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Care Sheet for Baby Sugar Gliders

Baby Sugar GliderYou have probably just bought a baby Sugar Glider, or are interested in learning about owning a one. Either way, you will want to know as much as possible about your baby, and that is what this care sheet is for. There is no one right way to raise and care for your Sugar Glider. Many people will lead you to believe that their way is the only way. We at Custom Cages are constantly learning better ways to care for them. Our methods are suggested, because they are very successful for us and are proven to be effective for our many customers. Start with our methods, and as you learn more about them and have more experience, you can explore other ideas. If you learn something that is especially helpful, we would love to know about it. It may prove to be something that we can use to improve our methods.

Here we will address the care of a "Baby Sugar Glider". The topics we will cover are the feeding and protection of your glider, and the bonding process.

FEEDING
In the wild, a Sugar Glider's diet consists of 75% fruits, berries, and other vegetation, and 25% live food such as insects, baby birds, bird eggs, etc. The live food is it's main source of protein. They are omnivorous.

In captivity however, if a gliders diet contains a high percentage of live food, or meat, it will develop a musky odor. It is not anything as strong as a ferret smell, but it is a little strong for most people's taste. Therefore we highly recommend that a gliders protein needs be met by feeding a dry pellet food called Glider Grub. It is specifically designed for Sugar Gliders, is a great source of protein, and is very palatable to the gliders. They like its citrus flavor. We find that a Sugar Glider that is primarily fed Glider Grub, fruits and vegetables, and occasionally a treat of cooked meat or boiled eggs, has virtually no odor, and actually has a pleasant smell.

The best way to feed Glider Grub is free choice. Using one of the bowls provided in our starter kit, fill it half full and make it available in the cage at all times. Sugar Gliders will not overeat this food. You want them to eat all of it that they want. The reason we only fill it half full is to keep from wasting food. Sugar Gliders will sit on the edge of their food bowl and eat the dry food. When they do, they spit or dribble some back in the bowl, causing the food to get mushy every few days. Therefore, fill it half full, check it every day, and add as necessary. Every few days you will want to dump it, clean the bowl, and start anew.

In addition to the Glider Grub, Sugar Gliders need fruits and vegetables. We recommend using apple as their staple fruit. In other words, we give them a quarter of an apple every day, and 3 to 5 tidbits of other fruits and vegetables for variety in their diet. We recommend giving them their fruits and vegetables in the evening and through the night. The next morning or mid-morning, take whatever is left over, away from them. They will wake up and want to eat a few times throughout the day, and with no fruit available, will be sure to eat the protein food in sufficient quantities. Add a small piece of any kind of bread in the cage during the day as a source of sugar to help them keep their glucose levels stable.

If you are buying a baby Sugar Glider from Custom Cages, it will be between 7 to 12 weeks out of the pouch. Remember, it is a baby, and will not have the gut bacteria as yet, to digest a wide variety of foods without getting colic and diarrhea. For the first two or three weeks, limit the fruits and vegetables to apple only. If you have one glider, cut the apple in quarters and leave the peeling on it, but cut the seeds out. For two gliders, cut the apple in half and treat it the same. Do not slice or dice so as to preserve the juice content from drying out. The apple then can be placed in the cage. While the babies are small we recommend placing the apple on the lower level of the cage so as to make it easy for the glider to access it. Later, when it is older, placing it's food up on a shelf will cause less soiling of the food.

In a few weeks, slowly start introducing other fruits and vegetables, watching for any signs of diarrhea. When you feel confident in it's ability to digest properly, add 3 to 5 small pieces of other fruits and vegetables to its evening food. For instance, one evening may include a grape, a green bean, a chunk of carrot, cantaloupe, broccoli, sweet potato, etc.

In the wild, Sugar Gliders get calcium from the bones of their prey, the exoskeletons of the insects, and probably from some fruits they eat. However, in captivity they must be given calcium supple mentally. For years we fed cottage cheese and fruited yogurt to provide calcium. However, Sugar Gliders are lactose intolerant. Most but not all, can tolerate cottage cheese and yogurt however. If your gliders like these when they are older, let them have them if you want, but not necessarily for the calcium. A much better way to provide the calcium is through a product called Vita Glider. It is a calcium based vitamin and mineral supplement. It is a high quality supplement with calcium, and every vitamin and mineral that gliders are known to need. A sweetener is added to make the gliders actually like it, and a cherry flavor to attract them to it.

We recommend sprinkling a healthy pinch of Vita Glider on the surface of the apple every other day. They will lick a patch of it off prior to eating the apple.

To recap: Provide the Glider Grub at all times, fruits and vegetables at night, Vita Glider every other night, and add a piece of bread to the cage during the day.


DEHYDRATION
One of the greatest threats to a baby glider is dehydration.

Here are three tips to help avoid your sugar glider from getting dehydrated. First, when carrying your baby in a pouch or in a pocket, always include a slice of apple for the moisture content. Second, when carrying it for several hours, take it out and give it a drink every couple of hours. Third, when putting your baby in its new cage for the first time, fill the water bottle with a mixture of ¾ water and ¼ apple juice or white grape juice. This should help it to find the new bottle in its new environment more quickly. Bump its nose on the bottle tip a time or two to give it a taste. Do anything necessary that makes sense in order to keep it hydrated until it is drinking well from the water bottle. This may include an open container of fluids in the cage, or taking it out and giving it a drink with a syringe or an eyedropper periodically. Once it is drinking well out of the bottle, it is past the most dangerous period for dehydration.

Refill the bottle as it goes down, by adding water. Soon you will be giving them pure water. We recommend avoiding chlorinated water because most cities have spikes in the chlorination levels periodically. We have never had it happen, but we have heard of Sugar Gliders dying as a result of a high level of chlorine. Also be aware that juice will spoil. Do not let your Sugar Glider have spoiled or fermented juice. If it has gotten cloudy, it is bad. The best bet is to not let juice be used for more than a day.


