Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sugar Gliders!

Do you have questions? We have answers!

Many people have never heard of a sugar glider. Once they do, they are curious and intrigued to find out more about these little creatures.

No longer is this tiny little marsupial confined to the wild of exotic countries.

sugar glider photo

What is a sugar glider?

One would best describe a sugar glider as a flying squirrel that resembles a tiny monkey. Others would go on to say they look like opossums. Regardless, they are cute as a button.

The sugar glider is a nocturnal marsupial that is omnivorous. They are flying opossums that are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Interestingly, sugar gliders are pollinators and distributors of seeds! In their natural habitat, they love to consume nectar from flowers.

A sugar glider gets its name from:

‘Sugar’ = its fondness for sweet nectar

‘Glider’ = being able to soar like kites

Marsupials

Marsupials are pouched mammals that give birth prematurely to the young (Joeys.) The Joeys crawl up the mother and into a pouch where it attaches to the mother to feed and grow.

sugar glider responding to you

These pouches are called marupiums which is where ‘marsupial’ came from.

There are over 250 different species of animals that fall into the marsupial group.

These species range in size from a tiny mouse-like creature all the way to a full-fledged kangaroo. Some are carnivorous, and some are omnivorous.

Some marsupials include:

  • Gliders (squirrel, sugar, mahogany, Biak, yellow-bellied, northern)
  • Wombat
  • Kangaroo
  • Wallaby
  • Koala
  • Tasmanian Devil
  • Opossum
  • Bandicoot
  • Dunnart

Are you considering getting a sugar glider?

It is never recommended to get a sugar glider without first doing some research.

Having a strong knowledge base will help you to not only know what to expect but how to be a good pet-parent.

sugar glider playing in play house

Sugar gliders are not for everyone and should never be purchased based on the fact they are cute.

A pet becomes a member of your family and requires a lifetime commitment to love and care for them. Sugar gliders live for up to 15 years.

Do sugar gliders make good pets?

Beware that sugar gliders bond to their owners, and if you are one that travels a lot and has to be away, a sugar glider is not for you.

One of the drawbacks of owning a sugar glider is they cannot tolerate being away from their owner for long periods.

As with any other animal, a sugar glider must be socialized and handled. If they are not, they will develop behavioral issues.

sugar glider resting in pouch

We highly recommend that you purchase your sugar glider from a reputable breeder only.

Pet stores, ebay, flea markets, etc. should be avoided at all costs. Typically places like these sell sugar gliders that lack socialization, are not domesticated, and are overall unhealthy.

Sugar Gliders And Other Pets

Dogs and cats generally get along great with sugar gliders.

sugar glider good with other pets

Once a sugar glider is properly introduced to the dog/cat and they bond, you may find that they become inseparable!

Other Pets That Require Caution Around Sugar Gliders

  • Rodent-like pets (hamsters, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs, chinchillas) are often prey for sugar gliders in the wild, so caution should be used if you are introducing these to one another.
  • Never introduce reptiles/snakes/spiders to a sugar glider.
  • Larger birds (parrots, cockatoos, cockatiels) prey on sugar gliders and should never be introduced. Sugar gliders will eat bird eggs and baby birds.
Dogs and Cats

If you have cats or dogs, you cannot predict how they or your sugar glider will interact with one another.

You can prepare them for their first introduction and continually coax them until they have warmed up to each other.

sugar glider safe on top of cage

Dogs, cats and sugar gliders bond through scent.

We recommend using the ‘scent-transfer’ method to introduce them.

Introducing Sugar Gliders To Dogs/Cats (Scent-Transfer Introduction)

1. Rub a piece of cloth all over your sugar glider. Use this piece of cloth for your dog/cat to smell and get used to.

2. Rub a piece of cloth all over your dog/cat. Use this piece of cloth for your sugar glider to smell and get used to.

3. Continue to use the ‘piece-of-cloth’ strategy for a few days.

4. You can then introduce them face to face with the sugar glider in the safety of its cage. They can smell one another through the cage.

After a few days of allowing them to interact with the sugar glider in the cage, you can introduce them in a small room with the sugar glider out of the cage. Be prepared to intervene if one or the other becomes aggressive.

Sugar Gliders And Children

Sugar gliders are not the ideal pet for children, especially if the children are young.

  • Sugar gliders bite if startled or afraid.
  • They are fragile and must be handled with care.
  • They have no control over their bodily functions and will relieve themselves wherever and whenever.
  • Children tend to feed pets things that are not suitable or healthy for them. Sugar gliders have delicate digestive systems and must have a specialized diet.
  • Children may let the sugar glider escape if a door is left open.

