Sugar gliders are tiny, adorable creatures that can steal the hearts of young and old alike. Kids are naturally drawn to unique, furry pets and sugar gliders are certainly that. Before you give into the please-o-please-I-will-take-care-of-it-and-love-it-forever of your child, it is important to consider whether or not this exotic animal is the best choice for you and your family.
Sugar Gliders Are Expensive
Sugar gliders typically cost $150 – $500+ per glider. Sugar gliders MUST be kept in pairs. Despite all the care and love that you can give them, you cannot be with them 24/7. You cannot replace a suggie. They need someone to play with during the night, to groom and be groomed by, and to keep warm while they sleep. They are naturally colony animals and will become depressed and very unhappy if kept alone. If you cannot afford a pair of gliders, get a different pet.
Sugar Gliders Require A Lot Of Space
Since sugar gliders are such small animals, it would be easy to assume that they could be housed in a small cage.
That is a wrong assumption.
Suggies love to climb, run, glide and explore. They need a tall and spacious cage (like a large bird cage). The smallest cage (for a pair) should be at least 24 inches deep by 24 inches wide by 36 inches tall. The bigger the cage is, the happier they will be.
Buying the cage is another significant expense. It is vital to the health and wellbeing of your gliders, though. Please do not keep them penned up in tiny cages.
Sugar Gliders Are Nocturnal
Dreamer wakes up around nine-thirty PM, and Ink gets up a half hour later. They’re up until six or six-thirty AM. Their sleep patterns will vary from glider to glider, but they are naturally nocturnal and will be awake while your child sleeps. If your child must be in bed by nine or ten, they will not have a lot of time to play/bond with the gliders.
Sugar gliders are animals and thus make noise. Mine are relatively quiet, but since I have them in my bedroom, I can hear them running around their cage and playing with their toys throughout the night. I find the noise soothing now (I didn’t at first, lol!) but it definitely takes some getting used to.
Dreamer barks. Yes, gliders do bark. It sounds like a tiny dog (which you may think is cute NOW, but not so much when it wakes you up at four-thirty) and is short and loud. They bark for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to):
Something scared them
They are communicating with each other
Sometimes they bark for no reason at all, which can be very frustrating. Dreamer normally barks when something has scared her. I’ll get her out of the cage, talk to her in a low voice and stay with her until she calms down.
Sugar Gliders Require A Special Diet
Some people feed their gliders pellets with the occasional piece or fruit or vegetables. I personally use the TPG diet. I believe it is much healthier for them than a diet solely of pellets. There are several other diets as well. There are a lot of varying opinions on which diet is best. Everyone has their own opinion and it can be really confusing. Do your research thoroughly before choosing.
If you choose to do the TPG diet, preparing their food is time consuming. It also includes cutting and blending food, which a younger child cannot do alone. Suggies are also very sensitive to chemicals and certain foods. If your child is preparing their diet, you must supervise them for their own safety and that of their gliders.
That being said, depending on how many gliders you own, you only have to make a batch of food once or twice a month. (I did a post earlier this month showing me making their food).
Despite their name, refined sugar is terrible for their health and should never be given to them. If you want to give them a treat, they will be thrilled with a piece of fresh fruit, a yogurt drop or a mealworm.
Several foods are toxic for sugar gliders. As tempting as it can be to feed them things like chocolate or ice cream, it can harm or even kill them. Your child needs to know what foods they can and cannot have. Print off a list of safe/unsafe foods and put it up where your child can see it often.
Sugar Gliders Have Long Lifespans
A healthy glider can live twelve to fifteen years. With such a long lifespan, it is important to be 100% committed BEFORE getting your new pets. You must ask yourself and your child important questions such as (and not limited to):
- When your child goes to college, what happens to her gliders?
- Are you, the parent, willing to take full responsibility for them while the child is away on trips or working?
- What if your child dates/marries someone who cannot stand pets or has severe allergies?
- Will your child’s future job be affected by gliders?
- Can your child handle the stress of school/life/everything else along with caring for a high-needs pet?
