Sugar gliders are popular pet choices in the United States. These tiny friends are inquisitive, social creatures that enjoy the company of humans and other sugar gliders. Their bodies are only about 6 inches long, and they weigh 4 or 5 ounces as adults. A sugar glider’s tail can add another 5 to 6 inches to their body length.
The female sugar glider has a pouch in which she carries her young, which means sugar gliders are marsupials and not rodents, as many believe. They have large eyes and gray fur, and a dark stripe often runs down their backs. Their main characteristic is the presence of a patagium, or a thin membrane along their sides that connects the front and back feet. When the sugar glider jumps, they stretch out their arms and legs, and the patagium expands, acting like a parachute and enabling the animal to “glide” through the air effortlessly from tree to tree.
Sugar gliders can make wonderful pets for people who can put in the effort to learn about their care and can provide them with everything that they need to be healthy. While they’re considered exotic, you can find them at many pet stores, animal shelters, breeders, and rescues.
It’s not always legal to own a sugar glider, however. Also, this furry little critter won’t be an ideal pet choice for everyone. Let’s look at situations where owning a sugar glider isn’t recommended.
States Prohibiting Sugar Gliders
Unfortunately for sugar gliders and many other pets, people always don’t take care of them properly. Pets that seem like a fun or exciting idea suddenly become a mundane chore in reality. Sometimes, pets get much bigger than anticipated. Other times, they require more care than originally assumed, have health issues that are costly to treat, or simply become boring to the person who acquired them. Pets have been rehomed and surrendered to shelters and rescues for these and countless other reasons, but in extreme cases of irresponsibility, pets have been abandoned outdoors.
Due to this, some states have prohibited the ownership of sugar gliders as pets. If they are released outside when people decide that they don’t want them anymore, they can become nuisance animals in an environment to which they are not accustomed. Once left to their own devices in the wild, sugar gliders can hurt the ecosystem.
Always check your state’s laws before welcoming an exotic animal into your home to make sure it’s legal to own them. Currently, the states where it is illegal to own a sugar glider are:
It’s legal to own a sugar glider in other areas, albeit with exceptions:
Important: Always check the latest legislation with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Care office in your state to find out whether the laws in your area permit ownership of sugar gliders. If you own four or more breeding female sugar gliders, you may be subject to the Animal Welfare Act, which may require you to obtain a license and register your pets. If you’re not in the U.S., check all relevant legislation before adopting or breeding sugar gliders.
If You Want to Get a Sugar Glider, Get at Least Two
If you’ve found out that it’s legal in your state or country to own sugar gliders, that’s great news! However, if you’re headed out to get one, it’s important to know how social they are. This is an animal that loves to be with people and other sugar gliders. If you get one sugar glider and put them in the cage alone, they will become depressed and not be the happy, social pet that you hoped to have. They live in small groups in the wild, and your glider will crave companionship.
Even if you plan to spend plenty of time with your sugar glider and think that they won’t get lonely, chances are that they still will. Human companionship can’t make up for the presence of another sugar glider. To help them be as happy as they can be, get a pair (minimally). You can even get a male and a female and keep them together. Female sugar gliders are generally not spayed. That surgery is too invasive for such a small animal. Male sugar gliders can be neutered, though, and should be. If you’re keeping two male sugar gliders together, they should both still be neutered.
Sugar gliders should be kept in a proper cage but always allowed out every day for interaction and exercise. Their cage should be 2’L x 2’W x 3’H at minimum. Sugar gliders love to climb, so the higher you can make their cage, the better. You can fill this cage with all sorts of things to keep them entertained. Toys, ladders, ropes, hammocks, pouches, and an exercise wheel will fend off boredom and keep your gliders happy.
Sugar gliders love a variety of foods, and these should be available to them at all times. Sugar gliders naturally graze and enjoy finding food throughout the night. It’s best to discuss the diet for your particular glider with an exotic animal veterinarian, but typically, these animals eat protein, nectar, fruits, and vegetables. You can purchase a pellet food specifically for sugar gliders that will provide 50% of their diet. The rest is made up of a nectar replacement and fruits and vegetables as treats (no more than 10% of their diet).
You can also make your own sugar glider food called Leadbeater’s Mix, but this is to be refrigerated and then thrown away and made fresh again every 3 days. Nectar is an important part of their diet. Vitamins and supplements should be added to their food to make sure they are getting the proper nutrition. Make sure clean, fresh water is always available.
Common Health Issues
The most common health problems of sugar gliders result from incorrect care and feeding, mainly obesity and dietary imbalances. Metabolic bone disease can occur due to a lack of calcium in your glider’s diet. Dental and gum diseases and infections can happen if they are fed high amounts of sugar (often in the form of fruits in excess).
If you notice your gliders pawing at their mouths or refusing to eat, a veterinarian should examine them, including their teeth. Stress can also affect sugar gliders that aren’t kept with a companion. This can cause them to pace out of boredom, overeat, and resort to mutilating themselves.
The best way to keep sugar gliders happy is to allow them adequate time out of their cage for interaction and playtime. In addition to keeping your glider tame, this will keep them from getting bored and meet their needs for socialization. Sugar gliders can become incredibly bonded to their owners and have been known to curl up and sleep on shoulders and in shirt pockets. Since sugar glider babies are carried in a pouch, adults still love to be in a pouch-like enclosure. If you don’t handle your sugar glider often, they will eventually not want to be touched anymore. Handle them and interact with them as often as you can each day to keep them tame and social. Consider your time constraints carefully when you think about getting a sugar glider. If you don’t have the right amount of time to dedicate to them, they aren’t the ideal pet choice for you.
Sugar gliders make fun, affectionate, and loving pets. With the right amount of love and care, these animals can live long, happy lives in captivity. Check the laws in your state to make sure it’s legal to own sugar gliders where you live. If you are considering getting one of these amazing animals, consider getting two. Sugar gliders do best with a companion of the same species.
Proper diet, housing, and socialization are requirements for giving your glider the best life that they can have. If you can’t meet their needs for interaction and socializing, a sugar glider isn’t the best pet choice. They are not a pet that thrives while being in a cage, even with a companion. They love to explore, climb, play, and interact. By giving your sugar glider the ability to do all these things, you’ll have a happy and healthy pet for years to come.
Featured Image Credit: Arif Supriyadi, Shutterstock