Bonding with your glider is something that takes weeks or months, not hours. We can’t tell you every single thing you will ever need to know as a glider owner… but we can give you a run down of the basics. This won’t make you an expert, but it will hopefully make sure you’re doing okay on your own!
We’ve discussed cages a bit in the FAQ and Pros and Cons, but now we’ll go a bit more in-depth. Sugar gliders, like their names imply, like to glide – as well as jump, play, run, hop, and all those other fun things that need space. You also have to remember that a glider does not move like a helicopter – they don’t go straight up, they go sideways. For a pair, a 24”w x24”d x36”h is roughly what you need, though bigger is always better. A little leeway is fine, but not too much. You need to look for powder coated wire or wrought iron, not galvanized, and a 1/2” bar spacing or less. PVC Coated wire is acceptable, but because of recent recalls due to illness and deaths, most glider owners and breeders no longer trust it. I hugely recommend the cages from Suncoast Sugar Gliders.
Gliders also need wheels to keep active. Simple hamster wheels from the pet store simply will not cut it – you need a wheel specially made for gliders. Personally, I don’t advocate Wodent Wheels at all. Or any wheel with a center bar, really. People say that if you keep them clean, if you use the bar cover, you’ll be fine. Read this topic on GC, and you’ll see why I’ll never bring on within twenty yards of my babies. If you’re in the market for a wheel, check out the Raptor by My Glider Wheels, as well as the Custom Cruiser. Both are wonderful wheels. Personally, I use the Raptor Wheel. David is wonderful, and the wheels are great – and I have five!
A big part of setting up a cage for gliders involves the cage set. Cage sets need to be made of a material that gliders nails won’t get stuck in – fleece is the best option. Flannel or cotton are also a choice for the outside fabric, but I would only use those from a vendor you really trust, as they can be a little more difficult to work with and make safe. Most cage sets will be double lined fleece [fleece on both the outside and inside] and with hidden seams [so little toesies don’t get caught in the threads!]. Usually, you’ll want cage pouches for your gliders to sleep in – as many pouches as you have gliders, for when there’s a little tiff one night – as well as triangular or square hammocks, vines, bridges, and tunnels, and other specialized pieces offered by their respective creators. Check out our reviews to see our favorite vendors!
Toys are also very important to keep gliders intellectually stimulated as well as entertained. There are many kinds of toys, such as reset toys [toys you have to reset every morning], foraging toys [toys for hiding food and treats], or toys that are just bright and fun to play with!
There’s a lot that goes in to deciding on a diet – what do you feel comfortable feeding your gliders? What do you have access to? Cost? Ca:P ratio [you’re aiming for 2:1]? What do other people think of each diet? Read over the different diets, as well as the pros and cons to each. If you’d like to read up more on these and other diets, check out Sugar Glider Help.
» Bourbon’s Modified Leadbeater’s (BML): One of the most popular diets in use, BML is relatively simple to prepare, and most everything can be found at your local grocery or pet store. There are changes offered for picky eaters, though you should try the diet strictly as is first. The Ca:P is roughly 3:1, so you are only allowed to feed certain fruits and vegetables with it, and mealworms are fed in the morning as “dessert”. Gliders have been noted to smell stronger on this diet, though I have no particular experience with this.
» High Protein Wombaroo (Original HPW): Another very popular diet. Most of HPW’s ingredients can be found at your local grocery store, but the Wombaroo powder and the bee pollen have to be ordered online, as they’re imported to suppliers from Australia. Some issues come up with Ca:P, as HPW is around 1:1, but if fed properly with the right fruits and veggies it’s a healthy diet. A simple way to make sure your glider gets the proper fruits and vegetables is by using relish recipes.
