Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Flying Squirrel vs Sugar Glider: The Key Differences

There is something quite intriguing about a creature that can fly—but has no wings. The sugar glider and the flying squirrel have something in common—two skin flaps that allow them to glide over 150 feet in a single swoop. Impressive? Yes, but when you keep one in captivity, you have to maintain a proper environment.

If you’re an experienced pet owner and flying creatures strike your radar—which type do you choose? Do either the flying squirrel or the sugar glider require licenses or permits? How big of a cage do each species need? We’ll answer these questions and more.


Visual Differences Between Flying Squirrels and Sugar Gliders

Flying Squirrel versus Sugar Glider
Image Credit: Left – Flying squirrel (Kuysang-cho, Shutterstock); Right – Sugar Glider (Arif-Supriyadi, Shutterstock)

At a Glance

Flying Squirrel
  • Average length (adult): 6-13 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 3-5 ounces
  • Lifespan: 10–11 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Low
  • Family-friendly: Often
  • Other pet-friendly: No
  • Trainability: Low
Sugar Glider
  • Average length (adult): 5-6 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 4-5 ounces
  • Lifespan: 10–12 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Low
  • Family-friendly: Often
  • Other pet-friendly: No
  • Trainability: Low


Flying Squirrel Overview

Flying squirrels have over 50 species that span all across the United States. These creatures don’t actually fly in the way you think a bird or insect might. They glide-with style. Magnificently, flying squirrels can glide over 150-foot spans.

Flying Squirrels close up_Kuysang cho_Shutterstock
Image credit: Kuysang cho, Shutterstock


Often, multiple squirrels live together in little communities to protect themselves from threats in the wild. They live in thick woodlands all over the United States. Since these squirrels don’t nest, they take over an existing space where another animal has been and make it their own.

You must have a very tall cage and open in captivity so your flying squirrel can live comfortably. Even when you have a larger cage, they must get out for play and exercise daily.


Flying squirrels are peppy and entertaining, always on the move. They love exploring and can be very interactive with their owners. Keep in mind—they are still very new to domestication, so they will always act a little wild sometimes.

But aside from their untamed roots, they can be social, loving pets. Flying squirrels are known for their curiosity and flightiness.

You must understand, these are not traditional pets. Unless you are familiar with exotic animals, you might not fully comprehend the needs that this pet requires. It would help if you always did as much research as possible before committing.

Flying squirrels may very well grow to tolerate humans—and even like being handled from time to time. But these little critters are wild at heart, and that won’t change anytime soon.

Health & Care

Before you bring your flying squirrel home, it’s a good idea to find an exotic vet near you. It might be more challenging than finding a traditional vet—depending on where you live.

Flying squirrels eat:

  • Insects
  • Acorns
  • Nuts
  • Birdseed
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

When it comes to health concerns, these squirrels are pretty hardy. To keep your flying squirrel safe, make sure to supervise any time out of the enclosure. They could get seriously injured if they are out with no one knowing.

Flying squirrels might carry salmonella, so wash your hands after you handle them. Salmonella is a bacteria that can make humans very sick, but it doesn’t hurt your little flyer.

Permits or Licenses

Since flying squirrels are technically native wild animals, some states may require you to have a permit. It’s imperative to the safety of yourself and the animal that you check local laws in your state before committing.

Suitable for: 

Flying squirrels work best in homes with people who have knowledge or experience with exotic pets. They work best for people over the age of 18 who can provide proper accommodations. Special permits and licenses might be necessary.


Sugar Glider Overview

Sugar Gliders
Image Credit: gayleenfroese2, Pixabay

Sugar gliders are marsupials native to Indonesia, Australia, and New Guinea. Like a flying squirrel, they also use flaps of skin to glide rather than fly with wings. Like flying squirrels, they can soar over 150 feet, too.


Sugar gliders live in temperate forest areas in trees. They rely on having lush plant life so they can comfortably glide from surface to surface. It also helps them blend in to divert potential predators.

In captivity, the taller and larger the cage, the better your sugar glider will feel. You can riddle their cage with engaging activities and toys—but don’t block the walls too much. Sugar gliders need free space to fly and climb around their enclosure.

Each enclosure needs to be at least 24” W x 24” D x 36” H. Inside, they also need to feel safe. Having hammocks and hides are perfect for these critters.


Sugar gliders can bond well with humans, primarily if you socialize them early on. They can be very docile so that you can hold them in your hand or pocket. No matter how tame, these domesticated animals never really lose their wild streak.

They require very different care from traditional pets, so being very educated about the species is highly recommended before buying. They are usually playful and curious, having lots of fun exploring outside of their cage—and they need lots of room to do it.

Sugar gliders do best with mature and responsible handlers, as they are very fragile. They can also be quite skittish, especially if you didn’t interact with them enough initially.

Health & Care

Because sugar gliders are exotic pets, you need to understand the special dietary care they require. Sugar gliders eat mainly insects, fruits, and veggies.

Favorite meals for sugar gliders are:

  • Mealworms
  • Crickets
  • Pellets
  • Eggs
  • Leafy greens

Sugar gliders are prone to certain health issues, so finding a licensed exotic vet with experience is a necessity. Even though your sugar glider won’t require as much vetting as some household pets, they still need annual check-ups.

Sugar glider
Image Credit: Arif Supriyadi, Shutterstock

Sugar gliders are prone to:

  • Aflatoxicosis
  • Obesity
  • Leptospirosis
  • Giardia
  • Parasites

Taking your sugar glider to a trusted professional helps reduce the risk of disease.

Permits or Licenses

Since sugar gliders are considered exotic animals, some states don’t allow the buying or selling of this species. You need to check your local state laws before you commit to purchasing a pair.

Suitable for:

Sugar gliders can be compatible pets in many situations. However, they are illegal to have as pets in individual states. Make sure to check your local laws before you buy a sugar glider.


How Flying Squirrels & Sugar Gliders React to Captivity

To be happy in captivity for flying squirrels and sugar gliders, you have to make them feel as free as possible. As you can imagine, being caged can cause depression and sadness, especially if they aren’t adequately socialized with their own kind.

They might never fully adapt to life in captivity, even if they were born in it. But they can socialize and bond with humans to a degree.

Responsibility of Owning Wild Pets

When you get into exotic pet-owning, it can be drastically different from the traditional dogs and cats you might be used to. Knowing how to care for an exotic animal can take time, experience, and education.

You should always make sure to brush up on every aspect of care so you can give them their best life. It’s essential to understand their environmental and dietary needs fully. Make sure to check with your landlord and local laws to make sure owning these types of pets are allowed.

Thinking one of these creatures looks cool might make you think they would be terrific pets. But you have to consider if you have the right conditions to help them thrive. They are just as big, if not sometimes bigger, of a commitment than many other pets.

To Pair or Not to Pair

Both sugar gliders and flying squirrels do best in multiples. They are highly social creatures who thrive on the companionship of their own kind. So, if you plan to commit, get at least two.

You should never have flying squirrels and sugar gliders together. That can be a recipe for disaster to mix species of any sort.



You can make your decision based on your personal situation. Each one of these magnificent creatures come with their challenges and upsides. It will come down to preference, knowledge, and state laws. Remember, sugar gliders and flying squirrels are exotic animals, and you must treat them like it.

These animals can be very rewarding. Just make sure you’re up for the task before you take the leap.

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets