SUGAR GLIDER BEHAVIOR AND ENRICHMENT

STARTING OUT
Sugar gliders are best to get around 8-12 weeks after they emerge from the mother’s pouch.  This is the best age to socialize them with humans and get them used to being handled.  The process may take many weeks to fully socialize them to humans.  Sugar gliders live for about 7-10 years in captivity but have been known to live as long as 12-15 in some cases.  They are nocturnal in the wild, however they can adjust to any schedule in captivity.
Sugar gliders like to be in groups so it is recommended to have at LEAST 2 housed together.  If this is not possible the owner will need to spend a lot of time (at least 4 hours or more a day) with the solo sugar glider for interaction and to stimulate good mental health of the animal.  It is best to neuter your male sugar glider to prevent unwanted behavior, unwanted pregnancy and possible self-mutilation.

SELF-MUTILATION
It is a common problem with sugar gliders in captivity to exhibit self-mutilation.  This may occur for a number of reasons, the most common one being inadequate husbandry and enrichment.  If you suspect your pet is self-mutilating make an appointment to see your veterinarian to rule out other possible causes.  Appropriate housing, diet and enrichment is extremely important to keep your pet happy and healthy.

KEEPING YOUR PET HAPPY
In the wild, sugar gliders are arboreal (live in the trees) so your enclosure should be tall and with a lot of climbing available.  For example, the appropriate cage size for 1 or 2 adult sugar gliders is 36” wide, 24” deep and 40” tall with horizontal bars.  For climbing you could use fake plant branches or plastic chain to hang in the enclosure.  Temperatures should be between 75˚ - 80˚ and the cage should be cleaned daily.  They should have a heat source in their enclosure, a heat rock with a blanket or towel positioned over it for hiding and sleeping is preferred.  You should provide them with toys and you may use dog, cat or rabbit toys but be careful of toys with loose wires or strings as they may be dangerous for them.
For exercise, a sturdy exercise wheel can be used in the enclosure but do your research on the best ones to prevent injury.  The wheels marketed for other small mammals usually are unsafe for sugar gliders because they can injure their tails or other parts of their body on them.  Letting them out of the enclosure is ok for exercise but make sure they are watched carefully to prevent injury as well.

 


REFERENCES
“A Quick Reference Guide to Unique Pet Species”
Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) Pet Care
January 1, 2011 (published)
David M. Brust, DVM

“Reproductive Tract Tumors and Diseases in Exotic Companion Mammals”
VIN Conference Precedings
ABVP 2013
Dan H. Johnson, DVM, DABVP (Exotic Companion Mammal Practice)
Avian and Exotic Animal Care, Raleigh, NC, USA