Sugar Glider Diet
So the question is what do sugar gliders eat. Before we delve into that let us find out a little more about the sugar glider or pocket pets as they are sometimes referred to. Sugar Gliders have become quite the popular exotic house pet. They are naturally sweet, docile and friendly which adds to their appeal. However, there are a lot of details about the Sugar Glider that make them a high maintenance animal.
It is vital that potential owners do their research and get to know the Sugar Glider before they bring one home because these tiny adorable creatures may not be the perfect fit for every family dynamic. In order to find out if your family and lifestyle are Sugar Glider ready, let’s take a look at the Sugar Glider and then focus on the feeding aspect of these marsupials.
Some background information about Sugar Gliders
Sugar Gliders appear to be members of the rodent family simply because they closely resemble flying squirrels and other small rodent-type animals. However, they are members of the marsupial family. Marsupials are a group of animals that begin their lives in their mother’s pouch. Female Sugar Gliders do indeed have a small pouch located on their bellies. These pouches are used to carry their young for about 110 days. Therefore, the Sugar Glider is surprisingly related to the Kangaroo rather than the flying squirrel.
Sugar Gliders are native to the treetops of New Guinea, Australia, and Indonesia. These tiny creatures were named for their sweet tooth diets and their “flying” or gliding abilities. In the wild, Sugar Gliders live in groups of about 15 members. Their colonies then reside together at the tops of trees. In order for these creatures to reach other tree tops in the area, they must leap into the air, opening the flap of skin that is connected to their wrists and ankles to soar from one location to the next (with the help of a little wind).
One of the most important aspects of the Sugar Glider to keep in mind is that they are very social creatures. This may be obvious as they live in colonies of about 15 members. However, this trait holds true for Sugar Gliders in captivity (or as house pets). Sugar Gliders will typically become very attached to their human family members as a result of this intense need for social interaction. But, keep in mind that every time a Sugar Glider is left alone or ignored he becomes depressed and will suffer from separation anxiety.
This anxiety and depression have been known to become a life or death situation for the animal and unfortunately many times it ends as a fatality. Therefore, if you and your family lead very busy lives and are not home very often or if you simply do not have sufficient time to spend with a Sugar Glider then it may not be the pet for you. Alternatively, the depression and anxiety could be managed or completely avoided by adopting more than one Sugar Glider. That way, they can turn to each other for comfort, entertainment, and social interaction when you are not there.
Overall, Sugar Gliders are very social, playful, endearing, and friendly animals that could make wonderful pets. They are not typically prone to a lot of health problems which is a great quality in a pet. However, should they need medical attention they would need to be seen by a special veterinarian who specializes in exotic pets. These veterinarians are often more costly due to their specialty.
What makes Sugar Gliders such popular pets?
As previously mentioned, Sugar Gliders are becoming increasingly popular household pets. Their naturally sweet, docile, and friendly demeanor in combination with their adorable appearance is a hard combination to match for other exotic pets. In fact, many people are drawn to them simply because they are exotic! However, they are becoming increasingly popular for various other reasons as well.
One reason is their lifespan. Many small pets do not have a long life expectancy which is primarily due to humans. Many pet owners seek out small pets such as hamsters, goldfish, and even turtles thinking that they are low-maintenance or will nearly take care of themselves.
This is far from the truth! Small pets may not need to be let outside to relieve themselves, but they do have a laundry list of basic care instructions that should be followed in order for the animal to live a full, long, happy, and healthy life! Sugar Gliders are no different. Their basic care needs should be met each and every day. If their owner provides optimal care then the Sugar Glider can live for 7 years or even 15 years.
Another reason Sugar Gliders are increasing in popularity is that they form strong bonds with their human family members. As previously discussed this is due to their high sociability and the need for social interactions.
Without sufficient social interaction, the Sugar Glider will become intensely depressed, anxious and may even die. We as pet owners seek animals that we can create that close knit bond with, but we must remember that the overall health and well-being of our animals is on our shoulders.
Sugar Gliders are also very popular house pets because of their unique appearance and abilities. Their small physical size can be quite appealing as they do not take up a lot of space and therefore they make great apartment companions. Their unique appearance includes their skin flaps that help them to glide.
