Infobook by Sugar Coated Gliders
Sugar Coated Gliders’
A Brief Guide to New Glider Ownership
This guide will walk through the basics of sugar glider husbandry and care. Hopefully covering all of the topics of information that are asked every day by prospective and new owners.
So you want a Sugar Glider…
Sugar gliders are a very unique exotic pet. They have been domesticated in North America, mainly the USA, for about 20 years, though are more recently becoming more popular in Canada as well. This is a short run down of what to expect when considering purchasing a sugar glider.
- They are highly social colony animals. So if you are considering on adopting a glider… plan for at least two. Most people keep them in pairs, however, trios, quads and larger colonies have been successfully kept as well (with all males neutered). No matter how much time you plan to spend with your glider… you are not a glider. You cannot sleep in a pouch with them, groom them, etc. They need a friend of their own kind to thrive. Lone gliders may become depressed, stop eating, over-groom themselves, self-mutilate, and even die.
- Though they are adorable, gliders will bite, have sharp nails and cannot be potty trained (they go wherever whenever).
- They are nocturnal and will make plenty of noise at night, so not highly recommended to keep them in your bedroom if you’re a light sleeper.
- They are high maintenance animals. Social interaction (play time in a glider-safe room/ tent etc with you) is a great way to improve bonding as well as allow the gliders to get some out of cage exercise. They require fresh food nightly and a specialized diet. There is no short cut pellet version. If you plan to go away and won’t be home to feed them, you must have someone available that can provide fresh food and water.
- The initial set up of preparing for a pair of sugar gliders is expensive. Initial set up of cage and accessories can run easily into several hundreds on top of the cost of the gliders. I’ve included a break down of the average costs on page 3.
- You need to plan for vet care. This includes finding a vet close to you that sees sugar gliders and saving for emergencies. Gliders should have an annual check up and fecal test. No vaccines are given to sugar gliders. If appropriate, male gliders should also be neutered. Cost will vary greatly by vet or geographical area, so do some research on vets around you.
- Sugar gliders are a 10-15+ year commitment. They are living creatures that depend on you for care. It is stressful for them to be shuffled from home to home with new owners and it’s unfair to them.
If you’ve expected all of that… please continue.
What is a sugar glider?
A sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) is a small tree-dwelling gliding possum. They are omnivorous, though in the wild are primarily nectar and insect eaters. They are marsupials, meaning they carry their young in a pouch for foetal development. They are native to Australia, Tasmania, and certain isles of Indonesia. They have been kept as pets for a very short time compared to common cats and dogs.
Sugar gliders have 4 scent glands. They are used for making territory. The frontal and chest scent glands are most obvious on intact males as they will exhibit a bald spot and sometimes some discoloration around the area. The other glands are located around the cloaca. Intact males will exhibit a fur-covered pom (scrotum) on their lower abdomen. Males have a bifurcated (forked) penis. If the male is neutered the scent glands will diminish, and depending on the type of neuter, a pom may or may not be present. A “pom-on” neuter leaves the sac, but it should be flat and empty. A “pom-off” neuter will remove the scrotum entirely. Once healed these gliders are sometimes mistaken for females. Females will exhibit a pouch opening as a small slit on their abdomen. They do not develop bald spots for scent marking. Front paws have five clawed digits all requiring regular trimming. Hind paws have a clawless thumb-like digit, two regular digits and 2 small partially fused digits used for grooming. The fused toes’ claws should not be trimmed unless they are very overgrown.
So What Now?
- Your next step to glider parenthood is to find a reputable breeder or rescue to adopt from. I will emphasize reputable, as rehomes found on kijiji or Craigslist may require more attention and medical care. If you adopt gliders from different sources, a 30 day quarantine protocol should be followed and negative fecal tests done before beginning introductions.
- You will also need to decide on specifics (if any) of the gliders you wish to adopt. This includes age, gender and colour of the gliders.
- It is a common myth that older gliders will not bond to a new owner, this is very untrue. Though it may take longer (depending on the gliders previous experiences with humans), even adults can and will bond with new owners. Younger gliders have had less time in their life to have bad experiences with humans. No matter the age, all gliders will bond at different rates (weeks to months, even years) and some will form stronger bonds than others. If you are patient, it will pay off.
- You may or may not want a specific gender. This is highly personal preference. Just a few notes here. Neither gender is more sweet than the other. Temperament is individual to the glider, not the gender. Intact males will have a stronger odour and develop scent glands on their head and chest. This odour will diminish when they are neutered. Needless to say, you should not adopt an intact male and female, unless you plan on breeding (which is not recommended for beginners). If you adopt a brother and sister, the male should be neutered by 12 weeks old.
