Are Sugar Gliders a Good Pet? [the complete guide to sugar gliders]
Sugar Gliders are small marsupials that are about the size of your palm. Recently they have become popular exotic pets. If you have the time and resources for proper care, a Sugar Glider can be one of the cutest and most loving animals to have as a pet. However, there are many reasons not to have a Sugar Glider as a pet.
If you’re considering a Sugar Glider as a pet, or just curious about this exotic pet, then read on!
Thousands of people around the world own Sugar Gliders. They’re known for not only their adorable appearance but also the tight bonds they often form with their human owners.
Sugar Gliders are only native to a few select countries. They’re also not fully domesticated and have unique care requirements.
Those are just a few of the reasons these tiny marsupials are considered exotic pets. In some places, special permits are even required to own one.
What Is a Sugar Glider?
If you’re considering purchasing a Sugar Glider, especially as a new owner, it’s important to know the basics.
To provide the best care, you’ll want to know the basic facts about a Sugar Glider. What they are, their appearance, differences between genders, and life stages.
What Type of Animal is a Sugar Glider?
Sugar Glider Facts
- Sugar Gliders are native to Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea
- Sugar Gliders can be mistaken for a rodent or a flying squirrel, but they aren’t.
- Sugar Gliders are actually marsupials, like kangaroos
- Sugar Gliders are very social creatures and live in large family groups
- Sugar Gliders are nocturnal creatures – most active at night
- Sugar Gliders are highly vocal
- Wild Sugar Gliders almost never touch the ground – they prefer to stay up high.
- Sugar Gliders enter a ‘bonding phase’ around the age of 9 weeks
- Sugar Gliders reach maturity at the age of 7-10 months
- After reaching sexual maturity, Sugar Gliders often have only 2-4 babies a year – a fairly low reproduction rate, especially in the pet trade.
Sugar Glider Appearance
- Baby Sugar Gliders are tiny – they can be as small as a grain of rice when newborn.
- Adult Sugar Gliders often measure between 11 and 21 inches, including the tail
- Their fur is usually bluish-gray or tan, with a pale underbelly and black stripes down the back
- Sugar Gliders have large dark eyes – adapted for their nocturnal lifestyle
- All Sugar Gliders possess gliding membranes that extend from front to back feet.
- Adult, healthy Sugar Gliders weigh between 3 and 6 ounces.
Female Sugar Gliders
- Female Sugar Gliders have a pouch for young
- They are also slightly smaller animals than males
Male Sugar Gliders
- Have a scent gland that resembles a bald spot on the tops of their heads
- Plus have a scent gland near the base of their tails for marking territory.
Sugar Glider Lifespan
Most Sugar Gliders will live between 10 and 12 years if they are properly taken care of.
Sugar Glider Characteristics
Sugar Gliders have many unique features.
What Sounds Does a Sugar Glider Make?
Sugar Gliders are very vocal. If you’re wondering what various noises mean, here’s what the experts on ExoticNutrition say about various Sugar Glider vocalizations.
Sugar Glider Vocalizations
- A kind of screeching noise, often compared to a locust noise, but louder
- Usually considered a warning sound
- Means your Sugar Glider is agitated or afraid and needs your attention
- Has been compared to a Chihuahua barking
- Can have a variety of reasons, from boredom to greetings
- Usually, a sound only made by baby Sugar Gliders
- Indicates unhappiness, missing family
- If your Sugar Glider is making this noise, it definitely needs some attention and love
- A sound often produced during grooming
- Might be produced if your Sugar Glider is annoyed
- Usually described as a combination of squeaks and clicking teeth
- Often considered a noise of contentment or happiness
- Sounds like a cat, but much softer
- You won’t hear a Sugar Glider purr unless it’s VERY close to your ear
- Like a cat, this is a sound of happiness and contentment
- A series of changing pitches and noises
- A sound only made by female Sugar Gliders with young
- Meant to soothe baby Sugar Gliders and make them feel comfortable
Sugar Glider Care
If you’re considering a sugar glider as a pet, you’ll also want to consider the many aspects of their care.
Sugar Gliders make good pets, but they aren’t fully domesticated. They still have the same diet and habits as their wild counterparts.
