Sugar Glider Care & FAQs
We have provided answers (below) to commonly asked questions on taking care of pet Sugar Gliders including food requirements, how long they live and recommendations on cages. There’s more information on the care of exotic pets and small animal care on our Exotic Services Page.
If you live in the Colorado Springs area you’ll hopefully consider Dublin Animal Hospital a valuable resource for veterinary care and other concerns you may have. You can call us at 719-593-1336.
Please click on the category you are interested in learning more about:
Before Getting a Sugar Glider
Is a Sugar Glider Right For You?
By: Sun Coast Sugar Gliders
The first issue we hope you will consider is whether or not a sugar glider fits well into your lifestyle and expectations. It is ultimately important to us that gliders become part of good homes and you should be quite certain that you want to be owned by a sugar glider before making the commitment.
Just because a sugar glider is similar in body size to a hamster and other small rodents, please don’t be mistaken that its needs are similar. Many people are attracted to gliders because of their exceptional good looks.
If you can feel comfortable with the following list of issues, then you are very likely to have no problems becoming a succesful member of a sugar glider’s family
- A sugar glider can live up to 12-14 years. The commitment to sugar gliders equals that of dogs and cats. Can you commit to provide the best care for that long?
- A sugar glider needs to be fed fresh meals daily. It only takes a few minutes a day. Do you have the time to attend properly to their nutritional needs?
- Sugar glider cages need to be cleaned once or twice a week, depending on how large the cage is; do you have the time to attend properly to their hygiene needs?
- Are you aware that sugar gliders are nocturnal? You can play with them and handle them during the day, but they will be up playing most of the night.
- Do you have enough room to provide a reasonably large cage for your sugar glider and can you afford to purchase them a variety of toys to stimulate their clever little minds?
- Sugar gliders do not make suitable pets for young children. Are you willing to supervise constantly while a child is holding a glider?
- Sugar gliders are extremely social creatures. If you cannot afford to purchase two (same sex together is OK), can you commit 2-3 hours daily to spend time with your glider?
- Are sugar gliders legal in your state?
- Do you have someone to glider-sit when you go out of town?
- Do you have a veterinarian lined up who is experienced with sugar gliders and do the vet bills fit in your budget?
- How will your other pets respond to having a sugar glider in the house, and what will you do about it?
- Do you have allergies to animal fur?
If you are comfortable with the answers to these questions, then
congratulations, welcome into the world of the sugar glider.
Bringing Your Sugar Glider Home
Caring For Your Sugar Glider
By: Sun Coast Sugar Gliders
Sugar gliders do indeed make extraordinary pets. It is not, however, the best pet for every household. Gliders, like all exotic pets, have particular needs specific to their species. They also live 12-14 years in captivity. The decision to add a glider to your household is one that we hope you consider carefully. Our glider friends are not difficult animals to keep if known how to properly. Unfortunately they often fall into unprepared and uneducated hands and suffer improper husbandry, resulting in a variety of health issues. Please educate yourself before getting a Sugar Glider and make sure you are ready and willing to do what it takes to properly care for these wonderful creatures.
Some people you talk to will make it sound like rocket science. It’s just a matter of knowing basic information concerning housing, nutrition, socialization, and potential health hazards.
So now you’ve decided to get a sugar glider. What do you do now? Let’s take a crash course in the four top subjects that you will need to become familiar with in order to make this adventure great for you and your new pet. Continue reading the Sugar Glider FAQ topics.
By: Sun Coast Sugar Gliders
Your sugars glider cage should be big enough for the critter to have ample room to jump and glide. We suggest a minimum size of 30 x18 x 36. It’s better to go taller and narrower with housing than shorter and wider. The bigger the cage is the better. You will want to outfit your cage with hanging food dishes, a hamster type bottle, perches, and a variety of toys. Vertical branches and climbing ropes work well. Our favorite glider toy is the Wodent Wheel as it gives them lots of exercise and sugar gliders weally wike it a wot!
Understanding Your Sugar Glider (Socialization and Bonding)
By: Sun Coast Sugar Gliders
Now we get to the fun part about being owned by sugar gliders. You want a pet that will be your companion and “connect” with you in a special way. You will need to go through this process with the same attitude as you would with a puppy. You may very well get results within a couple of days, but it is a work in progress and your glider can continue to learn and learn and bond and bond as long as you put the time in. You wouldn’t expect a puppy to be housebroken, know its name, know how to sit, and not to chew within a few days of bringing it home, right? Well, your sugar gliders will need time to acclimate to you and the new environment as well. The bonding process is what creates a “tame” glider – they want to be with you and are happy to see you when you approach.
