SUGAR GLIDER BASICS
Q: What is a sugar glider?
A: A sugar glider (petaurus breviceps) is a small, nocturnal marsupial. Sugar gliders are in the same family as the kangaroo and koala bear, so they also have a pouch in which their babies grow. They get the name “sugar glider,” from two facts: They feed on sweet gums and saps, among other things, in the wild, giving them the first name, “sugar.” The “glider” portion comes from the distinctive flap of skin (patagium) connecting their front and hind legs on both sides, allowing them to glide surprising distances from branch to branch among the trees. They are social animals that live in colonies and love communicating with their colony mates, so we recommend that they live with at least one other sugar glider.
Q: Are these the same animal as “sugar bears”?
A: Yes, they are. The term “sugar glider” is the commonly accepted name for the animal around the world, while “sugar bear” is more of a marketing term used by a particular business organization. When searching for supplies and support for these animals, we highly recommend searching under “sugar glider,” as this provides a wider, and often more accurate, source of information.
Q: Do sugar gliders make good pets? Are they like a dog or cat?
A: They do make excellent pets and loving members of the family, but they are “exotic” pets, they are a unique pet, and very different from a dog or cat. Like a smaller pet, they should be kept in a cage at night for their own safety. Because of their size, they should always be supervised if they are around other pets. They require more time and understanding than a “traditional” pet. Through your care & attention sugar gliders will love and bond to you. They will joyfully nap in your pocket or on your shoulder, and love to take treats from your hand!
Q: Sugar gliders are nocturnal? Does that mean I can’t spend time with them during the day?
A: They are indeed nocturnal, meaning that they sleep during the majority of the day and are active at night. However, you will be able to spend a good deal of time with them during the day. They can adjust themselves somewhat to your schedule and would be sleeping during the majority of a traditional “work day.” During the day and early evening are the best times to bond with your sugar gliders. This is an excellent time to spend quality time with them while they are relaxed.
Q: Since sugar gliders are exotic, does that mean they’re difficult to care for?
A: Not at all! Though they do require more care and dedication than your average, “traditional” pet, once the initial investment is made with supplies and the gliders have settled into your home, they will become a regular part of your family. They do have special dietary needs. and we take great care to make sure that our recommended Pet Glider Fresh Diet for Healthy Sugar Gliders is easy to follow. A healthy and well cared for sugar glider can live up to 12 – 15 years.
Q: Since they’re “exotic” pets, can anyone have a sugar glider?
A: For the most part, sugar gliders make wonderful pets for everyone. We do recommend that younger children, below age 12, have parental supervision when handling sugar gliders, given their small size. There are also a few restrictions based on your local state laws. California, Alaska and Hawaii are among a few states that prohibit sugar glider ownership. Please check your local and state laws before considering adopting a sugar glider.
Q: How do I get a sugar glider?
A: The Pet Glider is based in Houston, TX, and has over nineteen years experience in safely shipping sugar gliders around the world. If you’re able to make the visit to our Houston office, you can pick up your sugar gliders and all the supplies you need from us. We are also able to ship our sugar gliders to a major airport as close to you as possible. We can also ship our supplies, such as cages, food, and more, to your home through both Fed-Ex, the United States Postal Service and UPS.
Q: What do I need to get started?
A: There are several basic necessities that are needed to welcome a sugar glider in your home, such as a cage, glass water bottle, glider safe exercise wheel, and more. We’ll be going over getting your home glider ready later in this FAQ, but for now we do offer starter cage bundles, in Basic, Plus, Deluxe, Luxury and Premium flavors, that offer everything you need to get started and more!
PICKING THE PERFECT GLIDER
Q: Should I get 2 males, 2 females, or a neutered male and a female?
A: If males are neutered they are pretty much the same as a female. Neutered males do not get the bald spot on top of their head and they do not have the strong scent that an intact male has, they have very little scent, just like the females. Some people say that neutered males make the most affectionate pets. Here at The Pet Glider we like males and females equally. If you would like a male sugar glider we will have him neutered for you by our vet at no additional cost to you. If your male sugar glider is with a female in his cage, unless you want to breed them, we recommend that you have him neutered. Most people are interested in sugar gliders as pets. You can choose the two gliders you would like to have, and we will introduce them for you here at TPG so they will be friends before going home with you. Once they are home please give them a few days to adjust to their new environment, then you can begin the wonderful and exciting bonding process. We have some great information to guide you in bonding with your new gliders, just ask us! Email: email@example.com
Q: What if I would like to breed my sugar gliders? A: If you decide to breed your sugar gliders, we will be happy to work with you to make sure you know what is involved and help to make sure your experience is a successful one. Just remember that if you breed your sugar gliders they will not stop breeding until you have the male neutered. If you should decide you want to breed, we carry a great product containing a safe enzyme that can be sprayed on their food to neutralize the male scent.
