In response to a comment on my last post, I thought I’d write an entry on things to keep in mind before you buy sugar gliders and include some things we wish we had known before starting our colony.
The first thing people always want to know after seeing our sugar gliders is where they can get some of their own. Sugar gliders can be hard to come by (and even harder to find from a reputable breeder). They’re illegal or require permits or USDA licenses in some states (not in Kentucky), they have very slow breeding cycles, and they can only have up to 4 joeys at a time (usually just 1-2).
Unfortunately, there is an overwhelming amount of mill breeding that goes on in the sugar glider world. Though, just like mill puppies, mill gliders can make wonderful pets, many of them are sick, have parasites or giardia, have been fed an unbalanced diet (a big issue for gliders), have been overbred and overcrowded in their cages, have babies removed from the pouch too soon, and many die at a very young age or require very expensive vet care. It is strongly advised to avoid purchasing gliders from mill breeders, but sadly, like us, many new sugar glider owners do it unknowingly.
Once a year you can purchase sugar gliders at the mall from a group whose name makes an experienced sugar glider owner cringe. This group could be considered the “king” of mill breeders in the sugar glider world. I won’t name any names on a public forum, but it wouldn’t do me much good anyway, as they go by about 15 different names across the country and have at least 10 different websites “educating” people about these sugar gliders. Unfortunately, almost everything they tell people is incorrect and hundreds of sugar gliders end up dead or up for adoption shortly after being impulsively purchased by people who haven’t done their research, and who fall into what we call “the mill breeder trap.” Some malls across the country, finding out about the inhumane and incorrect practices of this group, have banned their return, but unfortunately these groups just find another venue or city the next time they come through the area.
If you’re in the Kentucky area, there’s a good breeder in Bowling Green I can put you in touch with, but be prepared to wait on a waiting list until joeys are available. Most joeys from good breeders are spoken for before they’re even born, and sometimes before the planned mating even occurs. It’s worth every bit of the wait!
Occasionally I’ve seen sugar gliders available on Craigslist. I question the health and temperaments of these gliders, mostly because the ads usually state they “don’t have time” for them anymore, which means the gliders probably aren’t bonded to humans due to lack of interaction and attention, and might not even be friendly… trust me when I say you don’t want an unfriendly glider. I question the health due to the cages pictured in some of these posts… gliders actually require very large cages unlike your typical pocket pet, and gliders aren’t rodents, so they can’t be compared to a rat or hamster and cages for those animals are very rarely suitable for suggies. Gliders also have pretty specific nutritional requirements, and many people posting Craigslist ads state they eat “petstore food, seed diet, cat food, etc.” all of which are unhealthy for gliders and cause serious health complications down the road, such as hind leg paralysis.
Not that these gliders don’t deserve to find a new home, and not that they can’t make great pets with the proper care, I just urge a new sugar glider owner to be cautious, as some of these gliders can be a lot of work (and money) for even the most experienced owner.
Some other things to keep in mind before buying sugar gliders, no matter where you buy them from:
– They can’t be potty/litter trained, so they WILL poop and pee on you, your carpets/floors, desks, clothes, etc. when they are out of the cage. I guess they’re kind of like birds in that sense – they just go. Fortunately, it’s very easy to clean up and it has very little, if any, odor (this has a great deal to do with the diet they’re being fed). *knock on wood* mine haven’t peed on anything important, but they narrowly missed my cell phone the other day when I left it lying on the table.
– The initial cost of sugar gliders is very high, and by this I mean, be prepared to spend quite a lot of money when purchasing your first suggies.
