Updated: Sep 19
Sugar gliders are small marsupials, meaning they grow up in their mom's pouch just like a kangaroo!
Owning a sugar glider pet care guide
How long do sugar gliders live?
Average Sugar Glider Lifespan:
These little marsupials live an average of 10-12 Years sometimes longer!
What do pet sugar gliders eat?
Sugar Glider Diet: There are many different diets available for sugar gliders if you research online. They vary greatly in diversity, preparation, feeding instructions and even amount. At JEAR we feed 2 tbsp JEAR Sugar Glider pellets and 1/8-1/4 cup rotation of fruits and veggies daily. Your glider should be offered cut-up fruit in a separate bowl, and they should always have fresh water available to them . The fruit cup should be offered fresh every evening. Give them a variety of food in small amounts, and mix them up every few days. It’s important to switch or add foods slowly. Wait at least one week in between new foods to identify if there is an issue with a specific one. Insects are one main staple in a glider's diet. They are nutritious and provide fiber.
Sugar gliders are omnivores. A wild glider diet consists of insects, fruits, veggies, meats, and eggs. You should not feed your baby only kibble.
Gliderade: This is a very important aspect of a glider's diet. It is a powder that can be sprinkled on wet or dry food or it can be mixed in water to create a soup. It is a nectar-based supplement that is very palatable and provides gliders with essential vitamins and minerals that are difficult to recreate with captive diets.
Fruits - Oranges, apples, dry fruit, pineapple, pear, mango
Veggies - Kale, cabbage, celery, green beans, spinach, bell pepper
Insects - Mealworms, crickets, roaches
Cooked, unseasoned eggs
Honey / pollen
Wild insects (may have parasites)
Cheese / Icecream / any dairy other than yogurt - they are generally lactose intolerant
Size at Adulthood: 8 " long including the tail, and you will want your glider to weigh between 4 - 6oz.
Sugar Glider Enclosure
Before you bring your baby home, you should have their habitat ready. A small wire cage is best to begin with. The spacing of the wire should be no more than 1/2 inch, always. Putting your baby in a large adult-sized cage can be overwhelming so I recommend a smaller cage for the first couple of weeks while the baby is adjusting to its new family and environment. A good tip is to put one of your slightly dirty shirts or pieces of clothing in the pouch for them to sleep with, this will help them to relax and will start the bonding process with your scent. After several weeks your glider should be very comfortable with you handling them and will not cry when you go to get them out of the cage. Now they are ready for their big cage! Move as many things as you can from the small cage to the big cage in order to keep some of their same scented toys and familiar items.
2. Cage cleaner – Dish soap, vinegar
3. Bedding – Pine pellets, Paper, Newspaper, Liners - never cedar
4. Wheel (with a smooth running surface) or some kind of exercise option
5. 2 food dishes - One for dry food and one for wet food.
6. Water bottle
7. Nest/sleep pouches - This is where your glider will want to sleep during the day. Place the sleeping pouch somewhere up high on the side of the cage.
8. Toys/Cage accessories - Gliders are arboreal, meaning they don't spend much time on the bottom of their cage. They prefer to be higher up, swinging from side to side, and jumping from toy to toy. Good toys include branches, platforms, hanging toys, swings, hammocks, foraging towers, and bridges.
9. Bonding pouch - This is one of the most effective tools when it comes to bonding with your new glider.
10. Heat source – Optional
11. Digital thermometer – Optional
Gliders love having all kinds of toys in their cage! Hanging toys are their favorite!
Small or young sugar gliders can get cold easily and it can be fatal. They do best at room temperatures between 75-80 degrees. Keep their cage off the floor - it’s better to keep them elevated on a desk, stand, or on a table. Keeping them on the floor can cause them to get chilled. If you keep your home cooler or if you feel your glider may be cold, you need to keep a heating pad under a corner of the cage, on a low or medium setting, and put a small blanket on the floor of the cage over the heated area. If the baby wants to get on the warm area they can, or they can go to the other half of the cage to get away if they get too warm. Covering the cage (especially at night) with a heavy towel or blanket helps regulate the temperature also. Try not to use a heat lamp or a heat rock - these are too hot, too direct, and gliders do not get their warmth from rocks or from the sun.
