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I have long been fascinated by Australian animals, and the dinky hamster sized sugar glider is no exception. Like anyone else, on first hearing of these guys I said "Sugar what" and wondered if it was a new sort of candy. Not so. Sugar gliders are Ozzy Awesome Possums with chinchilla soft grey fur, funky black markings, fuzzy white bellies and the ability to glide, similar to a flying squirrel. They sort of look like a cross between a squirrel, bush baby and some sort of mythical manga character...just too cute to be real. Like all native Australian critters they are marsupials, so carry their babies in pouch like a kangaroo.
Pets like sugar gliders often bring out the "Oh what a shame they should be in the wild" comments but actually sugar gliders have reportedly been captive in the UK since the 1860's, which is actually longer than our common pet Syrian hamster!
My first suggie came to me as a rescue. He was shortly followed by a female (as sugar gliders should never live on their own, they become very depressed), and mum give birth to a gorgeous little guy who I've named Dexter. Unfortunately, an undiagnosed condition killed both of Dexter's parents. To this day I don't know what happened to them. I am much gutted to have lost Dexter's parents and I'm now looking for a buddy for him. They are utterly unbelievable animals to care for. Full of personality, pocket pets with a ton of character.
Sadly that is the thing with sugar gliders. They have been with us longer than hamsters but unfortunately they are 10X harder to care for. They have been the victims of their own success in America, with common pet stores selling them and glider "mills" (similar to puppy farming, only for gliders) springing up everywhere. There's some very bad dietary advice out there, recommending they are fed on insects and tinned fruit cocktail, which as you can imagine is not great for them.
Caring for sugar gliders is pretty complex, so I'm not going into it here, it will just make this review even longer than it already is! Suffice to say they are difficult to care for, require a diet mixed from scratch, a very large cage, and several hours dedicated to their care and enrichment every day. Certainly not for the time-strapped.
So, why are they great pets? Firstly, they are beautiful, exotic and different. Plenty of people would like a pet that's a little different and sugar gliders certainly are! Their faces are adorably cute and they are certainly unusual. They are quite interesting little animals to learn about too.
Also, they are friendly pets...much more so than other critters their size, such as hamsters. If they are properly tamed they will take naps on the back of your neck, play games with you (they love playing with cat teaser type toys, and wrestling with your hand, and playing "peek-a-boo").
They becoming surprisingly close with their owners...you might not believe it from such a small or wild looking animal, but you do develop quite a strong connection with them if you respect them. They are never going to behave like a dog does, they are much more independent than that, but respect them for what they are and they will come to respect you and treat you with much affection. My sugar glider seems better adapted to captivity than many so-called "domestic pets".
They are also amazing to sit back and just watch. They can climb up doorframes and along the tops of curtain rails, they are incredibly agile.
they can live up to 15 years if properly cared for.
Sugar gliders are, in my opinion, a very interactive pet. Not just in their playing method, but in other ways too. The process of mixing up their food from scratch, some people might find tedious, but I find it fun. The bonding process is also great fun and its wonderful having a fully bonded sugar glider who will leap to you from anywhere.
Now, the downsides. Sugar gliders are exotic for a reason. They need plenty commitment. During the taming or "bonding process" you need to be able to devote an hour or two every day when they are sleeping to bond with them, and then again at night you need to let them out to play. As the food needs to be mixed up from scratch, and you need to buy specialist foods and things from lots of different places (health food shops, supermarket, and online, plus pet shops) they are time consuming.
There's also the cost. Last time I checked, around £250-300 for a pair of sugar gliders, and a suitable cage will cost at least another £100, more likely £150+. Expect to spend a good £50 on toys and accessories unless you are good at making things, then there's supplements on top of that which will come to another £30 at least. They need fresh fruit and veg every day which can become costly, as they need exotic, calcium rich fruit like papaya. To say nothing of vets bills, vets can charge an exorbitant sum just to take a look at a sugar glider. There is one company (Exotic Direct) that insures sugar gliders for vet fees but only insures til the age of 5, which is of course not much use when they can live 3 times that long. They are not the sort of pet you can buy and then be unwilling to spend money on. I'm certainly far from rich but I'd spend my last penny to keep my glider happy and healthy and this is the way it should be with any pet.
