Cleaning Sugar Glider Cages

By Lisa

It’s important to keep your pets’ cage clean at all times.  Not only will this help to further the good health of your sugar gliders, but will also help to reduce any noticeable odors that you may experience from keeping sugar gliders.

The question of how often should you clean your glider’s cage is not really cut and dried.  You see, it really depends on several factors, particularly how large is the cage and how many animals inhabit the habitat?  The larger the cage and fewer the animals, the less you need to clean it.  But for the sake of this article, let’s take the example of an average size habitat.

To refresh your memory, a minimum size glider cage should be at least 3 feet high and two and a half to three feet wide.  This seems to be a generally accepted standard amongst top glider keepers and meets with most state requirements for minimal size habitats.  Please keep in mind here that we are using the word minimal as opposed to recommended size.  I personally keep my family fuzzbutts in a cage quite a bit larger than this.  Our breeding sugar gliders are also in cages larger than this and have access to floor to ceiling playpens.  I mention this here as several well-intentioned folks have questioned our compliance with State of Florida regulations, which embrace legal minimum limits for cage size substantially larger than stated here.  However, this newsletter is received not only across the United States, but around the world and it is our intention to provide you with information that is most universally applicable and fairly represents the common consensus.

Here’s the cleaning schedule we follow at Suncoast:

* Food dishes and water bottles – Wash daily in hot water and dish detergent (we use Dawn)

* Cages – wipe down the wires every couple of days

* Bedding – in most of our cages we use newspaper, we freshen this every three days

* Toys – we wash them as needed.  You can tell when they have glider-do buildup.  These we soak in GreenStump, rinse well and return to use.  Items like Wodent Wheels, we oil with vegetable oil to keep them rust free.  Just use a modest amount of oil.

* Complete cage cleaning – we have a lot of extra cages on hand which makes this process easier for us.  We perform this chore at least quarterly.  We take the cages outdoors (easy to manage in Florida year round.)  We spray them down generously with Scooter’s Choice and let them sit for ten minutes.  Then we hose them down thoroughly and let them dry in the sun.  Most people don’t have extra cages, so if you start in the morning, the cages should be ready to put back in use within a couple of hours.  The gliders typically won’t mind sleeping in a bonding pouch until the deed is done.

Now this is important!  We don’t clean everything on the same day! We will let the gliders keep their sleeping pouches or nest box “as is” until another day.  The reason is because if everything is washed thoroughly at once, the gliders may not recognize it as their territory any longer.  Gliders do seem to rely heavily upon their sense of smell to determine home base as well as other gliders in the colony.  If you clean everything at once, the gliders may go overtime on marking to make the habitat smell like “home” again.  So split the cleaning duties up over time.  If you don’t, you might find that you will have more smell than less smell after all the cleaning is done.  Do your cleaning in a rotation because you CAN clean too much at one time!

Here’s an idea we want to share from Chuck and Chip, Buffy, Hippolyta and Rebekah:

Dear Suncoast,

I ran across something that I thought might be of use to glider owners.  A local Sears is going out of business, and I wandered over there the other evening, looking for tools and whatnot at 50% off. While there, I spotted something called a “Steam Shark”, which I dimly (my usual state of mind) recalled seeing advertised on TV.

Hmmm, I thought.  Just the thing for cleaning my grill.  And the countertops in the kitchen (an old fashioned textured style, which drives me nuts as I’m sure the texture folds contain hiding places for bacteria.  I can never get it clean enough.)

So I bought it ($51.72 after the going out of business discount), and had fun wandering the house spraying things.  The foyer, where the huge German Shepherd stands guard (when he’s not sleeping).  Part of the counter-top.  The linoleum floor of my downstairs wet-bar.  My shower stall … I spent some time chasing a soap-bar fragment around with the pressure and steam, until it finally dissolved (I’m easily amused).  I was quiet impressed with the steam pressure and staying power … I must have done 40 minutes of spraying and it was still going strong.  VERY hot steam, just as advertised, with quite a bit of pressure behind it (do NOT let kids fool with this thing like a super-soaker.  It IS dangerous.

Then … It occurred to me!  Glider Cages!

Our usual method is to keep them wiped down as best we can, then load them up in my old K-Blazer truck, and take them over to the local car wash when we can.  This is not good, as it’s time consuming.  Even as big as the truck is, I can only get one cage at a time in them (we have big cages), and there is a definite reluctance to mess with this during a Missouri winter.

But this gadget looks like it would be perfect.  It’s portable, so it should be easy to move the cages to the driveway, soap ’em with the regular hose, steam ’em again and bring ’em inside.  I think I should be able to do two cages in half an hour, to a cleanliness standard that satisfies me.  It’s electric, but that’s not a problem, as I have long extension cords … but I think that once it heated up, based on the length of time it takes to cool down you could even be free of an outlet, if necessary.  It will get it’s first test Saturday.  I think it will be perfect, from what I’ve seen so far.