You’ll need to make note of these before deciding if a Sugar Glider is the right pet for you.
Sugar Glider Habitat
Despite their size and nickname ‘pocket pets’, these little guys need a large space. Given their natural habitat, you’ll want a cage that’s tall and fairly wide.
Most experts recommend a large cage that is a minimum of 24’’ by 24’’ by 36’’ in size, at least for adults.
Some experts on sites like SugarGliderInfo – Run by Pocket Pets – recommend a smaller cage to start with if you purchase a baby Sugar Glider.
In addition to your cage, you’ll also need to make sure you have the following:
- Food Dish
Something small and sturdy and out of the way. Often, people will simply serve Sugar Gliders off of a small plate
- Water Dish
Sugar Gliders need a constant source of clean fresh water. You’ll want something easy to access.
Many Sugar Glider owners will use a water bottle. A water bottle can require cleaning and refilling less often.
However, young Sugar Gliders are likely to have problems with a water bottle. For your Sugar Glider’s comfort, you may want a small, attached bowl, even if you have a water bottle.
- Sugar Glider Bedding
A soft ground covering for your sugar glider to hide in and nap on is important.
Recommended ground coverings (bedding) include:
- Professional bedding made from paper or wood shavings (purchase in a store or online)
- Shredded newspapers (black and white only)
- Shredded paper towels
- Dried moss
Whatever you choose as bedding, remember it needs to be changed out or cleaned at least once a week.
- Hiding Spots
Hiding spots can come in a variety of forms. Pouches are a popular choice. Small nests are also a common hiding place.
Sugar Gliders like to live up high. So when planning nests and hiding places, you may want to consider placing them on upper perches.
- Sugar Glider Perches
Sugar Gliders prefer higher spaces. Having lots of perches to jump from and glide between is a must to keep a Sugar Glider happy.
You can choose pre-made perches, or make your own. Branches, artificial branches, draped ropes, and platforms are all excellent choices.
You’ll want to put these perches at all different heights from the top to the bottom of their enclosure.
Sugar Glider Toys
Lots of toys are essential to keep your sugar glider entertained. Sugar Gliders are intelligent and curious animals. They need plenty of stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.
Examples of good Sugar Glider toys include:
- Toys supplied for birds
- Small chew toys or swings
- Stimulating toys like small balls
- Hamster wheels
- Rope toys
Sugar Glide Toys to Avoid
- Toys that are easily torn or damaged
- Toys that may contain toxic or chemically treated materials.
For additional stimulation, you can get – or make – a variety of toys and rotate through them.
- Sugar Glider Pouch
Pouches can make good nests inside a cage. They can also be an excellent way to keep your Sugar Glider with you.
If you want to take your Sugar Glider out and about, a pouch can be a good investment. This will provide your sugar glider a place to call their own.
It will also be useful if your shirts don’t commonly have pockets for your sugar glider to ride in.
Sugar Glider Diet
In the wild, Sugar Gliders eat a variety of things. They love fresh fruits and tree sap. However, they also eat vegetables and even live insects.
For proper care, you’ll want to replicate that diet as much as possible.
However, this doesn’t have to be a serious chore. Nor does it require a specialized food mix, though there are companies who carry special Sugar Glider chow.
What Do Sugar Gliders Eat?
That aside, here’s what you can feed your Sugar Glider, according to experts:
Fruits are highly recommended. You’ll want to supply fresh fruit, as canned or frozen may have unhealthy preservatives or too much sugar.
Popular fruits Sugar Gliders enjoy include:
Pretty much any fruit can be served. You’ll want to be careful with fruits that have pits or seeds and don’t feed them too much at one time.
For things like cherries, grapes, or watermelons, you may want to buy seedless or pre-pitted to avoid problems.
Veggies can be an excellent food source. Some prime examples of good vegetables for Sugar Gliders are:
- Sweet Potatoes
It’s important to make sure that you wash any vegetables you feed a Sugar Glider.
Experts are divided on their opinions of nuts in the Sugar Glider diet.
Too many nuts can lead to an overabundance of protein. However, nuts and seeds can be an occasional treat.
Protein aside, they can be an excellent way to give your Sugar Glider the hard food they need to keep their teeth healthy.
