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Choosing Your Sugar Gliders

As we have read in other sections of this website, we know that sugar gliders should always be housed in pairs or small colonies.   Never as singles.  A good breeder will not sell you just one sugar glider.  No glider should ever be kept alone.   It’s not fair to them and it’s not natural.  We as humans could never make up for another glider in their life.   A good breeder will never sell you just one, unless you already have one at home, in need of a like-aged companion.

As a responsible breeder, I must choose homes for my animals that are willing to do what is right for them.   They are completely nocturnal.  At my house, they tend to wake around 8:30 at night, and are up until dawn.   I don’t know of anyone willing to stay up all night with their pet night after night.   Many gliders sold as singles will not bond with their people, until they are introduced to a companion.  They simply feel safer in numbers.

My best recommendations for a pair of pet only gliders are as follows.  Either two males neutered young or a neutered male and a female.

Why do I not recommend a pair of females?   Simple.  At current time, there is no safe operation in which to spay female sugar gliders to take away possible territorial issues as we can neuter males.  I could pair up a set of females for someone, and they may get along fine at my house.  By the time they hit first estrus, one female may become more dominant and not want the other female around.  I can’t guarantee it will work out.

A male neutered young should not develop territorial instincts and their head and chest glands will not develop, thus not allowing them to mark territory.  Sugar Glider males mark by rubbing developed scent glands on everything around them.   When a male is neutered, he can no longer produce the hormone needed to mark.

Females can be unpredictable when it comes to housing them with other females.  Even litter-mate sisters can become territorial with one another.  No matter how tame and friendly your girls are with you, Mother Nature can make them feel differently about each other.  This can happen at any time.  From when they are first introduced (if un-related), at maturity (some females can hit first estrus at 4 to 6 months out of pouch), or even later in life.  A breeder will have no way to know which females will be the dominant ones as they get older.  Females typically get along fine with males, neutered or not.

One female may become dominant over the other. In the wild, dominant females drive the competition out of the colonies.  They can run away and be safe.  Captive bred sugar gliders have no such luck.  It doesn’t matter how sweet the females are to their human counterparts, they still can turn on their female cage-mate.  If the owner does not remove the submissive female from the cage, she will eventually become seriously injured or killed by the other female.   Owners may see the females sleeping separately and tufts of fur around the cage.  Sometimes they actually see the fighting, or the submissive girl will have bite wounds on her, amputated ears or even tails.  At this point, it’s recommended the girls be separated permanently, and given their own cages and new partners.  Preferably given a neutered male for each.

We don’t know this will ever happen, but best be safe rather than sorry.  Always choose either two neutered males or one neutered male and a female for best pairings.

When sugar gliders meet new people, they treat them as they would any new sugar glider attempting to enter a colony.  Sugar gliders rarely arrive to a new home happy to play with you.   They are usually stressed from all the changes, such as leaving their parents and the humans they know.  They will be scared.  Gliders who are afraid can crab, lunge and even bite.  New owners must be patient with their new babies.  They must work with them daily until a trust bond is formed.

There is no really basis to the rumors that I see about older gliders not being able to bond to new owners.   In some cases, it’s easier for them to make the adjustment to a new home than joeys.  When I retire a pair of gliders from breeding, I will neuter the male and find a good pet home for them.  They are generally leaving with the mate they have been with a long time.  This can be easier on them then with some joeys who may be very emotional about leaving their parents.  I often get older gliders in from other breeders and I often find they bond with me quicker than young joey pairs.

Some of the best ways I have found in which to bond to any new gliders is a combination of a bonding pouch and a bonding tent.   The bonding pouch is usually used during the day when the glider is sleepy.  The new owner wears the pouch on their body and the glider gets used to the sound of their voice and their scent.

At night when the gliders are more active, they can go into a tent with the owners.  Toys and treats can be brought in and the animals should be worked with daily.  The tent does not have to be anything special.  So long as you can get inside with your gliders and sit comfortably.  It often works better than a bathroom or closet with a high ceiling.  The idea here is that the low ceiling of the tent makes the gliders feel as though they are inside of a cage with you.  In time, the gliders feel as though you have become part of their colony.  Thinking like a sugar glider, can really help to speed up your bonding process.

