenged, and you can observe many opinions. However, LGG is not a good place to post questions, as differences in opinions can quickly become quite dramatic.
Many breeders have their own sites, and some contain very good information.
However, a site that is not a forum has information that is not challenged and may not be accurate. I work very hard to keep my site up-to-date with the most current information, and seperate facts from opinions. I would be careful if a site were to put down the forums or tell people not to look for information online. Any site can post itself as being reputable and anyone can make a site, the information that it contains will help to inform you about them. A site that posts information that disagrees with many other sites should be treated with caution, as some sellers will put others down to make themselves look better.
I have tried to put the most helpful beginner information up on my site, but there is always more to learn about sugar gliders.