- Colour is highly personal preference and does not play any attribution to the personality or quality of the glider. If adopting from an unknown source, note that “cinnamon” coloured gliders are very rare, and it is likely a stained grey glider, usually resulting from an improper diet. I will include a short list of colours found on page 9.
Preparing for your Sugar Gliders: What do you need?
- Cage: ~ $100-400 Should be a minimum of 24”L x 24” W x 36” tall. MINIMIM. Bar spacing should be ½” or less. Rule of thumb, if you can fit a dime through the bars your gliders head can fit through the bars. If buying something second hand, make sure it is washed/disinfected well, check for bent or broken bars, and be sure there is no rust. No bare metal or galvanized metal should be used.
- Exercise Wheel: ~$50-100 No pet store wheel is safe for sugar gliders. Sugar gliders don’t “run” so much as “hop” and “leap”. There are very specialized wheels that allow gliders to do just that. Safe wheels include Raptor wheels, Stealth wheels, Custom Cruiser wheels, and Fast Trak wheels and treadmills. Common unsafe wheels are wodent wheels, silent spinners, silent runners, chinchilla wheels, hamster/mice wheels, etc. See pages 4 & 5 for wheel info.
- Bedding: ~$40-100. This includes sleeping pouches, hammocks, vines, bridges, cubes, etc. Items should be made specifically with sugar glider safety in mind (hidden seams, no exposed thread, etc) and made out of safe materials (usually anti-pill or blizzard fleece, though some are made safely with flannel and cotton). You should prewash new items in a gentle detergent (no fabric softener or dryer sheets) before placing them in cage and frequently check for loose stitching, threads, etc. Damaged items should be mended or replaced. It is recommended to have two “sets” to swap out on washing day.
- Toys: $10-50 Toys come in many varieties and options. Some bird toys are safe from petstores, but mostly want to avoid anything with metal, rope, or wooden toys. Specific toys are made for sugar glider enrichment, including foraging toys and reset toys. Some toddler toys are safe to use in cage either hanging them or as floor toys. Ensure there are no pinch points or active electrical components.
- Diet: ~$20-30/month. Choose an approved diet and have it prepared for your gliders’ arrival. Many breeders will send home some food with the gliders, but if they do not, ask what they have been eating. See approved diets on page 11 & 12.
- Food bowls: ~$2-5 Many shapes and sizes. Just be sure that the gliders cannot tip it over. Hanging bird bowls or trays are acceptable.
- Water: $2-$10 Use of water bowl, water bottle or water silo are all appropriate as long as the glider has access to it. Be sure to check water bottles frequently to ensure the ball does not stick.
- Bonding pouch: ~$20-30. Often zippered closure with a mesh window for ventilation. Used for carrying gliders while they sleep or when leaving safe areas (going outside, to vet, etc)
- Pop-up Tent: ~$30-50.(Optional) Great option to create an instant safe zone for play time. Include toys, wheel, and some treats and you will become a human jungle gym!
These wheels have been time tested and are the safest options for sugar gliders!
- Fast Track: http://www.spinzoneglobal.com/ canadiansugargliders.com
- Raptor wheels : mygliderwheelsandmore.com
- Stealth Wheels: http://atticworx.com/
- Custom Cruiser: http://customchoicecruiser.all4gliders.com/
Safe wheels ideally are 10-12” diameter, have no center bar, a plastic mesh track and no pinch points. They can come on a stand or with an appropriate cage mount. If using the stand, it is recommended to ziptie it to the cage to prevent it from “walking”.
This is a Stealth Wheel:
These wheels are unsafe for various reasons, including, but not limited to: centre bar, solid track, pinch points and too small diameter. Hamster balls are also unsafe. Use of unsafe wheels can lead to severe injury or even death.
Metal Hamster Wheel
This is a by far the most confusing part of researching glider ownership. Gliders by nature are sap suckers and insectivores, so a liquid type staple diet is essential to their well being. Their teeth were not designed to chew pellets efficiently. There are a number of appropriate diets, just note that not every diet is suitable for every glider. They might also not like one staple diet and love another. It does however, most come down to convenience for you (at least in the beginning). Many of the staple diets are made in batches and are frozen prior to serving along with fruits and veggies, fresh and frozen. I have included some of the more popular staple recipes, starting on page 11. Safe fruits and veggies can be found on page 7.
