Meet the Sugar Glider
The sugar glider is a marsupial mammal originally native to mainland Australia in the eastern and northern regions, New Guinea, and later imported to Tasmania. They have become an increasingly offered specimen in the pet trade in recent years and have quite a following of breeders and fans whom love these delightfully quick and agile mammals.
With the stripes on the head that resemble a badger, these nocturnal flying squirrel-like creatures are truly an unusual pet. They are not a pet for the novice keeper however, quite a bit of research and reading must be undertaken before one commits to the care and keeping of a sugar glider. With a rather long lifespan of 10-14 years they require a commitment from the owner.
Wide-Eyed and Busy-Tailed
With the ability to glide like a flying squirrel, these are truly strange and wonderful creatures. The tail of the sugar glider while long is not a prehensile appendage. It acts more like a rudder when the glider is leaping between branches. Because the glide they may be prone and willing to ply their skill, so some forethought must be used in their handling. –If they take a leap, will they be secure in their landing? Handling a sugar glider while on a fourth-story balcony would be unwise; a single jump and you may have just lost your pet!
Food for Thought
It will be almost impossible to create a totally vernacular diet for sugar glider, but some approximations can be assumed. Glider love sweet foods like fruits and tree sap from acacia gum trees, even some varieties of eucalyptus. These cannot be conveniently given in a typical North American-kept sugar glider diet but other items from their dietary preferences can be. Items include such fare as bird eggs, wild-caught and farm-raised insects for the pet trade. Avoid feeding insects caught ‘in the house,’ items like flies etc. due to potential exposure to bug sprays or insect poison.
Other heftier items that sugar gliders might be inclined to eat include small birds, lizards and small rodents. These are all on the menu as well. What comes to mind with mice are the so-called ‘pinkie mice’ which can often be purchased in pet stores for the purpose of feeding reptiles like agamas, bearded dragons and most breeds of snakes.
Only feed ‘pink mice’, never the ‘hairy’ or ‘jumper’ variety. Mice are a known vector of pinworms and baby pink mice do not have them, but ‘jumpers’ or ‘hairy mice’ that are beginning to explore their world will ‘taste ingest’ fecal spoors of adults, which will most likely have pinworms. This is often how pinworms get into otherwise ‘isolated’ reptiles and they become sick and lose weight. The same thing applies to sugar gliders.
And of course, never give chocolate or candy to a sugar glider. These are forbidden, and in the case of chocolate, most likely fatal.
Sugar gliders have many teeth and notably, two bottom teeth the point forward. There are misinformed and misguided people and even vets that believe and advocate ‘floating’ (“clipping”) of the bottom teeth. This is inadvisable and anyone that suggests this is getting their information from an outdated source.
Sugar glider teeth do not ‘grow’ like rodent teeth, floating/clipping will damage them permanently. It is cruelty, like declawing a cat or dog to make them ‘more suitable’ for apartment living.
Big Beautiful Brown Eyes
Gliders enjoy companionship with one or more members of their own kind, and it may still take up to a year for your new glider to ‘bond’ with you. They may even bite or nip you; you’ll have that with any pet that has teeth. I have had red squirrels and chipmunks as ‘semi-pets’ when I was younger and can attest to this fat. It is just what they do. But patience and attention will form a loving bond between your unusual pet and yourself.