If a Sugar Glider is out of his cage he should have spaces that are safe for him to glide to. This could be a special Sugar Glider shelf, piece of furniture or even your shoulder.
Sugar Gliders are quite entertaining as they glide from shelves and shoulders, but they are also appealing due to their love of pockets! These tiny creatures are born and then carried by their mother’s in her belly pouch for about 110 days. As they get older, they never quite lose their love of pockets and therefore they find comfort while being inside the pockets of their owners. It is important that owners allow their Sugar Gliders to spend time in a somewhat loose pocket (not skinny jean pockets).
What do wild Sugar Gliders eat?
In the wild, Sugar Gliders will feed on foods that are naturally found in their surroundings. Since they are tree top dwellers they mostly consume foods that can be found in or on the tree itself. They are omnivorous creatures that enjoy eating a variety of foods that includes both animal sources and plant sources.
Typically, Sugar Gliders will feast on nectar, gum, sap and fruit that are found in and on their trees. They may also enjoy the occasional plant or vegetable If their trees are not producing enough nectar or fruit then Sugar Gliders will also consume a variety of insects, small lizards, and even small birds that are in the area. However, it is their love of fruits, saps, gum and nectar that give the Sugar Glider its name.
What to feed your Sugar Glider
A Sugar Glider’s diet (in the wild as well as in captivity) should contain at least 75% fruits and vegetables, as well as about 25% proteins from animal sources. Their diets should have protein, fresh fruits, and vegetables, and plenty of vitamins and minerals. S
ugar Gliders do not require a level of carbohydrates and therefore crackers and other sources of carbohydrates should be good sources of fiber and kept to a minimum. While they do require a level of protein in their diets (in the wild and in captivity) it is important that their protein sources from animals be kept to a minimum. This is due to the odor that is produced by a Sugar Glider when they consume animal proteins. However, there are quite a lot of options of foods that you can feed a Sugar Glider in captivity as long as their nutritional needs are met.
Proteins that you can feed your Sugar Glider
- Insects (purchased, not found in your backyard)
- Mealworms (purchased from a pet store)
- Crickets (purchased from a pet store0
- Wax worms (should be fed in moderation as they are high in fat and they should be purchased from a pet store)
- Scrambled eggs or boiled eggs (not raw)
- Turkey (not lunch meat, chopped, and low-fat)
- Chicken (not lunch meat, boiled, skinned, plain, and chopped)
- Feeder mice (can be live or frozen but should be purchased from a pet store)
Liquids that your Sugar Glider needs
Yes, Sugar Gliders require liquids in their diet. These liquids are essential to keeping your Sugar Glider hydrated and healthy. With this in mind, make sure that you purchase a cage water bottle to attach to the side when you decide to adopt a Sugar Glider.
You should also be prepared that your Sugar Glider may not drink from his water bottle immediately upon arriving home with you. He will likely need to become more familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells that his new home comes with before he is comfortable.
However, once he is ready to drink his bottle should be hung on the side of the cage, facing inwards. The bottle should contain a mixture of 50% Gatorade and 50% water. You may need to test out a couple different flavors of Gatorade until you find the one that your Sugar Glider enjoys. You should also take the lid from the Gatorade bottle and put a 50% apple juice and 50% water mixture inside it. Then, place it alongside the food bowl inside of the cage. By giving your Sugar Glider options to choose from you can see what he prefers and better adjust his liquid intake as a result.
*As an important side note, if you find that your Sugar Glider prefers to apple juice and water mixture in the lid over the Gatorade and water mixture in the water bottle then you should eliminate the Gatorade and water mixture inside the bottle, and replace it with apple juice and water. Your sugar Glider should get used to receiving his liquids from the bottle as the lid is not sufficient for long-term use.
Other foods that you can feed your Sugar Glider
Along with all of the nutritious fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins that you should be feeding your Sugar Glider, there are other foods that you may consider as well.
For example, some pet stores carry Sugar Glider pellets which are small, hard pieces of food that are specifically formulated based on the nutritional requirements of these tiny creatures. These pellets typically contain a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals as well as sources of protein without coming directly from other animals.