Sugar gliders have an "interesting" smell. I would not say its unpleasant but some people find it incredibly so. Its sort of sickly sweet. In some males it can be a little overpowering. Good hygiene and a proper diet go a long way to preventing the smell, I wouldn't say the room my sugs live in smells much but you do have to stay on top of hygiene.
Like many small animals, they have no bladder control and will happily go to the toilet on you...both number 1 and 2. The best way to prevent this is to not pick them up as soon as they wake, as that's when they go.
For such a tiny animal, suggies can be surprisingly fierce. They have sharp hook like claws and long, rodent like teeth. Their bites and scratches can be painful an irritating, and as they are not truly domestic sometimes you just have to put up with the biting until they are tame.
They can also be noisy at night. Not wake the neighbours noisy, but you can often hear them jumping around, barking and vocalising even from another room.
Some interesting things about suggies:
They are very vocal. They bark, which sounds much like a little terrier dog, often for attention or to locate members of their group. They make a noise known as "crabbing" when they are upset. Its an odd noise sort of a cross between a grunt and an electric pencil sharpener. Very strange. They also hiss, make gurgling sounds. They also snore lol.
They have a gliding membrane known as a patagium, which when spread out, allows them to glide vast distances. They frequently use this in captivity, often when dive-bombing you from some high place in your room! Their long, fluffy tails act as a rudder when gliding.
They have a strange, very large opposable big toe which helps them to grip branches. For some reason it puts in mind of the big-thumbed cockney from the Mighty Boosh!
For having such a huge personality, they are tiny animals, weighing in at about 4 ounces.
Baby sugar gliders are born after only 16 days, extremely undeveloped. They then climb into mums pouch and attach permanently to a nipple and stay there for around 60 days, when they emerge not much bigger than a monkey nut in the shell. Sugar glider mums normally have 1 or 2 babies, rarely they may have 3 or 4.
Sugar gliders are so-called because they love sweet foods like manna, nectar and honey.
One baby sugar gliders come out of the pouch, they hold on to mum or dad's back like koalas do. Dad is just as involved as mum is in raising the baby sugar glider.
Sugar gliders are definitely not pets for children (although there are one or two excellent young owners out there, most kids aren't up to the task and go to bed too early!) but they make a wonderful pet for suitably dedicated people. For such small critters they have lots of love and friendship to give, and are so special that they deserve the best, most loving of owners. Not something to be acquired as a fad as they seem to have become in America, but a super sweet, fun and unusual companion.
~ The Perfect Pet You Can Place In Your Palm? ~
These tiny pets are highly in demand at the moment. But should we be encouraging the breeders in the supply and demand of the Exotic Sugar Glider? Delicate and extremely demanding I worry that these creatures are doomed to a very ugly fate. In the short term they are highly desirable. But in reality they need a huge amount of caring for.
Another short lived trend I feel and the future of the Sugar Glider as a domestic pet seemed doomed to failure. ~
~ What is a Sugar Glider? ~
The sugar Glider (petarurus briviceps), is taking the world by storm as the new 'Must have' domestic pet. But what on earth is a Sugar Glider you might ask?
Well, the Sugar Glider is the most beautiful and unusual pet to be seen in quite a while. It's actually a small possum with the added bonus that it can fly! Well, glide actually, and it has the power to launch itself and glide for a good 200 feet. Quite a sight to be seen bombing around the house and a very novel domestic pet indeed. A great talking point with yours neighbours and visitors also.
~The Latest Must Have Accessory ~
Celebrities are queuing up for these 'must have' pets, and many are seen sporting a pair of these nuzzled into their necks in pouches, whilst out shopping. Paris Hilton had one, but in certain states of the USA these creatures as 'Exotic pets', are banned, and she had to ditch her latest 'fashion accessory' fast, for a more suitable designer handbag.
