What Temperature is Right for Sugar Gliders?
By Lisa & Debbie

One of the most frequent questions that we get asked by new sugar glider owners is what temperature is best for sugar gliders?  This is a great question and an important one in order to create the best environment for our small marsupial buddies.  Generally, you will hear that temperatures of 65 – 90 degrees are suitable for sugar  gliders.  And while we generally concur with this estimation, there are a few considerations one should be aware of in providing a good climate for your sugar gliders, particularly when dealing with young sugar gliders, sugar gliders you are trying to newly acclimate, and breeding sugar gliders.

First of all, the body temperature of sugar gliders is similar to our own body temperatures, so for a general rule of thumb, if it’s comfortable for you, it’s a tolerable range for the sugar gliders as well.  Now concerning baby sugar gliders, we keep our babies in a regulated range of 78-80 degrees year round.  This is significantly warmer than most people keep their homes.  We believe that it is important to find out from your breeder what temperature the babies have been kept and you will want to create a similar environment when you first bring them home and slowly acclimate them to your normal home temperature.  We are not recommending that you adjust your household temperature necessarily.  Additional heat can be accomplished by heating pads (never hang on the inside of a cage), ceramic heat lamps, and infrared heat lamps.

Our breeding gliders are kept at controlled temperatures of 70 degrees to 85 degrees.  The warmer temperatures don’t bother the sugar gliders quite as much as it does us, but we are moving around and working hard to keep their cages clean, their food dishes full and really working up a froth.  They are sleeping and sleeping quite peacefully on an 85 degree day.  We also have rather high humidity in Florida during the summer and this is actually a welcome condition for sugar gliders.  Our sugar glider facility, more lovingly known as the Sugar Shack, is outfitted with air conditioning, but for heat we use space heaters.  Space heaters are notoriously bad about drying out the air, so we use humidifiers in conjunction with the space heaters to offset this problem. 

Temperature considerations should also be made when relocating sugar gliders from one home to another.  We’d like to share a little story with you here.  Before Arnold and friends had their new Sturdy Cage setup, we kept them in our nursery in an equally large cage, just not as pretty.  As we’ve said above, we keep the nursery quite warm.  We moved ArnoldJanine, Naomi and Buddy into the family room when their new cage arrived, and because the house is usually a bit cooler than the nursery, we hardly saw them for a week.  

Now these are very bonded sugar gliders and the only change in their environment was relocating the cage from the nursery to the house and it did indeed have an effect on their behavior temporarily.  One might also assume that the new cage may have attributed to the change in behavior, and this is true, but we moved so much of their other stuff into the cage just for the purpose of making them feel at home as quickly as possible.

We hope this helps you better understand just one of the issues that can create acclimation adjustments for our fuzzy little friends. 

The Fabulous Sydney Sesame Story!
By Lisa

A few days before last month’s newsletter dropped, we had a very sad event here at SunCoast Sugar Gliders.  One of our mommy gliders died rather suddenly and mysteriously.  If that is not sad enough, she had a baby in her pouch that was just about ready to come out of the pouch.  This little baby, now known as the Fabulous Sydney Sesame, has battled huge odds and will be nearly five weeks old (OOP -out of pouch) when this newsletter comes to you.

Fact is, saving young joeys without a mother is a time consuming task and the odds of keeping the baby alive are very slim at such a young and tender age.  Poor little Sydney had hardly any fur and her eyes were still very closed shut.  We have never had an incident quite like this one since we became involved with so many sugar gliders, and despite the happy ending you will read about here, I truly hope we do not have to draw on this experience again. 

It all started on a Friday morning a little more than four weeks ago, and Sydney’s dad was acting frantic. He was completely beside himself.  Debbie checked the nest box because we knew a baby was due out pretty soon and the poor mom had already passed to Glider Heaven.  Sydney was found inside a toilet paper core, one of her parent’s favorite toys.  Somehow they had managed to get the whole thing inside the nest box, despite the fact that the nest box hole is slightly smaller than the core.  Another testament to sugar glider genius!  Anyway, little Sydney was very tiny and obviously had not eaten for some time.  She was skinny and frail and only weighed three grams.  Our whole day was shot.  It was one of the saddest things we’d ever seen.  We knew how slim our chances were.  In the past, we’ve had to hand feed babies for a variety of reasons, and with older babies our success ratio was only about 50%.  It was  indeed a black day.

Well, fortunately we had some milk replacer on hand and mixed up the formula to start tube feeding this small, diminutive creature.  She was amazingly cooperative for this feeding.  We used an insulin syringe with a small bird feeding tip to begin the process. Within three days it seemed as if she were eating her weight in formula.  I mean we are talking wolf hound city.  This little tiny thing had a huge appetite.  But we knew deep down that we had to get her past the two week mark to even begin to believe that we had a chance to keep her going.

