Sugar Glider Care

Basic Characteristics

A Sugar Glider is a small marsupial possum found in Australia, Tasmania, Indonesia, and Papua-New Guinea. The terms possum and opossum are not the same. To refer to an American opossum as a possum, is shortening its real name. To refer to an Australian possum as an opossum is incorrect. The o has been dropped from the Australian possum's name to make a distinction between two very different groups of marsupials.

Sugar gliders are marsupials. Marsupials include kangaroos, koalas, sugar gliders, wallabies, and wombats. Each has its own niche in the environment. Mammals are described as warm blooded, fur bearing animals that nurse their young. Mammals gestate their young placentally. Marsupials differ in that there is little or no placental gestation.

Marsupial offspring are born shortly after gestation about 16 days. Therefore, newborn marsupials are poorly developed and extremely tiny. Once inside the pouch, the baby marsupial, or "joey," finds a mammary gland. By the time the joey is ready to emerge from the pouch (about 72 days), it is at a stage similar to that of some mammals at birth.

An adult Sugar glider is about 5 to 6 inches including head and body with a tail 1 inch longer than their body. Sugar gliders are gray with a cream belly. They have a black stripe from between the ears to the tip of the tail.

The tail is not prehensile, it is not used for grasping. It is used for balancing and as a rudder to control direction in flight.

The ears are fairly large and are constantly in motion, moving independently of each other like a radar picking up sounds. Since Sugar Gliders are nocturnal, their eyes are large and protruding and are set on the side of the face to get a wider scope of vision.

Sugar Gliders have five digits on each forefoot, ending in a sharp claw that is used for gripping when landing. The hind feet also have five digits, including an enlarged, clawless big toe.

Gliders have a patagium, which is a furry membrane of skin that stretches from their wrists to their ankles. The patagium will look like a rippled piece of skin when the glider is resting. When gliding, the patagium will spread out into a rectangular shape. Gliders can glide easily because they only weigh 4-5 ounces as adults.

Handling your sugar glider

Sugar Gliders will need some time in getting used to their new owners & surroundings. You don't want to rush or scare your glider by grabbing him quickly and unexpectedly. You will want to handle your new sugar glider very gently using a cupped hand so that your glider feels as though his/her body is supported. You will want to handle your new sugar glider daily once you get him/her so the bonding process will start. Sugar Gliders are nocturnal, so the best time to handle them is preferably in the mornings just before they go to sleep or before they get up at night.

You must work with them daily so that they become familiar with your scent which will make your glider more trusting of you. They will have to get used to all the new sounds, sights, smells, and food that are now part of their new home. During this time, it is recommended that you try to hand feed your pet some treats he/she may enjoy (such as grapes, yogurt drops or dried fruits). This will get him used to seeing your face and smelling your scent. At this point the bonding process has begun. A bonded sugar glider makes the most wonderful companion.

Should I get two?
Is it okay to just have one?

Sugar Gliders are definitely group animals. While one can survive without a companion, he typically won't thrive. Gliders crave companionship and you may not have the necessary time to socialize and play with him EVERY DAY. They love to cuddle while sleeping, and they love to groom each other, as well as play together. It takes 2 to cuddle, and 2 can keep each other entertained when you don't have the time. If you can afford 2… then get 2. If you choose to have a single glider, remember you are the only contact it will have. So be a responsible owner and spend lots of time with your friend.

Male or Female?
Should I neuter?

It is the general consensus that the male Sugar Gliders are a little more sweet and docile than the females. This doesn't mean that the females are meaner, but that the males tend to not be as afraid of people at first, and they tend to not be so skittish around new people. The only drawback to a male for some people however, is that the male develops a bald spot on his head and a spot on his chest, which are scent glands. The females do not develop these glands. If a male glider is being fed properly, and is being kept warm and clean, odor is not a problem. If you are not planning on breeding your Sugar, the best solution is to get your male Sugar Glider neutered. When a male is neutered at a young age, they never develop their scent glands, and they stay even more docile and calm than an intact male. Any age male can be neutered, and when done, their bald spots will normally grow their fur back. It was mentioned that the males are sweeter in general. It doesn't always follow that a given male will be sweeter than a given female. In fact, some females are very calm and could not be improved on. It depends on the nature of the given animal. They all have very different personalities. It really is just personal preference.. BOTH make wonderful pets!

Should I breed my sugar gliders?

It is not recommended to breed gliders. There are several issues to consider. Most states require special license that you should be aware of including International/Federal Laws, State Laws and Local Laws. Raising babies takes lots of time when done correctly. Feeding, handling and removing babies as well as special attention when caring for abandoned babies. If you have a male and female sugar glider living together, babies are most certainly inevitable. They will breed at the right age. Two requirements for them to breed and have success in raising their babies is warmth and a high protein diet. In the wild they breed in the monsoon season. At this time it is extra warm and there is a wealth of insects and other high protein food available. They typically have one or two babies at a time, and will usually have on average 2 or 3 pregnancies per year. Some things to consider: Once a pair starts to have joeys, they might not be as friendly as they were as pets. Males can get very protective of their young. Also, Sugars will eat or abandon their young if they feel that they are in danger. However, raising sugar gliders can be a joyful experience, but is not for everyone.

Do gliders thrive with other pets?

Sugar Gliders in the wild, live in the top canopy of the rainforests, and stay there most of their lives. Since they seldom are on the ground, they don't seem to have a fear of many animals. In the wild, we suspect that their only predators are birds of prey, and perhaps some snakes. At any rate, it seems that they don't have an immediate fear of most of our other pets. We've seen pictures of Sugar Gliders sleeping with cats, or riding on a dogs head, but it would all depend on the nature of both the Sugar, and the other pet. Sugar Gliders, when out, want to be on their human. When they are off of you, they don't really like to go to the floor, but rather will climb up on things. This usually keeps them out of harms way. Of course, as with any animal, you want to slowly introduce them to the other animals.

Do they need heating pads?

The more appropriate question is as follows: Do Sugar Gliders really need to be kept at a warmer temperature? The answer to this is yes. Sugar Gliders need to remain in a temperature of 70-90 degrees F, with 75-80 degrees being optimum. Our heating/warming pads come with a washable cover that has a pouch for your suggie to stay warm when you want to be a little cooler or your home gets cooler at night etc.

Are sugar gliders right for you?

Sugar gliders are naturally social animals and need to have contact with their owner in order to be socially fulfilled. Sugar gliders are nocturnal (awake at night), so it is better to have at least 2 sugar gliders so that they can keep each other company at night while you are asleep and they are awake. Although they are nocturnal, there is still plenty of time to spend with your glider during the day. Because they are marsupials, they like to be snuggled up in a pouch during the daytime while they sleep. It is very simple to carry your glider with you almost anywhere.

Too many people get a pet on impulse. Before you buy a Sugar Glider, carefully consider these facts:

• A Sugar glider may live up to 15 years in captivity.

• Sugar gliders need a reasonably large cage.

• Gliders need clean cages and fresh fruit daily.

• Sugar gliders are social animals and need two to have company or have a human to play with daily.

• Sugar gliders need supervision if you have a small child.

• Sugar gliders need care if you are out of town.

• Not all vets treat Sugar gliders so check with your local vet.