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What is a Sugar Glider and where do they come from?

General Sugar Glider Info

The Sugar Glider (Petaurus Breviceps) is a small arboreal gliding possum. Sugar gliders originally come from Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea and Indonesia.

It is said the first Sugar Gliders arrived in the United States sometime around 1990.

Sugar Gliders have not been imported from Australia for many years, most of the Sugar Gliders we have that are being bred and sold here in the United States, have actually been imported from Indonesia.

Sugar Gliders are Nocturnal. They sleep all day and are up once the sun goes down on and off all night.

Sugar Gliders are very social animals and in the wild they live in colonies of 7-9 per nest.

In captivity it is recommended to have at least a pair living together in a cage. This does not mean that if you only have one it will die, however, if you only have one, much more attention and time will need to be given so your Sugar Glider does not become lonely or depressed.

As with most animal species, the males are often larger than the females. The average weight for a male can range between 115g-160g. The average weight for a female can range between 100g-135g.

A Sugar Glider is often between 5-7 inches in length from head and body with the tail measuring about the same length as the body.

A Sugar Gliders lifespan in captivity is averaged between 7-12 years with some Sugar Gliders living to a ripe age of 15. The longest life span in a zoo was recorded at 17.8 years.

Sugar Gliders are also very territorial. Sugar Gliders have scent glands in which they mark their territory and each other. The males scent glands can be seen on the top of the males head, which will resemble a balding area. This in fact is not balding but the the fur is covered by an oil. The other noticeable area is located on the chest. They also mark their territory with their saliva. It is very possible if introducing another Sugar Glider into an established colony or pair, a fight may occur, sometimes resulting in death.

Sugar Gliders also have a gliding membrane, called a patagium, which is located from the fifth finger to the first toe. During a glide the Sugar Glider expands its patagium and it is guided by the use of the tail. When coming in for a landing, it parachutes itself and often has a hard impact when landing.






A Healthy Sugar Glider Is A Happy Sugar Glider!

There are many different issues a Sugar Glider can have. It can start with a case of parasites to the horrid issue of hind leg paralysis (HLP). To see a list of Signs and Symptoms, please visit the SUGAR GLIDER HEALTH page.

The main way to help a Sugar Glider to stay as healthy as possible, is to know your pet. If your bond is strong enough with your pet sugar glider, you will be able to notice the slightest issue, whether it is the case where your glider is not eating as much, not as active, or your gut just tells you something is wrong.
(Know what signs to look for visit the SUGAR GLIDER HEALTH page.)

NEVER CLIP A SUGAR GLIDER'S TEETH!!

One of the most important things you can do PRIOR to bringing a Sugar Glider into your home, is to locate a veterinarian that is familiar with Sugar Gliders and works with them. If you do not have one near by, ask your veterinarian if they are willing to learn all they can about them. You want to know they know enough to help you with a problem, before a problem is even there.

In many cases a veterinarian will consult with other veterinarians to discuss health issues and problems they are not aware of. It is always a good idea to have a list of veterinarians that are willing to do a phone consult with others, just in case when you take your Sugar Glider in, your vet says they are not sure what to do. 

Please do not try to self diagnose, nor self medicate your Sugar Glider. This can be a very dangerous thing to attempt. 

Please remember, even if you talk to others who have owned Sugar Gliders for years and have dealt with issues over the years, they are not Veterinarians and a proper diagnosis, medications and treatment should only be advised by a licensed Veterinarian.

If you need help choosing a veterinarian, please visit the CHOOSING A GLIDER VET page.

Sugar Glider Sounds

Sugar Gliders make quite a range of different sounds, including one that is referred to as 'singing" which the mother gliders are prone to doing while they have babies in pouch. Below is a list of other common sounds sugar gliders make, with their descriptions and causes (if known).

Crabbing

The most common sound that you may hear folks talking about is the Sugar Glider Crabbing noise. This noise is often heard when a Sugar Glider is agitated, scared, angry, or just trying to scare you off. It is the noise that most make right before they decide to bite (if they are feeling scared or threatened). There are other gliders that will 'crab' simply because they are vocal.

Clicking

Another noise is clicking. This noise can be heard when a Sugar Glider is content and feels completely safe in its surroundings. (This clicking should not be confused with the popping sound on would hear if a glider had pneumonia or an upper respiratory infection. This information can be located under the Health Issues page.)

