- Family: Marsupial
- Average Size: 5-6 inch long body with a 5-6 inch long tail
- Average Weight: 4-5 oz (100-160 grams) although can weigh up to 5.5 ounces.
- Diet: Omnivore
- Temperament: Social, friendly and active
- Sleep Habits: Nocturnal
- Prohibited by Law: Illegal to own in Alaska, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Minnesota. In many other states/provinces/territories, specific laws relating to owning sugar gliders are not known, with some areas requiring a permit. Contact appropriate authorities in your area to find out whether or not sugar gliders are a legal option for you.
- Average Life Span: 12-14 years with proper care
Keeping Your Sugar Glider Happy
Like most exotic pets, sugar gliders require a lot of care and attention. Sugar gliders are extremely social and require a great deal of companionship. Because of that fact, it’s a great idea to buy a pair of sugar gliders instead of simply buying one. It may cost more but your sugar glider will be much happier in the long run. Be smart about selecting a pair though. You obviously want a pair of the same sex or a pair with a neutered male if you don’t want to end up with babies to deal with.
Sugar gliders are active little guys so you need to make sure you have plenty of toys for them to play with. Exercise wheels like you’d buy for a hamster or a gerbil make greats toys for younger gliders. Older ones may exercise wheels but if they’re not introduced to them at a young age, there’s a decent chance they won’t know what to do with it.
Ropes, ladders and branches also make great toys for sugar gliders. You need to be careful when choosing branches though as some specific types of wood should be avoided. Branches from coniferous trees like cedar trees or pine trees produce a sticky sap that you’ll want to stay away from.
If you’re looking to buy your sugar glider a special toy as a treat, look for toys made for rodents or birds. Sugar gliders will definitely appreciate them. To make sure they get the most enjoyment possible out of their new toy, place it high in the cage so they’ll have to climb to reach it. They’ll love the climbing, they’ll love the toy and you’ll love watching them play.
Sugar gliders will spend much of the day sleeping but will appreciate you taking time to bond with them all the same. You can keep your sugar glider company by carrying it with you in a loose fitting pocket on your shirt or even carrying it under your shirt. Quick tip – wear two shirts if you’re going to go with the under the shirt option. Keep your pet between the two shirts to help prevent scratching. You don’t really have to worry about your glider running amuck while you’re trying to go about your day. Like I said, it will mostly be sleeping.
Keeping Your Sugar Glider Comfortable
Sugar gliders require a decent sized enclosure. Generally speaking, you will need a cage that is at 24 inches long, 24 inches wide and 36 inches high to comfortably house a pair of sugar gliders. You want to look for something that is higher rather that wider. Sugar gliders love climbing so they’ll be much happier in a cage that gives them lots of room to climb. They are pretty small little guys though, so you need to make sure the space between the bars doesn’t allow them an escape route. Horizontal bars that are no more than ½ an inch wide are ideal.
Sugar gliders like to keep busy so aside from making sure they have enough room in their cage, you need to make sure they have lots to play with and lots to do. At the very least, every glider cage should have an exercise wheel (like you would buy for a hamster), a nest box and a few toys. Ropes, ladders and branches make great toys for sugar gliders. Although some new sugar glider owners prefer to buy nest boxes, you can easily make your own.
If you choose to make your own nest box, you need to use a material such as wood or clay (a clay pot works well if it has holes in the side) because it needs to be able to absorb moisture while still breathing a bit. You’ll likely need to replace your homemade nest boxes every so often and they will absorb urine. Plastic, store bought nest boxes are easier to clean and maintain but as long as you don’t mind replacing it every once in a while, homemade boxes can be just as good. Quick tip: place the nest box at the top of the cage. If you don’t, your new pet will sit on top of the box, allowing for a build up of feces and urine.
Cloth bags also make great homes within a home for sugar gliders; acting sort of like a sugar glider pouch. You can hand the cloth bags on the side of the cage where they can easily get in and out. They’ll love it. If you choose to go this route, it’s a good idea to have multiple cloth bags so you can switch them up to keep the bags clean.
As for bedding, you’re going to want to provide your sugar glider with a piece of cloth if you choose not to use a cloth bag. Your sugar glider will use this as a sort of next material. You need to watch out for loose strings and threads though as they could pose a hazard for your new friend. Fir or aspen shavings should be placed along the bottom of the cage, but this is not used for bedding. The shavings in a sugar glider’s cage are there to absorb waste. Don’t ignore the need for a cloth bag or a piece of cloth just because you have shavings down. They serve completely different purposes. It’s also important to avoid using cedar shavings.
Maintenance of a sugar glider’s cage is really no more difficult than maintaining a hamster’s cage. You should replace the shavings at least twice a week but you’ll be able to tell if you need to do it more often. Some owners will clean out the shavings once a day but that’s really only necessary if you have three or more in a cage which should generally be avoided anyway. You’re also going to want to keep your sugar glider cage in an area in the house that is easily accessible but is out of direct sunlight or drafts. Many people choose to keep their cages in a corner of the living room that doesn’t see much sunlight.
Keeping Your Sugar Glider Healthy
Knowing what to feed your sugar glider is vital to its overall health and happiness. The problem with this one is that sugar gliders are fairly new to the pet market so there is still a little mystery surrounding what they actually need in captivity. One thing is certain, however. It is important to give your glider a diet that focuses on keeping calcium balances level. Failing to do so increases your gliders chance of developing metabolic bone disease which could lead to fractures and a wide range of other health problems.
In the wild, sugar gliders survive on insects, nectar, gum, sap, small birds, lizards and bird eggs. This obviously isn’t the diet you can give them in captivity. Instead, focus on eliminating things that are bad for your pet (refined sugars, fats, chocolate) and focusing on that all important calcium balance. You can buy insectivore food from many high end pet stores or pet stores that specialize in exotic pets or you can simply buy the insects you feed them. Meal worms, wax worms, moths, spiders and crickets all make great dietary options for sugar gliders. Meal worms should be readily available at most pet stores.
In addition to insects or insectivore food, your glider will also need protein and all its required vitamins. I found an excellent recipe you can make at home that is fairly inexpensive and easy to make. It’s called Leadbeater’s Mix and was developed in conjunction with several experts in the subject. To make it, you will need:
150 ml warm water
150 ml honey
1 boiled egg (shell removed)
25 grams baby cereal that is high in protein
1 tsp vitamin or mineral supplement
Once you have the ingredients together, you’ll mix the water and the honey together. Blend the egg and slowly add the honey and water mixture. Add the vitamin powder and blend until smooth. Add the baby cereal and blend. Once the mixture is smooth again, you’ll all done. You can refrigerate the mixture until you’re ready to use it.
Fresh fruit makes a great treat for sugar gliders but they can be fairly finicky. Make sure you chop up a variety of fruit and mix it all together so your pet can’t just pick out what it likes the most and leave the rest. Again, it’s all about balance. You want to make sure it gets as much of the goodness as possible.
5 questions to ask yourself before buying or adopting a sugar glider
01: Are sugar gliders legal to own in my community?
02: Do I have the time to dedicate to keeping my sugar glider happy?
03: Am I able to give a sugar glider the proper dietary requirements?
04: Am I ready to commit to a new, long term pet?
05: Do I have the proper cage to house a sugar glider (or a pair of sugar gliders) properly?
Asking these questions and answering them honestly is the best way to be prepared for your new pet. Sugar gliders can be a lot of work but they also make excellent pets. If you’re ready, a pair of sugar gliders can made a great addition to your home.