Keeping a sugar glider as a pet can be really rewarding. But, these curious and intelligent marsupials need a significant level of specialized care, socialization, and nutrition to stay healthy. In this post, our Westfield vets share some key factors you should consider when deciding to keep a sugar glider as a pet.
While sugar gliders may look like rodents, they are actually marsupials just like kangaroos and koalas. They have pouches for carrying their young and folds of skin that stretch from their wrists to their sides that lets them glide between trees when they are in the wild.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal animals, so they are most active during the night and on average they weigh between 2.5 and 5.5 ounces. Wild and "classic" sugar gliders have a distinctive black dorsal stripe and a white belly, however, the ones that are bred in captivity can have many different colors and patterns on their fur.
Wild sugar gliders live in groups of 6-10 and are very social creatures that live an average of 6 to 7 years.
Are Sugar Gliders Good Pets?
Sugar gliders can make great exotic pets and you can purchase them from shelters, pet stores, and breeders across the United States. They are very caring, social, and curious animals who often form lifelong close bonds with their families.
But, sugar gliders are pets that require a great deal of time and care, our Westfield vets recommend taking the time to learn about this animal and their requirements before deciding to bring one home.
But what are the needs of sugar gliders?
Bonding With Your Sugar Glider
You might have heard that there is a bonding (or taming) process you need to implement when introducing a sugar glider to their life as a companion animal.
They need daily handling and playtime in order to get comfortable with their owners, otherwise, they can get nippy. This is why sugar gliders might not be a good pet for families that have young children.
Since they have an affinity for pouches, sugar gliders will often curl up in a pocket or specially-designed sugar glider pouch.
Stimulation & Housing
Sugar gliders need a cage that's large enough for them to get exercise and perform activities such as jumping, leaping, and gliding. The bare minimum cage size for this pet is considered to be 3' by 2' by 3'. Sugar gliders also have earned the reputation for being escape artists, so you need to 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.
Also, you should almost never keep just one sugar glider as a pet. These animals are very social by nature, so in addition to daily handling and playtime, they will need a companion to keep them company.
The Nutritional Needs of Sugar Gliders
Sugar gliders are omnivores and have specific nutritional habits that have to be met in order for them to stay healthy.
Despite what you may believe, sugar gliders eat very little fruit.
While there is no preferable sugar glider diet, we recommend dividing their diet into 3 parts. Half of their daily intake can be commercial pellets, a quarter should be green, leafy 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, it's critical to include diversity and variety.
A Sugar Glider's Medical Requirements
Just like any other pet, sugar gliders are susceptible to various illnesses and conditions. Some of the most common health conditions found in sugar gliders are dental health issues, weight problems, and stress-related diseases.
Problems such as oral health and weight issues often stem from improper nutrition. Overly sugary foods can result in obesity and tooth decay and an improper diet can just as easily cause malnourishment.
In addition to this, 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.