Q: Can I buy just one sugar glider? Are they better in pairs or colonies?
A: You should never try to buy a single sugar glider! If you already have a sugar glider or two at home you can buy one sugar glider to go with them. Sugar gliders are very social animals who live in colonies in the wild, and truly thrive when they have another glider with them. Please know there is no substitute for their glider cage mate! They can groom each other, play at night, and snuggle up to a warm companion while you are away or asleep. A single glider requires a great deal more attention than a group, and they could become very depressed if left alone for extended periods of time. Our policy is: NO SUGAR GLIDER SHOULD BE ALONE, AWAYS KEEP SUGAR GLIDERS IN PAIRS! It is the right thing to do.
Q: How do I get my sugar glider? Do I have to pick them up from you?
A: The Pet Glider is based in Houston, Texas. We welcome you to visit, tour our facility and meet our sugar gliders. You are more than welcome to pick out and pick up your sugar gliders and all the supplies you need for them. We can also ship your sugar gliders, through the airlines, to a major airport near you. We are experts in airlines shipping around the world and have been safely doing so for over nineteen years. We use Delta Airlines Pet Safe Program. You can read all about our process here.
Q: What other supplies do I need to have when buying a sugar glider?
A: As your average pet store isn’t equipped with the latest, greatest and best in sugar glider supplies. It’s important to have everything you need ahead of time so that you’re not waiting for items to come in the mail! Here at The Pet Glider, we recommend new glider owners have at least the following items ready for their new arrivals at home:
- A HQ – Outback Cage or HQ – Queensland Cage
- Raptor Exercise Wheel, the only glider safe wheel we recommend
- Sleeping Pouches
- Glass Water Bottle
- TPG Nutritional Package with multi vitamin/multi mineral with calcium and probiotics
- Prepared Food from the The Pet Glider Diet – TPG Diet, you can find our recipe HERE!
- Toys for environmental enrichment
More information about these items can be found in our article about Sugar Glider Supplies, detailing the specifics of cage size, type of wheel, and more. We also have starter bundles available (Plus, Luxury, Mega & Premium ) that offer a cost effective way of getting started with supplies. These items are also available separately in our store.
Q: Aside from supplies, how else can I make my home “glider ready”?
A: One of the most important things to keep in mind is a sugar glider’s small size, combined with their natural inclination to find hiding spots. If left unsupervised, they may find their way into nooks and hiding holes you didn’t even know you had in your home! Try to look at things from a glider’s perspective and block off areas that they may crawl inside. This includes areas behind and on top of stoves and behind refrigerators, and any ventilation areas. Make sure there are no entry holes under cabinetry in the kitchen or baths. Be careful with any body of water and keep toilet lids closed as gliders would be unable to get out of a toilet and would drown. We do not recommend letting a glider run loose in your house. Do not play with your sugar glider in the bathroom because if they get loose this would be the first place they go to and bathrooms are very dangerous to sugar gliders. They will bond quicker and will be calmer if you keep them on your shoulder, in a pocket (where they can see out) or inside your shirt or bonding pouch. Gliders should never be taken outside unless they are in a glider tote where they are secure and cannot run off if scared. It would only take one time for your glider to get scared, run up a tall tree, never to be seen again. Please don’t take that chance.
Q: Once I receive my sugar gliders from The Pet Glider, can I contact you with more questions?
A: Of course! We pride ourselves on our after-adoption support, and you’re more than welcome to ask us any questions you may have. We’ll gladly give advice and answer questions you may have on bonding, nail trimming, behavior, health, and more.
DAILY LIFE WITH A GLIDER
Q: I’ve got my sugar gliders home; the cage and toys are ready…what now?
A: Now that you’ve got your sugar gliders home please give them a few days to get used to their new environment. After a few days now you’re ready to start the bonding process. They’re likely a bit nervous about their new surroundings, so just take it slowly. You should still make yourself a part of their daily life though brief visits, treats, and their meals, but you want to avoid overwhelming them. Once a day or two has passed, you can move on to the next steps to bond with your new friend.
Q: How do I bond with my sugar glider?