Thanks for the tip Chuck and Chip, Buffy, Hippolyta and Rebekah!  We too keep a steam cleaner on hand and it is a great way to get into those cracks and crevices for a really good deep cleaning.  Some people like this approach as well because it can be done chemical free!  It may also save the hassle of bringing cages outdoors and will dry quickly to get the cage back in operation ASAP.  This can be a very valuable tip for those who have built in custom cages or cages too large to pass through doors in the home.  You may want to put a tarp underneath to catch drips and other gunk that will drop as a result of steam cleaning.

We also employ the use of a pressure washer.  Some of our cages at the sugar shack are custom built PVC-coated cages (see PVC warning here).  Our floor to ceiling playpens are made of this fabric as well.  Using Scooter’s Choice and a pressure washer, we feel that we can do a great job getting rid of the oily buildup on the cages.  This may be helpful for those who have a lot of cages, but for the average glider keeper, a hose with a good spray nozzle will do the trick.

Some other interesting suggestions we’ve heard over the years include putting the cage in the back of a pickup truck and going to the neighborhood self car wash.  This is a great tip for those who live in condos or apartments where washing right in your own yard is not a good option.  And a few of our subscribers have told us that they actually clean their cages in the shower!

We have one last tip to offer on how to control odor in between washings.  On a daily basis I walk by all my cages on a “Clean+GreenProwl”.  This is a very, very safe and very effective product to use often as an odor eliminator.  Do not confuse this with a disinfecting type product like Scooter’s Choice, but rather as something to control unpleasant smells as needed.  I mist the cage area each day, spray the inside of the Wodent Wheels (I find a lot of odor is held here), I spray the outside of the sleeping pouches (while the gliders are asleep inside) and any other toys, branches, etc that may be odor catchers.  Upon spraying, you will smell a different smell for a few moments as the odor eating enzymes go to work.  You may also detect a faint hint of peppermint.  But after a few minutes, this should all give way to the smell of just pure clean air.

Clean cages not only support the well being of happy healthy sugar gliders, but clean cages also go a long way to keeping humans happy!

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 himself! Yuk Yuk Yuk!  And now … for more “thinking outside of the pouch” advice … here’s Arnold!

Dear Arnold,

I only have 2 gliders.  Is the cage I ordered “overdoing it?” Could you recommend an appropriate size?  Also, the smell of the 2 rascals is aggravating my hubby.  Is there a spray I could get that may help the odor yet not harm the gliders?  One is a male and is not fixed, would fixing him help the odor? (the glider silly, not my husband!!)

Thank You,
Judy B

Dear JB,

Yikes! Is your glider broken?  Is that why you want him fixed?  And if your husband gets broke, will you get him fixed too?  Me really must admit that I don’t have clue what you are talking about.

Pssst … Arnold, Lisa here.  Fixing is another term for neutering.

Ahhhhh!  Thanks Lees for clearing that up.  I was confused for a moment.  Okey Dokey then, now to yer answer.  First, you can’t get a cage too big!  Big is good.  Small is bad!  But ya need big cage with small bars, cuz big and big is bad, but big and small is good!  Got it?
 And well, methinks Lisa already covered the smelly thing in her news today.  But getting yer boy fixed (that’s a funny word) will help too. 

Yer Pal,
Mr GoodStench …. Arnold


Hi Arnold,

I am a new Glider mom, I have a male Joey approx 9 weeks OOP.  I 
have a question regarding glider dreams, yes, I know that sounds strange.  Loki (my joey) seems to have dreams, like dogs or cats, while he is asleep.  I’d like to know if this is normal behavior or if this may be a medical issue.

Yesterday I was holding him while he was asleep, and he partially opened his eyes and twitched alot but was limp at the same time and it scared me, I placed him back on his blanket carefully and he chirped and woke up.  I am worried that this may be seizure.  He does tremble from time to time, although I associated that with being 
woken up when he wasn’t ready.  There is no other abnormal behavior I have noticed, so I thought I would ask you.

Could you please enlighten me as to whether or not I should worry.

Thank you.
Cheryl & Loki

Dear Cheryl and Loki,

You’ve come to the right place, toots!  It must be normal ‘cuz I do it to sometimes.  If yer little fellar is otherwise doing good with everything else, we do kind of twitch sometimes when we dream.  We can also do another normal thing fer us which I heard a hewman call “playin’ possum”.  We get all limp and relaxed and even though ya pick us up, we stay limp and asleep.  Then ALL OF A SUDDEN we wake up.  But the ALL OF A SUDDEN part might take a couple of minutes to happen.  If this stuff only happens from time to time and isn’t sumptin he does all the time, methinks he’s just dreamin’.  Maybe he’s dreamin’ of become a great aviator like me great uncle (and he was really really great), Igor Gliderorsky.

And jes remember that deep philosophical quote from that mega movie Flashdance … “when yer lose yer dreams, ya die”.

So keep on dreamin’!


That’s all Blokes! Tune in again next month for another exciting episode of Dear Arnold! Don’t forget, you can share your short comments or fun questions with me by clicking here. 
Arnold T Schwarzenglider … signing off … I approve of this message!