Over the past 20 years, I have traveled this country and spent countless hours helping people understand how to take care of their Suggies. Below, you’ll find a list of the most frequently asked questions that I have been asked along the way. After searching through this invaluable resource, if you do not find the question that you are looking for, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will get that answer to you asap.
How long do Sugar Gliders live?
Sugar Gliders in captivity have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years if cared for properly and given the proper diet. In the wild their life expectancy is closer to 7 to 8 years. Obviously, that is partly due to predators, but it should be obvious that life in captivity agrees with the very social Sugar Glider.
Where are they native to?
Most of the Sugar Gliders available in the United States are descendants from gliders imported from Indonesia. Sugar Gliders are also found in the rainforests of Australia, and New Guinea.
Do they make good pets?
Yes, by all means, the Sugar Glider is uniquely suited to captivity. They are very social, and will totally bond to the person who gives them good care and treats them well. Sugar Gliders are not for small children who cannot control themselves and want to squeeze them too tight, or treat them too rough, but they are wonderful pets for older children, adults, the disabled, and the elderly.
Do they bite?
Any animal can bite, but Sugar Gliders usually only nip or bite when they are afraid of the person holding them. As babies, their bite is usually no more than a hard pinch, rarely breaking the skin. When they are convinced that you are not going to hurt them, they calm down and usually will not bite. Our goal at Tropical Attitude Pets is to have the babies basically unafraid of humans by the time they are ready to sell at 7 to 12 weeks out of the pouch. We do that by handling them on a daily basis from the time their eyes open until they are sold. We call this hand-raising. The mom and dad raise them and feed them, but we handle them to eliminate most of their fear of humans. As a result, we have a great reputation for having very healthy and sweet babies. Some of them, a few percent, never tame down enough to be considered pet quality, and we do not offer those animals for sale as pets. They can be bought as future breeders, or we will keep them to replace or add to our breeders. It doesn’t follow that a biting mother or father will produce biting babies. It just seems to be the nature of a few babies to not take to people. Even these however, can often be improved to pet quality over a period of persistent work. The best way to stop a baby from biting is to wrap him into a little ball in one fist and squeeze them firmly enough to make them feel safe (like when they were in mom’s pouch). One of my customers described this as “hugging them with your hand”. In extreme cases the way we train a glider not to bite, if it is young, is to put an index finger deep into the mouth of a biter, so as to make the mouth open wide and make it uncomfortable (this also lessens the gliders ability to bite down and hurt you once your finger is in place). I usually hold it in his mouth 30 to 45 seconds or until the glider is moving its head around trying to get away from the finger. Then I slowly remove my finger. If it clamps down on me again, I put it back in deep and leave it there again for 20 to 30 seconds. I repeat this until it lets me remove my finger slowly without it biting down again. Once that is accomplished, rub the glider and treat it well as if nothing had happened. He will probably do it again and need the lesson again, but soon he will learn to associate biting your particular skin (with your scent) and the uncomfortable result. It may take several times of being persistent and consistent every time he bites, but it is a proven method. This may not work if your glider has been a biter for a long time and is now older and set in his ways and bad habits. Remember, the younger the glider is, the more trainable it is.
“You will find the sugar gliders get along quite well with other pets. They are vary curious by nature so will
want to get to know the other pets in the family.
Can they get along with other pets?
Sugar Gliders in the wild, live in the top canopy of the rain forests, and stay there most of their lives. Since they seldom are on the ground, they don’t seem to have a fear of many animals. In the wild I suspect that their only predators are birds of prey, and perhaps some snakes. At any rate, it seems that they don’t have an immediate fear of most of our other pets. People sometimes send me pictures of their Sugar Glider sleeping with their cat, or riding on their dogs head, but it would depend on the nature of the other animal. My gliders mix well with our Maine Coon cat, and our miniature Poodle. Most people who buy Sugar Gliders have dogs, cats, or other pets, and it almost always becomes a non issue. Sugar Gliders, when out, want to be on their owner, unless trained to go around the house. When they are off of you, they don’t like to go to the floor, but rather to climb up on things. this usually keeps them out of harms way. See Sugar Gliders and Other Pets for a more complete discussion of this topic.
Are they a rat, a squirrel, a bat?