A: That’s an excellent question and will often depend on your glider itself. Some may be perfectly calm when you bring them home, and others may be nervous from the journey and unsure of their new surroundings. Our best advice is to “listen” to what your sugar glider is telling you and take it at a speed that they’re comfortable with. Don’t push yourself on them, or confront them directly in their face too soon, as that can be pretty frightening at first. After all, you’re a giant to them! As they have a very strong sense of smell, a small piece of clothing with your scent in their cage can help them become used to you. They can also become used to the sound of your voice, so speaking calmly to them will help them get to know you. If they’re ready for it, after a few kind, soft-spoken words and some encouragement, a treat offered from your hand would be a great way to start. That way, you become associated with good feelings and treats, and it gives you a chance to gently pet them while they snack! Something to consider is a Bonding Pouch, a Heart Bonding Pouch or a Glider on the Go Bag, from our store. It lets you hold them close to you, allowing them to get used to your smell and the beat of your heart, while keeping your gliders snug and secure.
Q: What is their ideal temperature? Do they need a heater?
A: The ideal temperature range for a sugar glider is between 72 and 76 degrees, with about 45-50% relative humidity. They are comfortable in their sleeping pouches with a few little fleece blankets and a little sugar glider friend to cuddle. Heat rocks are should not be used! They are very dangerous, leading to dehydration, burns or death for the little glider. Caution: there are companies that would sell you heat rocks for sugar gliders, do not take their advice. These are the same companies that recommend feeding them pizza and letting them sleep in your old shirt on the cage floor.
Q: What are all these noises they’re making? I don’t speak “glider!”
A: For the new glider owner, the first time they hear a scared or annoyed sugar glider can be a surprising one. One of the most common noises when discussing sugar gliders is called “crabbing,” which can be described as sounding somewhat like an electric pencil sharpener. It signifies that they feel threatened or scared and is usually a sign that they want someone to “back off.” It can be more common during the early periods of bonding, as they are still getting used to their surroundings, and there’s a rather large person that’s trying to handle them. As they become more comfortable, and see you as a friend, their crabbing should decrease and cease. Another interesting sound is a “barking” sound, which can be a way of communicating with their fellow gliders. It can serve as both a “here I am” as well as a “where is everyone?” It can also mean they are scared. Leaving a very dim night light on may help them feel more comfortable.
Q: What do they eat? I heard somewhere that they could just eat anything?
A: Sugar gliders in the wild have very specific dietary needs, and a glider raised in captivity is no different. There is no generic “glider food” as there is with cats and dogs. Dedicated glider lovers enjoy putting together a great diet of variety and nutrition, providing their sugar gliders with the food and vitamins they need to live long, healthy lives. Primarily, gliders need a diet that is high in protein, moderate fat, low phosphorus, loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables. TPG vitamins, which contain essential calcium important to their diet, are added to their fruits, veggies and protein. We highly recommend our own diet, The Pet Glider Diet, (also known as the Priscilla Price Diet). The TPG Diet has been used with thousands of sugar gliders and is specially formulated to provide them with the nutrients they need and a taste they love. It’s used in conjunction with our custom vitamins, The Pet Glider Complete Vitamins with Calcium, which is mixed into or sprinkled on top of their food. Calcium is especially important for pet sugar gliders. As far as “eating anything,” this is not true at all. Just as with other pet animals, there are certain foods that are off limits, which includes chocolate, onions, scallions, garlic, foods high in phosphorus, and more. If someone is telling you that they can just eat a pelleted diet or “just eat pizza or whatever you have laying around,” they are misleading you. While it may not immediately kill your glider, it will have a great impact on their health, longevity and quality of life.
Q: How about snacks? If they’re great for bonding, can there be too much of a good thing?
A: There are certain snacks that are safe for gliders, such as live giant meal worms, the various treats that we sell in our store, approved fruits and veggies. Gliders especially love live meal worms! Live giant mealworms are an excellent treat to teach sugar gliders tricks, reinforce good behavior and enhance quality bonding time. We recommend no more than 8-10 live giant mealworms per day per glider, depending on your gliders amount of exercise outside the cage. Feed plain yogurt treats sparingly, the Yoggies made from fruits, veggies and eucalyptus are the best! After all, you want to keep your sugar gliders from being too heavy to glide!
Q: Do I have to bathe them?
A: Sugar gliders are naturally very clean animals, grooming themselves and the members their colony regularly. A healthy sugar glider should not require bathing unless there is a particularly messy incident, such as a drink spill or other outside influence. That being said, they can be messy eaters, and so the area around their food bowl will require regular cleaning. One recommendation is to create a “food igloo” using a modified, upside-down plastic container with a hole cut in it to cover their feeding area. It helps keep the food particles contained, while also being a stylish little glider cafe!
Q: How often do I have to clean their cage?