Therefore, your Sugar Glider will receive his daily nutrients without the potential odor caused by consuming animal proteins. If your local pet store does not carry these Sugar Glider pellets and you are considering them for your Sugar Glider then you may want to check online as many online shops sell them. However, it is important that you purchase them from a reputable shop that doesn’t use added preservatives, sugars, coloring etc.
*As an interesting and helpful side note, feeding your Sugar Glider pellets can get rather boring (for both you and your Sugar Glider). You may want to consider adding powdered gravy mixed with water to pour over his pellets. This gravy is specifically formulated for this purpose and will change things up for your Sugar Glider’s taste buds.
If you are interested in purchasing a Sugar Glider pellet food then you may want to consider Exotic Nutrition Glider Complete Sugar Glider Food. This Sugar Glider pellet food is made with eight different varieties of real fruit chunks in addition to the high-protein pellets. Therefore, the pellets take care of the Sugar Glider’s protein needs and the fruit chunks take care of his need for vitamins and minerals. The fruits and other ingredients used include:
- Golden raisins
- Bee pollen
Another food that could be occasionally offered to your Sugar Glider is bread. As previously mentioned, Sugar Gliders do not require carbohydrates in their diets as much as we do. However, a small piece of bread once in a while is usually a welcomed treat. Make sure that the bread is a good source of fiber so that it also benefits his digestive system. If a Sugar Glider is experiencing diarrhea then he will quickly become dehydrated which could lead to other health problems. Diarrhea is also an indication that the Sugar Glider is not receiving a sufficient diet and therefore the owner should make the necessary adjustments.
Flavored yogurt would make a great occasional treat for a Sugar Glider. In no way should yogurt be given to a Sugar Glider on a regular basis or even every other day. This is a treat that Sugar Gliders should enjoy twice a week (at most)! Sugar Gliders are lactose intolerant creatures which mean that any regular consumption of dairy products will cause digestive upset and thus lead to other health problems. However, the live cultures in the yogurt and the flavoring are both good treats on occasion.
*New foods should be introduced to a Sugar Glider one at a time. A Sugar Glider’s acceptance and response to the new food should be observed. If any negative reactions occur then the food should be avoided in the future. If the food only results in positive responses then it can be added to their diet (on occasion).
Tree saplings and branches
In the wild, Sugar Gliders would be digging under tree bark and searching for nectar, sap, and insects that are found within. You may want to try to provide this type of feeding to your Sugar Glider. If so, try to stick with saplings or tree branches from the following sources.
- Bamboo (real, not decorative as it is toxic)
- Blue Spruce
- Maple (not red maple)
- And much more!
*As an important side note, there are some types of trees which are typically safe for Sugar Gliders but, have also been known to cause skin irritations to some Sugar Gliders. These types of trees include Elm trees, Birch trees, Dogwood, Fiscus, Pussy Willow, Rubber tree, and Rosewood. There are also trees that should be avoided altogether. These trees include:
- Box elder
- Red maples
- And some others
Sugar Gliders that are not fed a proper diet may suffer from nutritional-related health problems. For example, a poor diet for a Sugar Glider could result in low calcium levels. If they have low calcium levels then they are susceptible to bone diseases and dental diseases. Insects tend to be rather low in calcium.
Therefore, it is recommended that the insects be fed a calcium supplement before being fed to the Sugar Glider. Another common health problem that can occur with a poor diet is obesity. Obesity occurs in Sugar Gliders when their owners overfeed them or are feeding them the wrong foods. Some owners, for example, believe that their diets should be high is sugar since they are named Sugar Gliders. This is untrue. Therefore, it is important that mealworms and fly pupae are given in low quantities as they tend to be quite high in fat.
Feeding your Sugar Glider Mealworms
Mealworms are one of the many sources of protein that a Sugar Glider can have. Although, as previously mentioned, they should not be consumed by your Sugar Glider on a daily basis due to their high-fat content. However, they are still safe for Sugar Gliders to eat occasionally. Therefore, it is important that we know a little more about the mealworms as well as how they should be fed to the Sugar Glider.
One important detail to know about mealworms is that they contain high levels of phosphorous which will block some of the calcium from being absorbed by the Sugar Glider. Therefore, a calcium supplement will need to be added to the food.
