Boys or Girls?, Bonding Gliders #3, Breeding Gliders # 3

This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter

Happy New Year and welcome to the first issue of our second year of the GliderVet Newsletter.  Lisa here and all of us at SunCoast Sugar Gliders hope this upcoming year is your best year ever.  Our resolution for this year is to continue bringing you timely and relevant information on how to best keep your sugar gliders happy, healthy and safe.  We thank all of you glider veterans, glider veterinarians, and glider keeper wannabes for all the wonderful questions, comments, and future suggestions.  You make GliderVet Newsletter the only ongoing information source of its kind available on the internet today for sugar glider information!

This month’s is Arnold’s birthday, so we thought it only fitting that we let him go first.  Our favorite SGO (Sugar Glider Officer) will discuss the difference between male and female sugar gliders. Is one “better” than the other?  Lisa will and Debbie will continue our series on bonding.  This article will be the third part of this series and is an area that many humans seem to need help.  Last, but not least, Dr. C. and Debbie will continue with their discussion on breeding sugar gliders and address several more frequently asked questions that have come to us over the last year.

Now to briefly re-visit some of last month’s business, on behalf of the EVF (Emergency Vet Fund) we thank all of you who have requested information on how to purchase this year’s sugar glider calendar.  To  get your copy of this adorable and unique calendar directly from the EVF, click here.  Also, SunCoast has forwarded $5.00 for each T-shirt we sold in December to the EVF to further the cause of this very worthy organization.

OK, now on to the fun stuff!  We’re always looking for contributions to the newsletter, and want the content to reflect the needs of the community.  Send questions, comments, stories here!

If you ever want to find earlier issues of GliderVet News, you can access our archives here.  Fun pics of sugar gliders sent in by our customers are found here.  If you are looking for sugar glider tested and approved products, check out our ever expanding store here.

Are you new to sugar gliders or just in the early stages of trying to decide if one is right for you?  Questions you can ask yourself to help make this very important and long term decision are here.   A very confusing area for those considering glider ownership (and for
some current owners too!) is diet.  See what our vet has to say here.  And if you decide that a sugar glider (or two!) would become future members of your household, then you might want to check out Arnold’s great deals on starter kits, with or without cages.

Frequently Asked Question:
Which Sex is Better, Boy or Girl?

by Arnold, with a little help from Lisa

Howdy there!  I hope everyone had a Happy Holly Daze.  Last year for the Holly Daze I got me some Happy New Ears!  And everybody I saw says to me “Happy New Ears, Arnold!”  So me guesses the Happy New Ears must really look good.  This year, I’m thinking … hmmm, maybe I get something new.  And can you believe?  This year I keep getting the same Happy New Ears!  I was so hoping maybe for a Happy New Foot!  Ya know me is a tripod … so a Happy New Foot would be quite useful … cause me ears are just fine.  Then somebody says something about me handy cap.  Now I don’t have a handy cap, but if I did I wouldn’t wear it cause it would prolly mess up my happy new ears.  Yuk yuk yuk.

Also its my birthday this month! I’m getting so many extra kisses on me silly little head, I hope my New Ears don’t come off!  So now I would like everyone of you out there to sing me my birthday song. Here’s how it goes:

Happy Birthday to You (that’s me, got it?!)
Happy Birthday to You
You look like a sugar glider
And you smell like one too!

Yuk yuk yuk.

Lots and lots of people call us and ask about our babies.  Ya see, when you call to discuss sugar gliders, Miss Lisa is going to ask you questions and stuff to make sure that you are going to take real good care of me fine young friends.  Now after you and Lisa have this chat, she’s gonna ask you a question – which of me sexes makes a better pet, boys or girls?

Would you like the answer? (Drum roll please)

BOYS!  Ta! Da!

“Arnold, Debbie here. Aren’t you going to say anything else?”
“Why not?”
Cause that’s the answer!  Boys rock!  Boys rule the world!  Got it?
“Arnold, I think people would like to know a bit more about this than just boys rock…”
Well that’s all I have to say on the matter.  Can I have a snack?
“Tell ya what Arnold … I’ll take you for a birthday snack and we’ll let Lisa finish this for you, OK?”
OK! It’s a date, Babe!  Ta ta everyone … Heeeeeeeeere’s Lisa!

Arnold, you’re a hard act to follow, but let me see if I can’t shed some light on the difference between the sexes in sugar gliders.  

The first thing you need to know is that each sugar glider comes with its own unique personality.  In addition to Arnold, I also share my home with Janine, Naomi and Sydney (the girls) and Buddy and Sheldon (the other boys).  And of these six gliders, I can tell you that no two of them are alike.  Each one is different, special and unique in their own gifted way. 

I have the unique privilege of having met many sugar gliders over the years and have spoken to literally thousands of people about their pet sugar gliders and we can ascertain some general differences between the two sexes.  In my experience, I’ve found that the male sugar gliders tend to be more outgoing, more curious and seemingly more interactive than the female gliders.  I also find the males to tend less toward moodiness.  And because I have the great fun of handling quite a few new sugar glider joeys each week, I find the males tend to bond a bit easier.