'Everyone' who is 'anyone' is after one of these divine and beautiful creatures. However, they do need very careful and sensitive owners, as these babies are so tiny that they fit into the palm of your hand. They will give you absolute loyalty and devotion if treated right. All they ask in return is to love and be loved, and by loved, I mean lots of it. These creatures will not thrive without constant attention and loving, and can die of depression and loneliness if they are at all neglected. The normal life span for the Sugar Glider is around 10-15 years, so you are in for the long haul, and with the right handling and attention to diet and nurture, these creatures will make an excellent and loyal companion.
~The Animals Come In, Two by Two ~
Be warned, that you must buy the Sugar Glider in pairs. They would simply not thrive without a companion, and be terribly lonely and sad, and this will set you back £300 as the Gliders are roughly £150 each. 'The Sugar Gliders measure 16cm to 21cm (6.3ins to 7.5ins) in length, with a tail almost as long as the body and almost as thick as a human thumb, and they weigh between 90g and 150g (3oz to 5.3oz)'.
The Sugar Glider is actually a marsupial, a species of small flying possum which is native to Australia and New Guinea. In appearance, the Sugar Glider is adorable. They have large appealing brown eyes and are a fluffy silver grey in colouring, with a white furry belly. They have a black stripe which runs from the top of their head to the tip of their tails. Their 'wings', for want of a better word, is actually a stretchy membrane called a Patagium which spans straight across their backs to their wrists and ankles, which they then extend into a kite for launching themselves into a glide, much like a flying squirrel with their legs and arms extended, using their tail, which is as long as their body, as a rudder.
In the wild, this action is used for flying between trees. The Sugar Gliders live in colonies of between 6-10 in their natural habitat and their daily routine would be spent searching for food.
~The Glide ~
The actual glide can be up to 200 feet so be ready to duck if you see the sugar glider heading straight at you. Before they commence 'the glide' you will notice the creature swaying from side to side. Don't worry; it is just getting its bearings before it takes off. Their temperament is lively and inquisitive and they are also highly intelligent. Their normal behaviour includes climbing up the curtains, cheeping excitedly and general nosiness and noisiness. They also love their 'playtime' with their owners and like nothing better than a good game of 'Hide and Seek'. They also love climbing, hence the curtain activity and swinging. So it may be a good idea to put some form of net up,which will be great fun to watch as they scoot up the netting.
~The Bonding Process ~
When you first purchase your Sugar Glider you must immediately begin the 'bonding process, much like you would do with a baby. You can purchase a glider pouch, or make your own, which you will place the glider in and nuzzle it into your neck for long periods. The glider will get used to your scent and it will form a strong, lasting bond with you. The bonding process can take up to three months and in this time they will be happy to sit on you shoulder, or remain in the pouch, as you go about your daily routine. They love to curl up in their owner's hair or nuzzle into the warmth of their necks and shoulders.
The Sugar Glider is a nocturnal creature which some feel make it an ideal pet. Most people are at work during the day and feel that they can devote more time to the glider after 6'o'clock when the working day ends. These Gliders do 'bark' a lot and it will usually occur in the dead of night. So positioning of their cage is worth a good deal of thought. It certainly wouldn't be suitable in your bedroom, as they would keep you awake all night.
~The Sugar Glider Diet ~
Breeders across the Country are a little concerned that people would not know what they are letting themselves in for when purchasing a Sugar Glider. These creatures are very needy and do need lots of love and attention and very careful consideration to diet. The Sugar Glider has a very sweet tooth, hence its name, and it feeds on fruit, vegetables and 'leadbeaters', which is a mixture of baby cereal, honey, warm water, nutria bars, vitamin supplements and boiled eggs. It is essential that Gliders get a 75 per cent fruit and 25 per cent protein diet. Not adhering to this could be fatal. Also keep their diet low in fat as this is extremely important. A great site that recommends correct diet for the Sugar Glider is: AmeyZoo Exotic Pets.co.uk
Your Sugar gliders will need a large cage much like an aviary, and in this there needs to be lots of places to hide. You can fill the cage with tubes boxes and such like, so that the glider can hide and sleep in comfort and seclusion during the day. A nesting box is ideal and this should be placed well away from sunlight. These creatures are very sensitive to sunlight so be aware of this when placing their cage. By night they will want to glide so that they can exercise and explore their territory.