In the wild, insects are a Sugar Glider’s main source of protein. Experts recommend crickets. A cricket dusted or fed with protein and calcium supplements is considered the best option.
Some places will suggest mealworms. Experts, however, say that mealworms have too much fat to be a healthy regular supplement for Sugar Gliders.
Note: If you choose to put insects on your Sugar Glider’s menu, don’t feed them regular garden insects. These can be exposed to harmful chemicals that will poison a sugar glider.
It’s best to either buy them from a pet store or raise your own.
If you’re squeamish about bugs, you can actually feed your Sugar Glider regular meats. Sugar Gliders can and will eat things like chicken or beef or pork.
There are just a few guidelines you’ll need to follow.
- Before cooking, wash meat thoroughly to get rid of any potential chemicals.
- It’s best to serve your Sugar Glider small bits of cooked meat. Cooking reduces the risk of harmful bacteria or chemicals.
- Lean meats or trimmed meats are best.
- Another protein option is hard boiled eggs. Once shelled, small servings can be an excellent protein choice.
In the wild, Sugar Gliders frequently eat things like tree sap to appease their sweet tooth. This might not be feasible for pet Sugar Gliders, but you can provide a good substitute.
Some experts say that a simple mix of unaltered fruit juices is all you need.
Others recommend a mix of protein, calcium, and sugar sources blended into a nectar substitute. If you choose this, there are several recipes online to choose from.
The benefit of choosing a nectar mix is that it can be stored. It can also be used as an easy way to make sure your Sugar Glider has the necessary supplements in their diet.
Sugar Gliders often suffer from calcium deficiencies. While protein is less of a problem, it is possible for them to get TOO MUCH protein in their diets.
Many sellers and veterinarians recommend supplements as a way of managing your Sugar Glider’s intake.
If you decide to use supplements, be sure you consult with an expert about dosages and schedules.
As a natural calcium supplement, you can offer them things like yogurt drops as an occasional sweet treat.
What Foods Are Harmful to Sugar Gliders?
Some foods are not recommended for a Sugar Glider.
- Coffee or chocolate
- Fatty foods
- Overabundance of nuts or seeds
- Pits from fruits
These foods can cause health problems. Also, foods like chocolate and coffee are poisonous to Sugar Gliders.
If you aren’t sure about a certain food, consult an expert before adding it to your Sugar Glider’s diet
Sugar Glider Cleaning
Sugar Gliders are naturally very neat and clean creatures. They’ll actually self-wash, much like cats. You won’t really need to worry about bathing your Sugar Glider, due to this fact.
Experts say a sugar glider can’t really be ‘bathroom trained’ specifically. However, like many small animals, they will avoid leaving messes in places they sleep or relax.
In cages, they will generally choose a specific place to do their business.
Sugar Gliders will also generally avoid leaving messes in pouches or pockets. So no need to worry, if you’re thinking about carrying your Sugar Glider with you in a pocket or a bag. You just need to make sure they can get out if they need to.
Cages should be cleaned on a regular basis. You may want to set aside a specific day each week to change out the bedding and cover on the bottom of the cage.
Experts also suggest a wire-based cage with a tray under it, to make cleaning messes easier.
Are Sugar Gliders Friendly?
Wild Sugar Gliders live in large family groups, often with 10-15 members. As a result, they’re highly social creatures.
If you’re considering a Sugar Glider as a companion, this is important to remember. Many experts recommend purchasing more than one sugar glider to help prevent loneliness.
Sugar Gliders will usually have a ‘favorite’ member of the family.
Once you’ve bonded with your Sugar Glider, you can carry them around. Experts say they’ll even enjoy it. During the daytime, they’ll be happy curling up in your pocket or pouch for a nap.
Sugar Gliders are often referred to as pocket pets.
Are Sugar Gliders Nocturnal?
Sugar Gliders are nocturnal animals, so be prepared for some noise at night. A young Sugar Glider can be trained to a more daylight friendly sleep cycle, but it can be hard.
You’ll need to keep in mind that those large eyes aren’t meant for direct sunlight.
Many owners prefer leaving their Sugar Gliders on a nocturnal cycle. Why? Because it means their Sugar Glider will be sleeping while they’re at work or out running errands.
