A Gliding Sugar Glider
Housing, Feeding and Training a Sugar Glider
The Sugar glider is an exotic animal that has found its way into domestic habitats over the past 15 years. They originate from the forests of Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea where they enjoy socializing in packs of 10 to 20.
Nectar from flowers and sap from Eucalyptus offer them nourishment and energy for their active lifestyle. As omnivorous creatures, sugar gliders also consume insects, fruits, plants and an occasional rodent and small bird.
Their longevity is similar to that of most dogs, 12 to 15 years, as pets in domestic environments. A flap of skin membrane extends from wrist to ankles allowing them to glide from tree to tree similar to flying squirrels. When sugar gliders are high enough, they can catch a wind current and soar up to 40 feet. In domestic homes they reside in cages containing an exercise wheel, ladder, branches and ropes that dangle from the top.
What Type of Animal are Sugar Gliders
Sugar gliders are similar to kangaroos and koala bears in that they are small marsupials. The babies are carried around in the front pockets of the mothers for the first few weeks. They are not from the squirrel nor rodent family.
They are ready for new homes at 12 weeks out of pouch. Sugar gliders can go almost anywhere with its owner. They are colony-oriented, loyal and nocturnal and will sleep in a pocket throughout the day. That is why they are referred to as pocket-pets.
How Sugar Gliders Bond
Your sugar glider, as a household pet, needs to feel comfortable in its family. The way to achieve this is to follow a process that can take up to two or three months. It is possible for bonding to occur in one week, but every glider bear is different and unique from the others.
They are ready to begin bonding at between 8 to 12 weeks and want to bond with everyone in their colony. They consider each family member, including dogs and other pets, part of the colony. They may establish a primary bond with the one who holds them the most.
Cats and dogs are not familiar with marsupials and simply don't know what to make of them at first. Since they don't smell like rodents or mice they generally will not be thought of as food.
Bonding with a sugar bear can be fun as well as rewarding, but it can also be frustrating at times. A fabric pouch that zips closed is included with each sugar glider at the time of purchase. The 12 to 14 week old glider stays in the zipped pouch while in transport to its new home.
After setting it inside the cage, unzip the pouch and gently turn it inside out so the glider can move about inside the cage. It is recommended to avoid touching him or her for two days to allow it to d-stress and become acclimated to its new environment and scents.
At the beginning of the bonding process they may crab up a storm because they are frightened until they learn you are not going to harm them. Crabbing is one of the few survival mechanisms they have along with being able to run very quickly. With patience and perseverance they learn the gentle giants can be trusted.
A major part of bonding is adapting to the scent of each one in the family. Worn pieces of clothing placed on top of the cage from the first day helps them to adapt quicker. Old worn clothing that does not unravel easily can also be placed inside the cage. Gliders are able to get used to more than one scent at a time without any problem.
Setting up a small tent inside the home for a few weeks makes the bonding process easier. The enclosed space keeps you from having to chase after them before they have learned you are not going to harm them.
When and if a sugar glider bites, it generally does not inflict much pain. The reasons they bite is if they feel threatened, and to mark their territory which may occur once or twice. Teach them to not bite by quickly telling them no in a firm voice.
Sugar Glider Cages
Gliders like to climb and therefore a higher cage is preferable to a cage with a wide circumference. An average size cage measures 24" x 24" x 36". The holes should be 1 x 1/2 inch rectangles instead of bars. Cages made of galvanized steel have zinc in the metal that can rub off onto the fur. Ingesting zinc is poisonous to sugar gliders.
Fill the water bottle and attach it to the outside of the cage with a U-shaped wire to hold it in place. Paper is placed at the bottom and changed as needed. Gliders mark the cage to define their territory, therefore it is suggested to leave 1/4 of the area and replace 3/4 of their waste alternating at every cleaning. This may leave enough scent to keep them, or him or her, from feeling the need to continually leave scent markings.
Some cages have a pan at the bottom to catch the droppings. Cleaning is easier when a liner is placed inside the pan.
Options to line the drop pan:
Brown Craft Paper
White Cage Liner Papers (have a lightly waxed coating)
Recycled Newspaper such as 'Yesterday's News'
Fleece squares that can be washed and reused.
Newspaper is used by some owners, although it is questionable due to the ink.
Gliders will pull up loose material such as carefresh bedding. They also reach down through the grate to pick up food droppings and accidentally pull up on pan lining that fits loosely. Some drop pans can be lowered an inch or two.
Wood Shavings - The natural oils in pine and cedar have phenols that pose a danger as lung and skin irritants. The shavings of Aspen wood is a safer alternative.
Cleaner: Harsh chemicals and pesticides must be avoided. A safe and effective option for cleaning is vinegar water. The fumes from vinegar water is not harmful nor if your glider licks any remaining residue.
Note: Bleach and vinegar must never be mixed because the blend releases toxic fumes, even for humans.
Gliders are sociable and like to be with others in the colony. You may want to place the cage in the kitchen or living room as long as it is warm and away from the stove.
Note: Non-stick cookware can cause deadly fumes for gliders and pet birds.