No, Sugar Gliders are in the marsupial family. They are not rodents. They carry their babies in a pouch and are more closely related to Kangaroos, Possums, and Koalas. The only thing they have in common with a flying squirrel is that they are close to the same size, and they do glide from tree to tree like a flying squirrel. They are more social than a flying squirrel. Squirrels are solitary animals and Sugar Gliders are colony animals normally living in groups of 10 to 20. Sugar Gliders live about twice as long as flying squirrels, and are more social and trusting.
Do they smell?
Sugar Gliders have gotten a bad rap about being smelly from the early days when no one knew very much about them. We now know that feeding a Sugar Glider meat products, whether live or dead, will give it a strong musky smell. In the wild they do eat about 25% meat in the form of bugs, and small critters. In stead of feeding them meat, we give them a protein pellet called Glider Grub which is a soybean protein diet. It takes away all of the bad smell and keeps them very healthy. Another thing that seems to cause odor, is feeding too much vitamins. This usually occurs with the liquid vitamin supplements that are added to water. See Feeding Your Sugar Glider for a more complete discussion of this topic.
What do they eat?
Sugar Gliders eat a variety of things in the wild. They eat insects, worms, larvae, baby birds, and a variety of fruits, berries, and sap. They have a fondness for sweet things, therefore the name Sugar Glider. In captivity, the Sugar Glider should have a diet of at least 25% protein, and the rest fruits and vegetables. The protein can come from different sources, such as cooked meat, boiled eggs, baby food meats, or live foods such as crickets, meal worms, and pinky mice. Most people however want a simple yet effective way to give them their protein on a daily basis and then perhaps give them some of the things mentioned above as treats, and extra enjoyable protein. We sell a product called Glider Grub. It is a dry food formulated for omnivores such as Sugar Gliders. It is very palatable to them, and they like it very much. We offer it to them free choice and keep it in their cage at all times. If you are changing your glider over to this food from some other dry food, you may want to soften it with a fruit juice at first, until they have eaten it a few times. By then they will have developed a taste for it, and it won’t be necessary to soften it. The rest of their daily diet should consist of fruits and vegetables. We make that easy as well. Our method of feeding is to offer about a quarter of an apple each evening for each Sugar Glider, and a little bowl with two to three small pieces of other fruits and vegetables. The apple is their staple fruit, and the small pieces of other fruits and vegetables is for variety. Sugar Gliders are funny in their eating habits. Sometimes they will devour a certain type of food, and then turn up their nose at it the next time you offer it. They almost always like apple and therefore if you give them other fruits and vegetables that they don’t want that day, they will have plenty of apple to eat. If they love the other fruits and vegetables, they will eat them, and less of the apple. Either way, they get plenty to eat. Vary the tidbits of fruits and vegetables so they don’t get into a rut, and not get a well rounded diet. Take the fresh food away from them in the morning, so that it doesn’t go bad, attract fruit flies, and most importantly so that the Sugar Gliders will be forced to eat the dry food when they get hungry during the day. In addition to the protein and produce, we like to give them some source of roughage, such as whole wheat bread, or unsweetened Cheerios. This doesn’t have to be all the time, but occasionally, maybe twice a week.
Limit any foods high in fat. Sugar Gliders can get obese when eating too much fat. This is not healthy for you glider. In this condition, they get lethargic, and will not be able to breed properly.
Sugar Gliders also need additional calcium in their diet so as to not get rear leg paralysis, and lose bone mass, causing brittle bones that can easily be broken. Tropical Attitude Pets makes and sells a product called Vita Glider which is a calcium based, vitamin and mineral supplement for Sugar Gliders. It is easy to use, and the gliders like it. It is sweet, and has a cherry flavor to it. Just sprinkle a fine coating of the powder on their apple every other day. With this supplement, and a good diet, and being kept warm, your Sugar Glider should stay healthy, have a good clean and fluffy coat, have almost no odor, and best of all be a happy glider. See Feeding Your Sugar Glider for a more complete discussion of this subject.
At what temperature do they need to be kept?
