One of the biggest fears of new, or would-be owners of Sugar Gliders is the worry that their dog or cat or other pets will kill their baby Sugar Gliders. Of course this is a legitimate fear and should be considered in your decision. However, this is usually overblown by far.
The great majority of Sugar Glider owners already have dogs or cats, or both when they acquire their new addition(s) to their family. It is extremely rare to hear that a glider has been killed by another pet if simple precautions are taken. If you follow our methods for bonding and care (recapped below), your other pets are rarely a fatal threat, and usually, over a few weeks of interaction through the cage wire, they become very attached to the new members of the family.
Sugar Gliders are very social. Normally in the wild they live in colonies of up to 15 members. This is one of the reasons we recommend having two gliders so that they always have a companion when left in the cage. The fact that they are so social causes them to consider your entire family and your pets to be their new colony. When you have only one, it is very happy during the time it spends with you or another member of the colony, your family. During the time spent with your glider, he is getting the social life that he thrives on. But for the time it is not with a member of the family, and left in its cage, it feels isolated from the colony and can be very lonely. If ignored, or left alone for long periods, it can self-mutilate out of boredom, or get so depressed that it rarely comes out of its sleeping pouch, and can eventually quit eating and die of depression. This is fortunately fairly rare because most owners either have two gliders, or give their glider plenty of attention. Even a glider that is carried almost all of the daytime hours and is played with in the evening, when it comes alive and wants to play and explore, is happier if it has a mate, because it will be awake all night and will be playing and eating while its owner is in bed.
Two gliders will bond to each other, but not at the expense of the bond to the owner(s). They consider each other to be part of the colony, just like the rest of the family and pets. So when Sally and Tom take their respective gliders with them for a day of errands, etc., the gliders feel happy to be with their owners but when put back in the cage, they feel just as happy to be with each other. The result is that they never feel depressed or lonely, and you have two very well adjusted, happy pets.
The two previous paragraphs were included in this section to establish the explanation of why a Sugar Glider normally bonds to the cats and dogs in the home. Because they are so social, they tend to become friendly with everyone that treats them well. This does include your other pets. However, a 2-3 week period (sometimes longer) will be necessary for them to get to know each other, and out of curiosity, begin to trust each other. This period can occur during the same 2-3 weeks that you are bonding with your glider.
You may want to go back to review the FAQ’s section on Bonding, but here is a quick synopsis of the important facts as they apply here:
For the first 2-3 weeks you need to hold your baby as much as possible (this includes carrying it in a pouch or pocket).
During this time the glider should be given no freedom. When it can’t be with you, put it back in the cage.
The result will be a glider that considers you to be the center of the universe, and the source of total safety.
When the glider(s) are in their cage, allow your dogs and cats to have total access to the cage. They will be curious of the new additions and will want to see them. At first they may act aggressively towards the gliders, but they cannot hurt them through the proper cage, and you will not let them hurt them while they are on you.
On the first day or two you might want to have your video recorder ready, because if the cat acts too aggressive, or the dog too hyper, the little glider normally will go to the front of its cage and through the wire, stand up on its hind legs with its front arms in the air and make its loudest noise which we call “crabbing”. This may be done just inches from the cat or dogs face through the wire of the cage. Normally a cat will flee and have a near cardiac arrest, and the dog normally will jump back 3 feet. Neither of them knows what they are dealing with and your Sugar Glider just won round one.
As the days go by, the cats and dogs come to the cage more cautiously and scare the glider less and things start getting better and better. Not all dogs and cats bond to the gliders, but I estimate (from considerable experience over 18 years), that about 90% become either compatible with them, or really attached to the point that they can be very interactive.
In fact, a dog or cat that bonds with a glider can be a real source of comfort for a single glider. Often, a cat or dog will like the glider so much that it will sleep on or against the cage, and the glider will cuddle near their friend, through the wire. They can also play with each other through the cage wire.
You will have to be the judge of whether or when to try to introduce them to each other face to face. This is not to be taken lightly, and shouldn’t be tried prematurely. After all, it is the first face to face encounter, and animals can be unpredictable. However, they will normally react to each other face to face, similar to the way they react through the wire. So when you see that they are really being friendly to each other, and liking each other, you can make a judgment as to whether you are just going to let them be compatible but not interactive, or compatible and interactive. Of course, be very cautious and be ready to step in if there is any problem.
