Sugar Glider


The Pocket Pets With Attitude!

Sugar Glider
Sugar Gliders love nectar and pollen.

Sugar gliders are, without a doubt, THE true pocket pets. Tame sugar gliders are delighted to be in physical contact with their owner's body. They will sit on your shoulder, ride in your hair or nap in your shirt pocket. They are nocturnal by nature so your pocket will make an ideal 'nest' for your sugar glider to take a daytime snooze. It is an "indescribably delicious" sensation to feel this warm, living creature choose YOU as its friend and lightly move in your pocket as you surf the net, wash the dishes or fix the car.

You will fall in love with their 'attitude'. They are not pushovers and cannot be taught or trained to do anything with negative reinforcement. This strong sense of 'self' will not appeal to heavy-handed pet seekers. The sugar glider cannot tolerate mistreatment or abuse. It will fight and bite anyone who is too rough or unfair. Isn't it a shame that all pets do not have their degree of self-confidence? Treated with kindness and love, they will choose you as the most safe and desirable 'tree in the forest' and treat you like an equal, somewhat larger, sugar glider. Your size will not intimidate them.

You will love them because they are such a unique adaptation of nature. A huge portion of their existence in the wild is spent in trees. It is because of this habitat, they developed the gliding membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle. This allows a sugar glider to travel from tree to tree without ever touching the ground in its entire life. Likewise, a sugar glider that is bonded to you, will glide back to you, its one true and safe 'haven' if placed on a stranger's shoulder or on top of your bookcase. This pet can also live up to 10-15 years in a healthy captive environment.

What are sugar gliders?

Sugar gliders are tiny gliding possums from Indonesia, New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia. All possums and opossums, including North America's Virginia opossum are marsupials that give live birth to their young after a brief gestation. 16 days after conception, the 1/15 oz. fetus-baby, called a 'joey', miraculously finds its way to the 'dimple' on the mom's abdomen. It enters this pouch opening and spends the next 40 days of babyhood in the mother's pouch continuously attached to one of its mother's teats. If it becomes detached during this critical time, it cannot reattach and will most likely perish. During the next 30 days of its pouch-life, it is intermittently attached to the teat, but remains in the pouch. During the final phase of its pouch-life, the joey ventures out of the pouch and begins to eat solid food. It returns to the pouch for safety, comfort and to nurse. The young sugar glider then begins to lengthen the time and distance away from its mother! , and at 127 after conception days it is fully independent in its search for food and eventual search for a mate. Females mature at the end of the first year, and males at 24 months. Properly fed and exercised sugar gliders can live a fairly long life for such a small pet - in captivity.

Wild sugar gliders live in small colonies of 6 to 15 in tree hollows or other nests made of vegetation. They spend the daylight hours cuddling in their nest. Early evening and nighttime will find them foraging for food and protecting their 'tree'. Sugar gliders are about the size of a hamster or flying squirrel, approximately 4-7" long from tip of nose to base of tail. Adults in proper body condition weigh about 3-4 oz. Their tail is fluffy, often curls on the end and usually longer than the body length. During the early stages of pouch development, the tail is used somewhat for holding on to mom as she moves about. Some people have reported that the tail is often used to carry nesting materials back to the nest.

Young sugar gliders are a intense silver-gray with a black stripe that starts just above the nose leather and extends over the forehead, down the neck and back and continues on to the black tail. There is also a dark strip from the outside corner of the eye to the ear. Captive raised sugar gliders remain this color throughout their lives. Wild sugar gliders are born the same color as captive babies, but usually become stained a cocoa brown from the vegetation and tree sap in their nests. Their new coats will come in silver-gray after shedding the old coat. The tail is not flat like flying squirrels who use the tail for a rudder while gliding. Mature have a 'bald' spot in the middle of the stripe on their forehead. Their ears can rotate about 180 degrees and edged with black. Their under parts are a soft white and meet the gray from above, exactly at the outside edge of the fully furred gliding membranes. This gives a unique scalloped effect when they are relaxed. T! hey have four fingers and an opposable thumb on their hands and feet. The thumbs on the rear feet are without claws. The two toes next to the thumb on the rear feet are partially co-joined by skin. Toes and fingers have small pads which help the animal grasp food and branches. Each toe and finger ends in a sharp claw that can hook like VelcroO to non-slick surfaces. Their teeth are extremely sharp - another incentive for the pet owner to learn proper training methods. The upper and lower pairs of incisors resemble long rodent teeth. They have 4 canine teeth, 12 premolars and 20 molars. There are 40 teeth in that small mouth which should reinforce your decision to hand-gentle them.

