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General Sugar Glider Care
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Learn how to care for these tiny nocturnal marsupials that are very social and have an amazing gliding membrane.

Submitted by PetFinderAdmin on 2010-10-30

Sugar Gliders are tiny marsupials that are native to New Guinea and Australia that live in colonies. Sugar Gliders use their gliding membrane that extends from their front wrist to their rear ankles to move from place to place. Full grown gliders are usually 5 inches in body length with a 6 inch furry tail. They weigh 4 to 5 ounces.

Sugar Gliders are very social animals and are adverse to solitary confinement. Their normal color is steel gray to brownish with a black stripe down the back, but selective breeding in captivity has brought out other color variations, including albinos. In captivity, they can live as long as 15 years, although 8 to 12 years is more usual. The ability to glide is one of the most amazing features of sugar gliders.

Sugar gliders are nocturnal, they active at night, sleep during day time. Sugar gliders are naturally social animals and need to have a lot of contact with their owner in order to be socially fulfilled. Although they are nocturnal, there is still plenty of time to spend with your glider during the day. They have very large (relative to their size) eyes, which help them see at night. They also have large ears, an obvious benefit to an animal who is both preyed-upon and a predator. Those big ears allow them to hear even the smallest sound.Because they are marsupials, they like to be snuggled up in a pouch during the daytime while they sleep .

1. Housing
The bigger, the better. In the wild, sugar gliders nest in holes of trees in colonies of 7 to 15 members and have been observed gliding as far as 300 feet! The width of the cage is important, the more your glider will be able to "fly". Of course, the larger the cage is, the more exercise your glider will be able to get. A cage that is no smaller that 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide are highly recommended. A bird cage with no more than 1/2 inch spacing between bars and extra shelves works well.

Since sugar gliders cannot be litter trained, it is important to get a cage that has a pull-out tray for easy cleaning. Bedding material such as corn cob litter can be place in your pull-out tray or other wood pelleted bedding material. Since sugar gliders are nocturnal, be sure that the cage is not in an area with a lot of noise or human traffic. Be sure to put in several sized bird perches branches or jumping ledge for chinchilla for lots of exercise. Plastic bird perches work well because they are easily washed and do not hold urine smells.

It is also important that the cage is in an area where there is a noticeable light difference between night and day; otherwise, your glider will become confused about when to be awake or asleep. The cage should be kept out of direct sunlight. In the wild, sugar gliders gather in hold in the trees line with leaves for sleeping. Since sugar glider’s cage will need to be cleaned regularly, a plastic house lined with washable fleece is a good choice. Sugar gliders are most comfortable when the temperature is between 23 and 27 degrees Celsius. Much variation from that range can be detrimental to their health. A nesting or sleeping pouch will provide your sugar glider with a place to curl up and go to sleep during the day and also a place where it can hide and feel safe. In the wild, sugar gliders nest high up in trees, place the nesting pouch fairly high up in the cage.

Sugar gliders will use their scent glands to make their pouches smell like them, so it is a good idea to have several pouches available in order to rotate them for cleaning; otherwise, the pouches can become quite smelly.

2. Feeding the glider
Sugar gliders in the wild eat a wide variety of food ranging from sap on the trees, fruits and nuts, to insects. To provide the best diet, a  quality supplement food with yogurt, baby food, cooked sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, , papaya, guava, melons, very small pieces of cooked chicken, eggs and even crickets. Good quality dry cat food should be given as a supplement, just a few pellets a day. A special treat you can provide is nectar, which is specially made for sugar gliders. To prevent vitamin deficiencies, be sure to provide some vitamin supplements that is meant for sugar gliders. Calcium intake is also important but follow directions carefully to avoid overdosing. Acacia gum is a good and complete source of carbohydrate that is natural and important for sugar gliders.

3. Grooming
Sugar gliders are good groomers, grooming themselves frequently. For those difficult nail trimmings, try fine grain sandpaper under the food bowl and on a ramp to reduce the number of nail trimmings. 