Now don’t get me wrong, female sugar gliders also make excellent pets.  I find that my girls tend to be a bit more snuggly than the boys who tend to want to explore a bit more.  The females tend to be shier and a bit more timid with strangers than the males, which isn’t necessarily a bad quality.  To better explain, quite a few people have visited with me and Arnold, and Arnold seemed quite willing to just go home with them.  These people are new and exciting and cause he’s so brave, new people are not the least bit scary to him.  But my very sweet and very bonded little Sydney finds new people scary and to be avoided.  She will let others hold her briefly, but first chance she gets … ba boing … she’s right back to me.  I find when it comes to educational opportunities and “show and tell” type events, my boys just seem to be better suited for these experiences.

Quite a few people tend to want female sugar gliders because the females are not so odor challenged.  As you likely already know, male sugar gliders will develop prominent scent glands on the top of the head (the bald spot) and on the sternum.  These glands will emit a rather sweet musk scent that is certainly more pungent than female glider odor.  If you are considering females simply due to this fact, you may want to consider all the options.

What are the options?  First and foremost, a good diet and good cage hygiene practices will go a long way toward controlling glider odor, both male and female.  I had a call just this week from a woman who rescued two young male gliders.  Neither glider had developed its bald spot yet, so they were not musking.  She was telling me how terribly the gliders smelled and was wondering what could she do to control this.  She thought perhaps that this is just the way male gliders always smelled.  

However, when she explained the diet the gliders were on prior to coming into her care only days earlier (parrot seed), and the cage size (18x18x18) and cage conditions, it was rather easy to determine that her problem was not due to the animals, or the animals being male.  The offensive odor is most likely related to poor diet and poor hygiene.  She went on to explain that the smell was an ammonia smell and that it appeared that their nest pouch had never been laundered.  This is not the natural smell of a healthy and well maintained sugar glider.  The natural smell, as stated above, is more of a sweet musky scent.  I have no doubt that with a diet upgrade, a cage size upgrade and a good cleaning of the cage accessories, her smell problem will be greatly reduced.

Other options include the use of products like Clean+Green or Glider Glo.  These products work well as long as you maintain a clean environment and healthy diet.  Hmmm, does it sound like I’m repeating myself a bit?  I just can’t emphasize the need for these two activities enough.  The permanent solution, and solution I’ve personally chosen, is to have my male gliders neutered.  The dominant scent glands will actually close up and if your male is inclined to urine mark, you will see a significant decrease in this urge.

OK, so you decide that controlling smell is not really that big an issue to really contend with, so having a male sugar glider just might rock, as Arnold would say.  In my opinion, I truly like the nature of the male sugar gliders the best.  If the only downside to owning a male glider is cause ‘boys stink’, then seriously consider the available options.  Every human should be so lucky to have a little guy like Arnold in their life!  If I could only have two sugar gliders in the whole world, I would have two neutered males.  And no, Arnold did not offer me an extra share of mealworm birthday cake to say that!

One last interesting observation.  Ever wonder why most of the pictures in most books about sugar gliders are male?  Could this be because the males are just more cooperative?  Makes me just
wanna go Hmmm….

Bonding with New Gliders – Part Three
By Lisa and Debbie

In two previous issues of the GliderVet Newsletter, we started the topic of bonding by discussing the importance of the human’s attitude and being in the right mindset to begin this all important process. To review Part 1, click here.  Part Two in the bonding series focused
more on glider attributes on how the sense of smell is primary in creating that human/glider friendship.  To review this article click here. This month we will discuss two new bonding topics: age of the gliders being bonded and how long the process should take.  More advice on Bonding with Sugar Gliders can be found in Parts FourFiveand Six

There is no magic number in how long the bonding process should take.  On the short side, we’ve had some gliders that seemed to bond “instantly”.  They were just so naturally attuned to human-ness and completely lacked the human fear factor that it just didn’t take any work at all.  Don’t count on that happening!  And if it does happen, then count your blessings and enjoy the experience.  

On the other extreme, we’ve had one glider here at SunCoast that’s taken 3 years to befriend.  His name is Brian and he used to be owned by a pet store.  Only one of the employees ever handled him or fed him, and the other employees were all afraid of Brian.  Brian is a true alpha male.  Brian also lived under bright store lights all day, he was used as a breeder in a back room, and lived next to the big bird cages.  Not big bird cages as in cage size but as in big birds, like macaws, cockatoos, and other birds that a little glider might just see as a natural predator.  Some of the employees liked to harass Brian a bit too because they thought it funny to see Bad Ole Brian up in the boxing position attacking anything that came near his cage.

So when Brian came to live with us, we knew we had a challenge on our hands, and a challenge at one point I wasn’t so sure we could surmount.  Anyway, Karen decided to start hand feeding Brian treats each day … and Debbie started by just talking to him gently each day and reinforcing the treat offerings.  Next thing I know, Debbie can put her hand in the cage and pet him … After more time, Debbie can now hold Brian and Brian now allows me to pet him and to open his nest box to check on Mrs. Brian.  In the past, he would attack me to the point of drawing blood and now we are friends.  I know I’ve brought up the story of Brian before, but this is the most extreme case we’ve ever dealt with.  So three years later, we are now friends.