Sugar Glider Preserves
Sweets for the sweet.

I cannot begin to tell you what a biological wonder the pouch is - a mini ecosystem - unto itself. Scientists have not fully discovered all the mysteries involved in the marsupials' unique approach to fetal development.

Have you ever wondered how a kangaroo, koala or sugar glider infant 'breathes' while it is in the pouch? Special natural flora (bacteria) thrive in the mother's pouch, producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. The population of these bacteria increase and decrease to fit the needs of the pouch-young as its respiratory system develops.

Since the baby is not placentally attached to its mother, where do its wastes go? Wastes are minimal during some of the development. The mother cleans her pouch regularly. The pouch humidity is maintained at about 85% by the elimination and cleaning process.

How can the tiny infant , with paddles in front and no back limbs, find its way to the pouch opening after birth - just 16 days after conception? It is thought that the sense of smell and contractions of the mother's uterus guide the infant to the pouch.

How can its immature respiratory system actually breath and exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide? Requirements are small at first, but develop as the baby matures.

How can its fused mouth and tiny digestive system take in and utilize milk? The mouth is fused at first with an opening just big enough to allow entrance of the teat. Once the teat is in the mouth, the teat swells and the baby is attached for about 40 days. The iron, other mineral, vitamin, carbohydrate and fat content of the milk is adjusted by the mother's body as her baby's needs change throughout development.

Items you may need if you want sugar gliders:
  • A cage with 1/2- 3/4" " maximum spacing, at least 20" x 20" and a minimum of 30" high, with a double wire floor, the bottom of which is no larger than 1/2" mesh, and a removable litter pan between the two floors.
  • A food cup to hang on the side of the cage
  • An outside water bottle (and small cage cup if not trained to bottle)
  • A nest box
  • A hamster glove or sugar glider sock
  • Shredding material for bedding
  • Parrot ladders, ropes, rings, toys
  • An exercise wheel
  • Gnawing toys-sticks, blocks, etc.
  • Gnawing foods - dog biscuits, monkey biscuits, rodent block
  • Pine or fir shavings for the pan
  • Glass tube for feeding nectar
  • Lorikeet nectar supplement
  • Vitamin and calcium supplement
  • Crickets and mealworms
  • Food items as listed in nutrition section
  • Housing pet sugar gliders
    Sugar gliders do well in relatively small environments if they are allowed ample exercise outside of their cage daily. They do best in an ambient temperature of 75-85 degrees F. Only tame sugar gliders should be allowed this freedom. Wire cages are preferable but must be placed in an area where direct sunlight does not shine on the cage and there are no drafts from open windows, doors, ceiling fans or vents. The openings in the wire mesh should not exceed 1" x 1/2". Many bird cages suitable for finch size birds work well. You can also build a custom cage from 1" x 1/2" mesh to fit a particular niche in your home. The absolute minimum size for the cage should be 2 cubic feet per animal but they certainly enjoy larger cages which can be outfitted with climbing and gnawing branches, hanging knotted ropes and a nest box. Hang a small pouch or hamster glove made of soft fabric in the branches or side of the cage. Their sharp, curved claws can adhere to certain fabrics l! ike terry or flannel just like Velcro. There is one fabric that looks like a cross between felt and flannel that works well. It is about 1/8" thick and has a soft nap finish. If you are in doubt about a certain material, check it with the hook/loop side of a strip of Velcror. The nest box could be made of various materials and household items. A small bird nesting box with a removable top works fine. I've seen artistic owners set up interesting environments with a certain flavor to enhance their room's design and still be pleasing to the sugar gliders. They were designed with old campfire coffee pots and fake cactus to give a western flavor. I've seen them designed like a rain forest, and like a jungle gym.

    Sugar gliders need chewing objects to help wear down those long incisors. In the wild, these teeth wear when the sugar gliders chew the bark off trees, mostly eucalyptus, to eat the sap that drips from the wounded tree. Branches MUST be from non-toxic trees and bushes. Willow, thornless rose, aspen and others work well. Since some plants carry chemicals that can be harmful to a chewing animal check with your county extension agent if you have other plant species to see if they are toxic. It is also important that the plant has not been treated with any chemicals such as fertilizer or pesticides.