Living with a pet sugar glider
Gliders can be affectionate and loving pets if cared for properly and acquired at the right age. It is relatively easy to bond with a new baby but is very challenging if you receive an older adult who is not bonded to you. Each glider can have its own personality but generally, they are attention seekers and affectionate with their humans. Gliders most definitely become part of the family, they have cute antics and individual personalities. They love to nuzzle in your clothing all day and will entertain you all night running around and investigating everything. They require frequent/daily handling to keep them tame and bonded, along with plenty of space for exercise.
We recommend having at least two gliders because they are social and can get lonely which can lead to behavior problems. This is not a requirement, we have many clients with only one glider that lives happy and healthy.
They are nocturnal and will make noise at night. These noises may include:
Crabbing - Scared or afraid
Barking - Excitement or boredom, sometimes for no real reason
Chattering or chirping - Happy or content
Hissing - Agitation or pain
These noises may be accompanied by a defensive position with their hands in the air.
This video shows a baby just a few weeks old. Its eyes aren't even open but you can hear the crabbing noise
Since gliders are nocturnal and are most active in the evening/nighttime. Changing their light schedule to attempt to make them active during the day can cause complications like stress and a lower immune system.
Overall they make excellent pets and can bond with the whole family if everyone handles and provides equal care for the baby. Remember, your glider is bonded to you and your family. Any strangers that come into their space may cause stress and abnormal behaviors.
Placing the cage
Gliders need to be housed at 75-80 degrees, and should not be placed in direct sunlight, just enough to be able to distinguish day from night. Sugar gliders are extremely social animals and prefer to be out where the action is, however, almost any warm room of the house is fine except for the kitchen. You can also place the cage in your bedroom if you would like, just remember they can be vocal at night when you're trying to sleep.
Household pet sugar glider hazards
Toilet, sinks, bathtubs, buckets, swimming pools, and even open pots of liquid on countertops, make sure to keep the doors closed and put lids on everything before you let your gliders out to play each day. Your glider can drown, they can't swim!
Air freshener, candles, cleaning chemicals and sprays - Sugar gliders have a great sense of smell and a very curious personality, so they will automatically be drawn to anything that smells sweet.
Insects are a natural food for sugar gliders, so always make sure to clean up any dead bugs around the house that might have been killed by pesticides.
Keep your gliders out of the kitchen while you are cooking, stovetops, toasters, coffee pots, light bulbs, and hot pots can all injure your glider.
Any space your glider can squeeze into may create a potential issue or hazard.
Open windows and doors are easy ways for your glider to get out.
Holes in cabinets, holes in walls, or holes near plumbing fixtures.
Sugar Glider Bonding
It is important to acquire your glider as a baby and carry them in your shirt pocket or in a bonding pouch for several hours a day for at least two to three weeks. For now, focus on gaining their trust and making them feel secure.
Bonding is a very special characteristic of the Sugar Glider. Bonding occurs during the first few weeks of ownership and can last for the life of your glider. Begin the bonding process by gaining your baby’s trust. Carry your baby in a bonding pouch or in a loose shirt pocket. This will let your baby become familiar with your smell and voice. In the evenings, when your baby is awake, spend time feeding them, playing with them, and giving them attention. The feelings will soon become mutual.
Sugar Glider Tent time
You will want to purchase a tent that has mesh sides so your glider can still see out of the tent. You will also want the tent to be big enough to comfortably fit you and your glider, but small enough for your glider to remain relatively close.
The sugar glider tent bonding method has been proven to be beneficial in assisting with the bonding process while also offering a secure area for your glider to play and exercise without having to worry about household hazards. If you have a new glider, give them a few days to get acclimated to their new surroundings before taking them into the tent.
Sugar Glider Bonding pouch
I use a wearable bonding pouch with all of our babies. I begin to tote them around when they are close to weaning so they are familiar with being in one. It is an amazing tool for bonding because it becomes your “pouch”, just like they lived inside their mom's pouch before they were weaned. Carrying them provides them with moving stimulation, warmth, and comfort. They can hear your voice, feel you moving and breathing and you can pet and rub them through the fabric. It also helps very crabby or scared babies to bond because it removes the biting, scratching, or running away so you can easily handle or interact with your baby while bonding without either of you being hurt or frustrated. Babies can be carried several hours per day. They should not be carried at night - this is when they are awake and running around playing and eating, not sleeping.