» HPW Plus & HPW Complete: In late February 2011, Peggy Brewer, the creator of the above HPW diet, has brought us a whole new diet: HPW Plus & HPW Complete – neither uses the Wombaroo powder used in the Original HPW. HPW Plus & HPW Complete are American-manufactured powders for sugar glider diets. Both have a 2:1 Ca:P ratio. The HPW Plus is to be mixed with bee pollen, eggs, honey, and water. HPW Complete is a just-add-water powder. This is the first diet to go through clinical trials, and once they’re completed, the results will be posted.
» The Pet Glider Exotic Diet: The Pet Glider Exotic Diet offers a variety not found in most other glider diets. The alternation between batches creates the variety of diet that we know is something to strive for. The aim of the diet is not only variety, but also a good Ca:P ratio, as well as enough protein and nutrients. The cost for this diet is higher upfront, but seems to even out in the long run.
» The Suncoast Diet:
» Lucky Glider Rescue & Sanctuary Suggie Soup: The LGRS Suggie Soup is an economical, lower-fat, lower cholesterol, higher calcium, higher protein recipe than similar recipes that use expensive, imported ingredients. This is the standard recipe for all rescues and animals being rehabilitated at Lucky Glider Rescue & Sanctuary. You can dilute the finished product with water and syringe feed it to gliders who are suffering from metabolic bone disease or hind leg paralysis. It is important to first take malnourished gliders to the vet as they are often candidates for a subcutaneous calcium injection and other treatments.
However, with any diet – even pellets, which are not a healthy diet on their own – you need to feed a variety of healthy and safe fruits and veggies to help meet their Ca:P requirement that gliders need. Also, feel free to try a few of these glider treat recipes to reward and spoil your suggies!
Of course, all animals need water in some way shape or form. There’s a few things to keep in mind with gliders. First of all, always have at least two sources of water in a cage for when something happens. Sometimes water bottles run empty, or they leak, or they clog, or whatever, so always have more than one source. Another thing to keep in mind – avoid spring-loaded water bottles. Most water bottles have a little metal ball, which closes off the water. But some have a spring behind that metal ball, and there have been stories of gliders getting their tongue caught by the spring.
Don’t put vitamins in the water – if you use vitamins, they almost definitely go on the food instead. A few things you can, however, do with the water – you can add a touch of apple juice every so often as a treat, or to encourage younger gliders to learn where the water bottle is [but again, not every day], or you can add a touch of cranberry juice [straight cranberry juice, not a sugared version] as a way to try to avoid UTIs.
Now, you have a few choices – most people use water bottles, but you can also use water silos or water bowls. Personally, we prefer water silos. On the upside, I can easily see when the water is running low, they’re easy to detach from the cage to refill, and I don’t have to worry about it getting stuck or taking off a tongue. On the downside, the water gets dirty easily, and if the cage isn’t sturdy enough, the water can be shaken out of the silo.
Just starting off with sugar gliders? You’re going to want to read up on the very basics. This article not only covers the basics of bonding but also of sugar glider ownership in general. Something you should definitely know right from the beginning is how to pick up your glider properly. With that, make sure you also know how not to handle a glider.
An article that every glider owner needs to read at least once is about building a relationship with your glider. After that, read up on taming or bonding - while good for anyone with or interested in gliders, it is particularly written for the owner that might have gotten in over their head. Into the bonding pit covers starting or starting over with a glider. If you’re having a little trouble making advances bonding, check out this little trick. It’s not a cure-all, and your gliders may not be ready for it yet – but I know it’s worked for us! Interesting for all owners would be the bonding method debate.
If you decided to start with an older glider or a rescue, check out these experiences with gliders with previous owners. Or, if you started with the Pocket Pets method of bonding, try this article about starting all over.
» Albino: A total lack of pigment. An all white glider with red eyes. T- albinism. Color. Recessive.
» Black Beauties: Much like the Classic Grey, but with extremely dark markings. The bar under the jaw extends and connects. Color. Gray variation.
» Brown Beauties: A newer line from the red series. Color.
» Black Face Black Beauty: A new line, starting with “Elvis”, and has a much darker face than that of the Black Beauty. Only a handful have been bred so far. Also called “Dark Phase” and “Dark Face”.
