Becoming a Sugar Glider Breeder – Part II   (Part 1    Part 3)
By Lisa

Last month we started discussing some of the realities of being a critter breeder and will continue that discussion again this month. Once you decide this is something you would like to do, even on a hobby level, you will have to consider how to go about finding good homes for the joeys that will be born as a result of your breeding program.  This can be a daunting task and we find you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.  Sugar gliders are not suitable pets for every household.  Good breeders will employ some sort of screening process to help determine suitable prospects.

Here at SunCoast, we insist on a personal phone conversation with anyone interested in becoming keepers of our joeys.  Since our business is promoted solely via Internet, it’s hard to determine who that person is on the other side of the email inquiry.  Some websites will allow people to purchase animals online without ever having a conversation.  While we think this is a great way for people to shop for cages and supplies and other goods, in our opinion, it’s a terrible way to find new homes for live animals.  The person making such a purchase may have good knowledge and husbandry skills concerning that species, but we’ve found more often than not, most people need help in learning to care for their new wards.

Issues that help us determine suitability of our prospective glider keepers are such things as age, lifestyle, other pets kept in the home, time that person has to commit to new responsibilities, financial ability to set up a proper home and maintain veterinary bills, and a willingness to learn how to properly keep sugar gliders.  It takes a lot of time to go through such a process, but we feel it is mission critical to our goal of finding the right homes for our grand-gliders.

Once you determine that an individual or family does have what it takes to give sugar gliders the good life, you should provide ample education on the important care aspects.  At a minimum, we discuss dietary requirements, appropriate housing and make sure that folks have realistic visions and expectations of the bonding process.

You can’t be afraid to turn people down if you feel that their ability to keep gliders properly is questionable.  And you can’t be afraid to turn people off by discussing “the cons” of keeping gliders as pets.  If you find that your primary concern is selling the joey and getting the money above all else, you will not likely succeed or survive in this business.  Folks who breed animals – and do it well – bring a certain passion to the process; and the day we lose that passion is the day we will no longer breed gliders.

Our advice to you is simple.  If this is something you wish to pursue, please ask yourself if you are doing it for the right reasons and that you will care for and love all of your animals in the best way you can. When typical “business concepts” become your main motivation, the animals are likely to suffer for it, so do it out of love!

We have worked with many small breeders over the years and we often get asked how to go about finding homes for sugar gliders. That is a business decision you should consider and make prior to getting into breeding.  We’ve chosen to utilize the Internet to meet other glider keepers and glider keeper wannabes.  Newspaper ads can work well for small breeders wishing to keep their business local.

We have seen quite a few breeders set up in flea markets and this is something we typically do not like to see.  Setting up for an “impulse buy” does not leave enough time for proper education and decision making.  Many communities host exotic pet shows and will often draw crowds of people who are interested in exotics and many have experience with one or more species already.  Established breeders can often find a suitable group of prospects from word of mouth advertising and this is the best advertising you can hope for.  But first you have to establish a good reputation in order to benefit from word of mouth activity.  Bottom line is that you should have a plan in place to attract good prospects, screen prospects and properly educate each and every new glider parent your choose to work with.

Next month we will wrap up this topic with a discussion on exit strategy.  Once you’ve decided that you want to breed sugar gliders and have a plan in place to sell your babies, what happens when you decide that you don’t want to (or even worse, can’t) do it anymore?

Another Exciting Episode of …. DEAR ARNOLD

Note: Some of Arnold’s fan mail may be edited ’cause Arnold wants some of them to be shorter so he can have more space all to his rascally ‘ol sugar glider self! Yuk Yuk Yuk!

Dear Arnold,
First off, I wanted to say that I really enjoy reading what you have to say every month!!  Your “suggie language” is very cute!!  My suggies have a language too!!  Anyway, I just wanted to reiterate the whole “don’t take your sugar gliders to college with you” thing.  When I got Chloe and Stewie, I was in college.  They loved dorm life.  I had a room all to myself 2nd semester junior year and they would come out and play every night!  They even had the game where they would jump from the top bunk to the bottom bunk, run back up and then do it all over again!!  

However, one drunken night I accidentally left their cage open.  Stewie made his way into my suitemates closet and put a little scare into her, but Chloe somehow wandered down the hall, into someone else’s room and the people who lived in the room began to freak out.  They opened their balcony door and little Chloe jumped off the balcony and landed 4 flights below.  I was devastated and I thought I lost him forever.  I was inconsolable.  That is until I realized that Chloe had landed in what we called “the pit.”  This was an area enclosed by 4 walls with lots of plants.  Somehow, he made it into some sadistic frat boy’s room, who happened to live across the hall from my boyfriend.  

To my surprise, he put Chloe in an upside-down laundry basket, bought him food and named him “Alvin.” As I was going door to door looking for Chloe, I saw him sitting the laundry basket, snatched him up, and thanked the Lord he wasn’t gone.  I also thanked the guys for not sacrificing him!!!  Now, I might sound irresponsible, but trust me.  Chloe and Stewie mean the world to me and I am never going to let anything happen to them again. Now that I live in a house, they sleep in a cage right next to my desk and occasionally come out to play in the closet!!  They are in excellent health and Chloe doesn’t stray to far.  I think we both learned a very important lesson!!!