Hissing

There is also a hissing sound. This can be heard when a Sugar Glider is calling out for its cage mate, or even for you. Often times you will hear a hissing sound coming from your new joey if they are the only one in a cage. (Other times you may hear this is if a Sugar glider has a urinary tract infection or constipation. This information can be found on the Health Issues Page)

Barking

Don't be surprised if you are sitting there and hear a Barking sound coming from the direction of your Sugar Glider cage. As Sugar Gliders also bark. They sound much like a small Chihuahua. This is normally done when they are 'sounding an alarm' for other Sugar Gliders. I have personally also seen this behavior when a father notices their young venturing out of the pouch for the first couple times. They also bark to locate or call out to other Sugar Gliders.

Chirping

You will also hear your Sugar Glider chirp when given something to eat that they just absolutely love! When you hear this sound, you will know it is nothing but pure happiness.






Sugar Glider Joeys

The age of sexual maturity in sugar gliders varies slightly between the males and females. The males reach maturity at 3 to 12 months of age, while females require from 5 to 12 months. In the wild, sugar gliders breed once or twice a year depending on the climate and habitat conditions, while they can breed multiple times a year in captivity as a result of consistent living conditions and proper diet.

A sugar glider female gives birth to one or (more typically) two babies (joeys) per litter. Triplets and quadruplets, while they are produced, happen more rarely. The gestation period is 15 to 17 days, after which the tiny joey (about 0.2 g & the size of a grain of rice) will crawl into a mother's pouch for further development - the mother licks a trail along her belly from her cloaca to her pouch to make the joey's trip easier. They are born with a continuous arc of cartilage in their shoulder girdle to provide support for climbing into the pouch. This structure breaks down immediately after birth.

It is virtually unnoticeable that the female is pregnant until after the joey has climbed into her pouch and begins to grow, forming bumps in her pouch. Once in the pouch, the joey will attach itself to its mother's nipple, where it will be permanently attached  for about 45-65 days. The mother can get pregnant while her joeys are still IP (in pouch) and hold the pregnancy until the pouch is available to host more joeys. The joey gradually grows until there is no additional room in the pouch. It emerges without fur to very little fur, and the eyes will remain closed for another 12–14 days. During this time, the joey will begin to mature by growing fur and increasing gradually in size. It takes about two months (eight weeks) for the offspring to be completely weaned, and at four months, the young glider would be on it's own (in the wild). A sugar glider joey cannot maintain its own body temperature until after it has reached 100 days out of pouch (3-1/2 months old)**. 

It is important to know, when you bring home your new joey, to keep the cage far away from air vents and windows. Also, use a four-sided cage cover (covers back, sides and top) to help hold in the heat and keep out the drafts. 

Be certain they have extra fleece 'blankets' in their pouch to warm up with. 

What to expect when bringing home your Sugar Glider.

Please know that your sugar glider joey has been handled and loved on since they came oop. However, we do not handle them for long periods of time as we do not want the joey to bond with us. We are only trying to get them used to being handled by the human hand so they will not be too afraid of it once they go to your home. 

No matter how sweet a sugar glider joey is here at Critter Love, we cannot promise the joey will be calm and automatically love you when it arrives to your home. You see, here, the sights, smells and handling by us is all the joey has ever known. When the joey leaves here, it is leaving all the things that bring it comfort and the sense of safety. 

We will take pictures of your joey every Sunday for you so you are able to see the joey grow. We will also take a video or two for you, or if you request, we will take one every weekend for you. This way you are able to see for yourself the temperament of your joey. 

After leaving its mom and dad and the sights and smells the joey is used to and traveling, be it by car or plane or both, please know your joey is going to be scared. More than likely it will crab and possibly even try to bite out of fear the first day. This is why we recommend to place the joey in its cage (we will send it in a pouch with its mom and dads scent) and just let it become accustomed to the new sights and smells that surrounds it before trying to interact with it. 

If you have another glider you are going to introduce the joey to, try to do so as soon as you can. Having one of its own often helps to relieve the stress of the move.

For more tips on bonding and getting your new joey used to you please visit our fun, tips and tricks page.


** Resources: Development of thermoregulation in the sugar glider Petaurus breviceps (Marsupialia: Petauridae) Joanne C. Holloway* and Fritz Geiser
Zoology, School of Biological Sciences, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
(Accepted 3 November 1999)

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