» Creamino: An off-white glider, with a darker cream-colored stripe and burgundy eyes. T+ albinism. Color. Recessive.
» Classic Grey: A grey glider with a white underbelly and a dark grey to black stripe down its back with a dark tail. Color. Dominant.
» Leucistic: “White Eyed Black”. An all white glider with black eyes; Leucistic is a lesser form of Albinism. Color. Recessive.
» Lion: A red series standard variation. A glider with a honey colored hue to its fur, and a slightly rounder face. Grey variation. Color. Unsure as to dominant or co-dominant, but seems to be fading over generations.
» Mosaic: A glider with white patches where there would typically be color. Also called white variation. Includes ringtail, white face, white tip [tail], powdered, platinum, silver, and masked. Pattern. Co-dominant.
» Platinum: A newer color. Light silver, almost powdered body, with faint markings. Color. Recessive.
» Ruby Leu: Same characteristics as a leu but with the garnet eyes of the cremino. Cause by a combination of the recessive genes for Albino and Leu. Color. Recessive.
» White Face: A glider lacking the “bars” the extend under the jaw, thus having a “brighter” face. Variation of mosaic. Pattern. Co-dominant.
Deciding to breed is decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Will you need a USDA license to breed where you live? Do you already own the gliders you plan on breeding, or are you purchasing them? Are they coming from a good breeder? Does the breeder that you got/are getting them from know you’re breeding? Do you know the lineages of the gliders? Will the joeys COI be reasonable? In addition, are the gliders personalities suitable for breeding? Can you handle the loss of a joey? Are you ready/willing/able to hand-raise a joey or two if the parents decide to reject? Do you have the patience to screen new homes for joeys? What will you do with joeys that don’t get adopted? Do you understand that most breeders hardly break even with costs? What will you do when they are ready to retire? All these are things you need to fully consider before you take the steps into breeding.
Have you done your research yet? Can you tell me what you need to do to help a nursing female? Can you tell me what OOP stands for? When do females reach full sexual maturity? What kind of infections do you need to watch out for? What do you need to have ready in case of rejected joeys? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you need to research more before you start breeding. The best place to start is Suz Sugar Gliders.
As far as the questions I asked – A nursing females need extra protein as well as possibly a milk supplement [consult your vet and/or breeder], but you also need to keep them free of stress. OOP stands for “out of pouch”, which is basically a joey’s birthday. Females reach sexual maturity between 6-8 months, but it is recommended to refrain from breeding females until they are 8-12 months for your glider’s health. As for infections, you need to especially watch out for pouch infections, as well as metastasis, or an infection of the milk glands. Suz Sugar Gliders covers more about rejected joeys on her site.
Perhaps you’ve decided to get a glider and have started shopping around. Maybe you saw a kiosk set up in your local mall and are looking for more info. Either way, you’re in the right place. One complaint I hear occasionally is that hand tamed gliders cost too much. [We warned you!] Sometimes people decide to take the cheap way out and get a glider from Craigslist, in a mall, at a flea market, or from a pet store, sheerly because of price. Honestly, if price is that big of an issue, you should probably hold off on getting a glider at least for now. Mill Breeders and Pet Stores don’t take care of their gliders – many go home to their new owners and immediately become ill. Plenty are also taken from the mothers way too early, before they’re able to take care of themselves. Want to read more about mill breeders? Check out this news article.
Are you unsure of whom to buy from? Well, here’s who not to buy from:
» Anyone that gears their sales towards children. Sugar gliders aren’t a good pet for young kids, nor should they be advertised as such. In addition, don’t purchase from anyone that says that sugar gliders are easy, low maintenance, good for kids, inexpensive, etc. None of these are true.
» Any breeder or broker that recommends a small bird cage or hamster cage. Sugar gliders are arboreal, meaning that they spend the majority of their time in the tree tops. They need a large cage. Many ferret cages won’t work, as the bar spacing is greater than 1/2”.
