Can Sugar Gliders Bond to More than One Person?
By Lisa

One of the best things about keeping gliders as pets is that they will indeed bond to more than one person.  We all know that they bond by scent and have a territorial nature, but most homes house more than one person.  Unlike some other types of exotic animals and birds, gliders have the capacity to love more than one human.

Now, having said that, if only one person is the primary caretaker and handler, that person will be the one the gliders best respond to.  The trick to having gliders that go to, play with, and hang out with multiple members of the family is to try and balance the time spent with each glider by each family member.

I often get asked if one person should initially do the bonding.  Then after some progress has been made, have other household members join in the process.  That may make sense the first few days, but we have two members in our household and we’ve always started off with all of our new sugar gliders with both of us spending equal time getting acquainted.  The result is that for the most part, all of the gliders seem to show us equal favor.

We have heard from quite a few community members that their gliders do seem to show favoritism to certain household members.  I see this as a result of two different possibilities.  First, we must honor the unique nature and personality of each sugar glider.  Like people, they come with different attitudes and could “like” someone better than someone else.  

But I think the more likely possibility is that the caretakers seem to have a natural attraction to one of the gliders and spends the most time with that one glider.  Try spending equal time with all of your gliders.  They won’t all respond to you in identical manners, because their personalities are different.  But you may find that each individual glider will respond in a similar manner to the different human members of the family that is spending time with the gliders.

An exception to this rule, and this is merely my suggestion, is that adults only do the initial bonding when young children are involved.  Many children may not be able to show the initial restraint necessary to make new gliders feel safe in their new home.  A great way for kids to join in on the process is let them spend bonding time inside of a tent with the gliders.  See this article on tent bonding.  I always recommend that young children be supervised when handling the gliders and not allowed to feed them without parental knowledge and permission, or let the gliders out of the cage without permission.

We have the opportunity to hear a lot of “urban legends” when it comes to sugar gliders and one of those myths is that they can only bond to one person.  Sugar gliders, as colony dwellers, have a natural instinct to bond and co-habitate with a fairly large group of other animals.  In a captive environment, the “colony” size is significantly smaller than a free-range colony size, and it’s my opinion that we just become part of the colony.  

I see this with Arnold’s group in particular.  Four gliders live together.  They are all very attached to each other, attached to their two humans, and one of them (Arnold, of course) has a very special relationship with one of my dogs.  We do not encourage you to go out of your way to promote friendships between sugar gliders and other household pets.  But under special and controlled circumstances, these relationships may naturally develop.  Just be sure you know the nature of the “other pet”.  An overly playful paw, or the tendency to get irritated when a glider lands on the pet’s face are just two examples of how bad accidents can happen quickly.

Remember, like any other pet, the quality of your relationships with your sugar gliders is based on the quality of the time you spend with them.  So get the whole family involved in the experience, because well bonded sugar gliders are just about the most special small pets on the planet!

Best wishes to you and yours for the holiday season!  Stay warm,  stay safe, and bless you all!

Changing Behavioral Disorders II
by Dr. C, of course!

Dear Dr. C,

Thank you for your article last month about behavioral disorders.  Particularly the section about older gliders!  I brought Indie home from a girl who joined the military and couldn’t keep her, and Jaxom came from a very nice girl who rescued him from a closet in someone’s house!  Both are “rescues”, had been neglected, and were about 3+ years old when I brought them home. 

Though at the time I really had no idea what I was getting into, I was lucky enough to find your newsletter and forums like Glider Central. Now I am a very happy glider mom, but it didn’t come without a lot patience and love, and sometimes bloody fingers, LOL! 

It’s been 2 1/2 years since Indie came home with me and both her and Jaxom have become awesome little pets!  I would love if you wrote more about this kind of scenario.  I have always been a “rescuer”, and for me it is so much more rewarding when I bring home a tough animal and see the progress we have made.

Thanks again for all your hard work!!
Amanda Laborde
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Dear Amanda,

Thank you for your letter.  I think you help drive home some very salient points about taking in older gliders with behavioral disorders.  The purpose of the October 2004 newsletter on this topic was to simply educate the community of the challenges one is likely to face.  You share a successful story and for that you are to be commended.

Behavioral disorders in sugar gliders can be correctable.  But you must be willing to put in the time, which could very well be an extensive undertaking.  Success in building the relationship of trust can happen.  It is best to protect yourself against bites by knowing they will inevitably occur with sugar gliders with behavioral disorders. Remember, if you receive a bite from any animal, from a sugar glider to a cat or dog, it is important to scrub the wound copiously with antibacterial soap and check with your physician.  The mouths of all animals, including humans, contain many types of bacteria which can cause problems when the skin is broken by a bite wound.

It’s also important to keep in mind that some animals, even with the best handling, nurturing and new improved environment may have insurmountable issues.  I think it worth repeating from last month, be sure you know what you are getting into.  You may gain the animal’s trust in time, or you may only gain some level of mutual respect, or you may have an animal that will always be difficult to handle and work with.  The important point I wish to emphasize is that to do this on a “trial basis” is not fair to the animal, as a next move could just exasperate an already bad situation.

The average pet owner does not have the time or experience to correct behavior problems.  There are special people like Amanda, who enter into the rehabilitation process fully aware of the high level commitment needed to bring about successful outcomes.  Best of luck to you, Amanda, and to all of you who have opened your homes to unwanted animals.  It can be an extremely rewarding opportunity for those with the time and training.

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 your request 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.