When you first get your glider, it may fuss a lot. The funny sound they make when they are afraid is called crabbing. Some gliders talk more than others, some gliders will make the sound along with a defensive posture, and some gliders will get in “attack” mode while crabbing. Do not let this behavior put you off. Your new friend is just a little scared.
It’s now living in a new house with new humans and needs to get used to the new space. Carry your glider with you frequently. If you take your glider out for more than 45-60 minutes at a time, make sure it has access to food and water. Also, often drop apple pieces into the bonding pouch so the baby doesn’t get hungry. You can also offer the tip of the hamster bottle with fresh water and, if the joey is thirsty, it will take a drink.
As you sense that your joey is acclimating more to its environment and getting more comfortable with you, then put your hand in the pouch and pet the glider. If it continues to crab, that’s OK, just stroke it calmly until it settles down. If the glider tries to bite you, you may want to pet it from the outside of the pouch until it settles. A word of caution: do not pull away from a glider trying to bite. If the animal senses fear, your reaction will actually motivate the glider to try and bite again. Keep calm.
Gliders bond by scent and we’ve found that leaving items in the cage with your scent on it will help to expedite bonding. Wear an old T-shirt for several hours and when you take it off, put it in the gliders’ cage. Or you can rub a paper towel on your face and neck. Your body oils will “scent” the paper towel and you can put this in the sugar gliders’ sleeping pouch.
Spend time with your glider. The more time you can spend with your new found friend, the closer your bonds will develop. This is the fun part of having sugar gliders as members of your family.
Many people have successfully kept single sugar gliders without the glider developing any social problems. If you choose to get just one, you really need to spend a lot of time with it – at least three hours a day. Sugar gliders are incredibly social by nature, and when lacking companionship are prone to depression. The depression can lead to a variety of disorders from overeating, to extreme shyness to not eating at all. We recommend that most people consider keeping at least two sugar gliders together.
Is it fact or fiction that keeping more than one glider makes it harder to bond with them? Sugar gliders are capable of loving many. In the wild, sugar gliders live in colonies made up of multiple animals.
Please be cautioned, however, that gliders cannot compete with bigger animals and you must supervise your gliders interaction with other pets to prevent injury or worse. The moral of the story is that keeping multiple gliders will not affect their ability or desire to develop a strong bond with their human companions.
Taking Care of Your Sugar Glider
Detailed Nutrition Information Sheet
By: Sun Coast Sugar Glider’s Vet, Dr. C
According to Dr. C., most of the serious sugar glider health conditions she sees in her veterinary practice are avoidable if only their humans would learn how to properly feed our fine, furry friends. There is a lot of information available on this topic in various books and websites and most of the people we talk to seem to get really confused from all the differing opinions that can be found on this topic. In Dr. C.’s feature article on nutrition, we will share the views of the medical and zoo communities and confirmed by our very own practices here at SunCoast.
Many common disease conditions in sugar gliders are the direct result of improper diet. Their name “sugar glider” suggests that sugar and fruit make up a large portion of their diet, however, this is not the case. Sugar gliders are omnivorous meaning they eat a variety of foods. You will also hear sugar gliders referred to as insectivore/omnivore indicating that insects make up a large portion of their diet in the wild.
In the sugar glider’s natural domain insects are primary to the diet, and when insects are abundant is generally when most of the breeding will occur. Insects are very high in protein, so it stands to reason that breeding gliders require a significant amount of protein in their captive diet when breeding is taking place.
Sugar gliders will rely on other food sources as the abundance of insects decrease in the colder winter months. Plant products such acacia gum, eucalyptus sap and other nectars make up the majority of this seasonal diet.
Sugar gliders eat manna in the wild. Manna is a crusty sugar left from where sap flowed from a wound in a tree trunk or branch. Gliders also consume honeydew, which is an excess sugar produced by sap sucking insects. Honey and fresh fruits are considered good substitutes for the sap, manna and honeydew free ranging sugar gliders eat naturally in the wild.
I am offering a suggested diet plan that has been refined as a result of my close working relationship with SunCoast Sugar Gliders. I can say from firsthand experience that this diet is highly successful as SunCoast has experienced impressively low disease and death rates, as well as high production rates. The joeys born at SunCoast are healthy and weight sufficient, which are great indicators of a good diet plan. This diet includes all fresh foods prepared daily and offered at time intervals that will prevent sugar glider access to foods that may have spoiled.