Sometimes there may be something such as a scent or sound that scares the gliders and prohibits them from bonding with you.  A good breeder can be contacted and work with you to figure out what this thing may be, so that you can progress normally in the bonding process.

When shopping around, make sure that the breeder keeps records of a minimum of 5 generations of lineage or pedigree on each side of the joeys.  We know that just one like relative within the first 4 generations; can produce joeys with genetic defects of the major organs.  Not always seen right away, but can pop up when the gliders are from 1 to 2 years of age.  Their organs that were able to support a smaller animal did them well, but as an adult, these organs often fail.  The glider will look fine one day, and pass the next.  A vet cannot tell by examining if a glider is inbred.  They only way they know for sure would be when the animal passes.  They can take samples of the various organs in a necropsy and send them out to a lab.  The lab can tell them if they died of a genetic defect or not.

If the breeder says they do not breed with lineage, but they know the animals are not related, they really do not know without the proper information.  It’s only guessing.  They are not doing the sugar gliders any good deed.

Make sure that the breeder feeds a vet approved diet such as Original HPW or BML diets.  Pellet based diets are very poor diets.   If they do not feed properly, they may be compromising the future health of these animals, and you will be spending a lot of money later on at the vet’s office in hopes of getting them back to good health.  It may already be too late.

A good breeder will also have a vet check over their gliders once a year in a wellness check up and also run parasite screenings several times a year.  You can ask a breeder for proof of this information.

Also, it is Federal Law that a breeder have, keep and maintain a valid USDA license if they keep and breed 4 or more females in their facility.  If a breeder does not have a license and breeds 4 or more females, then think twice about purchasing.   There must be a reason they are trying to keep an inspector away. 

Some states laws vary.  Some states also require that not only the breeder, but a pet owner must have a state permit.  Check with your local Fish and Game for more information in your state.

As far as pet ownership, you need to have a permit if you live in the states of New Jersey or New Mexico.  Please have that ready before you contact me.

If you live in the States of California, Hawaii, Alaska, or Pennsylvania, they are currently illegal in these states and I cannot sell to you.  They are also illegal in the township of Sedalia, MO and all 5 boroughs of New York City.  That includes The Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.   If you live in Upstate New York or Long Island, they are legal.

Even though they look cute at the pet store, mall or fair, please be advised the people selling them have hundreds of joeys they need to sell in the course of a weekend and will tell you anything to purchase them.   They may look professional with their expensive displays, but they are really just Mill Brokers.  They are not caring or responsible breeders.  Many a sad tale has been told by people who buy these animals because they were not prepared.  No pet, especially exotics, should be an impulse buy.  Do your research before you buy.  Ask the questions.   Make sure they are the right fit for your lives and your family.

Adding to your colony later on.   I get people asking about this a lot.   If you get gliders from me and and wish to do this later, there is so much that can go wrong.  It’s best you consult me first so that I can walk you through it to help prevent any impeding disasters.

Things must be taken into consideration such as the ages of the animals.   You may have females to consider (adult females can be very territorial towards other females not of their colony, even if they are very sweet and loving to you).   Bringing gliders into your current colony later on, could even change the relationship of the gliders you had first, forever.  If you are getting them from another breeder, they may not be as careful as I am about making sure they are bred or fed correctly to prevent future medical issues for you.  They may not be vetting their breeding animals at all and there is risk of parasite infection.  There is a proper way to go about quarantine when you are bringing in animals from another breeder, which can be as long as 30 days.    You should discuss that with me first before you bring the animals into your home.  Even if you keep them in a different room from your current gliders, cross-contamination is very possible.  Better safe than sorry.  Get in touch with me first before you bring the animals into your home so that I can help you prepare for this.

Bottom line is if you are wanting a colony, it’s always best and easier to do this when they are all still young and preferably from the same breeder.   That way, you aren’t bringing in any possible infections from another facility, and helping to ensure that they will stand a better chance of getting along well in the future.