There is a lot to consider when getting a pair of sugar gliders. On this page we’ll try to go over some of the basics to give you an idea of how difficult or easy it might be for you to care for a pair on your own. Please take a moment to view each of the sections, these basic tid bits are very vital to know before diving into glider ownership.
¤ They do require someone to be home daily, they need fresh fruits and veggies each night.
They are far too new to us and no where near domesticated, due to this they simply can’t live off a pelleted diet that can just sit in the cage 24/7. Some companies/”breeders” will tell you the opposite, their reasoning for doing so is simply to get an easy sale.
(Please see this page for more information: Pellets)
¤ They are very much like toddlers, they can get into almost anything unless glider-proofed.
They’re very fast, they can climb most surfaces and they love to explore. For this reason many people get a mesh/screen pop-up tent and take the gliders and toys/treats into the tent for bonding time. Usually the tent will fit in a larger living room, though many people have a special room for their gliders. Some people do have them out in other rooms of the house but you really need to glider-proof first. Think about letting an infant loose.. They may chew on cords, climb into the sofa where you can’t reach them, get behind things like the fridge(yeah, that’s a LOT of fun) or pretty much anywhere else you wouldn’t have expected them to go.
¤ They won‘t bond to your other animals. They shouldn’t really be around other animals.
Some places(mills for example) tell you how gliders can bond with your cat or dog. Sadly, this is far from the truth. They are small, fast and have a long fluffy tail.. I promise you, even if your cat or dog won’t want to ‘eat’ them they will want to pounce, chase and play with them. One playful pounce could be death for a sugar glider as they are so small and delicate. Also, cat saliva contains so much bacteria it’s toxic to small animals like sugar gliders. Most people will put the cat(s)/dog(s) away in one room of the house or perhaps the bottom floor, etc, somewhere they can be kept apart from the gliders when they come out of their cage. – Also, they have been known to go after other animals. Sugar gliders may attack your birds, rodents, etc. They may seem adorable and innocent but they have instincts just like any other animal.
¤ They will poop and pee as they please. No, really.
There is no way to ‘litter’ train a glider. When you wake them up if you give them five to ten minutes they will usually go potty and be good for a couple hours. However, if they are still out and need to go again later they won’t hesitate to go on your arm, the sofa, your shirt or anywhere they happen to be. That said, their poop is very small, much like a mouse’s. Also, they pee in very small amounts. Most owners just keep some tissues with them as this is pretty much unavoidable. (I also keep some hand sanitizer in my purse or in the glider room, etc.)
¤ They are nocturnal. So you may need to stay up later/wake up earlier for play time.
Sugar gliders are naturally nocturnal. That said, their sleeping schedule can vary. Things that can be a factor here are the seasons, moon phase and what sort of lighting is in their room. You don’t want their room dark all day, it’s best for them to have some natural light so they have an idea of when to sleep. Personally, my gliders have woken up anywhere from six or seven in the evening to two or three in the morning. They can vary gradually over time or just one colony to another(I have multiple colonies/cages). This is something many people working first shift, or younger people who may have school from 7:00am-3:00pm may not have considered before adopting. I’ve seen them rehomed for that reason. Luckily I’m semi-nocturnal, personally. So this isn’t much of an issue for me, but it could be for other people.
¤ They make noises.. from barking to hissing to rattling their cage.
Many people don’t realize such a small animal can make so much noise. The barking isn’t a huge issue unless perhaps you have them in your bedroom or have other animals that may reply with noises of their own. They bark softly much like a small terrier dog. Their other noises aren’t terribly loud, except maybe their ‘crabbing’ sound. They make this when they are upset or scared, sometimes you’ll hear a few crabs when cagemates may have a small squabble, perhaps over an especially delicious piece of food. The other main concern would be a cage rattling, wheel spinning, etc. Most of the glider safe wheels(yes, you need a special wheel, without one serious injures are very likely, check out the wheels here) aren’t very noisy at all, honestly, if they are properly secured to the walls or floor of the cage. If you purchase a cheaper cage, or one without a solid frame, the walls may rattle when they run in the wheel, jump from wall to wall and climb and play. This is one reason it’s a great idea to invest in a quality sturdy cage.
¤ They require a large cage/habitat. They can’t be left unattended unless in a proper cage.
Gliders can’t be left alone if they are loose. There is too much trouble for them to get into, typically. It’s really best to think of them as infants, they need supervision at all times unless they are in a safe cage/enclosure.