Now for some purely anecdotal information:
Years ago, when the late, great, Shakespeare (not the bard, but my pard), was a young boy, he was very well acclimated to our outdoor hunter Maine Coon cat, our two Shih-tzus, and our Miniature Poodle. He and his mate liked all of them and were interactive with them. Later in life I inherited a rescue cat that had never seen a glider. I gave them the same introductory period described above and when I thought it may be safe I introduced them to each other. I held the cat in one arm with my hand around his chest so that he couldn’t lunge, and let Shakespeare be in my other hand free to advance or retreat. After staring in each other’s eyes for a few moments (seemed like minutes), Shakespeare licked the nose of the cat, the cat relaxed in my arm, and they became great friends for the next couple of years.
The Sugar Glider and cat in this picture belong to one of my customers. When she sent me this picture, she said that they love to run and play with each other. She said that in the evening she opens the cage door and the glider comes out and plays with the cat. One will chase the other and then they reverse rolls and back and forth. She also described that after about an hour of this play, the cat gets tired and climbs into the open door of the glider cage, curls up and soon the glider comes in the cage and sleeps in the curl of the cat. This is an extremely bonded pair of animals, however it is not unique. One of my customers related this story to me. They have an Australian Shepherd dog. It is respectful of the glider and doesn’t hurt it, but is not especially playful with it. However, the Sugar Glider loves the dog and always wants to play. She said that it was common to see the glider following the dog around everywhere while the dog is trying to get some privacy.
Another customer in Colorado Springs had their gliders for about 3 years. Their other pet was a Rottweiler. One day she called and asked how soon I was going to be in her area. I told her and asked her what was wrong. It was obvious she was distressed. She told me this story. Her husband usually got up quite early to go to work, and it was his habit of letting the gliders play in the bedroom and bath while he was getting ready for work. Of course the gliders loved it because it was during their most playful time of day. On this one day he made a fatal mistake. He knew to have the toilet seat closed, and always did so because more gliders die from drowning in a toilet or a half filled bucket of liquid, than by any other means. Well, he forgot on that day and unfortunately one of them did drown and he was just horrified that he was the one to let this happen. When she called me she said it had been about 3 days and this was about the first day she could talk about it. But she said she didn’t have to replace it because the kids were devastated, or that her husband felt so guilty, or that she had been so sad over it, or even that the second glider needed a new companion. She told me that she had to replace it because her Rottweiler would not eat or sleep properly because it was grieving and constantly searching for the lost baby Sugar Glider! She said that her dog treated the two gliders like they were her own pups, and loved them totally. Fortunately I was going to be passing through her town within about 2 weeks. Since that call I have seen this trait of Rotties over and over. They seem to be about the very best dog with gliders.
So they thought they would help the dog out by confining the glider to a hamster ball. Then the dog was being followed by the glider in the ball. She said that if the dog was asleep the glider would roll up to it and bump it in the face to get its attention. Also the glider would wait on a couch back, etc. and jump on the rump of the dog and just as quickly, jump away before the dog could react. “Just having fun Mom!”
After raising, selling and owning my personal pet gliders for 18 years I have probably a hundred or more stories similar to the above ones. There is a limit to how much anyone wants to read in a link so indulge me with just one more, and the most recent story. A customer of mine, and now a good friend, has a glider in Phoenix. She bought it at the Arizona State Fair, Nov 2010. She named it one thing at first, and then about 2 months after having bought it she called me to let me know her glider had a new and permanent name. Its name is “Indiana Jones” she said. I told her that there must be a story behind that name. She was eager to tell it to me. She related to me what a great pet it is and how deeply bonded it is to her and she is to it.
She also said that her cat and the glider had been getting really friendly with each other through the cage and by showing them to each other while in her hands. She also related to me that the day or two before we talked, she had the glider on her shoulder and was walking around the house doing her work. All of a sudden the glider saw the cat and glided right off her shoulder and landed on the cat. Of course this startled the cat (not knowing what hit it), and the cat was jumping and turning and gyrating. She said it reminded her of the great adventurer “Indiana Jones” because it was obvious that the glider was having the time of its life. Visualizing this as she told it to me, I told her I might have named it “Tuff Hedeman”, one of the most famous bull-rider of the rodeo circuit.
If you have a true story of interest, please EMAIL it to me and it may end up appearing on this site in the future. Pictures are always appreciated.