    Sugar gliders enjoy building a bed in their nest. Make drainage holes in the bottom of the nest if it is not of absorbent material like wood. Place small amounts of hay, paper, quilt batting and leaves in the bottom of their cage that they will shred and take to their nests. Do not use paper with colored ink as some inks could be toxic. They will spend hours taking every scrap of usable material to their nest. Add a food cup and a water bottle or dish, a small exercise wheel and maybe a small exercise wheel.

    Cleaning is easy if the cage has wire a bottom and a catch tray beneath. Once or twice a week is usually sufficient. Place newspaper and a small amount of pine or aspen shavings on the tray to help absorb moisture. Never use cedar!

    Mike & glider
    Hardworking hands and a warm heart have captivated this sugar glider.

    Feeding the sugar glider

    Sugar gliders have a high energy diet in the wild that has a fairly high level of protein.

    They should have a free-choice mixture of seeds and nuts, dried fruits, coconut and cat food. (This is a handy diet to keep in front of them in case you must be away from home a day or two.)

    The fresh diet should be fed in the late afternoon or evening to avoid attracting fruit flies.

    Nearly all fruits and some vegetables are relished. Sugar gliders have distinct preferences for some fruits and dislike others. Citrus often encourages diarrhea. Bananas are not a favorite with many sugar gliders and they attract fruit flies almost instantly. Vegetables (frozen are okay after thawing) to try are broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, cooked beans and green peas. Add a small amount of hard-boiled egg. Balance their diet and give them variety. Pick up uneaten food the next morning. Sugar gliders have specific requirements for Vitamins D and E and minerals Calcium and Selenium that are not thoroughly understood at this time. Improper diets can cause white muscle disease, paralysis, white eyes and death. Insects like crickets and June bugs are relished. They can be tossed in a bag of zoological vitamin powder to 'load' them. June bugs can be collected by the hundreds when they are in season and frozen for later use. Regular meal worms are fine f! or an occasional treat. The husk of a meal worm, however, is not a desirable addition to their diet in a large volume. Low fat yogurt and cottage cheese are a lso a welcome change one or two times a week. See 'health considerations for a remedy that has worked for some problems.

    Sample Diets:

    Fresh diet:
  • Fed in the afternoon or early evening:
  • A fresh salad of various fruits and vegetables (including frozen) such apple, carrot, sweet potato, banana, lettuce, grapes, melons, peas, etc. Never feed too much of one fruit.
  • A small amount of hard-boiled egg yolk
  • High quality canned feline diet
  • Few raw peanuts and soft seeds
  • Pinch of zoological vitamins with selenium

  • Dry diet: This diet is fed free choice. It is not recommended as a full time diet but is handy when you have irregular hours or will be away a day or two. In this instance, be certain you have more than one bottle of water available in case of leakage or valve failure.
  • 75% Fruit and vegetable parrot mix with no small seeds (they waste them)
  • 15% high quality dry cat food
  • 10% peanuts, raw in the hull
  • Pinch of zoological vitamins with selenium

  • Water Water is critical to these animals and if they are without it for more than a day, they can dehydrate rapidly and die. Sugar gliders may need time to adjust to a water bottle. Place a small water cup on the side of the cage with the bottle spout directly over the dish. Eventually leave less water in the dish until you see that the level in the water bottle is dropping and there is no evidence of leakage on the catch tray below. The sugar glider will be used to going to that area for water. When they bump the nozzle it will release the water and the glider will soon learn where to find water.

    Breeding Sugar Gliders
    Sugar gliders breed readily in captivity. Determining the sex is easy. All females have an opening (pouch entrance) on their tummy. You may need to stretch the skin slightly before you can see the 'dimple'. All adult male marsupials, including sugar gliders have a scrotum at approximately the same site. That site is between the navel and the penis. Male placental mammals like ourselves, dogs, cats, etc. have the scrotum between the penis and the anus. The scrotum in a sugar glider is usually drawn up against the body (and resembles a tiny furry wart) but when very relaxed, it hangs by a tiny thread about 1/2" away from its body.

    The animals are sexually mature between one and two years, with the females maturing slightly earlier. There seems to be no definite breeding time in captivity, however, it is perhaps related to the amount of protein in the diet and possibly the daily light cycle.