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Having A Sugar Glider

If you are entertaining the notion of getting a sugar glider, be mindful of the good and the bad that comes with owning one.

Again, do your homework and read all there is about sugar gliders to have a full understanding of the inherited responsibility.

Advantages

  • If you want a ‘velcro’ pet, sugar gliders are perfect.
  • You can carry them around in a bonding pouch or in your pocket.
  • They live a long time (up to 15 years.)
  • You can train them to do tricks.
  • Their personality is unique and entertaining.
  • Perfect for those that work the night shift.

Disadvantages

  • Sugar gliders must have daily interaction with their owner. This limits how much you can travel and be away from them.
  • They relieve themselves anywhere.
  • Sugar gliders will bite if afraid or startled.
  • They are nocturnal and stay up all night making noise.
  • You can spend up to thousands of dollars for a sugar glider.
  • It is difficult to find a veterinarian that specializes in treating sugar gliders.
  • It is difficult to find a veterinarian that specializes in treating sugar gliders.

Where do sugar gliders come from?

Did you know that sugar gliders have been dated as far back as around 13,000 B.C. Fossils of their remains were discovered in the caves of Victoria, Australia?

sugar gliders in pouch

Today, the sugar glider is endemic to Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and Indonesia.

Taxonomy Of Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps)

Petaurus breviceps means ‘rope dancer’

Family - Petauridae  (gliders, possums) 

Genus - Petaurus  (gliders: squirrel, northern, Biak, yellow-bellied, sugar)

Species - breviceps (sugar glider)

Characteristics & Traits Of The Sugar Glider

These tiny palm-sized creatures come packed with personality, quirky behaviors, and a whole lot of entertaining antics.


Here are some common sugar glider questions and answers.

Q. How big do sugar gliders get?

A. Male sugar gliders can grow as long as 5-10 inches and can weigh as much as 4-6 oz. Female sugar gliders can grow as long as 5-10 inches like the males but usually weigh around 3-5 oz


Q. What colors do sugar gliders come in?

A. Sugar gliders come in a variety of colors. Below are a few of either the most common or the most popular colors.


  • Gray
  • Albino (all white, red eyes)
  • Creamino (tan markings, garnet eyes)
  • Leucistic (all white, black eyes)
  • Black Beauty (gray/black, band markings)
  • Platinum (white/gray, brown/black eyes)
  • Cedar Red (lighter shade of red)
  • Mahogany Red (darker shade of red)
  • Lion (gold with white face)
  • Caramel (cream face, white hands, large ears)

Q. How long do sugar gliders live?

A. A sugar glider in captivity can live between 5-15 years. As with all live, the healthier they are the longer they will live. A happy sugar glider will live a long and healthy life.


Q. How do sugar gliders behave?

A. Male and female sugar bears can be totally opposite at times. That's not to say that all males and females act the same but here is a bit of a breakdown for you.

Mal​​​​​es

  • Big on marking territory; uses scent glands and saliva, rubs on cage, other sugar gliders, and people.
  • Bonds easier than a female does
  • Curious, outgoing
  • Dominate around other males

Females

  • Cuddles more than a male does
  • Subdued, shy, less outgoing than a male
  • Non-territorial

Below are just some common likes and dislikes.

Likes

  • Being with owner all the time
  • Cage should be near or in same room as owner
  • Toys to play with and a hammock/nesting box
  • Dominate around other males

Dislikes

  • Cuddles more than a male does
  • Subdued, shy, less outgoing than a male
  • Non-territorial

Q. What are sugar gliders like and dislikes?

A. One of the great things about sugar gliders is that each of them has their own personality. So what one sugar glider may like the another may not. We have a sugie that loves Hibiscus plants but one of the others will just snub her nose at it.


Diet and Feeding For A Sugar Glider

Sugar gliders must be given a very specialized diet.

two sugar gliders in pink pouch

They require the right amount of calcium to phosphorus because of being prone to bone disorders.

What do I feed a sugar glider?

You can feed your sugar glider either a natural diet (recommended) or a pellet diet.

Natural Diet

Prepared Leadbeater Mix

Ingredients:

  • Zoo-quality insectivore protein (insects that are fed high-quality commercial cricket food that includes vitamins and minerals)
  • 150 ml Warm water
  • 150 ml Honey (raw, not clover)
  • 1 boiled egg (shelled)
  • 25 g high-protein baby cereal
  • 1 tsp Vionate vitamin powder

Fresh Vegetables

  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Shredded Carrot
  • Squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Broccoli
  • Parsley

Blend all ingredients and refrigerate.