By Monday, little Sydney went from 3 grams to 5 grams in weight.  This was a considerable accomplishment.  We keep her in an incubator type setup to help regulate her body temperature, as this is a job a momma glider would usually perform.  Within days, she would sense one of us reaching into the incubator and would make the “shhh shhhh” noise that babies do when calling to mom.  It is just about the most endearing thing you could imagine.  She had acknowledged us as her rightful caretakers. 

She came by her name Sydney because of the Australia thing.  Debbie and I both thought Sydney would be a great name for a glider.  The Sesame part was added on a bit later because every time we’d feed her we would say “Open Sesame”, and she would!  When you are hand feeding a baby sugar glider you need a consistent schedule, and we chose to start her on an every two hour round the clock feeding routine.  Even at the issue of this newsletter, we’ve only upgraded her to a three hour round the clock schedule.

During her first week we were very pleased with the gusto she showed during feeding time.  Her volume of consumption was very healthy, as a matter of fact, maybe too healthy.  And by the end of the first week, everything seemed to be going well except she seemed to have persistent diarrhea and was eating significantly more than what would be considered normal for her weight.  It was around this time that I had the opportunity to begin a series of discussions with Ellen and husband, Dr. Bruce.  

Ellen had some very good advice in regards to changing the formulation we were using and within just a couple of days, Sydney’s stools improved considerably and she didn’t overeat any longer.  Overeating can often be a sign that something is missing from the diet, and even babies this young have an instinct to continue eating until that need is filled.

Now, I will spare you the day to day account of what has transpired  over the last many weeks, but I would like to share with you some interesting  observations we’ve made during this time with Sydney.

First and foremost, having the right formula available is vitally important.  And the formula should be adjusted in regards to water volume to regulate the baby’s potty habits.  For example, if the baby is not urinating regularly and stools appear to harden a bit, the baby is not getting enough water.  If stools are softish, we’ve chosen to cut back the water content of the formula, but always offering fresh water after each feeding.  I am conspicuously leaving out the exact formulation of the diet we’ve chosen, as I do not want to encourage anyone to undertake this task unless it is vitally necessary and all other options are exhausted.  If you believe you may need to undertake feeding chores for a baby sugar glider, contact me here and I will discuss the formula with you one on one.  

Unfortunately, some people will intentionally pull babies early to hand feed as they are under the  impression that they will end up with a “better” sugar glider.  While I will not dispute that the bond between Sydney, myself and Debbie is incredible, incredible bonds can still be developed later in a sugar glider’s life.  Sydney is still undersized for her age and is lacking in the benefit of receiving her mother’s immunities that she normally would have received if nursing.  

Next important issue we discovered was that the temperature of the formula had to be exactly to Sydney’s liking.  She’s a little bit like Goldilocks … if its too cold, or too hot, Sydney doesn’t like it.

Baby sugar gliders are usually incapable of excreting on their own.  So it is very important to stimulate babies to go.  We use a soft tissue (Puffs) dipped in warm water to stimulate her to help prevent any blockages.  Her mother would normally perform this function.

The next observation made was a rather profound one for us.  We’ve discovered that Sydney is much more responsive in activity and eats better when she is carried on our person during the day.  Gentlemen, if you ever need to nurture a baby glider, I’m not sure the best way for you to accomplish this physical contact, but we’ve found that a sports bra works perfectly for the task.  I had to go out of town on a one day trip and Debbie was very busy that day caring for the critters, so Sydney was left in her incubator for the day.  She became quite sullen and did not eat well at all.  As soon as I returned home and started carrying her again, she immediately perked up and got back solidly on the program.  By the way, we are using a plastic hospital aquarium, with a heating pad underneath half of it and a“scented” T-shirt in the bottom for her to snuggle in as her incubator set-up.

We are now into Sydney’s fifth week.  She is still smaller than her similarly aged peers, but she is strong, active, her eyes are fully open and bright and she is even starting to play a lot.  She likes to lay on her back and swat at things like a tiny little cat.  She loves playing in hair and she will fall asleep almost instantly when she gets chest and belly rubs.  By the time we send out our May newsletter, she should be fully weaned and for the sake of my sleep, a self sufficient glider.

Last, but not least, I’ve sent thanks to just a few here today, but I don’t want to leave out the many others who’ve sent their well wishes and offers of assistance, particularly Lucy, Sheila, John, Rose and JoJo, the sugar glider who’s promised to teach Sydney how to be a calendar girl one day!

Keeping Sugar Gliders Improves Health in Humans!
By Arnold

During the day, as I’m sound asleep and dreaming peacefully, sometimes I have these subliminal thoughts about my humans.  As I lie in my cozy pouch, in a half dreamlike state, I often ponder important stuff.  One of my favorite ponderings is why it’s good for sugar gliders to keep humans.  For a long time I really wished I could talk to some other sugar gliders outside of my colony about their experience with their humans and fate smiled upon me.

The other day my Sugar Mama was on the phone with Twiggy’s Sugar Mama and I don’t think they remembered to do the hangy up thing … cause when Lisa left the room, I could talk to the Twig Man and he could talk to me.  Ya see, I’m far too little to actually use the talking device on my own, and I don’t understand numbers, so it was really quite a stroke of luck.