A: There are four parts to cage maintenance: their fleece sleeping pouch with blankets, their accessories (toys & glider safe exercise wheel), the pan under their cage, and the cage itself. The pan under their cage should be cleaned daily, or at least every other day. You can line the pan with newspaper or one of our colorful fabric cage liner. If you have one of our colorful fabric cage liners, you can simply shake it out every day and wash it several times a week. It is nice to have a least two fabric pan liners so you can switch them out. Do not use cedar or pine as they can cause respiratory problems. Regular cage pan cleaning reduces odor and leads to healthier gliders. Glider accessories, such as toys (glider specific, bird safe or child safe), fleece pouches, water bottles, etc., should be cleaned weekly. Fleece sleeping pouches can we washed with regular laundry detergent, do not use fabric softeners. For the cage, pan & toys, plenty of hot water is recommended (soap is fine if rinsed well), and avoid any cleaning agents that are toxic or have a strong odor. As gliders rely heavily on their sense of smell, you don’t want to irritate them with a strong, unfamiliar odor. Their cage itself should be cleaned roughly once a month, depending on the number of gliders you have. While the cage is being cleaned, you can move your gliders, in their sleeping pouch, to a small travel cage to keep them safe from other family animals. Vinegar and hot water is a non-toxic cleaning solution that will help clean your cages safely. If you have access to a pressure washer, that can also be used with gentle pressure. Gliders like their home to smell like them. So, we recommend not cleaning everything at one time. Example: clean the cage but not the toys once a month, when you clean the toys, don’t clean the cage at that time. Clean their sleeping pouch several times a week.
Q: Those little nails get pretty sharp. How can I trim them?
A: Using either a nail clipper designed for small animals, you can trim the tips of the glider’s nails. You will likely have to hold them securely in a towel or small pouch with one leg extended at a time. If you look closely at a glider’s nails, you can see that there is a point near the edge of their nails where it changes color, which is the “quick”. Do not cut down to this point, as that can cause bleeding. When it doubt, it’s better to trim too little than too much. Click here for a video guide on trimming your sugar glider’s nails! The custom designed, glider safe, Raptor Wheels that we sell come equipped with nail trimming patches on the wheel’s track, to help keep their nails trimmed as they run. There are two grooming toe nails of each of your gliders back feet, never trims these grooming nails.
Q: What is the best way to pick up my sugar glider?
A: While your glider is on a flat surface, place your hands in a cup shape on either side of the glider, scoop gently under its stomach, and lift. Sugar gliders do not like to be grabbed or grabbed with a grip hold.
SUGAR GLIDER HEALTH
Q: Since sugar gliders are an unusual pet, do I need to go to a special veterinarian?
A: It is true that many veterinarians have not worked with sugar gliders before, which is why it is important to research your local vets to find those with exotic animal experience. When in doubt, give them a call and ask a few questions. It will be a great relief to know you have someone available should something unfortunate happen. For a list of veterinarians with sugar glider experience, please consult the TPG Sugar Glider Veterinarian List.
Q: Does my sugar glider need vaccinations?
A: No, a sugar glider does not need vaccinations, and is not a typical carrier of disease. They can, however, become ill for many of the same reasons that other animals do, so be aware of common dangers or signs. With a healthy diet and clean environment, a glider should rarely become ill.
Q: How can I tell if my sugar glider is sick?
A: Sugar gliders are a prey animals and take care to hide their illness to as to not signal predators that they are weak. This means that it can be difficult to tell that anything is wrong until the late stages of whatever may be affecting them. A sugar glider should have perky, upright ears, wide eyes, a clean fluffy coat, and be fairly active. If your glider has drooping ears, eyes that are “droopy” or continuously half-shut, cracked fur or balding patches, appears dehydrated or is generally listless, you should consult your vet immediately.
Q: How can I tell if my sugar glider is dehydrated?
A: There is a “pinch test” that you can perform with your glider to check if they’re dehydrated. Much like human skin, a glider’s skin should be fairly elastic, and snap back into place if pinched and pulled up to form a small tent. If your glider’s skin is very slow to return to its shape, or stays tented, your glider is likely dehydrated, and requires immediate medical attention. Until you are able to get them to the vet, they can be given water, or unflavored Pedialyte, through a small syringe to tide them over. If they are dehydrated, oral hydration will not be enough, get them to your vet for immediate treatment to rehydrate, and diagnose what is causing this to happen.
Q: I only have one sugar glider, and he is biting himself and pulling out his hair! What is happening?
A: Sugar gliders are social animals and are much happier in groups of two or more. A single glider is a lonely glider, and that can actually lead to depression and self-injurious behaviors. While it is possible that over-grooming and odd behavior can have other causes, it is most probable that they need a companion.