(Please see this page for more information: Housing)
¤ They need a special veterinarian. This may require driving hours depending on location.
Sugar gliders are an exotic animal, therefore they need specialized care. Every vet won’t be able to see them or treat them. Luckily, gliders don’t need to go to vet very often. It’s good to do a yearly check up and fecal, but they don’t need any shots or vaccinations. It’s a good idea to ask for referrals from other local glider owners when searching for a vet that sees sugar gliders. Some vets will offer to see sugar gliders on the assumption that they are like a rodent. (They are NOT! They are a marsupial, actually.) Because of this some vets have actually trimmed gliders teeth because a rat or mouses teeth will continue growing whereas a sugar gliders will NEVER grow. They do not need trimming or special chews. If cut the teeth will not grow back. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to make sure the vet is actually experienced with sugar gliders. – It’s also good to have a back up vet, preferably a 24 hour one. Gliders are nocturnal, often when we notice an injury or health issue it occurs at night. You can’t easily rush them to the vet unless they are open.
¤ They have ‘claws’ that need to be trimmed regularly
They have sharp claws much like a cat, though they can’t ‘sheathe’ them like a cat does. These allow them to climb trees in the wild. They need to be trimmed on a regular basis to prevent them sticking to their bedding/hammocks/etc and to prevent them scratching the skin of their human care takers, as well. This can take a bit of getting used to, they are very small and it requires a somewhat delicate touch. Once you get the hang of it though it’s very simple and easy to do. (I find distracting them with treats while trimming helps.) Some people have a semi ‘allergic’ reaction to sugar gliders, this usually happens when their claws aren’t trimmed and they pierce the skin. The holes are so tiny that you don’t bleed and some people won’t notice them. However, some people, like myself, will break out with what almost looks like hives. The area gets very red and irritated and somewhat itchy and painful. Usually, once trimmed, they won’t pierce your skin which can solve that problem entirely.
¤ They require a good deal of cleaning, from their cage to their bedding.
Sugar gliders climb the bars of their habitat, this is how they get around. They will pee and poop while climbing on these bars, so this means you’ll need to wipe down all surfaces of the cage at least a few times a month. (Most people do a basic wipe down a few times a month with water and vinegar and then one deep cleaning every month or two by actually taking the entire cage into the shower or outdoors to hose the entire thing off.) They sleep in fleece pouches and have fleece hammocks and ropes, etc. These items also need to be cleaned every week or two, usually by hand-washing or if it’s a sturdy and good quality set you can machine wash with something like smell/dye free detergent, the ones made for allergies work wonderfully. You need to leave a ‘dirty’ pouch or hammock when you clean the rest of the bedding, if you don’t they may over mark all the new clean items to make it smell like ‘home’ again. They are very scent based creatures.
Because they will go to the bathroom on the cage walls most people opt to have a cage cover to protect the walls of their home. Personally, I use fleece yards(you can get them cheap from JoAnn or other craft stores, but wash them before using as they are shipped with chemicals) that I hang over the sides and back of the cage. This keeps any pee or poo relatively contained and also keeps any potential food splatter in. Some gliders are messy eaters, they may even throw food, literally. Some people use a glider kitchen to help with this. It’s typically a Tupperware container with a hole cut out(and sanded to be smooth) with the food dishes placed inside to contain the mess.
(Please see this page for more information: Bedding)
¤ Sugar gliders require patience and understanding, more than anything else.
Gliders WILL bond to their owners/human parents, however this can be a lengthy process. Depending on the glider, they’re all very unique with their own personalities, this can take a short amount of time or a very long amount of time. It’s entirely normal to wait an entire year to bond with your sugar glider. Yes, you read that correctly, a whole year. Some gliders come around in a matter of weeks or months, but some need more time and patience. This depends on how trusting they are, how their life has been up until this point and their general personality and temperament. The key here is to be patient and go at their pace, don’t rush them or force them to cuddle/be held or be in a bonding pouch. Some gliders simply do NOT like to be held or coddled. They would prefer to sit on your shoulder and observe what you’re doing or even play with you. It’s very normal for gliders to not like being picked up and held, for this reason it’s suggested that we scoop them gently to pick them up. Place your hand in front of them, palm facing up or down, and move it towards them gently so they crawl onto it. Also, it’s important to note that having one glider won’t help you bond any more easily than having two. They need companionship of their own kind so it’s best to get two right away or get a buddy for your single as soon as possible. Having two can even improve the bonding process as they may compete for attention or treats.
(Please see this page for more information: Bonding & Introductions)