Calcium supplements that are “no-phosphorous” and will make up for the calcium that was not absorbed. There are better sources of protein for your Sugar Glider that have a lower fat content and may not require the calcium supplement but, if you choose to feed your Sugar Glider mealworms do so minimally. No more than 10 medium sized mealworms a week or 5 large mealworms a week should be offered.
If you are considering feeding your Sugar Glider dried mealworms then you may want to check out Picky Neb: 100% Non-GMO Dried Mealworms. This product was designed to feed chickens, ducks, wild birds, turtles, hamsters, fish, hedgehogs and various other small animals (i.e. Sugar Gliders).
It is said to help boost the immune system, improve health, provide quality protein, is made without preservatives, does not require refrigeration and even offers a Money-Back Guarantee. It is also said that animals seem to enjoy eating them which is a bonus! While this product does offer some incredible benefits to your Sugar Glider it is important to note that they are still mealworms (dried or not) and therefore their fat content is still rather high.
As a result, your Sugar Glider should not consume these mealworms on a daily basis as it would cause him to gain unwanted weight quickly as well as lead to bone and dental diseases due to the phosphorous blocking the calcium absorption.
Feeding your Sugar Glider Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and Vegetables are some of the most beneficial foods to feed your Sugar Glider, especially if they are fresh! They provide your Sugar Glider with a range of vitamins and minerals that are essential to his overall health. The following is a list of the fruits and vegetables that are safe for your Sugar Glider to eat!
Fruits and Vegetables that you can feed your Sugar Glider
- Apples (peeled and sliced and unsweetened applesauce, not canned)
- Peaches (without their toxic pits)
- Kiwi fruit
- Dried fruit
- Sweet potatoes
Fruits and vegetables should always be fresh (not canned or frozen) and they should still be ripe (not moldy). Canned fruits and vegetables contain added sugars and other preservatives to make them last longer. However, these additions are deadly to Sugar Gliders. It is also recommended that the fruits and vegetables be rinsed well and chopped into bite sized pieces prior to being offered to a Sugar Glider. If it has seeds (such as the apple) make sure they are removed before being given to the Sugar Glider.
Fruits and vegetables are so important to the diet of a Sugar Glider, but buying them fresh all the time can get expensive and you may find that certain fruits and vegetables will turn moldy before your Sugar Glider (or you and your family) can eat them. Therefore, you may want to consider dried fruits and vegetables. This form of produce is safe for your Sugar Glider as long as it is one of the above-mentioned items as well as packaged without preservatives or additives.
One dried fruit and vegetable product that you may want to check out is the Sun coast Sugar Gliders brand of diced mango and diced papaya. These treats are packaged in an FDA-approved resealable bag for convenience and preservation of freshness. They are two of the three products that have also been Sugar Glider tested and approved! They are sweet and nutritious treats that are already chopped into bite sized pieces for your Sugar Gliders to easily enjoy!
What do Sugar Glider babies eat?
For the first 100 days or so of a baby Sugar Gliders’ life he will feed off of his mother’s nipple. Her nipples are conveniently located inside of the pouch where the baby is carried during that time. As he grows and emerges from the pouch he will begin to feed on many of the same things as his mother. Baby Sugar Gliders seem to be especially happy with sliced (and peeled) fresh apples and since they have opposable thumbs (just like we do) it is also very entertaining to watch them chow down! They should be consuming a sufficient amount of fruits, vegetables, and protein just like his parents and he should avoid the same (i.e. chocolate, fat, raw meat etc.) that are dangerous to Sugar Gliders.
If you are raising a Sugar Glider baby that has been abandoned by his parents then you may need to provide him with Sugar Glider formula if he is not yet old enough to feed on solid foods.
Unsafe foods for Sugar Gliders
While it may seem like Sugar Gliders can eat nearly anything, this is not the case. In fact, there is a substantial list of foods that should always be avoided in the diet of a Sugar Glider. The following list of foods should never be offered to a Sugar Glider under any circumstances.
- Raw meat
- Ice cream
- Lima beans
- Any fruit or vegetable that is canned or cannot be thoroughly rinsed
- Worms, insects, spiders, and other critters that were not purchased from the pet store (they may contain harmful pesticides)
- Apple seeds and other types of fruit seeds and pits
- Anything that is artificially sweetened, processed, high in fat/sugar, or deep fried