The single most important thing for the health of your Sugar Glider is to keep it warm. This is especially true when your glider is a baby. When it is in your pocket, or in a pouch up against your body, it is being heated by your 98.6 F. If you are in cool weather, be sure it is under a jacket so that the warmth of your body will do it some good. When it is in its cage, it is important that it have a nice warm place to snuggle and not only keep out of drafts, but actually be at about 70-80 degrees F. The best way we have found to do this is to place a Heat Rock in the cage and plug it in. It takes a while for the rock to heat up. Then we suggest that you place a tee shirt that has been worn by its owner on top of the heat rock. The reason we suggest a tee shirt, or night shirt, is that the material is non raveling (long strings can get wrapped around a leg or neck, etc.) and it is soft, and large enough to cover the rock completely, offering numerous folds and levels for the glider to find just the right temperature that it loves. The heat rock warms the shirt substantially and provides a warm, dark environment similar to being kept warm by cuddling to mom & dad. With this set up, your Sugar Glider will do a very efficient job of regulating its body temperature. Most of it’s sleep time will be spent in the tee shirt on or near the rock, and during waking hours, they will go back and warm up any time they need to. In order to get the plug on the heat rock cord out of the cage, cut one end of two cage wires right at floor level at the point in the cage you want to exit. Bend the wires up and run the cord out the hole and then bend the two wires back in place. Place the rock right up against the wire so that none of the cord is exposed to the glider. It is a good idea to have the first two inches or so of the heat rock cord wrapped with several wraps of electrical tape in case it gets pulled into the cage. Sugar Gliders are not rodents and do not chew much, but they do test things with their teeth in order to explore things. The tape will keep them from getting hurt.
How do I go about the bonding process?
In getting your Sugar Glider bonded to you, there is no substitute for a lot of hands on time. By that I mean actually holding your glider in your hands and petting it and rubbing it, getting it used to you and learning that you are not to be feared. Gliders in a group will all huddle together, and each will try to climb under the pile. There is a constant movement going on in the group. They will all fall asleep but every so often, one will stir and try to go under the neighbor to get warmer. This tight body contact and movement is what you want to imitate while holding them. Sugar Gliders do not respond well to a timid person who is actually afraid to touch them, or is afraid that they will hurt the glider. They sense this timidity immediately, and feel insecure with that person. Hold it firmly and confidently in your hands, turn it over on its back and rub it’s stomach firmly with one of your thumbs. Rub it under the chin and on the sides of its face. Sit and watch TV or something and do this for an hour if possible. At first it will resist, but be persistent and make it endure until it actually likes it and soon it will be falling asleep in your hands. It is easier to do this in the daytime when they are not as active. If you buy your glider at the proper age, you do not have to fear its bite. A seven to twelve week old Sugar Glider’s bite should not be feared. It will only be like a hard pinch, rarely breaking the skin at that age. By the time its bite is harder, you should have him loving you and totally unafraid of you. Carrying your glider in a Bonding Pouch is good, and will certainly speed up the process, but will not take the place of the hands on approach. Also, when holding your glider and rubbing it, breathe gently on it. This helps it to get familiar with you. Gliders know you primarily by scent. They do not like to have their face blown on, but with an open mouth you can breathe on them without disturbing them, and it will help to get them calmed down and familiar with you. You can also offer it its favorite food only when it is in your hands. In this way, it will associate your hands with a pleasurable experience.
The bonding process usually doesn’t take a long time, however, each Sugar Glider is different, and nothing succeeds like persistence. It may only take a few days for your glider to bond with you, or it may take a couple of weeks. Don’t give up or lose interest, because this is the most important time of your Sugar Glider experience, and it will pay dividends for the life of your glider.
One other word of caution. While you are new to your glider, it will often be defensive when you are taking it out of a secure and warm environment such as its pouch. Often they will crab and put their hands up and even lurch at you when you open the pouch; then this big hand that they do not recognize reaches in and tries to pick it up. Your response to this activity should be to very confidently reach under the glider, and pick it up securely and immediately start rubbing it. Do not try to pick it up with your finger tips. It will wiggle and feel insecure, and it will become a negative experience. See Bonding with Your Sugar Glider for a more complete discussion of this critical topic.
Do they need a lot of attention?