Jacqui, Chloe Christopher and Stewie Christopher 

Dear Jacqui,
Tanks so much for telling us about the adventures of Chloe … but I coulda tole ya that sugar gliders don’t need to go to college, cuz we’re already smart enuff already!  We are glad you’re fambly was reunited cuz life in a laundry basket stinks!

Yours truly,
Professor Arnold T


Dear Arnold,
I love my sugar gliders, but I’m a very smell sensitive person and I have to tell you, I can’t stand the smell.  What can I do?


Dear Ellen,
Having problems sm-ellen?  Yuk yuk yuk.  Sowwy, can’t help mesef sumtimes!  Anywho, we’ve covered this a bit in past newsletters. Suggies should not have a bad smell to ’em.  Sometimes, yer diet plan can affects our odors and if you give too much vitamins that could make us stinky too!  And if yer diet is right and yer vitamins are right, then if you haven’t heard about Greenstump, you should give it a try.  O yes, and one more thing! If ya have boyz, then maybe get them neuterized like me!  I smell good.  My Mum tree says I smell like a caramel candy.

Your fuzzy buddy,
Arnold (but you can call me Candy-Man!)

Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On… Putting Sugar Gliders On A Diet

by Dr. C., of course!

A common health problem that I encounter on a routine basis is obesity in sugar gliders.  It is very tempting to overfeed these rather diminutive animals and a common concern that I hear from glider owners is that they are worried that their gliders are not getting enough nutrition.

In the previous two months, I’ve offered advice on dealing with picky eaters.  This month I will discuss the issue of overeaters.  It has been my experience that otherwise healthy gliders tend to overeat more frequently than under-eat.  It’s easy to end up with overweight sugar gliders in captivity for two simple reasons.  In the wild, gliders have unlimited space to run, jump and play, thus requiring the use of much more energy.  Secondly, they must hunt and forage for their own food in the wild and will experience the normal feast or famine cycles of nature.  In captivity, food is always abundant and less energy is expended looking for food.

Obesity in any animal can lead to a variety of health issues, including heart disease, liver or kidney dysfunction, problems with blood sugar and other diseases.  These problems can develop in overweight humans, too!  Excessive weight is unhealthy and quite likely to shorten the life span.

Let’s first examine the reasons why a sugar glider might be overweight.  The problem may or may not be a simple food relationship.  One cause of obesity could be that the cage size is too small.  Sugar gliders are animals possessing a rather high metabolism, meaning that their activity level can be quite energetic during waking hours.  It is essential to offer them a habitat suitable to their activity level.  The minimal size cage that is recommended for proper sugar glider housing is at least three feet in height and nearly equal in width, with cage size increasing commensurate to the number of animals housed.  I want to emphasize that this is not what I would consider an ideal size cage, this is simply a minimal requirement.  If the cage they are in is too small, their activity level will be severely restricted and they will burn fewer calories, causing them to be overweight.

Along this same line of thought, you may offer a suitable cage size, but lack in exercise-oriented enrichments.  Toys that encourage exercise should be readily available, particularly a running wheel. Sugar gliders will actually use a large size wheel more fervently than they will a smaller size more suitable to hamsters.  So be sure to offer your sugar gliders a variety of appropriate exercise tools.

Now before we get further into diet related obesity, I do think it important to mention that some sugar gliders will develop obesity in spite of a large cage, plenty of opportunity to exercise, and a regulated diet.  This delves into behavioral issues that can develop in gliders and such behavioral disorders are the most difficult to contend with.  Case in point, Lisa and Debbie keep four sugar gliders in one cage, Arnold, Naomi, Janine, and Buddy.  Janine is my namesake, as Lisa and Debbie credit me with saving her life as a young joey.

Janine was actually placed in a new home and her new keeper chose not to follow Lisa and Debbie’s feeding instructions.  She had this little female glider for over a week and fed her only grapes.  Of course, the glider became very ill and to be honest, I did not hold out a great deal of hope for her.  In order to save her, she would have to go on a regimen of two hour hand feedings, along with twice a day antibiotic treatments and a bit of luck thrown in as well.

She was very skinny, very weak, and septic from the inappropriate feeding routine.  Lisa and Debbie took on this project and Janine grew stronger and bigger and bigger and bigger and now she is on a diet. When it comes to behavioral disorders, all the medical professional can really do is make an educated guess as to the cause.  We can speculate that Janine is overweight in this juncture of her life as she was literally starved as a joey.  She is always the first glider awake and at the food dish and the last to leave the food dish every night. She seems to have a food compulsion and simply “can’t get enough.” Janine lives in the sturdy cage.

Her cage is also outfitted with an abundance of toys and the toys are rotated continuously.  Janine shows little interest in playing with the toys.  She has little interest in running and playing when allowed out of cage playtime.  Lisa calls her “the brooch” as she simply chooses to sit wherever you place her.

Here lies the major challenge in getting overweight gliders to lose weight – most gliders live in habitats with at least one other glider and not all gliders in the colony will have the same weight issues.

Now that we’ve identified some of the reasons that gliders can develop weight problems, next month I will offer you some suggestions on what you can do about it!  Click here for Part 2.

As always, these topics are driven by your requests, so send your questions about glider health care issues by clicking here and we will do our best to include in a future edition of the GliderVet Newsletter.  I send my wishes for good health to both you and your sugar gliders.  I’ll see you again next month!

Dr. C.  
(Janine M Cianciolo, DVM)