HYPOTHERMIA
Another threat to a baby Sugar Glider is hypothermia.

Sugar Gliders, especially baby Sugar Gliders, thrive and are happiest at temperatures in the 80-85 degree range. The baby's body does not generate enough heat to keep it well at the 75-degree room temperature that we usually prefer. Therefore we offer a couple of tips for keeping it warm. When carrying your glider with you, keep it up against your body, such as in a shirt pocket or a bonding pouch against your chest. Your body is a perfect heater for it. In colder climates, or on a windy blustery day, cover it with the appropriate amount of clothing or coats to keep the outside temperature or chilling wind off of it.

For keeping it warm indoors, Custom Cages provides a heat rock with each cage starter kit. This can be thought of as the furnace in its house. The way to use it is to put it on the floor of the cage and plug it in. In order to not have to put the cord through the door, one end of two wires can be cut with a pair of wire cutters on the back of the cage down low. Then bend the two wires out, run the cord through, and then bend the wires back in place. The rock should then be covered with a cotton tee shirt or flannel or fleece material. It is important that the cover material be a non-raveling material so that the glider can't pull long threads out that can eventually be wrapped around its neck, leg, or tail, causing injury or death. Do not wrap the rock up in the shirt. Just drape it over the rock, causing an atmosphere under the shirt that will be 10-15 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature.

Your glider will love this heated area, and will usually sleep under the shirt and as close to the rock as feels comfortable. Sugar Gliders are not rodents and therefore do not chew the cord to any dangerous degree. They are also not reptiles, and therefore won't lie on the rock until they fry. They seek out the toasty area for the comfort, and will abandon it if too warm.

We have been providing heat rocks since 1998, and have been criticized by others for doing so. In spite of teaching customers that they need to be kept warm, without providing a method for doing this, we found that about 10% of people let them get too cold and therefore get sick or die. When we started providing heat rocks and good instructions for its proper use, we virtually solved this problem for the 10%. In addition, the other 90% are probably happier and healthier.

By using the heat rock, we know we have saved hundreds of babies from dying or getting sick.

An additional advantage to having the gliders sleeping under the tee shirt is the ease of getting them out of the cage. If your glider sleeps in a sock or a tight pouch or a nest box, it is an ordeal to get it out of its sleeping area. If it doesn't want to wake up, it will resist coming out and your play session starts out on a sour note. With the heat rock, just fold the tee shirt back and scoop the baby up in your hands with no muss or fuss. It will wake up in your hands without the distressing struggle.


BONDING
Now, lets talk about one of the most rewarding parts of your experience with your Sugar Glider, bonding.

Do not be afraid of your Sugar Glider. When it is a baby, its bite, if you ever experience it, is no more than a hard pinch, rarely ever breaking the skin. The crabbing noise is a defensive noise, not offensive. It means that it is afraid of the person it is with, or it feels threatened in some way. The goal in bonding the glider to you is to win its confidence. All of the crabbing will stop once it feels safe in your hands. Therefore there is no substitution for holding it in your hands a lot, especially at first. Bonding begins once the glider feels totally at ease in your hands.

When Sugar Gliders are in a group, such as their colony in the wild, they sleep all in a pile. When the one on top wakes up and finds that he is on top, he immediately burrows under the pile for the warmth and safety. Therefore, when you hold your baby glider in your hands, try to emulate the secure feeling it gets when in that pile. Hold it securely and firmly in your hands, and rub it gently but firmly with your thumb. I find that putting it in my hand on its back and rubbing its chest, neck and cheeks firmly with my thumb, is the best way to make it feel safe. A new baby will resist this for a few minutes, but soon realizes it feels pretty good. Soon it will grasp the moving thumb with its hands and its eyes will begin drooping and it goes to sleep. This is great, because as you continue to rub it and let it sleep, it is being imprinted with associating your hands with security. Several sessions of this over several days, and your glider should be getting quite bonded to you.

One additional tip about holding a new baby! If your baby is quite afraid and is crabbing a lot while you are holding it and rubbing it, cover its eyes with your hands so that it feels hidden. Also do not look directly at its eyes when it is this afraid. Their main predator is birds of prey. When they see you staring in their eyes it is their nature to be afraid of you, as they would be of a hawk. Just glance at them at an angle until they learn you are not a threat.

Lastly, when removing a new glider from its bonding pouch, it may get defensive. It will not know you yet and may be afraid as it sees a large hand coming at it. If it acts defensive, do not be afraid of it. Do not pick it up with your fingertips, as this will make it feel even more insecure. Confidently reach in the pouch and scoop it up in one hand while holding the pouch from beneath with the other hand. Then cover it up with the pouch hand and start rubbing it firmly as described above. This will calm it down quickly. Soon this will not happen when you open the pouch because it will know you and start loving you.


INFORMATION
Here is a little more information for you.

Included in your starter kit from Custom Cages are a care sheet and a book on Sugar Gliders. The care sheet contains the essential information that you need to know immediately. Next, as you have time, continue reading our web site www.cageworks.com and read all of the information about Sugar Gliders in the Animal Gallery. This link (http://207.126.60.161/sugarglider/26) is the full path to the Sugar Gliders in the Animal Gallery. Finally and lastly, read the Sugar Glider book. The book is excellent on all of the scientific information such as anatomy, habitat, reproduction, etc., but it is very weak on the daily care. It was written when Sugar Gliders were first introduced into the United States. We have learned a lot about their care since then. If you start off by reading the book first, you might be confused about the care and may get off on the wrong path. Wherever you find a discrepancy, just follow our information.

Follow these basic steps, and you should have a very successful and rewarding experience.