Commercial Protein Mix

  • Mazuri Insectivore Diet 5MK8’
  • Reliable Protein Products Insectivore Fare’


Commercial Nectar Mix:

  • ‘Nekton-Lori’

  • ‘Avico Gliderade’

Pellet Diet

  • Vitakraft Vitafood Sugar Glider High Protein


DO NOT FEED (Toxic for Sugar Gliders)

  • Chocolate
  • Sugary foods (candy, cake, ice cream, cereal, etc.)
  • Bread
  • Cat/dog food
  • Seeds
  • Artificial Sweeteners (Splenda, Equal, Aspartame, Xylitol, Sucralose, etc.)
  • Vegetables that are high in phosphorus such as Cucumbers, Green beans, Alfalfa sprouts, Peas, Radish, Asparagus, Corn, Mushrooms

Feeding Times

  • Mornings
  • Evenings (before you go to bed)
  • Food should be placed near top of the cage up high

Bonding With Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders must bond with their owners and other sugar gliders.

sugar glider eating a flower

It is through this bond that they thrive and become a well-socialized pet and member of the family.

How do I bond with my sugar glider?

Sugar gliders require daily interaction with their owners to form a bond. This can be done by handling them and carrying them around in a pouch. 

You will be limited in being able to leave home or travel as long as you own a sugar glider.

Should sugar gliders be in pairs?

Sugar gliders do not do well alone and should be kept in pairs or in a colony.

Cage Requirements

Size / type of cage
  • Vertically oriented (sugar gliders are natural climbers)
  • Cage should be extra large to give them room to roam.
  • Cage metal should be heavy powder coated. Stay away from galvanized and PVC coated metals (causes zinc poisoning.)

Sugarglider Cage Accessories

  • Climbing branches
  • Nesting Box
  • Hammock
  • Toys
  • Food and Water Receptacles

Bedding

  • Do not use pine/cedar shavings. Phenols in pine/cedar are toxic to sugar gliders.
  • Use either liner paper (non-toxic) or a felted liner (reusable.)

Placement

  • Cage should be placed in the same room you are in so they don’t get lonely.
  • Do not place near drafts (vents, windows, doors.)
  • Do not place in direct sunlight.
  • Do not place near cleaning supplies, kitchen, or bathroom. Sugar gliders like to explore when out of the cage and can easily get into something bad for them.
  • Do not place near TV or stereo speakers. Loud noises disturb sugar gliders.

Reproduction / Breeding

There are state-specific requirements to be able to breed sugar gliders.

Before you breed, check with the USDA (U.S. Dept. of  Agriculture) locally to inquire.

two sugar gliders in small pouch

When breeding, there are going to be added expenses that can be costly.

Vet bills and extra supplies (cages, food, accessories, pouches, etc.) should be considered.

As a breeder, you will need to be prepared for the unexpected. Joeys are sometimes rejected by their mother.

If swift intervention is not deployed, the mother will kill the Joey.

When one is rejected, you will be required to hand feed and care for it around the clock for up to 8 weeks.

Sexual maturity in males/females

  • 7 months to 1 year old

Breeding

Breeding begins when a male sugar glider displays mild to severe aggression towards the female.

two sugar gliders in tight space

It’s important to monitor them, so he does not hurt the female. The male lightly bites the back of the female just before mating occurs.

Gestation period

The gestation period for sugar gliders is 15-17 days. During this time, the expecting mother will require more food than usual.

She will become irritable and restless, so it’s best to allow her time alone.

Birth

When Joeys are born, they cannot see or hear. Their instinct kicks in and guides them to seek out the mother’s pouch.

sugar glider with baby sugar gliders

As they exit the mother’s birth canal, they will crawl through the mother’s fur to find the pouch.

Once they do find the pouch, they crawl into it where they locate the mother’s nipples.

Joeys do not have the capability of latching on, so the nipple swells inside the Joey’s mouth and stays that way until the Joey is grown.

Joeys will leave the pouch at 10 weeks returning to feed until old enough to be independent.

Litters

  • Size of litter: 2 Joeys
  • Annual litter production: 2-3
  • Size of Joey at birth: size of a grain of rice

Caring For Rejected Joeys

Signs of a Joey being rejected by its mother.