How to Feed a Sugar Glider
Since sugar bears are omnivorous, they eat just about anything. Gliders require protein, fresh fruits and vegetables and a vitamin supplement. A specifically designed dry pelleted food is sold on the market called Glide-R-Chow that has a fruity flavor.
Placing 20 pellets in a small heavy bowl every day provides the daily recommended amount of protein. Add fresh fruits and vegetables for their two main meals every day. On occasion, offer a variety of other foods such as a piece of cooked meat, boiled egg, or anything else you choose to share.
A gravy placed on top of the pellets, Glide-R-Gravy, is a specially formulated powder made with additional nutrients. The directions to prepare it is stated on the label.
The gravy is prepared by blending the powder mix with water. It is poured into ice cube trays and placed in the freezer. One cube is set on top of the pellets every evening.
The protein ratio consisting of the pellets and gravy is 75% of their complete daily intake. Fruits and vegetables equal 25% and usually begins with a slice of apple (about 1/8 of an apple). After they get older, other fruits and veggies are incorporated into their daily diet. They also enjoy an occasional cricket and meal worms sold at pet stores.
Feed your glider in the evening or shortly before bedtime so it will be waiting for him or her when he or she wakes up.
A convenient aspect of having gliders as pets is they require little, if any, grooming. Although they jump and attach themselves to people and objects by grasping with their claws to avoid falling, most grow out of it as they mature. Gliders that develop a habit of sinking their nails in when landing on people in the home may need their nails trimmed on occasion.
Gliders are fun, playful, sociable, inquisitive and can even be potty trained. They are the size of a grain of rice at birth and the babies are called joeys. The first few weeks after birth are spent inside the mothers pouch. The maximum weight averages six ounces and the length averages six to seven inches not including the tail.
Training a Sugar Glider
Gliders require social interaction and spending time in closeness and play. They adapt to the scent of those in their pack and are comfortable being carried around in pockets. With patience, gentleness and sharing time with your glider, you will establish a bond within three to six weeks.
Since sugar gliders bond by scent, it is important to keep worn clothing on top of the cage. The scents from the worn clothes helps to establish bonding and to allow your glider to smell that the colony is near.
To hold a sugar glider, the inside tip of the thumb goes under the chin and the index finger around the back of the ears. They walk up the arm to the shoulder, around the neck and into shirt pockets. Glider bears can learn their name, come when called and learn various tricks similar to that of dogs.
- Have newspaper and unscented baby wipes near the cage for when it wakes up.
- Pick up your glider and a wet-wipe. Over newspaper, gently wipe at the rear under the tail with the wet-wipe for one full minute.
- Gently massage the tummy and back using downward strokes to help it along.
- Allow your glider to move from hand to hand, putting one hand in front of the other, while over the newspaper for one to two minutes.
- Hold in one hand and again wipe the rear to stimulate to go potty for 30 seconds to one minute.
Generally, the only reason they wake up during the day is to potty. When you notice he or she is awake, proceed with the potty training method. Offer a little snack, play a bit and back to sleep.
Training your sugar glider to potty over newspaper usually takes one to five minutes every time shortly after it wakes from sleeping. They don't need to potty again for two to three hours unless they ate or drank. Accidents will become less and less frequent as long as you follow the method every day.
How Sugar Gliders Sleep
Sugar gliders are nocturnal, they sleep during the daytime from about 10 am to 10 pm and would typically hunt for food, play and tend to the young ones during the night. This schedule assures their survival in that it helps them avoid ending up as food for other animals such as foxes, wolves and hawks.
Sugar bears need a heat rock to stay warm while they sleep. Placed in one corner near the door of the cage will enable you to reach in and pick it up easier. The unzipped pouch can be placed near the heat rock to sleep inside or under. A hammock can be attached in a corner of the cage for resting and sleeping.
Sugar gliders are known for falling inside the toilet without being able to climb out due to the slippery sides. It is recommended to make a habit of keeping the lid of the toilet seat closed. A piece of hardware wire can be molded to hang on the inside of the toilet bowl as a precautionary measure.
Vases with water left in them can pose as a life threatening hazard for a sugar glider. Ceiling fans need to be off and the bathtub drained while out of the cage.
After you have purchased one from an experienced and reputable dealer, that is all there is to raising and owning a sugar glider bear as your household pet.
rmsharps on April 06, 2019:
Do you raise/breed sugar bear gliders? Would love to get one....
rmsharps on April 06, 2019:
Do you breed/raise sugar bear gliders? Would love to get one
moonlake from America on October 01, 2013:
They sound like such a fun little animal. Great information. Voted up.
Lizolivia (author) from Central USA on June 11, 2013:
Yes, it's a squawking sound they make that is continuous while they are upset or fearful about something until comfortable. They'll usually crab when picked up before they've bonded and adapted to the new family. Once the glider is in the fabric pouch and zipped, it settles down. It has a handle to wear around the neck as a bonding technique and while still young.
Nadia Archuleta from Denver, Colorado on June 10, 2013:
There's a lot of great info in this article. What does "crabbing" mean? I assume it's a type of grumbling. Thanks for sharing!