How much time does a pet sugar glider require?
For the first few weeks, it is critical to spend as much time as possible with your baby to bond with it. Carry it around in a pouch or shirt pocket and introduce it to lots of people. Several hours a day are required for the first 2-3 weeks. After the bonding is achieved, it would still be best to spend as much time as possible, but at least an hour every evening would be great for your glider baby.
Pet Sugar Glider Exercise
Gliders are very active and will require exercise and activities to avoid becoming overweight or sick. A solid plastic wheel in the cage is a great exercise tool. You should spend time with your glider as often as you can outside of their cage. Never take your glider outside to play, they may jump into a tree and never come down. Exercise does not only mean running on a wheel.
Gliders also need other activities and enrichment:
Interactive toys and cage accessories
Playing soft music for them
Including multiple textures and materials in their cage
Allowing your glider to forage for their treats
Social interaction with you or another glider
You can find a million unique sugar glider toys all over the web, Amazon, Etsy, Facebook, etc. You can even get creative and make your own!
Some people build a ropes course for their gliders in a safe room or some type of tunnel system.
Bald spots on Sugar Glider heads
Male sugar gliders have a bald spot on the top of their head that appears as they reach sexual maturity. This area, which is a patch on the forehead, is a scent gland. The male glider uses this scent gland to mark his female mate, his offspring, and his territory.
The male sugar glider actually has three scent glands: one on his head, a second on his chest, and a third in the genital area. The female also has scent glands in the genital area, as well as in the pouch.
Handling your pet sugar glider
When you first receive your baby glider they are very scared - they don’t know you or your smell yet. You are going to want to cuddle, kiss, and love on your new baby. Resist the urge! Many gliders react positively to being put in their cage and left alone for the first two or three days. Visit the cage and talk to them. Offer treats through the bars. Try to move at the glider's pace rather than your own. They may make their ‘crabbing’ noise, jump away, cry, scratch, roll onto their back or even bite. This is all normal and the best thing to do is comfort the baby to let them know that you are there to take care of them and keep them safe and not to hurt or scare them. Your baby is only scared. Do not let the sounds or reactions scare you or stop you from holding or comforting your baby. If you don’t pick them up and continue holding them even when they cry then they will not bond and they will continue to cry and crab every time you go to get them.
Hold him/her with a cupped hand
- never fully opened, as they may jump away. You do not want to have to chase your baby around - it will scare them even more. Keep them tightly in your hand or in a bonding pouch every time you hold them for the first few weeks of bonding. It can be a slow process but slowly your baby will learn that you are not a predator and that being in your hand is safe and they will begin exploring you. This takes patience and time. The bonding process can take as little as 2 weeks or take as long as 7-8 weeks. The more time and positive interaction your baby has with you during these first weeks, the better.
Sugar Glider Bathing
Bathing your sugar glider is not always the best idea, and should be avoided. They could drown, develop hypothermia or pneumonia, or develop a bad reaction to the shampoo. Healthy sugar gliders groom themselves without any help. If your sugar glider is dirty or not engaging in grooming, you should visit your veterinarian to find out why your glider is acting abnormally. You can bathe them occasionally if feces, urine, or other dirt has gotten in their fur.
Keep them very warm and dry at all times. If they get dirty try spot cleaning them with baby wipes or with baby powder before you give them a bath. Water and soap cause imbalances of oils in their fur and being wet will chill them. Chills can be fatal for a glider, especially for a baby. Don’t let them air dry, dry them immediately with a warm towel.
There are shampoos explicitly designed for bathing sugar gliders. If you don’t have access to these types of shampoos, you can use very small amounts of cat shampoo.
Tip: Some ways to eliminate bad odors caused by gliders are to feed them correctly, learn their bathroom routine, clean their cage regularly, and neuter the males.
Sugar Glider Nail trimming
Having an extra hand is always helpful when trimming your glider's nails. The best thing to use is human baby nail clippers since their nails are so small. You may even want to get a magnifying glass to be extra safe. If You cut the pink part use quick-stop, corn starch, or flour to stop the bleeding. If this happens, don’t feel too bad. Almost every owner has done it at one time or another.