» Anyone that recommends a heat rock. If your joey is fully weaned from its parents, then it won’t need a separate form of heat.
» Anyone that is in a place like a mall or flea shop, or that has the joeys all lumped in one cage. They can’t tell who is who – and don’t care – and can’t tell you any characteristics or personality quirks of any of the joeys.
» A breeder or broker that doesn’t have the joeys with them, that asks you to meet them again at a later date to pick them up, and is never at the same place twice; or that won’t let you meet and play with the joey.
» A breeder or broker that says your dog, cat, ferret, bird, or other pet will get along with the glider. Be especially wary if they say it’s “because gliders don’t smell like rodents”. I’m pretty such laser pointers don’t smell like rodents, but my cats still attack them.
» Anyone that says sugar gliders don’t bite, or that they don’t bite hard enough to draw blood. Any animal with teeth can and will bite if provoked into defending itself.
» A breeder or broker that says that you have to use physical force to “teach” your glider to stop biting. Gliders are small, and physical force could hurt or kill them. If you want to try to stop your glider from biting you, you can either simply redirect them again and again, you can try “licky treats”, or you can mimic their own “tsst” sound.
» Anyone that says that gliders won’t poop or pee on you. You are a moving potty.
» Anyone that says that gliders won’t chew on things is lying. Just because gliders teeth aren’t continuously growing – which means they never need to be trimmed or floated – doesn’t mean they don’t chew! My boys love to chew everything… the wheels, the toys, the applewood branches, everything!
» Anyone that encourages you to “show off” how bonded your glider is by taking them outside and calling them to you. Do not take a glider outside without a pouch or a travel cage unless they are exceptionally well bonded. Personally, I never. I’d rather not risk losing my babies.
» Anyone that says that gliders can bond in two days. They might accept you, but they don’t fully bond that quickly. Bonding is an ongoing process that is never ending.
» Anyone that tells you not to research online, or that claims to be the only expert.
» Anyone that says that joeys need a smaller cage because they’re younger.
» Anyone that recommends that you look at ASGV.com. The entire site is run by a mill broker, so everything is warped to say that they’re the best. They say that rescues don’t exist and maybe have one or two a year – which is a total lie.
» Anyone that says that sugar gliders only bond from 8-12 weeks old. Many people can attribute to the fact that many of their adult rescues are some of their most bonded gliders.
» Anyone that says that joeys younger than four months have stomachs that “aren’t fully developed” so you need to feed them just one type of fruit.
» Anyone that tells you that pine shavings are ok for gliders – they can give them serious respiratory infections.
» Anyone that says that gliders absolutely cannot be shipped. True, some breeders don’t like to. Many breeders don’t like to ship – it make me nervous myself – but it’s not the awful thing that some people make it out to be.
» Anyone that says that a lone glider will be ok for it’s entire life. Sometimes – rarely, but sometimes – a single glider will be ok, but it’s always better to have a pair.
A USDA license is good, but that doesn’t make someone a good breeder. Not having one doesn’t mean someone is illegal, either! You only need a USDA license to breed if you have more than three breeding females [though in some states you do have to buy from a USDA licensed]. Don’t be shy! Ask around on forums and find out more about whichever breeder you’re considering. So what are the good things to look for?
» A good breeder will let you see their facility and gliders, and won’t try to hide from you. Check if their cages are clean, that their gliders are healthy, and that they have proper toys, etc.
» Ask about what diet they recommend.
» Ask when the separate the joeys from the parents – and ask if they count from the birth date or from the out of pouch date. It should be no earlier than 8-12 weeks.
» Ask about after sale support. Most good breeders are there for 24/7 support.
» Ask where their gliders came from, and ask to see the lineage – breeders should only breed gliders that they have lineage on, to avoid inbreeding, as it can cause illnesses.
» A good breeder won’t mind questions – in fact, they should have questions for you, too! If the breeder seems like they want your wallet more than a good home for the joey, be wary.