We've noticed that sugar gliders are an exotic animal with so many misconceptions and misinformation surrounding their care. This is partly due to a lack of education as well as a lack of research surrounding proper husbandry. You must be well educated before committing to a pet sugar glider as many of the most common health issues seen in captivity are the result of improper care.
Sugar gliders are an absolutely adorable gliding possum and belong to the marsupial class. Marsupials are not rodents, not even close. In fact, sugar gliders closer to Kangaroos! Most marsupials carry their young within a pouch and are usually found in Australia and in the Americas.
The sugar glider is commonly found throughout mainland Australia, New Guinea, Tasmania, and other local areas.
They're nocturnal, and their omnivorous diet is incredibly challenging to replicate in captivity (we will touch on that later). They're highly social mammals and it can often be found living in groups of up to 10 in the wild.
They have an average lifespan of 7 years.
Sugar gliders need a lot of enrichment and a lot of space. As their name suggests, they're an arboreal gliding species. In fact, their scientific name - Petaurus breviceps - loosely translates to "short-headed rope-dancer" which is referencing their canopy acrobatics. They have extraordinary motor and agility skills and their environment must allow them to carry out such behaviours.
Cages should be as large as possible. We'd consider a cage such as a triple Adventura, or a Savic Royal Suite XL. Alternatively, you can house them in large aviaries provided the bar-spacing is small enough that your pet cannot escape.
You can enrich your sugar gliders cage with branches, parrot toys, rat toys, hammocks, pouches - anything that helps them mimic their natural behaviours.
Consider beddings such as cardboard bedding or recycled paper.
Your sugar gliders living environment should be between 15.5 - 32°C.
You should never keep sugar gliders alone as it can cause them to become very depressed. You can cohabit males and females provided the male(s) are neutered (castrating male sugar gliders is a relatively simple procedure if performed by an experienced vet). Sugar gliders naturally live in quite large groups, but you should keep a pair minimum.
Some sugar gliders can be quite nippy, especially when they're not handled or interacting with humans frequently - ideally daily.
When handling your sugar glider outside of their cage, please ensure the area is safe so that your pet cannot injure themselves.
A sugar gliders diet is arguably one of, if not the most difficult part of their care. You must feed your sugar gliders a suitable diet. Malnutrition can lead to dental diseases, metabolic bone disease, dehydration, and more.
A wild sugar would mostly consume sap, honeydew from nectar-eating insects, insects, manna, bird eggs, eucalyptus gum, lizards, small birds, and fruits.
It's important to note that a sugar gliders diet should not contain more phosphorus than calcium as this leads them susceptible to countless injuries and illnesses.
Exotic veterinarians and experienced keepers recommend:
- 2:1 ratio between calcium and phosphorus
- 40% protein for non-breeding sugar gliders
- Avoid excessive fats
- Avoid refined sugars.
Personally, our preferred recipes are the, SGS2 diet (our firm favourite), Leadbeater's recipe and Taronga Zoo recipe, but again, sugar glider nutrition is a controversial subject.
SGS || Diet:
- 450g fruit and vegetables; preferably using a lot of butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot. The fruit varies but preferably use papaya, apple, pear – lots of recipes can be found on Sugar Gliders UK Facebook page.
- 2 teaspoons of High Protein Supplement
- 1 teaspoon of bee pollen
- 1 quarter of a teaspoon of acacia gum
- 1 tablespoon of brown linseed soaked in 3 – 4 tablespoons of boiling water
- 1 heaped tablespoon of oatmeal
- 1 tablespoon of natural probiotic yogurt
- 1 half teaspoon of spirulina
- 1 peeled hard boiled egg
- Calcium should be given 2 – 3 times a week. When using calcium powder, make 2 batches, one with half a teaspoon of calcium and one without. Mark them up clearly and feed accordingly.
- Gliderade is also given 2 – 3 times a week – you can give this on the calcium free days.
The Leadbeater's recipe:
- 150ml honey
- 150ml warmed water
- 1 shelled boiled egg
- 25g of high protein baby cereal
- 1tsp of mineral and vitamin supplement - do not add to the water supply.
Taronga Zoo recipe:
- 3g apple
- 3g banana/corn
- 1.5g dog kibble
- 1 tsp of fly pupae
- 3g blueberries/kiwi
- 4g orange with skin
- 2g pear
- 3g sweet potato
- 2tsp Leadbeater's recipe
- Mix water and honey and blend the egg in a separate container.
- Add the water and honey mix, vitamin powder, and baby cereal and mix until smooth.
2 sugar glider 30-day recipe:
- 16oz/2 cups of various 2-4 fruits
- 16oz/2 cups of various 2-4 vegetables
- 6-8oz of plain whole-milk, yoghurt - no artificial sweeteners
- 6tsp of calcium-fortified orange juice
- 6-8 tsp of uncooked oatmeal
- 32oz of apple sauce
- 6-8 oz of egg, chicken, or turkey
- 1-2 tsp of ground flaxseed
- Finely chop or process your fruits and vegetables
- Cook protein (chicken, egg, or turkey)
- Put all ingredients into a large bowl except for oatmeal
- Mix oatmeal to the consistency of a cake mix and add to the bowl
- Separate into small containers and freeze
- Sprinkle multivitamin on daily portion before feeding.
Refrigerate unused portions.
Treats can include various live insects and well as some alternations of fruits and vegetables.
Many suitable vitamin/mineral powders are available but branded for reptiles. You can use reptile multivitamin and calcium with D3.
Please feel free to ask more questions.