On a glider's back paws they have two toes that are fused together. These nails are used for grooming, and it's recommended you don't trim those.
- Trim the nails during the day, because this is when sugar gliders tend to be more calm and tired.
- Let them roam around the cage for 5 minutes after removing their pouch/waking them up, so they can use the bathroom inside the cage, instead of on you.
- Wrap the sugar glider in a small towel, so they feel safe and snug.
- Providing a treat can keep them occupied while you trim.
- Press down in the middle of the paw to spread out all the nails.
You can help keep your glider's nails in good shape to avoid frequent trimmings by providing them with sandpaper material branches, platforms, and wheel inserts.
Owning a sugar glider pet care guide
Introducing Adult Sugar Gliders to each other- How to
If you purchase two young baby sugar gliders at the same time and roughly around the same age, you most likely won’t encounter any need to do an introduction. Your babies can go right in a cage together and start getting to know each other. So, you have had a single glider for a while, and you feel like it’s time to get them a friend. Great! An intact male/male pairing is not ideal unless they were raised together from babies. They can become aggressive and territorial toward one another. If you are wanting to pair two males, you will need to get them both neutered for their own safety. A male/female pair will breed and have babies, we recommend you neuter the male if you are wanting to avoid this. However, this is the best pairing as it eliminates the feeling of competition. A female/female pair will be unpredictable and may fight as they are also naturally territorial. You will need to keep an eye out for any aggressive behavior and be ready to relocate your more submissive glider if any problems arise. It is also not recommended to keep multiple males with just one female. The males may turn on each other as they mature, attempting to assert dominance over the colony. You should always have equal pairs, or more females than males. When you first bring your new glider home you should have a separate cage set up about 6 inches away from your established gliders cage. Over the first few days, swap out their toys and pouches with one another and move their cages slightly closer each day. After a few days to a week of doing this, you can start the physical introductions.
1. Start by choosing a neutral space such as a counter, couch, or bonding tent. During the day when your gliders are less active, and calm is the best time to do this. 2. Collect your gliders in their own pouches with a piece of cloth from their cages and place the pouches next to each other. 3. Take their pieces of cloth and rub them on the opposite glider. Then allow each baby to smell the other's scent. 4. After you have mixed their scents, you can now take one glider's tail and let the other smell it. If there is no grabbing, biting, or crabbing you can then switch. 5. If all goes well, you can then open both pouches slightly and allow your gliders to see each other face to face. Don’t worry if they start to crab at each other, this type of communication is normal and expected. What you don’t want is any aggressive behaviors like grabbing or lunging. Separate your gliders into their pouches if any physical altercations arise. 6. If your gliders are getting along at this point you can give them some treats to share. 7. If all goes well and you are confident in placing your gliders together clean the cage and wash all toys to create a neutral area. Give them two separate sleep pouches in the cage so they can decide if and when they would like to sleep together. 8. Keep an eye on your babies for the next couple of days and separate them if you notice any aggressive behaviors. Do not rush this process. It takes time and patience and is completely dependent on your gliders. If at any time you feel uncomfortable or like your gliders just are not getting along, put them in their separate cages and try again another day. Don’t force your gliders together, this will only cause stress.
Pet Sugar Glider Health
Keeping weekly records helps you get a feel for what is normal and what’s not. Some things that are recommended to keep track of are weight, food intake, wheel activity, temperature, and any physical changes. It’s even more helpful when your glider starts to get older.
Gliders are naturally prey animals, therefore, they hide their illnesses very well. Any odd behavior can be the first sign something is wrong.
Gliders do not need any vaccines or shots unless it’s to treat an illness or parasite. When visiting a vet please take caution if they want to give your baby vaccines or unnecessary shots - there are none made for them and they may be dangerous for your baby. Talk to your vet if you have any concerns and ask if they have treated gliders before.
A glider may show a few minor symptoms of stress for the first few days while adjusting to his/her new home, such as not eating or drinking the first night, sneezing, having some diarrhea, crabbing and being scared. All of these things are normal for the first few days while they are adjusting and they are not anything to be seriously concerned about. If the symptoms persist or are accompanied by lethargy, there may be a more serious problem. Call your vet immediately.