  • Parents leave it unattended in the nest.
  • Parents do not react to Joey’s cries.
  • Joey is left alone in an area separate from the parents such as the bottom of the cage. If this happens, try placing the Joey on the father’s back to reunite them.
  • Joey has injuries such as bite marks or scratches. If this has happened, remove it from the cage immediately. The mother will kill or even eat it if left in the cage.
  • Joey is listless and not thriving.

Joey Care / Hand Raising

If you find that a Joey is rejected after attempts to reunite it with their parents, it’s time to hand raise it.

group of sugar gliders sleeping

Joeys will not eat unless they are warm. You will need to keep it in an incubator until 6-8 weeks old.

First two weeks

  • Feed every hour around the clock
  • Use 1.0 cc syringe with a feeding tip
  • Joeys will eat 0.3 - 0.5 cc's of food
  • Feed a formula that is lukewarm (test on wrist before giving to Joey)

Joey Formula

  • 2 Tbsp. Wombaroo Sugar Glider Milk Replacer
  • 2 Tbsp. Warm, Distilled Water
  • 1/4 tsp. Wombaroo Impact Colostrum Supplement
  • 2 Tbsp. Distilled Water (warm)
  • Mix well and refrigerate.
  • The joey will need to be stimulated to relieve itself (urinate/defecate) after each feeding. You can do this with a damp Q-tip that is gently rubbed over its cloaca.


2-4 weeks

  • Joeys will eat 0.5-1.0 cc’s of food
  • Feed every two hours around the clock
  • Joeys will begin to urinate on their own while eating

4-6 weeks

  • Joeys will eat 1.0-2.0 cc’s of food
  • Feed every three to four hours around the clock
  • Joeys will be able to relieve themselves on their own
  • Introduce a shallow food dish with formula in it for them

6-8 weeks

  • Joeys can be introduced to other foods now
  • Feed equal amounts of formula and regular food
  • Place on regular feeding schedule as a grown sugar glider
  • Slowly introduce it to a regular cage

Removing Joeys From Parents

Joeys will be kept in the same cage as their parents until 5 months old. They will then need to be moved into a separate cage.

how many sugar gliders could fit in a pouch

Mothers tend to be hostile towards female Joeys at around 3 months.

Careful monitoring should be in place to prevent the mother from harming the female Joey.

Oddly, mothers do not seem to exhibit that same behavior towards their male offspring.

Neutering

Benefits of neutering a male sugar glider:

  • Decreases aggression and health issues
  • Reduces the odor that territorial marking causes
  • Makes a male sugar glider a better cage mate and pet

Sugar Glider Diseases

The health of a sugar glider is dependent upon a quality diet that contains the required minerals and vitamins.

sugar glider eating a slice of fruit

Sugar gliders in captivity tend to suffer from malnutrition or obesity.

This is why it’s important to pay close attention to what, when, and how you feed your glider.

A veterinarian that specializes in treating exotics (including sugar gliders) may be difficult to find.

However, they are trained in how to assess and treat your sugar glider whereas the typical veterinarian is not.

What kinds of disease can a sugar glider have and how do you treat it?

Aflatoxicosis

Liver Disease

Seek immediate vet care

Symptoms:

  • Not eating
  • Anemia
  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhea
  • Listless

Treatment:

  • Sudden death may occur if not treated by a veterinarian.

Constipation

Symptoms:

  • Hard/dry droppings or lack there of

Treatment:

  • Veterinarian should assess
  • Increase liquids/fiber
  • Feed a good quality diet
  • Exercise

Diarrhea/Vomiting

Veterinarian should test for parasites. 

Be sure to thoroughly wash hands and cage (parasites can infect humans.)

Symptoms:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Loss in weight
  • Dehydrated
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Treatment:

  • Tests and medication will need to be provided by a veterinarian.
  • The entire cage will need to washed and disinfected. This removes the parasites and prevents reinfection.

Leptospirosis Bacteria

Veterinarian should run tests and treat with antibiotics. 

Be sure to thoroughly wash hands and cage (bacteria can infect humans.)

Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Kidney or liver problems

Treatment:

  • Tests and antibiotics will need to be provided by a veterinarian.
  • The entire cage will need to be washed and disinfected. This removes bacteria and prevents reinfection.

Lumpy Jaw

Seek immediate vet care 

Symptoms:

  • Slow growth of hard lump
  • Discharge from eyes
  • Weight loss
  • Abscess in mouth

Treatment:

  • Results in death if not treated.
  • Veterinarian will need to run tests and prescribed the appropriate medication.

