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Sugar Gliders as Pets

What You Need to Know Before Getting Pet Sugar Gliders

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Sugar Glider Sylvain Cordier/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Sugar gliders have become a popular exotic pet. They are small and relatively easy to care for, and have a cute if not unusual appearance. As with any other exotic pet, a potential owner should be aware of their care requirements and personality before acquiring a sugar glider. Sugar gliders are illegal in some places so you will need to check the laws where your live (see "How to Find Out if a Pet is Legal Where You Live").

Natural History
Sugar Gliders are marsupials; that is their young start life off in a pouch (like a kangaroo). They originally hail from Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea, and live in forests. Their name is derived from their diet (in part they feed on nectar and the sap of eucalyptus), and from the flap of skin they have between their wrists and ankles that allows them to glide between trees. They are omnivorous, meaning they will eat plant material and meat - food in the wild include nectar, fruit, insects and even small birds or rodents. They live in social family units in the wild, a trait which makes them inclined to bond well with their human family. However, if they are deprived of social interaction they will not thrive (in fact they can become depressed to the point where they may die).

Characteristics
Sugar gliders make endearing, playful, and entertaining pets. As mentioned above they are very social, and ideally they should be kept in pairs or groups, and in any case they should have a good deal of social interaction with their owners. They are fairly clean and do not have complex housing requirements. In addition, they tend to be fairly healthy (although it may be difficult to find an experienced vet to treat them) and can live to be 12-14 years in captivity. They do need a good amount of interaction (even if it is just riding around in a pocket all day), and aren't great housetraining candidates. Their nails are sharp and will scratch if they need to dig in while climbing or landing on you (keep them well trimmed). They also have sharp teeth and though not aggressive, will bite if they feel threatened or frightened. If not acquired tame and used to being handled, it may take a great deal of time and patience to get them to the point where they are cuddly.

Diet
Sugar Gliders do have fairly strict dietary requirements. The ideal diet for sugar glider is still a widely debated topic among keepers. For some recommended diets, see "Feeding Sugar Gliders" for more information on diets and the diet options that are recommended by others. A potential problem in sugar gliders is paralysis stemming from an imbalance of calcium to phosphorus in the diet (i.e. too low in calcium and/or high in phosphorus). This diesease (called nutritional osteodystrophy) can be prevented by proper diet and vitamin/mineral supplements.

Housing
As for housing, a cage of 24 by 24 inches, by 36 inches high is a good minimum size for a pair. This is a minimum, though - bigger is better and for sugar gliders the height is more valuable than floor space. The cage wire should be no more than 1/2 inch wide, and horizontal cage bars allow climbing. The interior of the cage should provide lots of interest with toys, and exercise wheel, nest box and/or glider pouch. Branches, ropes and ladders provide lots of opportunity for climbing and exercise. For more details on cages and accessories for sugar gliders, see "Housing Sugar Gliders."

Bonding
If a sugar glider is not tame when acquired, time, patience, and gentle frequent training sessions will eventually allow bonding of the glider to its owner. Gliders adore being near their owners, inside a shirt (hint wear two shirts and let the glider hang out between them, or else their claws will tickle or scratch!) or in a pocket. They will be lovely companions, who view you as an equal. Sugar gliders do not respond at all to punishment or domination, so treat them with respect, gentleness and understanding, and you will be rewarded with a devoted companion!

More Information

  • Glider Basics - basic facts about sugar gliders.
  • Feeding Sugar Gliders - feeding recommendations from an exotic pet veterinarian and an Australian zoo, along with some other resources.
  • Housing Sugar Gliders - More detailed information on the type of cage and accessories needed for sugar gliders.
  • Photo Gallery - Photos of sugar gliders submitted by visitors to this site.
  • Sugar Glider Names - Glider names submitted by visitors.
Related Video
What Is a Sugar Glider?

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