When taking on a creature such as the sugar glider, be aware that this is a wild animal and cannot be contained within the cage 24 hours a day. They need their freedom and they need to receive the love they crave from their owners. Without constant attention, the Sugar Glider can become severely depressed, and can often die from sheer loneliness! They need to be nurtured and given lots of constant TLC.
~The Vocal Qualities Of The Sugar Glider ~
These creatures are absolutely lovely, and very cute, but they are also very vocal. The noises that you will hear from your Sugar Gliders are of a loud barking and chirping nature. The chirping is when they are happy or excited and the barking is for attention it is thought, much like a baby when it cries.They also omit a mechanical whirring noise much like a blender, and this is to warn you off, and occurs usually when they are feeding, or when they feel threatened. This sound is referred to as 'crabbing'. They also 'purr' and sing' and hiss! They remind me of a Furby for their sounds. So all in all, these creatures do seem very entertaining indeed.
~Please Think Carefully ~
So, if you are contemplating buying a pair of Sugar Gliders please do your research and think carefully. There is already strong feeling that these pets will soon outgrow their novelty value and become a trend which will have a short life, and thousands of these poor creatures will be given up and left at the wayside as they are simply too much trouble and high maintenence.
The Sugar Glider bonds for life and giving up on him could quite possibly result in their severe depression and ultimately their death. This is after all a wild animal, and in Australia where they originate from, Sugar Gliders are forbidden to be kept as household pets.
So this cute little marsupial, in the female case, with its Joey pouch, needs careful thought and consideration before you embark into a 10-15 year relationship with it. Like all exotic pets, I'm not so sure at all that we should be taking these creatures from their natural habitat, and placing them in the confines of a domestic home. - Only time will tell.
A Sugar Glider is for Life - Not just for Christmas! and certainly not just a whim of fancy.-
Thankyou for reading.
Also posted by myself on several other sites.
Google the Sun, the Daily mail, Times and Metro and you'll see they're all raving about the new supercute pocket pet, that can apparently fly! This is irresponsible journalism at it's finest. Four newspapers have printed articles on how amazing these little creatures are as pets in the last week...any idiot can see what's going to happen now. After Ratatouille, every kid wanted a grey dumbo (big eared) rat. After Nemo, everyone wanted a clownfish (which is now becoming endangered, thanks to Disney alone). Lets not even discuss 101 Dalmatians. Then there were the chipmunk and chinchilla crazes. Now everybody is going to want this adorable "flying" pet.
First of all, sugar gliders don't fly, they glide. There's a difference. And there's no guarantee they will use it in captivity anyway, it is designed so they can glide tree to tree, not TV to cage. I dont really have time to use Dooyoo any more, but I'm so peed off by this I thought I'd come back to write a review. Sugar gliders are NOT perfect pets, they might be cute but they are very complicated to care for and have some rather nasty habits most people could do without.
About the Sugar Glider
The sugar glider is an omnivorous possom from Australia. Like all marsupials, it has a pouch for raising it's young...it also has a fine gliding membrane across its tum that means it can glide between trees...sort of like an Australian version of a gliding squirrel, only with sharper teeth.
So what's all the fuss about?
Sugar gliders are cute. There's no denying those little beady eyes and pink noses are cute. They are also "cool". They glide, you can carry a sugar glider around in a pouch near your body to bond with it, and they eat insects. Once a sugar glider is bonded to you they are sweet, funny and loveable creatures.
All of this is true. But the sugar glider has a dark side, which we'll discuss later. First of all, lets talk care...make no mistake about it, sugar gliders are HIGH maintenance.
This could be your first problem. THere are plenty of breeders out there, most of whom are looking to make a buck thanks to these stupid newspaper articles....spend your time looking for a breeder who asks you loads of questions about how you plan to keep the animals, and refuses to sell you a lone glider (gliders should NEVER be kept without company of other gliders), this is the first mark of a good breeder.
Expect to pay in the region of 200-300 for a pair of glider joeys.
The best cage for a sugar glider is usually custom designed or an indoor aviary or parrot cage. You need a base size of minimum 2X3foot and 4 foot high, more if you want to keep three or more gliders. Bar spacing should be no more 15mm apart, and the wire should be very heavy gauge. All doors should have strong catches, you might want to add additional catches to the doors.
