Sugar gliders can be excellent and rewarding companion pets. However, these clever, curious and social marsupials require a significant amount of specialized care. Here, our Sonora vets explain some of the considerations you should have if you're thinking about having a sugar glider as a pet.
About Sugar Gliders
While they may look like rodents, sugar gliders are actually marsupials like koalas and kangaroos. They have pouches for carrying their young and folds of skin that stretch from their wrists to their sides which allow them to glide from tree to tree in the wild.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal—meaning they are only active at night— and generally weigh between 2.5 and 5.5 ounces. Wild and "classic" sugar gliders have a distinctive black dorsal stripe and a white belly, while ones bred in captivity can have many different fur colors and patterns.
Sugar gliders in the wild live in groups of 6-10 and are very social, living on average 6 to 7 years.
Are Sugar Gliders Good Pets?
Sugar gliders are available from breeders, pet stores and shelters across the United States and make excellent exotic pets. These creatures are caring, social and curious, often closely bonding with families for life.
However, they are quite time-intensive as pets and our Sonora vets advise you to take some time to learn about them and their needs before considering getting one as a companion.
But what are the needs of sugar gliders as pets?
You may have heard that there is a bonding—or taming—process involved in introducing sugar gliders to life as a companion animal.
They require daily handling and play to become comfortable with their owners, otherwise, they can become nippy. because of this, sugar gliders may not be excellent pets for families with young children.
With their natural affinity for pouches, sugar gliders often will curl up in a pocket or specially-designed sugar glider pouch.
Housing and Stimulation
Sugar gliders require a large cage to let them get exercise by jumping, leaping and gliding around. The bare minimum size of the cage is generally considered to be 3' by 2' by 3'. Sugar gliders also have a deserved reputation as escape artists, so make sure the bars aren't too far apart.
Your gilder's cage should include a number of platforms, toys and stimulating activities like bird toys, swings and rodent wheels.
As well, you should almost never have only one sugar glider as a pet. These creatures are incredibly social by nature, so on top of daily handling and play, they will need a companion to keep them company.
Sugar gliders are omnivores and have quite specific nutritional habits that need to be met to allow them to stay healthy.
Despite what you might think, sugar gliders eat very little fruit as part of their diet.
And, while there is no ideal sugar glider diet, it's generally a safe bet to divide their diet into 3 parts. Half of their daily intake can be commercial pellets, a quarter should be green, left vegetables and the final quarter is a protein like cooked egg, lean meat and insects.
Regardless of the specifics of your sugar gilder's diet, diversity and variety are critical.
Sugar gliders, just like any other pet, are susceptible to various conditions and illnesses. Some of the most common of these found in sugar gliders are dental health issues, weight problems and stress-related diseases.
Issues like oral health and weight issues often stem from improper nutrition. Overly sugary foods can cause obesity and tooth decay in your sugar glider and an improper diet can just as easily cause malnourishment.
Likewise, if you don't give your nocturnal sugar gliders ample chance to sleep throughout the day, they will often develop stress-related disorders and conditions.