Note that there is no shortcut diet for sugar gliders. They are an exotic species and require special diets. Pellets should never offered as a primary diet item. Some will keep them in the cage as a snack. Monkey biscuits or high quality cat food like orijen brand can also be used. Also avoid using anything “instant” or “ready-made” diets marketed for sugar gliders. Staple diet with fruits and veggies should be offered in the evening and left overnight. Clear uneaten food in the morning. Fresh food should be offered EVERY night. As mentioned previously, if you are going away and will be unable to feed then it is important that you can arrange for someone to feed them. Fresh water should also be available at all times. Though you may not see your gliders drinking much since their diet should be very hydrating, it is still very important that they have access to water. In addition to the diet, occasional snacks and treats can be given by hand or left in cage for foraging. Treats include, but are not limited to: yogurt drops, dried fruit, mini marshmallows (very rare treat), honey sticks, plain cheerios, and insects (see the safe insect list). Treats can be used to encourage bonding.
***Never feed wild caught insects
*** ensure that insects have been raised on an appropriate diet that makes them safe for gliders (no corn bedding, etc)
Lima beans (raw)
***Lima beans in a frozen veggie mix have been blanched, so are safe
Like many pets, gliders can be messy. Establish a cleaning schedule that works. Don’t clean everything at once as the gliders will go on a marking-spree and smell the place up. It is recommended to alternate weeks in washing the cage sets and pouches and toys as well as the cage. Cages sets can be washed in the washing machine with a gentle detergent and no fabric softeners, no dryer sheets in the dryer. Most toys can be washed in a sink or tub with a dish detergent and rinsed well, and hung to dry. The cage can be wiped down with a 50/50 water/vinegar mix and rinsed. If able, it is recommended to take the cage outside occasionally for a hose down.
The drop pan can be lined with newspaper, puppy training pads, paper towels, fleece, paper cat litter (yesterdays news, chattonelle), or critter fresh bedding. Wood shavings/chips should be used unless they are kiln dried. The pan should be low enough that the glider cannot reach the liner/bedding. If they can, it is best to put only fleece or leave it bare and wipe it down. Liners should be replaced daily as food will fall down and go bad. Some gliders will get food and feces outside of the cage, a safe cage cover/ surround can be used to limit the mess.
Okay! So you got your new gliders.You’re super excited! But they aren’t. You are a huge stranger, taking them away from everything they’ve known. So get them settled into their new environment, and keep low interaction with them for a few days. This means feeding at night, sit and talk to them, maybe offer a treat through the bars of the cage, but do not attempt to handle them. Allow them to get used to you. To your smell, your voice as well as their new environment. It’s all alien to them! Gliders will lunge and bite if they feel threatened. If you have a lone single glider, getting them a friend will help with bonding as they develop more confidence. You can also cut some small squares of fleece and put it in your pocket or shirt to get the scent on it and then place it in their cage to get them used to your scent. DO NOT place clothing items in or on the cage as the fabrics and stitching are not glider safe to be left unsupervised.
After they’ve settled for a few days, start carrying them in a bonding pouch. Usually under your shirt with the mesh facing your skin so they are closer to your scent. If you have a hard time getting them into the bonding pouch, you can try easing them from their sleeping pouch into the bonding pouch, keeping the pouch mouths together to prevent escape. Do not try to grab them from the cage as that only frightens them. It is best to carry them during the day when they are asleep for a few hours. Talk to them gently and pet the pouch occasionally. If they are restless, make sure they are not overheating in the pouch.
Once they are comfortable with you carrying them in the pouch, try offering treats with your fingers. Once they associate your hands with food, they won’t be so scary to them! Try petting them with your hand in the pouch if they will allow it.
You can also use a popup mesh tent for interactive play and bonding. As mentioned before, you will become a human play ground in a safe controlled environment. Another option is to glider proof a small room or bathroom to allow for playtime. Be sure to close toilet lids, block vents and drains, etc.
Bonding is different for every glider and you bond at their rate, not yours. Some will bond very quickly, some take weeks, months, even years. Not all gliders are the cuddly chill in your pocket or bra type of gliders. Like people, they all have different personality. You cannot force bonding and if you do it will likely have the opposite effect and set you back in progress. Be patient and you will see progress.