So when they come home to relax, they have some cute little animals awake and ready to interact with.
A bonus for the Sugar Glider is that they’ll have less time to feel lonely if their person has to spend the daylight hours away from home.
If you’re not sure about changing their schedules or leaving them alone, it’s okay. They can come with you, and sleep in a pouch or pocket on your person.
Experts say this can actually help with building a close relationship.
Carried in a pouch, they’ll fall asleep surrounded by your scent. This can help them associate you with safety and comfort.
Especially if you’re dealing with a joey who hasn’t yet attained maturity and gone through that important bonding phase.
How to Bond with Your Sugar Glider
Sugar Gliders go through a bonding phase between the ages of 9-12 weeks.
If you want to form a strong bond with your Sugar Glider, you’ll want to buy a baby Sugar Glider that hasn’t yet started going through this phase.
This is also important to avoid the intense unhappiness that a Sugar Glider may experience if separated from a family or group they’ve already bonded with.
When bonding a sugar glider, you’ll need:
- Regular interaction
- Plenty of loving attention
There are several strategies online for bonding a Sugar Glider. If you’re concerned about the Sugar Glider bonding process, check out places like SugarGliderInfo for strategies to make it easier.
While going through this process, remember:
- Sugar Gliders will most likely bond the whole family, including other pets and young children.
- Sugar Gliders will choose a primary bond.
- Once bonded, they’ll enjoy spending time with everyone in their family group.
If you’re worried about interactions with dogs or cats, experts say you shouldn’t be. Sugar Gliders will bond well with other animals.
This includes if you have a small dog or a cat, even if your pet is normally fairly aloof.
Cost of Owning a Sugar Glider
Experts often disagree on the costs of owning and caring for a Sugar Glider. It really depends on HOW you plan to care for them. Some say you’ll need regular vet visits.
Others say that since Sugar Gliders don’t carry most of the common parasites or health concerns that cats and dogs do, they don’t need visits with an as often.
Other cost considerations of owning a Sugar Glider consist of diet, stimulation, and companionship.
How Much Do Sugar Gliders Cost?
The highest cost, unless you have a lot of veterinary visits, is actually buying the Sugar Gliders themselves.
- A baby sugar glider usually costs between 250 and 500 dollars
- Adult Sugar Gliders still sell for upwards of 150 dollars
- The difference between prices is due to the bonding phase. After they reach maturity, Sugar Gliders are harder to form a close relationship with.
Costs for food, habitat and other essentials vary according to preferences. Estimates for Sugar Glider habitat start-up costs:
- $45 for a suitable Sugar Glider cage
- $15 for Toys and Accessories
- Estimated monthly food costs are in the range of $15-20 dollars
If you’re looking at buying specialized glider chow, however, the cost of food might be higher, depending on where you get it, and what type you get.
The same may be true of toys and equipment.
When considering a Sugar Glider as a pet, you’ll want to map out a game plan of care and supplies, if you want an accurate measure of the costs you’ll incur.
Do Sugar Gliders Get Lonely?
Also, you’ll want to consider carefully the number of Sugar Gliders you want to bring home. Having more Sugar Gliders will cost you more money!
On the other hand, a solitary or lonely Sugar Glider may present other complications or difficulties.
Since they’re social animals, you’ll need to provide extra attention and stimulation for a single Sugar Glider, as opposed to a pair or a small family.
Which could translate to more toys, or a more time-intensive relationship.
Sugar Glider Breeder
Due to the restrictions on owning and breeding, you won’t find Sugar Gliders in pet stores.
When looking to buy a Sugar Glider, you’ll want to look for a reputable breeder. You’ll want to do your research.
Check for the necessary certification, and their practices in breeding and raising Sugar Gliders.
Consider checking the following things before you choose a breeder to buy from:
- General Condition of the Facilities
- Ask what age joeys are separated from their mothers – Sugar Gliders shouldn’t be sold younger than 8 weeks
- How diverse the breeding lines are – you don’t want your Sugar Gliders to suffer too much inbreeding
Sugar Glider Breeder Near Me
There are not a lot of Sugar Glider breeders. You will have to do your homework to find a good breeder near you.
