What Are They?
Sugar Gliders are one of the latest trendy pets. They are small nocturnal marsupials, which means they start out as young living in a pouch. They have a small fold of skin connecting their front legs to their hind, and in the wild they use this to glide between trees. They are omnivorous, eating both meat and plants. They are highly social animals and do not do well if kept alone. They require a lot of interaction, either with members of their own kind, or with their human owner. These are NOT pets for beginners, or young children, and in fact, may be illegal as pets in some areas. They are native to the forests of Australia and New Guinea.
Sugar Gliders kept as a pets, one is hiding, photo from Wikimedia.
Like most exotic pets, Sugar Gliders do have specific dietary requirements. They are very prone to problems with getting an improper balance of calcium to phosphorous, which will contribute to a bone disease. There for it is highly recommended you find a proper food made for Sugar Gliders. Or supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals. In an emergency you can give them good quality cat food, fresh fruit, as well as calcium enriched crickets or chicken eggs.
Housing and Care
Height of the Sugar Glider cage is very important. They are one of the few pets who actually prefer a taller cage to a long one. The cage should be at least 3 feet high for a pair of gliders, and taller if you are planning on housing more. The bars should not be more than ½ an inch apart or you will risk escape. You may house two same sexed animals in a cage, which may be better than having a breeding pair. If the cage is large enough you may have as many as four adult animals in a cage.
As they love to climb, you must provide plenty of opportunity to climb, ladders, ropes, and even bird toys are good if you cannot find actual toys for sugar gliders. They do require a place to sleep, which should be either a nest box or pouch. Because they tend to urinate in their bed you may want to get 2 pouches, so you can wash one and use the other. They may enjoy a wheel similar to what is used for hamsters.
You will want to line the bottom of the cage with newspaper and cover it lightly with pine (not cedar) shavings. Of course you need to supply a water source.
As mentioned, Sugar Gliders are NOT pets for beginners. They require a lot of social care. If you are only going to have one you must be able to provide it with a lot of social interaction, such as carrying it in a pouch for most of the day and evening. Remembering that Gliders are not “neat” pets. They will urinate in the pouch. Punishing them for a natural behavior is not fair. You cannot house train these small, rather primitive animals. Likewise, because they are climbers, and have sharp claws they should not be punished for scratching you when they climb on you
Gliders are nocturnal, which means they will keep you awake at night if you plan to keep it in your bedroom. They will live for 10-15 years, about as long as a dog, are you prepared for this length of a commitment? Another question to ask is do you have a knowledgeable veterinarian in your area, who can provide care? If you are a person who likes to take vacations, you need to be prepared to provide social care for your Sugar Glider while you are away.
These are not cheap pets and they have very special requirements. Getting a pet should never be taken lightly, and this is especially true of exotics like Sugar Gliders. I encourage you to do more research on your own before getting a Sugar Glider (or any pet). Use multiple sources and especially those from people with nothing to gain. Somebody who is trying to sell you a pet has their income on the line. They may not be totally honest about the work or expense involved.
An alternative pet would be a Rabbit or Guinea Pig. Both are awake in the day, and so much is known about them that it is easier to find good care for a sick animal. Neither are as demanding as Sugar Gliders, and both come in some rarer forms. Good luck with your selection of the right pet.