Cages should not be in areas subjected to bright light in the evening, this can damage glider's eyes.
Expect to pay £200 plus for the cage, and another £30+ for toys.
Gliders will often use an exercise wheel, but not the cheap hamster kind from your local pet shop. The only one on the market thats really suitable is the "Wodent Wheel", which is very solid and enclosed so the glider cant fall out or shoot across the cage. These tend to be pretty pricey. Other than that, good parrot toys and perhaps rat or ferret toys are what you're after. Parrot swings, wooden perches, rope perches, rope and wood chew-toys are good toys for gliders. Wood and untreated rope are best, they will destroy plastic and rubber easily.
Gliders need an extremely specific diet...you cannot buy complete glider mix at your pet shop. There are pellets available, but you would need to buy from the US and these diets are pretty bad for gliders, sometimes cutting their lifespans in half. They need to eat fruit and vegetables, these are best mashed so they cant pick and choose their faves and leave the healthy ones, and they also need protein, in the form of premium cat food (Science Plan or Iams), crickets and mealworms, cooked chicken and hardboiled egg. They need various vitamins and supplements too. The complexity of the glider diet is beyond the scope of this review, google "Shropshire exotics" or "Ameyzoo" for more info on feeding gliders. You MUST get their diet right...failure to do so can cause hind leg paralysis or other serious problems in sugar gliders! So you see, they are not the cute, simple to care for pets you think.
You can expect sugar glider food preparation to take a minimum of 15 minutes a day, not to mention the shopping in food and pet stores you will need to do for them, and the months of research into their diet you SHOULD be doing before you get a pair of gliders. They WILL waste a lot of this food.
Expect to spend around £10 a week in fresh fruit, vegetables and insects. You will also need to buy supplements and other bits and bobs on a regular basis.
Gliders are wild animals. They bite. Even when they are tamed they will bite sometimes. And it hurts. Their teeth are very, very sharp. Taming gliders can be difficult. The best way is to get the animal when it's sleepy and about to nap (during the day, they are nocturnal), and put it in a "Glider pouch". Basically a pouch of material with a string to attach it to yourself...you can buy or make these. Keeping the glider close to your body will help the bonding process immensely. Once the glider is used to this you can slowly introduce your hands to the pouch, and then after this take the glider out of the pouch and into the big bad world...or living room. This process might take weeks, months or it might never happen...you are talking about a wild animal here.
Expect to spend an hour bare minimum with your gliders every day...three hours is better. Is this too big a commitment?
Finding a vet
Very difficult...you might even have to use a zoo vet! Make sure you locate a good vet BEFORE you buy the glider. It will also be expensive to treat an exotic creature like a glider.
The upsides of gliders
They are cute! No denying that
They are interesting and unusual and fun to watch.
When well tamed they are sweet and loveable creatures.
That's about it. If you are the right person for a sugar glider they will give you many years of joy. But sadly there are more downsides than up, so make sure you can deal with the following before you get a glider:
Biting: They like finger. Even when tamed.
Mess: They chuck food and possibly poo outside the cage, it can get all over the floor and walls. If you are houseproud gliders are NOT for you.
Smell: Male gliders, in particular, will scent mark you, and some gliders can be rather stinky, although other's say their gliders dont have much of a smell at all.
Pee: They have no control over their bodily functions and will happily pee all over you.
Accident-proneosity (good word): They are curious, fast and they can glider. They are great at getting lost inside things, stuck in things and gliding or jumping into things. They need constant supervision when out and about.
Longevity: A good point for the right glider people, they can live as long as dogs, and this is a HUGE commitment!
Expense: Cages, toys and gliders themselves are expensive. Gliders are great at shredding toys and your wallpaper, and as a bonus are expensive to feed and treat at the vet!
Not good for kids: They bite, scratch and will not appreciate the naturally exuberant nature of a child. They are too high maintenance for kids and are a SERIOUS, 15 year commitment. Dont even think of getting your kids one of these!
It might seem like I'm all downsides, but I'm sick of hearing about people who take on animals and fail to realise that they all come with habits that animals have. "Does he bite?" is a question you get asked far too much working in a pet shop. Any animal can bite, many of them stink and make a mess and are not friendly...sugar gliders can be all of these. If you aren't prepared for the downsides of the gorgeous little glider, then get yourself a toy sugar glider instead. These wonderful animals do not deserve the fate of the poor dalmatian, the chinchilla or any of the other fashionable pets of yesteryear. Animals are living beings, NOT fashion accessories.
Sugar gliders are small marsupials which come from Australia, and they can make wonderful pets. In the wild they live in small colonies. The most common colour is grey on top with a white belly, and a black stripe down the middle of their back. Other colours are very rare. They are called gliders because they have a gliding membrane than stretches from their back legs to their front legs, so when they stretch their legs out they can act like a kite and glide great distances (as long as a football pitch!)
Sugar gliders take a lot of care and dedication to own. They are not really suitable as a children's pet. They can live for 12-14 years, so you have to be sure that you will be able to care for the glider for the rest of its life before buying one. They are nocturnal, so you have to get used to staying up each night. Sugar gliders should not really be kept on their own, as they get lonely. If you have just one sugar glider, you will need to spend a LOT of time with it.
Sugar gliders need playtime every night. They are very active and sociable little creatures, and enjoy your company. You need to have somewhere safe and escape-proof to play with your glider. I have a room set aside just for them. You can also put up a tent inside a room to play with them in. They are extremely fast and agile, and they can climb just about anything. When they have climbed something they glide down from it. Their gliding isn't very elegant, it's more like a big leap. They love to play on ropes, branches and swings, but their favourite thing to play on is people.
The gliders need a large cage, the taller the better. A hamster cage won't do. A cage for 2 gliders should be at least 45cm deep x 60cm wide x 150cm tall. The bars need to be plastic coated so they don't hurt their feet. They need somewhere to sleep, either a nest box or fleecy pouch can be used. A wheel is a must have, but be careful to get one that they can't catch their tails in - Wodent Wheels are the best as they have a solid back. They also need branches or ladders to climb on.
It's not a good idea to keep gliders in a bedroom, as they are quite noisy at night.
I have wooden shelves in my cage - I have found that these can get a bit smelly so I have made some covers for them out of "Liteglaze" which you can buy in B&Q.
Some types of wood can make gliders ill, so you shouldn't just use any old shavings from the pet shop. They need to have aspen shavings (usually found in reptile shops), or Carefresh bedding (from most pet shops).
Sugar gliders need to have a very carefully balanced diet. They need to have 25% protein, and 75% fruit and vegetables. Some protein sources - mealworms, waxworms, locusts, crickets, chicken, tofu, egg. You can't be squeamish about picking up live bugs!
They can eat most fruits and vegetables, but onions are poisonous to them, as is caffeine.
The other important thing is that they need to have twice as much calcium as phosphorus in their diet. If they don't have enough calcium, they can become paralysed. Good foods for calcium are papaya, figs, and spinach. Gliders also need a calcium and vitamin supplement.
Sugar gliders are the friendliest small animals I have ever had. They love to be with people. When you play with them, they will happily climb all over you, and lick honey from your fingers and they always rush up the the cage bars to see you when you go into their room. They are easy to tame and you can get them to sleep in a pouch round your neck or even in your pocket in the daytime, but they don't like being held on to when they are awake. They rarely bite (they will have a nibble on your finger when you first get them to see what you taste like), but they do have VERY sharp claws.
Sugar gliders are not cheap. From a reputable breeder, they will cost at least £250 per pair. It is important to go to a good breeder, otherwise you risk inbreeding which can cause both physical and mental health problems in gliders.
Can you dedicate time to your glider EVERY day? A bored glider will quickly become trouble, and can even start chewing it's tail off.
Have you found a vet that can treat gliders? Good exotic vets are hard to find. Most vets haven't even heard of gliders.
Have you got a suitable environment for a glider to live and play in? Gliders are very good at wriggling into/out of small spaces, and they are difficult to get hold of if they don't want to be caught.
Can you be sure to provide the right diet for a glider? A glider fed on the wrong diet will develop health problems.