Introducing Two Gliders
If you’re gliders came from different sources, this is a quick word on introductions. First and foremost, a 30-day quarantine period should be followed and clean bills of health and clean fecal tests before beginning any sort of introduction. Once the period is complete, start pouch swapping between the cages. This allows the gliders to become accustomed to each other’s scent. At this point, you can also put the cages in the same room, at least 2-3 feet apart. You can also swap random other pieces of the cage set like hammocks and bridges. Do swaps every 5-7 days, while keeping a regular washing routine.
Gradually move the cages closer together, but still keeping at least 12” apart. Continue pouch/accessory swapping for about 30 days. Nows the moment! You want to introduce the gliders in a neutral area. Not in a cage! Take them both to a play tent or bathroom. Have a piece of fleece ready in case they fight (Ball up). In some cases, gliders will love each other right away, in other cases, they won’t. Come crabbing might be normal, but as long as they aren’t balling up, biting, etc then it’s a good sign. If they do, continue pouch swapping for a longer period of time and try again. If you’re confident they will be fine together, thoroughly clean the cage they will be in and replace bedding and toys with clean ones. This makes it a more neutral territory. Of course, monitor them and separate if need be and repeat the process. Good luck!
Sugar Glider Colours
This is a quick guide. I’m not going to launch into genetics but will include common terminology.
Standard Grey/ Classic Grey: Medium to dark grey body with black markings. Belly is white.
White-face/ White- face blonde: May appear lighter in the face, but distinguished by lack of bars under the ears. White-face blondes may appear lighter in colour overall. Any colour of glider can be white-face.
Albino: All white with red eyes
Leucistic: All white with black eyes. Also referred to as a “leu” or a black eyed white. May have pink or very light grey ears.
Black Beauty: Grey body with pronounced darker markings. Will also have a “chinstrap”, belly will be light grey and may have black knuckles.
White tip: White tip of tail. Variable lengths of white. Can be present in any colour of glider. Note this is a different gene than mosaic.
Crème-ino: Cream coloured with beige/tan markings, and garnet/red eyes.
Platinum: Very light grey-silver body and diluted markings.
Cinnamon: Fairly rare colour. Will have a grey coat with a brownish or red hue. Stained greys are often marketed as cinnamons.
Mosaic: variable patterns of white that can be present in any colour. Highly variable in amounts of white.
Piebald: Similar to mosaics, come in a variety of patterns and in any colour. A piebald is defined as a glider that has a normal patch or patches, spots or markings (light or dark), that are in direct contrast to the mosaic coloring of the sugar glider
Ruby-Leu: a combination of crème-ino and leucistic. They appear as a leucistic with an all white body and garnet eyes. (Note this differs from an albino because of the genetic aspect)
“Het”: Short for Heterozygous, which means that they carry a recessive gene. You may see numbers and percents, this represents the chances of the glider carrying the recessive gene listed.
“Dominant trait”: a characteristic that requires only one copy of the gene to be a visible trait. I.E. White face is a dominant trait.
“Recessive trait”: a characteristic that requires two copies of the gene to be visible. I.E. Leucistic is a recessive trait.
Tips and Tricks
When picking up your glider, do not “grab” them. Gently scoop them securely from underneath with your hand.
When cutting nails, gently wrap glider in a piece of fleece and do one paw at a time. It may require two people, one to hold the glider secure, one to cut claws.
At no point, should sugar gliders be allowed to interact with other pet species. They are a prey animal to most and a predator to others. It is a risk of injury or death. Cat saliva is toxic to gliders.
Sugar gliders are escape artists, be sure to secure all doors on their cage. Ziptie small feeder doors closed and be sure main door is secure. In event of escape, check cage thoroughly for point of escape. Turn off lights and play glider sounds on computer or phone. Leave a pouch hanging on the exterior of cage, along with some treats. Check pockets of coats and clothes in the room as well as shoes. Do not do laundry or sit on couches/cushions until glider is found.
Have a travel/emergency cage ready. Including backup food, small medical kit and other bare necessities. When travelling, never carry your gliders in a pouch on your chest. In the event of an accident, they can be crushed by airbags. Have a secure cage or carrier that can be seat belted in the backseat. Never let your glider roam the car freely.
In dry winter months, or in areas that are dry, you may notice “cracking” in the fur coat. If the glider is otherwise on a good diet, adding an air humidifier in the room may help by increasing the humidity.
Sometimes gliders become pouch protective, where they crab and may lunge when their pouch is disturbed. If this is the case, you can gently invert the pouch from the bottom, lifting them out of the pouch. Other options include OE (open environment) type pouches, which allow them to see you first, which may in the future reduce pouch protectiveness.