    A trustworthy sugar glider on an 'outing' in the pomegranate bush.
    Even wild-caught adults can make excellent parents. Nutrition and environment are the critical factors that encourage them to start a family. Pairs are housed together on a permanent basis. The male helps to care for and protect the mother and young. It is rare to actually see them mating, but a female can be checked for pouch- pregnancy when you see a bulge in her pouch. Delayed implantation may also occur as the fertilized egg may be held in liapase. Fourteen to sixteen days after mating and successful fertilization, the young are born in a very immature state. They crawl into the mother's pouch where they attach to a nipple and remain so attached for about seven weeks. If they are detached during this critical time, it is doubtful that they will be able to reattach. It is best not to disturb the mom during the first stages of pouch development.

    At about two to three weeks after they have crawled into the pouch you will begin to see a swelling in the ouch area of the female's abdomen. It there are two babies, it will begin to look like an English walnut. If there is one baby, the pouch will look lopsided. When the pouch is bulging you may hold the female and gently palpate the abdomen to see if there are one or two babies. There have been reported cases of three babies. It is imperative to be extremely gentle as the babies can dislodge from the teats. At about ten weeks, the babies leave the mom's pouch for very brief periods to grab a nibble of solid food. This is when you can begin to handle them a little bit. They leave the nest at four months of age. They weigh less than an ounce at this time.

    Food should be increased in the cage when babies are suspected. Once the babies are leaving the pouch for short periods, you can hold them, begin hand taming and determine their sex.

    Taming and Training Baby Sugar Gliders

    The easiest way we have found to hand-tame the babies is as follows:

    First, I must warn you that when the baby is handled it may emit a faint scent reminiscent of a skunk! It is a very light odor of short duration and is often only the first one or two times it is handled.

    Wear two shirts, like a tee-shirt under a long sleeved shirt, both tucked in to your belt. Put the baby sugar glider between the two shirts and go on about your usual business.

    If you only use the long sleeved shirt, their tiny toes will tickle you more than you can stand, as they investigate this wonderfully warm and comfortable new 'tree'. At the outset of this training, the sessions should be very brief - not more than 5 minutes. Repeat several times a day, gradually increasing to an hour over a two week period. VOIL?! The sugar glider is bonded to you. It can now be persuaded to reside in your shirt pocket or a fanny pack turned to the front of your body. Socialize with other persons if you plan on selling the sugar glider.

    Health Considerations
    Sugar Gliders are pretty hardy if you keep them properly fed and warm. You should however, check for internal and external parasites and monitor their health closely. White muscle disease - hind end paralysis - may be caused by an improper vitamin and mineral balance in the diet or improper assimilation by the sugar glider's system. We think it is vitamin E and selenium deficiency that is not uncommon in captive marsupials. Selenium is a mineral naturally found in the soil in their native habitat and absorbed by the plants they feed upon. The dose of selenium is so tiny an overdose is possible and is very harmful. We have found the following remedy useful and seems to safely add those elements to the diet. We have seen some miraculous recoveries.

    A 'chicken soup' remedy we developed that has worked for us and others (until you can get ahold of your veterinarian) for a depressed sugar glider with diarrhea is: 1 part ProSobee human infant formula, 1 part Pedialite or Gatorade, 1 part fruit flavored low fat yogurt, 1 part Gerber Baby Rice cereal with or without banana. Mix and give one to two teaspoons in a separate container up to twice a day with regular diet.

    More Sugar Glider Pictures -

    Sugar Glider spread to show gliding membranes
    A baby who has released from nipple but does not have fur yet.
    Precious, an orphan baby that has been hand-fed.
    Sugar gliders love nectar
    Sweet Rewards
    Skye learns from an early age to be gentle.
    Glider in the flower box
    More blossoms
    Trust is earned, not a given.
    Living barret
    Sweetest of kisses.
    The true pocket pet
    Glider preserves
    Lets make a cake
    Hiding in a bush

    The following pics are courtesy of Debbie Dillon, 5429 N. Central Avenue, Chicago, Ill 60630. Write for info on her cute little book that has color cover and back with 46 pages, 6 color photos and is fun reading & informative. It is up-front and personal by someone who really loves these little animals.

    Gypsy and Mango
    Pixie and Slinky
    Pockets in a pocket
    Cage Set-up
    Cover of Debbie's 46 page book


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