Sugar gliders bite for a multitude of reasons and sometimes it is impossible to figure out the root cause. However, here are ten reasons why your gliders may be biting.
1 – You Scare Me
This type of biting is most common when you first get your glider. They don’t know that you’re a friend and they are terrified of you. They are only trying to defend themselves against you. This type of biting will be very hard and is often accompanied by crabbing or an aggressive stance. They’ll typically latch onto your skin and can break it.
You have to remember that you are massive compared to them and they don’t know that you aren’t out to make a meal out of them. This biting will subside as the glider comes to trust you.
2 – You Are a Threat – Aggression
Some gliders are aggressive because they have been abused or mistreated. This is very understandable and is related to fear biting. They see you and all humans as a threat not only because you’re a giant, but also because they have been harmed by humans in the past.
This type of behavior can take a long time to break and is only done so by trust. Sometimes an abused glider will never again trust humans. Luckily, this type of aggression is fairly rare. Gliders aren’t overly aggressive by nature.
There is a picture of Ilona leaping to bite me. She can be very agressive at times but I believe that her agression stems from not being handled enough as a joey, not from abuse by her former owner. She was very loved and her owner wanted the best for her.
3 – I’m Bored
Bored gliders are like bored children – they cause trouble. If your glider isn’t receiving enough stimulation, he may bite you and everything else excessively. This was the case with my rehomes, Ilona and Yiska. Once they got a wheel, Yiska’s biting stopped all together and Ilona’s became much less.
Make sure that your gliders have a wheel and a variety of toys. You should have lots of different textures and noises to keep them busy.
4 – Love Grooming
When a glider grooms you, it is easy to mistake it for biting. When the groom, there will be a lot of licking and the bites won’t be hard – more like scraping across your skin. You don’t have fur like they do so it can hurt depending on how vigorously they do it.
Sometimes the best, most bonded gliders will nip you. This can be in greeting or they’re just seeing who you are. (Gliders are like toddlers – they experience the world through their mouths).
Grooming you is a good sign that they care for you and have accepted you into their colony. If you don’t appreciate the grooming, simply move the glider away or wear protective clothing.
5 – Ooo A New Texture
I’ve found that my gliders bite me most in places that feel different than my normal skin (hair, ears, knuckles, etc.) Sugar gliders love new textures and they may not realize that these are actually a part of you and not a fun new toy. This can be remedied by wearing gloves, hats or earphones or repeatedly moving the glider off of those areas before they start biting. Eventually they’ll forget about them.
6 – I’ll Heal You!
One thing I noticed was whenever I had any scabs on my hands (created by my babies by over grooming me), they would go after those scabs and peel them off over and over again until I got scars. They weren’t doing it out of meanness; they were trying to help me by removing the strange brown thing on my hands. They do this to each other naturally.
This can be prevented by wearing Band-Aids or other protection over any wounds or scabs. You should do this anyway to keep the areas from getting infected by glider bacteria.
7 – You Smell Yummy
Don’t wear fruity smelling perfume or use sweet shampoos/body washes before playing with your gliders. They will smell it and mistake it for food and you’ll have a whole host of normally gentle gliders trying to tear you to pieces. They are smell oriented and when you smell like food – especially sweet food – they’re going to try to get it at all costs.
8 – Adolescence
When gliders are in adolescence around four months sometimes they bite for no reason. My joeys went through this stage and as annoying as it was, it wore off when they matured.
9 – Weather and Moon Cycles
Gliders are very effected by varieties of weather and by the moon cycles. On full moons, they can act very strange in a lot of ways. Biting is one of them. If your glider bites strangely once a month and is fine the rest of the time, mark down the date and see if it happens on or around full moons.
10 – You’re Squeezing Me Too Hard/I Don’t Like That
Finally, you may be doing something that the glider doesn’t appreciate such as holding them too tightly or accidently hurting them in some other way. If you’ve been around gliders for a while, you should be able to read their body language and see their warnings in time to avoid getting a bite, but if you’re new or don’t listen when they warn you, you’re at risk for being bitten.
Learn what your glider likes and doesn’t like and by that simple measure, you will avoid a lot of nips and bites.
I’ve already covered most of the preventions above, but here’s a condensed list.
Remember that sugar gliders do not understand physical punishment. If you hurt them, they will only see you as a threat and the biting will not stop. They are small animals and it is one of their best defenses.
The best way to prevent biting is to “hiss” at them. A sharp pssst sound is what gliders say to each other when the other is doing something they don’t like. It lets them know that you don’t appreciate their biting and many times they will stop.
If that doesn’t work, you can gently blow in their faces. Never hit them or bop them on the nose. They are small and what might seem gentle to you is really a hard blow on a very sensitive part of the body.
Wearing appropriate clothing will help protect against bites. You can read my post about it here.
You can also try distracting your gliders with feathers or other toys or gently moving them from the spot.
You do not have to sit there and let your glider gnaw you to pieces. For a long time I didn’t realize that I could say no and I have scars on my hands because of that. If your glider stops biting, bonding will be much more pleasant for both of you.