Did you know…?
Sugar gliders can glide over 150 feet.
Sugar gliders are only pregnant for 16 days. Rice-size joeys are born and crawl to the pouch, where they develop for 60-70 days.
In the wild, gliders live in colonies of up to 15-30 individuals.
Female gliders are very rarely spayed (fixed) as they have two uteri and the procedure is too risky. Males can be neutered.
Females have 4 teats in the pouch, but often only have 1 or 2 joeys at a time.
Gliders can make a variety of noises including crabbing, hissing, barking, clicking/chattering, purring and popping.
Gliders will occasionally carry things like toys, bracelets, leaves, and fleece strips to their nests (pouches).
Sugar gliders are susceptible to common parasites found in cats and dogs, and other family pets. Annual fecal tests are recommended.
Approved Staple Diets
TPG- The Pet Glider Exotic Diet
** Vitamins for this diet must be specifically the TPG vitamins, no substitutions and can be found here
2 C fresh or frozen fruits - at least 4 types
2 C fresh or frozen vegetables - at least 4 types
6-8 oz plain full fat yogurt
6 tbs/3 oz calcium fortified orange juice concentrate
6-8 tbs/2-3 oz uncooked oatmeal
4 C/32 oz unsweetened applesauce
6-8 oz protein -chicken, turkey, eggs
1-2 tbs ground flax seed or wheat germ (optional)
Finely chop fruits and vegetables. Cook the protein. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except the oatmeal. Depending on thickness of the mixture, add oatmeal to effect. (You want consistency like a cake mix). Freeze in ice cube tray or small containers.
Put 2 tbs per cube in a tray for a portion, or freeze in 10 smaller even containers. One small container will last 2 gliders 3 meals.
Sprinkle the TPG multivitamin onto food each day, 1/8th tsp per glider.
BML- Bourbon’s Modified Leadbeaters
½ C honey
1 hardboiled egg (no shell)
¼ C Apple juice
*1x 4 oz bottle Gerber’s Juice with Yogurt
**1 tsp Rep-Cal Herpitive supplement (blue label)
**2 tsp Rep-Cal Calcium (Non-phosphorous and with D3) (Pink label)
2x 2oz Chicken Baby food (With broth or gravy)
¼ Wheat germ
½ C dry baby cereal
* This product is not sold in Canada. It can be substituted with 2 oz mixed fruit juice and 2 oz full fat yogurt.
**Do not substitute the rep-cal supplements. The Rep-cal supplements can be bought at most petstores (petsmart, big al’s, petco)
Mix well in blender until uniform, will be thick brown liquid consistency, but should not be runny. Measure into an ice cube tray and freeze. (Additional freeze in a larger container).
This diet is very strict on the fruits and veggies that are fed with it. Adding or substituting different fruits or veggies will cause an imbalance in the diet.
Fruits: grapes, apple, cantaloupe, watermelon, pitted cherries and blueberries
Veggies: peas, corn, carrots and green beans (frozen premix is easiest)
1 tbs BML mixture
1 tbs fruit
1 tbs veggies
Insects as treats in the morning.
OHPW- Original High Protein Wombaroo
When looking for HPW be sure to get the original from Australia. There are many knock-off brands. Again avoid any “instant-HPW” or “just add water” formulations.
¼ C HPW powder (increase to ½ C for breeding gliders)
2 C warm water
1.5 C honey
3 scrambled eggs (no milk/seasonings)
1 tbs bee pollen
Cook eggs (scrambled), set aside to cool.
In large bowl mix water and honey. Stir until honey is dissolved.
Add in HPW powder, mix well.
In a blender add in eggs, bee pollen and 1/2 to 1 cup HPW liquid mixture. Blend for two minutes.
Add in additional liquid and blend for another two minutes.
Pour into a freezer safe bowl with an airtight lid. Keep in freezer. HPW will freeze to consistency of ice cream.
1.5 tsp HPW (1 tbs for two gliders)
1 tbs fruits
GOHPW -Green Original High Protein Wombaroo (Reduced Honey modification)
¼ c HPW powder (Increase to ½ c for breeding gliders)
2 c warm water
¾ c honey
3 scrambled eggs
1 tbs bee pollen
1 c green juice (Odwalla, Knudsen, Bolthouse)
Mix and freeze as instructions follow for OHPW.
Thank you for reading! I hope this short guide has been useful. This is not the know-all end-all guide, this is just based on my experiences and based on questions I help new owners with frequently.