Search online and call local pet stores. Join Sugar Glider owners groups and post in their forums. Some larger pet stores may actually have Sugar Gliders.
Sugar Glider Health Issues
Sugar Gliders don’t have some of the common health problems cats and dogs do. However, they are vulnerable to their own set of medical conditions and health concerns.
Many of them can be prevented with a balanced diet, but not all. Here are some common health issues Sugar Gliders can have:
Often a result of too many calories or sugars and not enough stimulation. Adjusting your Sugar Glider’s diet or portion sizes can help with this.
It’s not uncommon for Sugar Gliders to misjudge a leap and get injured. You’ll want to be on the lookout for injuries to hind legs or membranes, as those can be detrimental to a Sugar Glider’s mobility.
If your Sugar Glider has leg problems and no apparent injuries, it can be a sign of an underlying health condition. If your Sugar Glider is showing weakness in its legs, you’ll want to see a vet to make sure.
Calcium deficiency is common in Sugar Gliders. This can weaken the bones, and lead to anemia, or Metabolic Bone Disease.
Sugar Gliders with these conditions will be weak and thin, often dehydrated and slow
This can be solved by adding supplements and calcium sources to your Sugar Glider’s diet. If you think your Sugar Glider has this problem, consult a veterinary expert.
They can help you plan the dosage of supplements and develop a care plan for your Sugar Glider.
Can be caused by raw meat, or exposure to cat feces. Signs include tremors, weakness, loss of energy, loss of appetite, and trouble breathing.
The best treatment is avoidance. You’ll want to keep your Sugar Glider away from any litter boxes you might have.
You’ll also want to make sure that any meat you give them is cooked to safe consumer standards.
Can sometimes occur in areas like the pouch, liver, or spleen of a Sugar Glider.
Consult with a vet if you have concerns. An expert in exotic pets can diagnose problems and provide you with a treatment plan.
Mites and Fleas:
Mites and fleas are rare in Sugar Gliders that have been bred as pets. However, contact with other pets, or with wild-caught Sugar Gliders, can result in a case of pests.
If this happens, consult a vet. A vet or even a Sugar Glider breeder can give you the best options to make sure your sugar glider is pest-free once more.
Sugar Gliders can be prone to depression. This is especially true if you have only a solitary Sugar Glider, or if you purchase an older animal.
The best treatment is time and lots of loving attention. Interaction is important. If your Sugar Glider is showing signs of depression or unhappiness, you may need to give it some extra social time to lift its spirits.
If you run into health problems, be sure you get a qualified veterinarian to help you through them. Not all vets are ready to handle exotic pets like Sugar Gliders.
You’ll want to do your research to make sure you have someone nearby who can help you take care of your little marsupials.
Are Sugar Gliders Illegal?
Because Sugar Gliders are popular exotic pets, there are laws that have been passed regarding them. This is especially true in the United States and Australia.
In Australia, Sugar Gliders are considered wild animals. You cannot own a Sugar Glider under any circumstances in Australia.
In the United States, rules vary according to the state.
You must have a permit to breed or sell Sugar Gliders in any of the fifty states.
In California and Alaska, it is illegal to own a Sugar Glider. No exceptions.
In Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, you must have a special permit in order to own a Sugar Glider, even as just a pet.
Fun Facts About Sugar Gliders
Along with the necessary information, here are some fun facts you might like to know about Sugar Gliders in general.
- Sugar Gliders are recent additions to the pet industry. They didn’t become popular until the 1990s – at least not in the USA.
- Sugar Gliders have opposable fingers and toes for grabbing onto things
- Sugar Gliders are also called sugar bears
- Baby Sugar Gliders are called joeys, the same as baby kangaroos
- In the wild, Sugar Gliders can glide distances up to 150 feet
- The name Sugar Glider comes from a combination of their superb airborne skills and their love of sweet treats
Sugar Glider Pros and Cons
Benefits of Sugar Gliders as Pets
Sugar Gliders are unique animals. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of having a sugar glider pet before you make a final decision.
Sugar Glider Pros:
- They’re highly intelligent and friendly animals
- They can be trained to recognize their name, come when called, and even do tricks.