Yes and no. Sugar Gliders are very social animals and therefore need to have social interaction at least on a daily basis. This social contact can be active, as in playing, or passive, as in sleeping up against your body in a pocket or pouch. If you have only one glider, it is essential to have social time as often as possible, but at least a few hours daily. If you have two (they can be kept as pairs, or two males, or two females) they have each other for socialization, and your time with them is not as critical. If you have a day where you can’t spend time with them, they always have each other. This is the yes part of the answer. The no part is that they are very easy to care for. Their litter pan in their cage usually doesn’t need to be changed but about once a week. The feeding is quite easy, and inexpensive. So to boil it down, if playing with your Sugar Glider, or carrying it around in your pocket is a chore, they are not for you. But if that is what you like best about these cute, inquisitive, and loyal animals, then it will be your favorite pet ever. They are very clean, have no fleas, and do not carry any diseases, therefore need no shots.
What kind of cage do they need?
They need a cage made of 1/2″x1″ PVC coated wire. They eat a lot of fruit and therefore have a mild acid on their hands from the fruit juice. When they crawl around on a galvanized wire cage, the mild acid will etch the wire, and turn it black, and then it will rust. But the more important thing is that the zinc of the cage will get on their hands. Later, when they are grooming themselves, they ingest the zinc by cleaning their fingers and hands. Usually within a year of two it can build up to a toxic level and kill the glider. Often this can be the reason a glider dies “for no apparent reason”. The other type of cage material that will work is stainless steel wire. For the best selection of the proper cages, go to the Cage Section of this website. Other considerations for the cage is that it should have a sliding dropping pan for easy cleaning, a shelf or two in it to make it more interesting for the glider, and a large enough door to get your heat rock and other toys, and boxes or wheels through. Of course you want it to be as large as you have room for, or can afford. Sugar Gliders want to be housed in an area where there is a lot going on, so you probably want it to be as nice looking as possible. Also having it on a rolling stand can be a great benefit for moving it to other areas, or for moving it in order to clean or vacuum.
Should my glider have free run of the house?
This is a decision for you to make. You have to decide what kind of a pet you want. A Sugar Glider that is not allowed a lot of freedom to run and play will be a more tightly bonded glider in most cases. If they have not learned that the whole house is safe, they will tend to want to stay close to you, where they know that they are safe. This is the best way to raise them if you want to be able to take them everywhere you go in your pocket, or pouch. If they are used to running free, and you are out with them, and they see something interesting, they are likely to jump to the interesting thing to play. It doesn’t mean they love you any less, it is just that they have less inhibitions about being away from you. If you derive more pleasure watching them play and explore, and cut up, then maybe the free run of a room would suit you better. Since I carry my pet Blanco with me almost everywhere I go, I keep him in the cage except when he is with me. He and his mate, Ann Bolin, have only one room of the house that I have taught them to feel safe in. My home office is the only room they are ever allowed to play in. As a result, they can play for about an hour in the evening while I work on the computer. They have about 5 favorite places to play. First they check out the Fichus tree, then the book shelf, gun rack, rods and reels hanging on the wall, and finally wind up on the curtain rod. About every 10 minutes while playing they come back to me and check to make sure the “center of the universe” is still there. Then they go off and play on the next thing. As a result, I never have to worry about them jumping off of me no matter where I am, other than that room. In fact Blanco is always a crowd pleaser at the shows we attend. I hand him to a person in the crowd and ask that person to hold him up high in the air on the back of his hand, then I call Blanco and he glides to my chest, and goes directly into my pocket. Then he usually turns around in my pocket and sticks his head out as if to see if he got the proper amount of ooohs and aaahs from the crowd. Then he goes back to sleep until the next time.
Tropical Attitude Pets has some of the sweetest gliders you’ll ever meet.
Can they be shipped?
Yes, Sugar Gliders can be shipped, but it is always preferable to buy them face to face directly from a good USDA licensed breeder so that you can pick out one(s) that suit you. This also allows you to be sure of their health and the care they have been receiving and to be sure you are getting nice tame 7-12 week old babies. We do ship them by airplane, if necessary, by a method known as counter to counter. That means that we prearrange to ship on a specific flight, on a specific day. We take it to the freight counter 1 hour before the flight and you pick it up at your freight counter several hours later when the plane lands. We do not ship one Sugar Glider baby by itself however, because we feel it is too stressful. We only ship two or more gliders at a time. They do not seem to suffer at all for the trip. We package them in a baby chick box, in which we build a carry cage (that you can use later). We give them half an apple for their food and moisture, and we put a tee shirt, or like material in the cage for them to cuddle in. If it is going to be cool weather, we include two hand warmers in the cage under the material to radiate heat. We have never had a baby not arrive in good condition, but it is expensive. Depending on which airline we are able to use to get to your airport, the cost will usually be $210.00 all inclusive, per shipment.
