Caring for Your Sugar Glider
CARING FOR YOUR SUGAR GLIDER
Sugar gliders, or sugar bears, are a small marsupial possum which originate from Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea. They are named for their love of sweet foods and ability to glide long distances through the air. In their natural environment they are arboreal, spending most of their lives in trees. These primarily nocturnal pets will be most active during the night. They will usually be happy to spend time with their owners during the day, snuggling in a pocket or into a bonding pouch, where it's warm and dark. Their large eyes help them to see at night. Their ears move independently and are highly sensitive to sounds. They also have a great sense of smell to locate food, predators and you as a companion. Intelligent and playful, sugar gliders can make a great addition to the right home, if handled regularly, especially as a young joey (baby).
Two or More?
Sugar Gliders are very social animals, normally living in small family groups. They are best kept with at least one other sugar glider, if not more. They produce chattering sounds (similar to a squeaky toy) if alone, or when frightened. One to two hours of daily interaction is required from their owner in order to keep them completely happy. They engage in social grooming, which in addition to improving hygiene and health, helps bond the colony and establish group identity. Introducing new members to the group is difficult, so it is best to raise them together from a young age. Neutering of males has been performed, by a licensed veterinarian, on all male sugar gliders available for adoption at Petland. Neutering prevents breeding and decreased sexual frustration. Spaying female sugar gliders is not recommended.
Handling Your Sugar Glider
Sugar gliders nails are sharp and will scratch when they climb or land on you. Using a cloth bonding pouch is useful to help with taming and bonding, as you can remove the pouch and sugar glider from cage together, at the same time. Reaching in and taking your new pet out of his nice dark bed with your hand (a smell he might not recognize yet) can be scary for them. Once out of the cage use your pocket or bonding pouch to spend as much time as possible with them; especially when they are still young. Whenever they are on your body – awake or asleep – they are bonding with you on some level.
Potty Training: Like a lot of other pets, sugar gliders usually won't go to the bathroom where they sleep. They tend to keep themselves clean, and do not require bathing. Similar to us, after waking they need to go to the bathroom. Training begins on your second day (first day is a quiet one). Use unscented pet wipes and a puppy training pad set out in front of cage, before you pick them up. Every time you pick them up, you will stimulate them to go to the bathroom by taking a cool moist wipe and gently wipe its rear end while they are standing on the training pad. In most cases as soon as you touch it with the wipe, it will relieve itself (sometimes it takes 30 seconds of wiping). Continue this process two more times over the next five minutes, to relieve all waste.
Essentially once they have “emptied” themselves 2-3 times, they are usually good for the next 2-3 hours, or until the next time they wake up.
To provide a happy, healthy environment for your sugar gliders, Petland recommends the following fun and necessary accessories. They are listed here as your pet's Four Basic Needs: Nutritional, Environmental, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your sugar gliders can live long and happy lives. With proper care, sugar gliders can be expected to live for 12-14 years, similar lifespan to a cat or dog.
Your Sugar Glider's New Home: As an active animal, sugar gliders require a cage that allows for exercise while their owner is away. As an arboreal species, the home should be taller than long and measure dimensions similar to 60 cm x 60 cm x 90 cm. Choose a cage where bars are spaced no wider than 1.5 cm apart, and also has secure latches for these escape artists. Once your pet has bonded with you (usually after 4-6 months) offering a much larger cage gives them lots of room to exercise and play. Placing the cage in the family room (hopefully not too busy during the day for these nocturnal pets) allows for them to be part of the action of the house, and prevents you being kept up at night while they play.
“Dining Room”: Sugar gliders love to pick up their food and throw it around. Using a dining room will keep the majority of their food from being thrown about. Use a plastic box with sides at least 4 inches high (such as a small plastic terrarium). One that is big enough to hold both its dry kibble & daily salad in two small crock dishes, placed on the bottom of the cage. They will crawl into the opening of the dining room to eat. Remove it in the morning to clean.
Nests & Hiding Places: As sugar gliders are nocturnal, owners should provide them with a soft, dark place where they can rest during the day. A nest pouch also provides a hideaway where the sugar glider can go to feel secure and reduce stress. Also providing a bird plastic nest box with soft paper bedding, placed at the top of the cage is a great hideaway, and easy to clean. Small animal nests also work, but will need to be replaced once soiled in.
Heat Lamp, Bulb, and Clamp: Sugar gliders prefer a warm environment and thrive in temperatures between 75-85 °F (24-30°C). In order to maintain the proper temperature your sugar gliders require in your home, it will be necessary to use a ceramic heat emitter or inferred heat bulb, supported by a clamp often found in the reptile department. This will provide heat without lighting up their home, for your nocturnal pets.
Thermometer: The use of a thermometer will ensure that the temperature in the cage falls in the recommended range.