Now I am compelled at this point to tell you that there are many paths to good nutrition if you have a sound understanding of the sugar glider’s nutritional needs. Balance is very important and avoidance of foods that could ultimately be disease supportive is important. If you are well versed in what these issues are, then variance from this diet can be acceptable.
As we proceed to the specifics of the recommended diet plan, keep in mind the importance of environmental enrichment. The subject of environmental enrichment covers a lot of topics, but for the sake of this article we will focus on the nutritional enrichment issues. Major zoos, the world over, are very focused on nutritional enrichment. This simply means that variety in the diet is important to the overall well being of the animals being cared for.
Let’s face it, would you like to eat the same thing everyday? By varying the foods offered, you are creating stimulation for your pet that produces several benefits. Amongst these benefits are the prevention of boredom, and food variety also enriches the overall health as each item offered will have varying values as they relate to nutrition, vitamins and minerals.
For example, carrots and corn are both vegetables, but they have significantly different food and vitamin values when consumed. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is very good for your sugar glider when offered in the right form and amounts. Corn, on the other hand, has a high phosphorus ratio and too much of this vegetable can actually elevate disease opportunity in your pet.
Now let’s get into the specifics of the diet plan I’ve developed for SunCoast Sugar Gliders. A primary objective in developing this diet was to come up with universally accepted foods that over 95% of the population will consume heartily. You can feed a great and nutritionally balanced diet, but if the animals don’t like it, then they will feast on individual components of the diet which will cause a lack of nutritional balance.
The diet is a three part feeding routine, plus the administration of vitamins and minerals with the second part:
1. A fresh protein source.
2. A fresh source of fruit and/or vegetables. The fruit and vegetable
servings should be sprinkled with a daily dose of vitamin and calcium
supplements to ensure adequate nutrition.
Both of the fresh components should be fed in the evening with uneaten portions removed in the morning.
3. A staple food available all day, everyday to make sure that adequate food amounts are offered. You will likely find that your sugar gliders will eat the fresh foods first and will nibble at the staple food throughout the day and night. It has been our observation, particularly with breeding animals, that they will wake up during the daylight hours for a snack. It’s the sugar glider’s version of what we call the “midnight snack”.
Offered on a four day rotation with one item offered from the following list daily:
- Gut loaded mealworms – Feed 10-12 small, 7-10 medium, or 3-5 large mealworms per glider
- Gut loaded crickets – Feed 3-5 crickets per sugar glider
- Boiled eggs (without shells) mixed with high protein/low sugar cereal (like corn flakes or Special K) and mixed with either honey or apple juice. One heaping tablespoon is offered per 2 sugar gliders.
- Yogurt (blueberry or peach) – 1 heaping tablespoon is offered per 2 sugar gliders
Special Note: Just weaned joeys are not quite ready for the mealworms or crickets yet, so substitute Gerber chicken baby food mixed with applesauce or sweet potatoes for the protein portion of the diet. Offer small mealworms weekly until the joey learns how to eat them without any trouble.
June bugs and grasshoppers are also good insects to feed your sugar gliders. While SunCoast does not feed either of these insects, I do recommend them as good protein sources. Never feed lighting bugs to your gliders.
Fruits or Veggies
Offered in single portions daily and varied from day to day depending on the time of year and availability of these items. This is merely the list that SunCoast uses and is not intended to be all inclusive. The amount to feed is about the amount that would equal one apple cut into 8 pieces with one piece fed to 2 sugar gliders.
Apples – Pears – Sweet Potatoes – Watermelon – Honeydew – Cantaloupe – Carrots – Kiwi – Mango – Oranges (only once a week and never to joeys) – Grapes (the red grapes are preferred)
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Vitamins and calcium should be given daily. I recommend Vionate as a well rounded vitamin designed for small animals. To supplement calcium levels, I recommend Rep-Cal Calcium, the phosphorus free without Vitamin D3 added version. Vionate already contains Vitamin D, so you don’t need it in the calcium. The vitamins should be sprinkled on the offering of daily fruits or veggies. You will just add a pinch of both Vionate and Rep-Cal. Do not overdose the vitamins. Too many vitamins can be just as harmful as not giving them at all.
I also suggest a third supplementation for breeding sugar gliders. We’ve found that using a milk replacer product like Wombaroo, sprinkled on the fruit and vegetables has shown beneficial effects to the lactating female. 1/8 teaspoon every day is the amount used by SunCoast. During pregnancy, it is advisable to gear the diet more towards the needs of the female and its OK if the male is indulging in the same foods. If you find the male is getting overweight from this diet, I suggest that you purchase a Wodent Wheel or some other device that will give him access to good exercise.