So how long does it take?  I think to say somewhere between instantly and three years is really a bit of a stretch.  The right attitude and the right approach with Brian earlier in the game would have made friends of all us much sooner.  I may have very well learned my biggest lesson about sugar gliders from this one alpha male.  If Brian can be bonded, with his older age and prior living conditions, then just about any glider should be able to be bonded.

Realistically speaking, I think anyone going into sugar gliders should commit a minimum of one month to the process.  Many times it will happen sooner, especially with hand tamed joeys.  Joeys are generally easier to bond with (considering the time element) than older gliders are.  On the far side, three to five months may be on the outside of the range.  It’s really going to depend greatly on your commitment to the process.  If you present situations to the glider that feel comfortable and reassuring, then the trust will build.  If your sugar glider simply won’t calm down at all when you are going through the bonding process, try our Original Bonding Potion.

Joey gliders are generally too young to come with any “baggage” from their prior living arrangements.  So from the bonding perspective, this can certainly present a distinct advantage.  But if you can’t commit to the long life span, then just remember, the next person that gets this glider is going to likely have to go through a lot more to acclimate the now older glider to a new situation.

So whether young or old, tame or wild, sugar gliders can be bonded to human friends when the human makes the commitment to do so.

Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On… Breeding Sugar Gliders, Part Three
By Dr. C., of course!  And with a little help from Debbie…

If you missed Part One of the article on breeding sugar gliders, click here to review.  For Part Two, click here. This month we will again continue in the question and answer format.  So let’s jump right in:

Q: Is it OK to handle the baby gliders?  Will it bother the parents?

A:  We do not recommend handling very young joey(s) unless you are extremely well bonded to your breeding pair until the eyes of the joey(s) are open.  And even after that, you will want to limit your handling time to only a few minutes in the beginning and stay within the line of  vision of the parents.  As stated above, the parents may be in protective mode at this stage of the joey’s development.  

As the joey(s)s get older, you can handle them for  longer periods as long as neither of the parent gliders get upset over your attention to the little one.  You want to keep stress levels as low as possible in breeding animals, and many glider parents are happy to share the experience of their young with you.  If this is the case, then by all means indulge in the pleasure of handling the precious little ones.  But if you sense it’s creating stress, allow a few more days to pass before attempting to hold the joey(s) again.

Q:  Do female gliders get upset when their babies are taken away?

A:  Generally the females do not seem to be bothered when babies are taken away.  More often than not, our females will go right to the snack plate and indulge in a bit of a feast and almost appear grateful to not have to put up with the demanding nature of the joey(s).  

However, we do have some females that will look around a lot, as if they are searching for their joey.  This seems to be more the exception than the rule.  Now let’s qualify this a bit.  If you remove very young joeys, either the male or female may be inclined to get upset and protective of the very young joey.  But as joey(s) approach the 6-8 week OOP mark, mothers often appear tired of the little rascals by then and ready for a break.

Q:  Is it OK to keep the babies in the same rooms with the parents once the babies are removed?

A:  You might want to consider keeping the joey(s) in a separate room when they are first taken from the parents.  The first night joey(s) are on their own, they tend to cry a lot for the parents.  It’s really quite heartbreaking and their food intake may be slight.  In our experience, by the second night, the joey(s) are much more secure and eating quite well.  During this time you will want to reinforce behaviors, like drinking from the water bottle.  Make sure the baby gliders have a good variety of foods offered and access to water.  It is not necessary to use an open dish of water.  They are capable of drinking from a bottle and this is a much more sanitary behavior.

Q:  Is it OK to let the gliders breed again right away?

A:  This is a very difficult question.  Because we believe it is best to not separate gliders that are colonized, even in a two glider colony, it creates a dilemma.  There are only two customary ways to inhibit breeding activity.  Either separate the sugar gliders, which will create new levels of stress, possible depression, or other behavioral problems; or neuter the male.

Q:  How do you rest the females if they continue to breed back to back?  Is there something you can do to stop them?

A:  Female sugar gliders can be over-bred.  The results of over breeding may be indicated by below average weight in the female, low baby weights, and from a less scientific standpoint, a tired  haggard look.  Back-to-back breeding on a continuous basis will eventually take its toll on the female.  

There is no established rule of thumb of how long this takes or how many joeys have been born, as some gliders have single joeys predominately, which is much less stressful than gliders having two joeys at a time.  And on a few occasions, we’ve had three joeys born from a single breeding which creates even more stress on the female glider’s body.  The best approach we can recommend is to create a diet plan geared towards the females needs and when she’s had enough, have the male neutered.  Both gliders will be much happier remaining with their mate and companion.

Go to:  Part One     Part Two     Part Four

Tune back in next month for the answers to a whole new series of breeding questions.  In the meantime, if you have specific breeding questions, send them by clicking here and I will do my best to include them in the next 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.  … and thanks Deb!
Dr. Janine M. Cianciolo