You don’t want to get gliders only to realize later that you cannot give them a “forever home”. They CANNOT be bought on a whim. They require a lot of thought and significant commitment, both from you and your child.
(Also, note that sugar gliders are illegal in some states including California, Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Is there a chance that you would ever move there? If so, what would happen to your gliders?)
Sugar Gliders Will Bite & Pee/Poop On You
They cannot be potty trained. They will go to the bathroom on your child, no matter what precautions you take. Gliders go a lot after they wake up, so I leave mine in their cage forty-five minutes to an hour before I play with them. It helps, but doesn’t eliminate the problem completely. If your child cannot stand pee/poop, get a different pet.
They will also bite. They have sharp teeth specially designed for getting through tree bark to the sap underneath. They can break skin/draw blood. I always wear long sleeves and a long skirt or pants when I play with Ink & Dreamer, but they still manage to bite my hands pretty well. I have several small scars as a result. :I
(They don’t bite me as much as when I first got them, though. Making progress!) If your child has a low pain tolerance, chances are that when they’re bitten, they will not want to continue playing with the gliders and they will end up forgotten in their cage.
Sugar Gliders Smell
Intact males will naturally smell worse than neutered males or females. My male marks everything and naturally makes much more stink than my female. Either way, they ARE animals and have a natural odor to them. Keeping the cage clean and feeding them the right diet helps immensely.
Sugar Gliders Are Intelligent
They need to have enough toys to keep them from getting bored (which can lead to depression). Toys made specifically for gliders can be expensive. You can make your own, but be sure that the materials you use are glider safe (no threads that they can get caught in, no sharp corners, safe wood, etc). If you choose to buy them a running wheel, be sure that it is safe for you suggies. They cannot have hamster wheels or any wheel with a bar in the middle as they can get their tails and nails caught and damage their backs.
Sugar Gliders Should Not Be Allowed To Play With Other Pets
As adorable as pictures of gliders sitting on top of cat’s heads, it is terribly unsafe for your glider. Even though they are marsupials, not rodents, cats will chase/play with/potentially eat them. Even if the two get along well, cat saliva has bacteria that is toxic to gliders and can kill them. Do not allow the two to be near each other.
They cannot be kept near pet birds, either. In the wild, sugar gliders can kill and eat birds. To keep all of your pets safe and happy, do not allow them to interact.
Bonding Requires Time & Patience
Bonding with your sugar glider takes a ton of time. When I first got mine, Dreamer barely let me touch her. She would crab and bite every time I got close to the pouch. After months of playing with her, giving her treats and gaining her trust, she will come to me anytime I’m near the cage and climb on me. She’s still much more skittish than Ink, but she’s come so far. Point being, bonding with your glider is not an overnight process. It takes a lot of patience and time. For a child, it can be extremely frustrating when their pet bites them and doesn’t want to be around them. Is your child willing to be patient and persevere?
Sugar Gliders Are Delicate
They are tiny creatures with delicate ribcages. They cannot be picked by the middle as it can break their ribs or tear their patagium (the flap of skin that they use to glide). If they’re dropped or thrown or sat on, it could severely injure or even kill them.
My final request for you is that you research, research, research. Before I bought Ink and Dreamer, my parents and I did a ton of preparation and learning. I thought I was pretty well prepared…until I brought them home and realized that I still had a lot to learn. You can never know enough about these special little creatures. You will constantly be learning and growing in your knowledge of them and how to best care for them.
Sugar gliders are amazing pets, but they certainly are not for everyone. I’m sixteen, so I could be considered an oldish-child. As much as Younger Me would have loved to own them, Current Me would not trust Younger Me with their care.
That said, I love Ink and Dreamer immensely. It has been amazing to see how much they’ve bonded to me since I first brought them home. It is thrilling when an animal chooses to be with you instead running around the room or exploring. Their subtle shows of affection is *has no words*. But there is also a lot of work involved in caring for them. Before you invest a lot of time and money into sugar gliders, sit down with your child and clearly lay out the work and the potential draw backs that will go along with these charming little animals.