Sugar Glider Pellets: Specialized sugar glider pelleted diets have been formulated to meet the specific nutritional needs of sugar gliders. As omnivores, many of the foods they would eat naturally, such as Eucalyptus and Acacia tree sap, are not readily available in most markets. Pelleted diets are a great staple source of nutrients. They will consume about one ounce a day, per pet. Pellets should always be available; both in the 'dining room' and in an attached small dish high up in the cage. Remember eating in the night will always be their preference (before you go to bed).
Moist Prepared Diet: Your sugar glider will benefit from an enriched diet plan that includes mixing sugar glider powder supplement with bottled water, blend and it is ready to feed, or freeze into ice cubes to offer at a later time. Offer the prepared diet nightly. Remove any uneaten food in the morning. Pellets and the moist prepared diet will account for up to 75% of a sugar glider's daily diet.
Variety Foods: Sugar gliders are omnivores and as such should be offered a variety of different foods to ensure their nutritional needs are being met. Offer new items slowly, and not before 12 weeks out of the pouch. Try sugar glider yogurt drops or glider nectar supplement as an occasional treat. Treats should never be more that 5% of diet. Avoid all high fat and refined sugar foods.
Vegetables & Fruits should be offered nightly and can comprise approximately 25% of the diet (about 1/2 teaspoon total per pet), with more vegetables offered than fruits. Some examples of good choices for sugar gliders are: kale, parsley, green beans, sweet potatoes, shredded carrots and apples. Remove left over fresh foods each morning.
Sugar gliders also require a dietary source of protein. Protein can come from live sources, such as crickets or mealworms (gut loaded) and supplemented sources like shelled boiled eggs. Protein sources should be offered once to twice a week.
Many small animals are susceptible to diarrhea, especially when new foods are introduced too quickly or they encounter a stressful situation (i.e. being adopted). By providing food that is familiar to them, their digestive systems will prevent this type of health problem.
Moss Hollow Adapt – Using Moss Hollow Adapt, while minimizing stress, can help your new pet adapt to their new home by promoting relaxation from stress caused by the environment (Echinacea), offering a prebiotic for building gut flora (Burdock Root), easing diarrhea (Psyllium Husk), increasing palatability (Wheatgrass), providing a natural dewormer (Diatomaceous Earth), and nutrient rich clay (Bentonite). This veterinary health product uses natural ingredients which can aid all small animals before symptoms emerge.
Calcium Supplement: As calcium deficiencies can cause major health problems in sugar gliders, a sugar glider calcium supplement is recommended daily, sprinkled on their salad. A multivitamin mineral supplement is also recommended. Please follow directions on container for specific use.
Water Bottle: A medium water bottle will help keep the water clean. Filtered or bottled fresh water (strongly recommended) should always be available. If they are not drinking from a bottle, be sure to also offer a shallow crock water bowl, as well, in the dining room.
Bowls: Crock bowls in the dining room are hard to tip over. Select 2 crock dishes, one for pellets, one for veggies. Also use a clamp on small animal dish for its 2nd dish of pelleted food, which is placed near the top of the cage.
Litter: Aspen shavings or paper bedding are the best choices for your sugar glider's home. A small animal litter scoop will be helpful to keep the cage clean. The cage should be spot cleaned every day to remove any soiled bedding. The cage should be fully cleaned once to twice a week using hot, soapy water, or pet safe cage cleaner. Bleach or other household cleaners should never be used in your sugar glider's home.
Nail Care: Sugar gliders have extremely sharp little claws on each of their hands to allow them to cling successfully to items they are gliding to and from. About 3-5 little swipes against the tips of the nails with a pet emery board will allow the nails to be more comfortable on your skin and they can still hold on to things. Clipping their toe nails is not recommended.
Toys and Branches: Toys help to keep your sugar gliders mentally stimulated. Along with the regular day-to-day relationship that they enjoy with your family, you must provide your sugar gliders with additional activities. Small animal & bird toys placed high in the cage provide lots of additional climbing & exercise opportunities. Numerous perches (for bird cages), swings & ladders are fun to play with. As a child would, sugar gliders grow bored of playing with the same toys repeatedly. Petland recommends offering multiple toys and rotating them weekly.
Exercise Wheel: Just like us, sugar gliders need exercise to stay healthy and trim. A solid surface exercise wheel that attaches to the side of the cage, suitable for sugar gliders, will alleviate boredom while keeping them from becoming overweight. They also enjoy running around in an appropriate size plastic pet ball.
Bonding Pouch: When sugar gliders are first brought into their new home, owners may find that they are a little hesitant to meet their new family. This is a normal reaction to the changes going on in their life and not a reflection of the new owners. To establish trust with their new pets, owners are encouraged to use a carry bonding pouch. The pouch keeps them close to you so your scent will stay familiar. They build trust with your new sugar gliders, ensuring a happy relationship later on.
Cleanliness and Safety:
All pets can potentially carry diseases that may be contagious to people. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their environments. Regular cleaning of your pet’s environment with a pet safe cleaner may help avoid the spread of contaminants.
Hygiene procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling your pet and/or after having any contact with their habitat, is a necessary routine. Children should be assisted with hand washing and always have adult supervision when interacting with pets.
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