- They form strong bonds with their people
- You can take them many places with minimal space requirements – a pocket is fine
- They love attention
- They can connect well with other household pets – even typically territorial ones
- They’re fairly hypoallergenic
- Their friendly nature can have a positive effect on mental health
- They’re extremely cute
- They’re self-cleaning and fairly neat
Negatives of Sugar Gliders as Pets
There is a lot to love about these little creatures. But there are some downsides as well. Here are some of the cons you’ll want to think over.
Sugar Glider Cons:
- Nocturnal – noise at night could be detrimental to sleeping habits
- You’ll need a specialist for care – your local veterinarian might not be qualified to care for any issues that come up
- They aren’t legal everywhere
- They can suffer depression if deprived of companionship of their own species
- You’ll need to have a plan to accommodate their special diet – you can’t just buy generic pet food for your sugar glider
- You’ll need a larger cage and lots of toys and perches for entertainment and stimulation
- The starting costs for purchasing a sugar glider can be somewhat expensive – especially if you’re looking for one young enough to bond with you
- Older Sugar Gliders are less expensive but harder to train – and more prone to bad habits
Sugar Glider Names
You have to pick a great name for your precious Sugar Glider pet!
Here is a list of the most clever Sugar Glider names.
- Sugar Baby
Sugar Glider Related Questions
Can Sugar Gliders Fly?
You probably guess it already but with a name like Sugar Glider you bet they can fly! Well, actually they ‘glide’. Makes sense right?
Sugar Gliders have been known to ‘glide’ up to 160 feet from their perch high up in a tree.
Why Does My Sugar Glider Smell Funny?
Experts say that Sugar Gliders shouldn’t smell strong at all. Most agree that a strong odor is a sign of too much protein or other vitamin imbalance.
Can I Travel with my Sugar Glider?
It’s really your choice. Sugar Gliders love to be with you, so it really depends on your comfort level and any restrictions you may face while traveling.
A road trip is more conducive to bringing your Sugar Glider along than airline travel.
Can I Have Just One Sugar Glider?
Experts have varying opinions on the matter. Sugar Gliders do not like to be alone.
However, if you plan to get mixed genders, you’ll either need to have them neutered, or obtain a permit for breeding.
Do Sugar Gliders Mate for Life?
In the wild, Sugar Gliders live in a group and do not mate for life. But in captivity, if kept in pairs, they will develop a close bond with each other.
Are Sugar Gliders Emotional Support Animals?
Yes, Sugar Gliders can be used as emotional support, comfort animals. Their sweet nature and strong attachments can make them great pets and support animals.
Properly cared for, Sugar Gliders can also live 10 to 12 years making a long-term companion.
Can Sugar Gliders Be Around Young Children?
Yes, but you want to supervise them. Experts say Sugar Gliders can be safely handled by children ages six and up.
Are Sugar Gliders Dangerous to Humans?
They can be. Sugar Gliders can also carry diseases that can be harmful to you. Take precautions.
Do Sugar Gliders Bite?
Yes, a Sugar Glider can and will bite you if they feel threatened. Once they feel comfortable with you and if you treat them properly it should be a rare occurrence.
Be aware that their teeth are sharp. Seek professional medical advice if you are bitten.
Is a Sugar Glider a Flying Squirrel?
A Sugar Glider is not a flying squirrel but they look similar! Sugar Gliders are from Australia and flying squirrels are from the continent of North America.
Are Sugar Gliders good pets? The short answer is…it depends.
You’ll definitely get a loyal companion and a ton of little critter love if you bring home a Sugar Glider. Especially if you raise them through the bonding phase and form a solid relationship with them.
Some consider a Sugar Glider to be a low-maintenance pet as they are easy to carry around. On the other hand, they will require some adjusting to, in terms of care and habits. This can be difficult for some people.
Their longer lifespans mean that with proper care, you’ll have a companion for a decade or more.
Sugar Gliders are definitely not a good choice of pet for impulse buyers. Or for people who don’t have much time to spend with an animal companion.
There are many factors to consider. Remember, even the sweetest pet Sugar Glider still has the heart, instincts, and needs of the wild animals they came from.
However, if you like exotic animals, have the resources for their special care, and the time to give them a lot of attention a sugar glider can be an amazing pet.