We prefer to sell the gliders face to face however, so that we know who our gliders are going to. This way we can take the time to teach our customers everything we consider to be essential for them to learn in order to be a good Sugar Glider owner. The way we do that is by selling them at trade shows, fairs, and festivals. Each year we attend about 35 events in various cities in various states. Please call anytime to see when we are going to be near you. Also, if you want to get on our mailing list, we will notify you anytime we are going to be in your state, or an adjoining state, as the events occur.
How much do they cost?
We sell our standard colored babies for $275.00 each. The standard colors are brown and gray. The brown Sugar Gliders usually have chocolate markings and a yellow under-belly. The gray Sugar Gliders usually have a black markings and a white under-belly. There are also many gliders that are a blending of the two colors. At times we have special colors available. These are colors that we have selectively bred for, and are in great demand, but in low supply, so they are more expensive. Our “Cinnamon” gliders are a reddish brown, and sell for $375.00. Our “True Blonde” gliders are straw blonde on their face and underside, and their bodies are a lighter color as well. They sell for $600.00 to $1000.00. You may have to wait for a special color, but they are well worth the wait. Since we travel to many cities selling the gliders, cages and supplies, it is possible that we can meet you with your pre-ordered glider at a show near you.
Do I need to buy two?
Two Sugar Gliders are far more likely to be happy gliders. They love to cuddle while sleeping, and they love to groom each other, as well as play together. While I like to see two gliders go to each home, I am not as adamant as some breeders are about it. Many people can not afford to buy two gliders, a cage, and a starter kit at one time. I also know that many single gliders are very well adjusted, and happy because they are given lots of attention, and love. Also, many glider owners end up buying their first glider a buddy as soon as they can. So the answer is no, you don’t have to buy two, but if you can afford to do so, then buy two, you won’t regret it. The rest of the answer though, is this; If you can’t afford to buy two, and you don’t know if you are going to be able to give your single glider a lot of time on you and in your hands, then don’t buy one at all. In this case you owe it to your would be pet to wait until you can get two.
What age should I buy?
Our babies are usually taken at 7 weeks out of the pouch. However, we do not go by date alone, but by the development of the individual glider. We do not want them taken before they have certain physical development to ensure that they will survive and thrive. You want to get a baby that has been held and played with since its eyes opened. We call this a hand-raised baby. This works for us very well. We have a great reputation for healthy and sweet babies.
What sex should I buy?
In general, it is our opinion that the male Sugar Gliders tend to trust you a little faster than a lot of the girls. This doesn’t mean that the females are meaner, but that the males tend to get over their fear of a new person quicker. The only drawback to a male for some people however, is that the male develops a bald spot on his head which is a scent gland. The females do not get this gland, nor do they get one that develops on his chest. Again, if the glider has the proper diet, odor even on the males is not a problem. Probably the best of both worlds, if you are not planning on breeding your glider, is to buy a neutered male. When a male is neutered at a young age, they never develop their scent glands, and they stay even more docile and calm than an intact male. We charge $25.00 to neuter a baby male. So, if you want to breed your gliders you will need an intact male and a female. If you just want a nice pet, you can get a neutered male, or an intact male, or a female. I mentioned that the males tend to trust you quicker. That is just a generality. It doesn’t always follow that a given male will be sweeter than a given female. In fact some females are very calm and could not be improved on. It depends on the nature of the given animal. This is another reason to buy your gliders face to face.
Can I breed my pair?
If you have a male and a female Sugar Glider, they will almost certainly breed at the right age. Two requirements for them to breed and have success in raising their babies is warmth and a high protein diet. In the wild they breed in the monsoon season. At this time it is extra warm and there is a wealth of insects and other high protein food available. Therefore, provide them with a comfortable temperature year round, and a diet high in protein. They will breed at all times of the year when given this environment. They have one or two babies at a time (very rarely triplets). They will have a little over two pregnancies a year. So, you certainly can have babies with your pair of Sugar Gliders, but be sure you have a method for placing your babies. Even though they will only have an average of about3 babies a year, they can have babies into their teens. Be sure you are willing to find good homes for the next 10-12 years. This can be a little daunting for someone that is not in the business. So consider carefully.