Offered in the cage at all times. ZooKeepers Secret is the staple food used at SunCoast. From my experience, this is a well balanced formula and sugar gliders like it. This semi-moist protein rich product is a great supplemental food to your gliders fresh diet. It is very important that small animals have access to food continually throughout the day. This is particularly important for breeding animals. There is no commercially available food that I would recommend as the single source of nutrition for your sugar glider.
I do not recommend that you substitute cat food as your choice of staple diet for your sugar glider. Cat food is designed for cats and cats are strict carnivores. To put this in perspective, many years ago when ferrets were becoming popular, ferret owners fed cat food, and over time it was discovered that this incorrect nutritional balance was ultimately bad for the ferrets. We have no reason to believe this is not the case with sugar gliders as well.
Fresh, clean water should be accessible at all times!
If you plan to give additional treats to your sugar glider, do so after they’ve eaten a significant portion of their meal. You can also use ordinary meal items as treats, for example, hand feed your pet its mealworms. You enhance your bonding and friendship and are feeding your pet what it already needs. If other treats are offered, the quantities should be very small in relation to the whole diet consumption. Think of it as dessert! And too much dessert leads to obesity. Obesity in any animal leads to significant health problems.
Dr. C’s Top 10 Nutrition Tips
1. Fresh water should always be available.
2. Never add vitamins to the water supply.
3. Offer meals that are at least 40% protein for non-breeding gliders and 50% protein for breeding sugar gliders.
4. Supplement proteins with a variety of fresh fruits & vegetables.
5. Keep a high quality staple diet in the cage at all times
6. Feed fresh portions of fruit and veggies in the evening and remove any foods that can spoil in the morning.
7. Avoid preservatives and pesticides in the diet.
8. Avoid excessive fat in the diet – meat products should be lean.
9. Maintain positive Calcium/Phosphorus ratios.
10. Gut load your bugs before feeding to the sugar gliders.
By: Sun Coast Sugar Gliders
By now you’ve probably read all kinds of articles on feeding sugar gliders and may even feel a little overwhelmed by the variety of opinions and suggestions that you see. Let’s simplify the whole feeding issue.
1) Feed your glider a portion of fresh fruits or vegetables. We feed them a single fruit or veggie each day and vary the choice each day. For example, tonight may be apples, tomorrow pears, the next day sweet potatoes, the following day cantaloupe, etc.
2) Feed your glider an almost equal portion of protein. We are strong advocates of sugar gliders getting at least 50% protein in their diets. We use the following for protein sources and vary them each night: Chicken or turkey baby food, mealworms, crickets, boiled eggs (plain or mixed with a protein cereal and a dab of honey or apple juice). We also alternate yogurt (with fruit) as part of this category as they babies seem to do very well with yogurt.
Food groups one and two should be fed in the evening with any uneaten foods removed in the morning to prevent spoilage.
3) Feed your glider some source of dry food that will be left in the cage for twenty four hours. We use a combination of dry foods and mix them in a coffee grinder until the babies have developed a taste for them. The glider should be getting most of its nutrition from the previous two categories, but they will eat more some days than others and the dry food is a great supplement for them to snack on.
Sun Coast recommends ZooKeeper’s Secret Insectivore / Omnivore diet and berries & bugs. Fresh portions of the staple food should be left in the cage 24 hours a day. Sometimes sugar gliders will soil the staple food and the food should be changed out when that happens. Never give your glider an inexpensive dry cat food as it could cause intestinal blockage or urinary tract problems.
Be sure that your glider is eating some from each group 1 & 2. If they don’t eat a lot of group 3, it is not a cause for concern as they are filling up on the fresh, healthy foods found in the first two categories. If your glider seems to be eating all of its fruit and barely eating from the protein sources, then skip the fruit one or two nights a week to force them to consume more protein. Some gliders can be picky eaters and only pick out the things they like best, so observation is key to maintaining your gliders’ healthy diet.
There are certainly other diet plans available such as Leadbeater’s mix or the Taronga Zoo Diet. You will want to keep your glider on a diet similar to what he was previously being fed when you get it, and if you choose to use a different formula, then make the change gradually.
Last, but not least, you will want to supplement your gliders’ vitamin and mineral intake. You can use Vionate and Rep-Cal daily and sprinkle it on the serving of fruit or veggies. You may also administer vitamins and minerals by adding to a small serving of apple juice or nectar. You never want to mix vitamins with the glider water supply as this can create growth in the water bottle that may not be healthy.