Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a sugar glider?
- Are they tame?
- Do they bite?
- Can I keep just 1 glider?
- Can I keep male and female together?
- How can I sex them?
- Do they scent?
- Do they smell?
- Do I bath them?
- What is that fused toe for?
- Oh my god my boy is going bald
- What should I feed them?
- What should I keep them in?
- Are they easy to breed?
- How much attention do they need?
- Do they store food like hamsters?
- Do you need a license to own them in the UK?
- Are they completely nocturnal or do they wake during the day too?
- Do they come in different colours?
What is a sugar glider?
A small, gliding marsupial that come from Australia, Tasmania, Indonesia, and New Guinea. They are about 12 inches in length, about 6 inches of body and about 6 inches of tail.
Female gliders have a pouch for carrying their young (joeys) around in.
Are they tame?
Not all of the time. They can become very tame and bond with their owners, whether they will do this is down to their personality, whether the breeder has spent any time with them and how much time you have to spend with them.
You have to win their trust and this can take anything from a week or two to a year or two. There is no time limit I can put on it.
Do they bite?
It is a very strong possibility that you will get bitten, especially in the early days and before they have bonded with you.
The bites generally aren’t too bad, and some don’t bite at all but I’m not going to sugar coat them, expect to be bitten and if you’re not then great.
Can I keep just 1 glider?
The simple answer to this question is no. You should not keep just one glider; they are naturally social animals living in large groups in the wild where being on their own would mean death.
A single animal often becomes depressed and with that comes illness, over grooming, self-mutilation and sometimes death. Even if you can spend all day with your glider, you cannot sleep in their pouch with them nor play with them in their wheel.
People often remark on the difference in their gliders when they introduce a friend or two.
Can I keep male and female together?
You can, but the chances are they will breed unless you have the male neutered. Breeding is not a good idea for a new keeper; gliders will quite often kill and eat their own young if the conditions are not right. This is a very common problem.
If you wish to avoid breeding then you can keep together:
- All females
- All neutered males
- Neutered males and females
- Entire males provided they are related and brought up in the same cage together.
If you do this you must NOT split them for any length of time and then put them back together, this will cause huge problems.
Neutering is by far the better option.
How can I sex them?
As very young joeys and mature adults it’s very easy, males have obvious testicles that are on the underside of their body, they will also have scent glands on their head and chest.
Females will be missing the testicles and in place will be a small slit which is a lot more obvious when they are adults, they do not generally have obvious scent glands (sometimes females do have an active gland on the sternum though).
Neutered males will be harder to tell as they are missing the testicles, they have no slit and depending on how long they have been neutered, the scent glands will also be inactive.
Do they scent?
Males are the main culprits for scenting. They have obvious scent glands, which they rub on to you, other gliders, cage furniture and their environment.
The other way of scenting is urinating and rubbing their bum along on things. The best way of reducing scenting odours is by having the male neutered, this deactivates their main scent glands.
Do they smell?
Yes they do, but if you keep on top of the cleaning, clean the cage and cage furniture regularly then they’re not too bad. They have a musky fruity smell about them that once you’re used to it you tend not to notice.
Do I bath them?
Simply… No! They are clean animals and sort their appearance out themselves. Exceptions to this are if the glider is ill and cannot clean itself.
If you do bathe them for whatever reason you must make sure the water is warm, you must dry them off very well and keep them warm while drying them and afterwards.
Never leave a glider unaccompanied as they drown very easily. Never leave them to get cold, as they will catch a chill. An unscented baby wipe is a better option if required.
What is that fused toe for?
Two of the toes on the both of the back feet are partially fused, and are used as a grooming comb; it is normal for them to be joined together.
Oh my god my boy is going bald
The scent gland should form as the males mature, if he becomes a dominant male then the gland will be huge! It secretes an orangy/brown oily substance which parts the hair which is often called the bald spot.
What should I feed them?
A well balanced diet is required; they are very sensitive to dietary inadequacies.
There is much discussion where diets are concerned with the US preferring a diet which is high in sugar, the UK tend to shun the idea as a high amount of sugar is not a healthy option.
The diet I have used successfully for almost a decade consists of:
- Fruit and veg (mainly veg) with a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1
- A protein source
- A nectar drink
- A multivitamin
- Acacia gum and bee pollen
And it goes without saying fresh water should be available at all times.
What should I keep them in?
Some people like to keep them in large aviary type cages and some prefer tall vivariums. Whatever you decide you need to keep in mind the size, at least 4ft high, completely escape proof,
watch bar spacing and any other possible escape routes like waste tray removal flaps. If there is a small gap or a weakness sugar gliders will find it!
Are they easy to breed?
Getting them breeding isn’t the problem; it’s keeping the joeys alive after they have come out of pouch that is the issue. As I mentioned previously, joey cannibalisation is a big issue which most new breeders (it seems) experience at least once,
it is very distressing for us as keepers to know this has happened, but to witness it is just awful!
How much attention do they need?
This is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions. But, they need more attention than the average small pet.
In order for them to bond with you, the more time you can spend with them the better. They should ideally have at least 2 hours of accompanied out of cage playtime per night.
Do they store food like hamsters?
Females have pouches, but not in their jaws or for storing food in, so basically, no.
Do you need a license to own them in the UK?
No license is required.
Are they completely nocturnal or do they wake during the day too?
It depends; there are no hard rules that say they should stay asleep through the day. You should not try and reverse their cycles else you will confuse their body clock and mess up their hormones.