Hypocalcemia

Symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Listless or responds slowly
  • Dehydrated
  • Bruising appears
  • Swelling
  • Pale mucous membranes

Treatment:

  • Vet will need to assess and advise on readjusting diet.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Seek immediate vet care 

Symptoms:

  • Unable to move back legs or has weakness.

Treatment:

  • Vet will run tests and possibly give an injection of calcium and Vitamin D3.
  • Adjustment in diet
  • Pneumonia, heart issues, seizures, broken bones can result if not treated.

Mites and Fleas

Symptoms:

  • Scratching
  • Irritated skin

Treatment:

  • Vet will need to assess and may recommend dusting.

Pasteurellosis

Seek immediate vet care (FATAL) 

Symptoms:

  • Sores appear on skin and contain pus. Organs can also become infected.

Treatment:

  • Visit the vet immediately.

Polioencephalomalacia

Seek immediate vet care 

Symptoms:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Listless, slow to respond
  • Disoriented
  • Tremors
  • Lack of Coordination

Treatment:

  • Visit the vet to assess and treat
  • Deadly if not treated

Toxoplasmosis

Seek immediate vet care.

Be sure to thoroughly wash hands and cage (parasites can infect humans.)

Note: caused by coming into contact with cat litter/feces.

Symptoms:

  • Tilting head
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Weight loss
  • Listless
  • Cold
  • Difficulty breathing

Treatment:

  • Vet must run tests and prescribe medication.
  • Fatal if not treated
  • The entire cage will need to be washed and disinfected to prevent reinfection.

Buying A Sugar Glider

Unsuspecting people assume that breeders throughout the U.S. who sell sugar gliders are reputable.

What the average person does not know is that some of these breeders obtain sugar gliders through illegal animal importation.

sugar glider eating in hiding spot

Foreign countries are catching wild sugar gliders and falsely marking them as a domestic/captively-bred exotic.

Little care is given to these animals, and by the time they arrive in the U.S., these sugar gliders are diseased, aggressive, and suffering from malnutrition.

When considering a breeder, it is highly recommended that you select a breeder registered and licensed as a USDA Licensed Sugar Glider Breeder.

You can refer to the USDA’s list to see if a particular breeder’s name is registered.

sugar glider best blanket

Never get a sugar glider from a flea market, ebay, Craigslist or pet store.

Petfinder does have sugar gliders that are available for adoption (re-homing) but remember; you do not know the background of the animal itself including where it came from.

One very important consideration when getting a sugar glider is if your state/city has a ban on them.

Regulations may vary state to state as well as in cities. To find out more, you can refer to specific laws according to state.

How much does a sugar glider cost?

A healthy Joey from a USDA breeder can cost up to $500.

sugar glider playing in ball pit

Extra charges such as shipping and/or neutering can be incurred. Always ask up front.

What should I ask a breeder?

  • Do you have a current/valid USDA sugar breeding license?
  • If you visit the breeder, ask to hold a few adult sugar gliders.
  • They should be easy to handle and friendly.
  • Do you offer educational training or information for new glider parents?
  • Do you offer a written health guarantee in the event the glider gets sick and dies?
  • How old are your gliders are when you let are let go for adoption?
  • Joeys should never be younger than 8 weeks old when released to the new homes.
  • Do male gliders come neutered?
  • What kind of carrier do you provide if you ship via air?
  • What is the fee for shipping by airline?
  • What airline do you use?

Preparing To Bring Your Joey Home

If the breeder is out of state, they will most likely fly your glider to your nearest airport.

sugar glider eating food in pouch

The sugar glider will arrive in the airport’s cargo pickup area. Delta is the preferred airline of choice for USDA Licensed Sugar Breeders.

During flight, sugar gliders are under tremendous stress from noise, and changes in atmosphere.

It’s important to follow a few guidelines when picking them up.

Picking Your Sugar Glider Up At The Airport

  • Do not hold or pet the sugar glider until you are home.
  • Keep the radio and talking to a minimum during the car ride home.
  • Keep the sugar glider’s carrier away from air conditioning vents in the car.
  • Place their carrier in the backseat.
  • Once home, place them into their cage and keep their environment as quiet as possible for a day or two. They will be afraid and shy and may tend to react by biting.

Conclusion

Before purchasing a sugar glider, do your homework and read everything you can to be better informed about the full scope of owning one.

sugar glider eating sugar

They may be unique with an adorable appearance, but they require specialized care and an owner that is around all the time.