4. Bonding.
Sugar gliders can become very attached and bonded to their owners. Your sugar glider will be stressed for the first 2-3 days after bringing it home. Allow your sugar glider to simply be in its new cage for at least the first 24 hours without trying to touch it. During the first 24hours, you can sit in a chair near the cage & talk quietly to your new companion. This will help your sugar glider get used to the sound of your voice.

After the stress period of 2-3days, is to advice you spend as much time as possible "pocket training" and bonding together. Pocket training is accomplished by lining your shirt pocket with a piece of fleece or pre-made fleece pocket liners and by keeping your sugar glider in your shirt pocket as much as possible. The pocket should be considered by your sugar glider as a safe haven. When sugar glider begin taken out of the pocket, put it on your hand with food on your fingertip so that it will get used to you. Try using soft sticky food like yogurt and baby food. As soon as it is done eating, put it back in the pocket. If bonded correctly, it will go to the safe haven on its own. Soon you will have a cute and cuddly friend darting all over you and returning to your pocket for rest and security. Do not use discipline with the shy sugar gliders, patience is the only trainer.

Sugar gliders are very playful animals and enjoy having a variety of toys to play with. You can provide climbing ladders, plastic chains (baby links) for climbing, wooden chew toy, used paper towel rolls, balls with bells and hamster ball. Sugar Gliders love to run, a good way to encourage this is with a large running wheel that is more than 11 inches in diameter. If you put a wheel in the cage, make sure it is one of the solid, plastic ones so that sugar glider's tail won't get caught and injured in it. If Branches are provided in the cage, it should be replaced when they become dry or when about 1/2 of the bark has been stripped off. Use safe non-toxic branches like hibiscus, apple or guava. Research on local toxic trees.

Sugar gliders have fixed teeth, incisors, molars, and premolars. You should not trim your sugar glider’s teeth. Unlike some species, such as guinea pigs, sugar glider’s teeth do not continue to grow once mature. If a tooth falls out, it is not replaced. Wild gliders chew on branches and in the process, clean their teeth. Gliders in cages will also chew on branches.

Sugar gliders can also develop hind-leg paralysis which is life threatening. It is caused by a calcium deficiency from improper diets. Be sure to provide a calcium rich diet for strong bones. You will also need to provide Vitamin D which aides in the absorption of calcium.

7.Sugar Glider Enrichment Supplements

These are some additional things you can provide your gliders with for enrichment:

* Tree branches are good for giving the gliders something to chew and climb on. It is important not to give them anything that could have been sprayed with pesticides and not all trees are safe. We will post a list of sugar glider safe trees soon. You can also find apple tree wood in the hamster section at pet stores and put them on a kabob. We keep those in the cage at all times.
* Acacia Gum – Sugar gliders eat this in the wild and they love it. You can mix a little with water (to get a gummy consistency) and put a dish of it in their cage. Another option is to sprinkle it on their sugar glider food. If your gliders are picky about their sugar glider food, sometimes sprinkling Acacia Gum powder on it will get them to eat it.
* Apple juice, mixed with water (1:1) – Make sure to put this in a separate water bottle at night and remove it from their cage in the morning. They do not need much and they really like it.
* Gatorade – Some gliders really like this and it can help replenish electrolytes and encourage hydration.
* Gliderade – This supplement provides the carbohydrates that gliders need to support their high metabolism. It has the nectar and bee pollen that they would be consuming in the wild. It is good for lactating females too. We give this to our gliders in a small ceramic dish and they love it. Stay tuned for our review on a small plastic drinking tube that we tried to use for Gliderade.

Calcium and Vitamins

These supplements may or may not be necessary, depending on which sugar glider diet you choose. They are not used in the HPW diet, for example, but we try to keep calcium around and sometimes sprinkle some in the sugar glider food on nights that we give our gliders corn (because the calcium:phosphorous ratio in corn is very low).

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