Just some of the many things you will need to spend money on include:
- the gliders themselves (this can range in price depending on where you get your gliders from – gliders with rare markings can run up to $5000, but your standard grey gliders run anywhere from $100-300 each) and since gliders really do need to be kept with other gliders, you should plan on doubling that price, though many breeders offer a discounted price for additional gliders
- a cage large enough for the number of gliders you purchase (gliders actually require very large cages, so depending on the cage you purchase, you could easily spend another couple hundred dollars, or more) with proper coating and bar spacing
- a vet visit, including a urinalysis and fecal exam on each glider to check for any parasites, diseases/illnesses, or health issues – keep in mind not all vets will see gliders and some vets have pretty steep exam fees for “exotic” animals – you could easily spend $200+ on a vet visit for 2 gliders, though prices vary with each vet
- specific foods and vitamins – depending on what type of diet you choose to feed your gliders (there are several well-researched and highly acceptable diets to choose from, none of which include pet store food advertised for sugar gliders – most ingredients are found at grocery or health food stores, though some diets have ingredients only available online) – the diet we feed our gliders was about $70 initially, and now only costs about $5-10 a month to maintain our supply… the initial purchase is high because you have to buy all of the ingredients at once, but most of the ingredients purchased will not need to be bought again for a very long time, depending on how many gliders you have – the money we spend monthly to maintain our supply is only for fresh fruits and vegetables that, obviously, need to be replaced more often than the dry ingredients.
- toys and cage accessories – this can be expensive or inexpensive, depending on how creative/crafty you are – many sugar glider owners make their own toys and cage accessories, but some choose to purchase from vendors online or from the bird toy aisle in petstores (catnip is deadly to gliders, so while many toys found in the cat toy aisle look like tons of fun for gliders, many of the toys are coated in catnip or have catnip hidden inside, so owners are urged to be cautious with their cat toy purchases) – it’s hard to put a price on this, but I think initially we spent about $100 on cage accessories and toys, and now it’s just an “every now and then” purchase when something catches our eye, or we make our own creations.
– Gliders can be very noisy (and unlike a parrot, they don’t stop making noise if you cover their cage) – they are extremely vocal creatures and they’re also nocturnal, so keep this in mind if you’re a light sleeper, live in an apartment with poor insulation/sound-proofing, have a newborn that gets woken up easily, etc. When Boo, our most vocal glider, crabs, she can be heard throughout the entire house. When all 4 of them start barking in the middle of the night, I wonder why I haven’t purchased a set of ear plugs yet. Many glider owners love the sounds their gliders make, but many gliders are not kept in bedrooms for this very reason.
– Gliders can live 15-20 years in captivity with the right care, nutrition, etc. This is longer than most dogs and cats and definitely longer than rodents and other pocket pets. They can bond very closely with their humans and don’t adjust easily to change, so it is sad to see gliders being put up for adoption because their owner is going away to college or the child doesn’t play with them anymore, etc.
Another question we get asked frequently is if they get along with other pets. In general I don’t recommend letting any other animals around gliders, but some people say otherwise. You will read websites stating “gliders aren’t rodents, so they don’t smell like prey and your dogs and cats won’t try to eat them” and “gliders will bond with your pets, too!” but unfortunately, this information is false and dangerous in my opinion. True, gliders are not rodents, but 2 of our 3 dogs would love to eat them, the cats would love to chase them around, and though we do have one dog that could care less about the gliders, we would still never trust him alone with them, or at least never without our full-attention. You will see pictures of people putting their gliders on the backs of their other pets and saying that they’re “friends” but I would seriously hesitate to put my glider in that situation. It only takes a second for something very bad to happen – even if it’s unintentional or the other pet is just being playful. Gliders are small, weigh merely a few ounces, and are pretty fragile. A dog pawing or nipping playfully at a glider could happen in a flash and be fatal for such a small creature. Personally, I wouldn’t want to risk it, but many people do, so I can’t speak for everyone on this matter. As for other caged animals – my friend’s snake bites her if she doesn’t wash her hands after handling the gliders, and another sugar glider owner reports that their parrots disturb their gliders while they’re sleeping (since they sleep during the day), but that doesn’t mean you can’t own both animals at the same time – they just might appreciate being kept in separate areas of the house.
None of this information is meant to deter you from buying sugar gliders as pets – but so many people don’t do their research or are sadly given the wrong information from “mill” websites. They often “forget” to tell you about things such as noise, cost, cage size, and other slight “negatives” when trying to make a sale. Sugar gliders can be wonderful pets and provide years and years of joy, but so many sugar glider owners don’t have positive first experiences due to lack of research or bad information.
Author: Brittany Fuller