Sugar Glider pet FAQ's
Will my glider bite me?
Anything with teeth can bite. Sugar gliders bite for various reasons ranging from fear, unfamiliar smells, or self-defense. Biting is the prime source of defense when a sugar glider feels threatened or trapped. A foreign scent or a human hand can be a scary enemy to a glider. However, once you earn their trust and form a bond with your glider(s), this type of biting rarely happens.
Do sugar gliders smell bad?
Not really. Sugar gliders have their natural musky smell, which is tolerable and manageable through regular cleanings. Male sugar gliders have more scent glands, and their musky smell tends to be more prevalent, especially during the breeding season.
Tip: Do your cleaning in a rotation because you can clean too much at one time. Gliders rely heavily on scent. Each glider has its own specific scent signature that other gliders recognize.
Do gliders require vaccinations or shots?
None are needed.
Can I litter train my glider?
No. Gliders will eventually learn with age to potty in their cage. It's more so centered around routine and habit.
Tip: Allow your baby to go potty when they have just woken up before you take them out.
Should I get my glider a friend?
Yes! We recommend having at least two gliders because they are social and can get lonely which can lead to behavior problems. This is not a requirement, we have many clients with only one glider that lives happy and healthy.
Can I legally own a pet sugar glider?
Before deciding to purchase a sugar glider, research whether they are legal to own as pets in your state, city, and county. If you are traveling with your glider out of state, know the legal status of sugar gliders in all areas you will be traveling. Many places in the United States require a permit for gliders. You’ll need to carefully look into all laws and restrictions — even your homeowner’s association or similar association might have rules about these unusual animals.
Should I get a male or female?
Male and female sugar gliders can be equally sweet and curious, but each will be unique. Depending on how much time you spend with your glider and how they are raised, the personality may vary. It is not dependent on gender. However, female gliders are less territorial than males. This is good to know and consider when purchasing pairs.
How are they with other pets?
Larger animals may frighten them, I would recommend not having direct contact with larger animals. You can purchase a 'hamster ball' and let them roll around without worrying about direct contact. They can also be very afraid of some species of large birds – since in the wild they are commonly preyed upon by large birds.
Are they good with kids?
In general, sugar gliders are not good pets for kids. Sugar gliders are exotic pets and have more complicated needs than your average small pet, such as a guinea pig. It would only be advisable for kids to get a sugar glider if they have a responsible parent who is willing to take on the major responsibilities of owning a glider.
Can I let my glider free roam?
With supervision. It's much safer to keep them in their cage when you can't be there to watch out for them than it is to let them roam free with all the household hazards that could potentially harm your baby.
Can I leave their cage in my room?
Some people keep cages in their bedrooms, which is fine if you're a heavy sleeper. If you're a light sleeper, this could cause some problems since they can get noisy at night.
Can I take my glider outside?
Never take your glider outside to play, they may jump into a tree and never come down. They should always be in a bonding pouch or carrier. Yes, they will take off even if they are bonded to you.
Can I use a harness or leash to keep my sugar gliders near me for walks?
NO. You should never use any type of harness, collar, leash, or other restrictive gear on these animals.
Is it true my glider will die if it is alone?
When a glider family is established they become very bonded, what exactly does that mean? Simply, they are a part of each other's pack and they will live together for their whole lives. Gliders in the wild form family groups and they will stay together when possible. In captivity they are normally caged together by design of the human caretakers with two or more gliders and can be anywhere from friends, very close friends, bonded or breeding. When gliders are raised up with another glider from the time they are babies they can form very strong bonds- they will be asleep together all of the time, eat together peacefully, look for each other, be more comfortable when the other is around. This type of glider-glider bond can be very strong over the course of their 15-year lifespan. If gliders are bonded for long periods of time and one of them passes away there have been cases of the remaining glider self-mutilating because of stress. This can lead to infection or death. They are confused, scared and alone. This case would benefit from adding another glider to help the remaining glider have another companion to rely on. When gliders are kept as a single baby from the time they are brought home they have no bond to another glider. They can live happily in their cage alone, provided they have adequate entertainment and enrichment. This is not cruel, it is just another way to raise a glider. Some glider enthusiasts or breeders will demand or require gliders to be kept in pairs or they will not flourish but that is simply not true based on our experience.