Q&A: Advice for a first-time sugar glider owner?

Advice For First Time Sugar Glider OwnerQ: I’m going to be moving into an apartment for college in the summer and I can’t take my cats with me so I was considering buying a sugar glider to keep me company (I get super lonely without a pet around). Do you have any advice for me as far as picking out and caring for my first glider? Things to know for first time owners and stuff like that?

A: There are some things every potential sugar glider owner should know.  Owning a sugar glider is a big responsibility.  Sugar gliders are not the kind of pet you can just leave in a cage.  They need to be given time and attention, and they have special diet needs.  Also, as with any pet, they can require trips to the veterinarian, which can become costly.

Before you are ready to get a sugar glider, you need to be sure there is a safe place to keep them in your residence.  You need to have space for a proper sugar glider cage.  There also needs to be enough room and things to climb on in the space where your sugar glider will be allowed to explore.

It is best for sugar gliders to have consistency in their lives, so make sure the room you choose for them is where they will be staying.  If you move to a new residence, make sure your glider/s have familiar things around them.  (I have moved 5 times since owning my sugar glider and as long as she has her cage in my bedroom, she is fine).

When you are ready to adopt a sugar glider, you need to decide if you want one or multiple gliders.  It is absolutely true that gliders can become depressed, so if you already know you will not have enough time for one sugar glider, you should get two of them (preferably a pair that is already bonded, like sisters or brothers).  It is best to have two gliders of the same gender, especially if you don’t plan on breeding joeys.

If, however, you decide you want one glider, you need to be certain you have enough time for sugar glider bonding.  It is recommended that you give your glider at least 2-3 hours of playtime, but from my personal experience, I find this to be too little of time.  I wear my sugar glider as much as possible, probably totaling 6-8 hours a day, and then I give her several hours of playtime each night.

There will be days when I can’t spend as much time with her, and if I spend too much time apart from my little girl, she will groom bald spots on her head.  Gliders make it apparent to you when they are sad you are not with them, so be mindful of this.  Bald spots are just the beginning of how their depression can manifest.  If they get really depressed, they can overeat, stop eating, or self mutilate until they get an infection, which can all lead to death.  This is serious, so please make sure you can commit to a single glider if you choose to only get one.

Sugar Glider Adoption

Sugar Glider AdoptionWhen thinking about sugar glider adoption, you should first check to see if they are legal in your state. Click here to find out what states legally allow sugar gliders.

When you are ready for the sugar glider adoption process, there are two good options of where to get them.  First, you can look at a sugar glider rescue to see if there are any gliders in need of a new home. Second, you can look for a local breeder that has a good reputation. Spend some time researching them online to make sure they are responsible and care for their gliders properly.

I got mine at an exotic pet store for $150, but I would not recommend getting a glider at a pet store. I learned later on that many pet stores get gliders from mills. It can also be harder for some sugar gliders to make the transition from store to home because pet stores are usually loud and scary for the small prey, and it can cause them to be depressed.  Depending on how well you care for your glider, it can be a challenge to bond with them when taking them from this frightening environment.

Pet stores are also not the best because they are usually closed in the evening when gliders need attention. Young gliders need daily interaction, and they will most likely be neglected at night when they are most active. Getting a glider who has not been handled a lot can be challenging. Over time, my sugar glider has gotten better at letting me hold her, but in the beginning, she would scratch and try to bite me.

You will need to decide if you are going to have a single sugar glider or two or more.  I made the decision to have one sugar glider because I was told by the guy at the exotic pet store where I got her that one makes a better pocket pet than two. However, I now realize this was not good advice. Gliders who live alone for their entire life are not likely to thrive because they are colony animals and need companions.

I would caution you against getting only one glider. If you do plan on having one sugar glider, you must be willing to make time for him/her, both during the day and at night.  2-3 hours a day is the minimum amount of time you should spend together, but really they like companionship 24 hours a day, so the longer you can spend with them, the better.

If you decide to have two or more, they will generally keep each other company and aren’t as susceptible to depressive self-mutilation as a single glider. The biggest problem with my glider occurs whenever I have to travel. She over grooms if I am gone for a long stretch, even though I make sure she is taken care of by a good babysitter. I am now looking into getting a companion for her.