So anywho, me and the Twigs was yapping and chirping away and we comes to this big giant conclusion about life with humans and how its not only good for us to have them, but ya see it’s really really good for them to have us.

Why, you ask?  Well that’s simple.  First of all it’s a well known scientific fact that you big gentle giants have this thing called in-stinks … and it’s your in-stink that makes you have this big need to have to care for cute little things like little ole me.  So we do you this big favor and let you fulfill your in-stinks by letting you wait on us hand and clawed foot.

Now that’s one reason, but then there is this other really great reason why we are so good for you.  You see, my oversized, hairless, clawless friends, you have particular nutritional needs.  I know this because you need even more variety than us suggies do. You eat a whole lot of different kind of stuff.  So getting back to my old boy Twiggy, he and I are talking about this dietary phenomenon and we come to this scientific conclusion that since we’ve been aroundthere is a lot more variety of food in your fridge than ever before.  Cause me and Twig hear stuff in two different households, like “time to go to the market again.  Doesn’t it seem like we go to the market a lot more since we got our sugar gliders?” Now this is a good thing.  Variety and fresh foods are important for all mammals … and that means me … and that means you!

But I do have a little bone to pick and Twiggy feels the same way.  We are too little to open the door to the cold box.  And we know you buy a lot of special stuff for us because that’s your in-stink.  But why do you all of a sudden find yourself eating more apples, and pears, and blueberries, and yogurt and apple juice and eggs and cauliflower and broccoli and chicken?  I could go on and on.  It seems like everything you got for us to fulfill your in-stink, you big ole piggys eat up all by yourself.  And the worst has to be in Twiggy’s house, cause there lives some mini-giants … I think they are called kids … and they eat all the fresh stuff that we need to survive.  Then you people start yelling that there’s no food for the sugar gliders. Well, hmmmpphh, I find this very very disturbing.

OK, now I never present a problem without a solution.  Why don’t you spend more time eating potato chips, pretzels, doughnuts, hamburgers, ice cream, chocolate, pizza and that kind of stuff, then you don’t need to get so worked up when it’s time to wait on us?  Either that or get more fresh stuff to keep on hand!

Now I don’t want you to feel too bad about all that I’ve said here, cause the truth is I am really happy to know that you don’t like mealworms, cause they really are my most favoritest.  So I guess we’ll keep ya, and help you fulfill your in-stinks and just go to the market more often so you don’t get extra stresses. OK?  OK!

Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On… Housing Sugar Gliders

By Dr. C., of course! 

In one of our past newsletters we discussed how important nutrition is to sugar glider health.  Another equally important aspect of good animal husbandry practices concerns housing considerations and the environment created for your sugar glider.  An inappropriate habitat can adversely affect the health of your pet.

Sugar gliders are very active, arboreal (tree dwelling), nocturnal, and social animals in the wild – and these attributes need to be accommodated in captivity.  For these reasons they need large cages, especially in the vertical direction to facilitate climbing.  I recommend cages constructed of animal safe wire.  If the wire is painted, the paint finish should be powder coated or some other finish that contains no zinc or lead.  While it hasn’t been demonstrated in gliders, other species like birds have become ill/toxic from chewing various types of metal screening, bars, etc.  When you choose the cage material for your gliders, make sure that it has been demonstrated to be a safe material for these animals.  

The minimum size cage should be roughly three feet high, with bigger(as in taller) being better.  The width of the cage should be a minimum of 24 to 30 inches for a single glider and 30 inches or better for multiple gliders.  The larger the social group of gliders, the larger the cage should be.  Other considerations to keep in mind when choosing housing are bar spacing width.  Sugar gliders are able to escape if the spacing exceeds ½ inch.  The ability to lock and fasten doors is also important as sugar gliders are clever enough to open doors and let themselves free, thus exposing themselves to the possibility of danger.  Some cages tend to snag or injure toes and toenails.  Keep these issues in mind when selecting the right habitat for your pet.

Having a tall vertical cage outfitted with branches, vines/ropes for climbing, as well as toys will provide the necessary environmental enrichment to keep your glider active and entertained.  Toys with holes in them are very good for the exploring nature of the sugar glider.  Remember, in the wild sugar gliders will nest in tree hollows. Changing the location and variety of vines, ropes and toys will create additional stimulation and will help prevent boredom, especially if you have only one glider. 

Also it is very important to provide at least one nesting box and/or pouch, but I recommend two or more as the sugar gliders naturally enjoy moving their sleeping quarters from time to time.  The actual setup of the environment is referred to as environmental enrichment and it is a primary consideration at zoological institutions when creating new animal habitats.

An active glider is less likely to become obese.  Obesity is a major cause of health problems in sugar gliders.  As with humans, excess weight can lead to joint, heart and kidney problems, as well as causing the glider to tend towards lethargy.  Feeding and watering stations or platforms should be located at various locations in the cage to encourage exercise.

I do not recommend aquariums since it is difficult to obtain a vertical structure of the appropriate dimensions.  Additionally, sugar gliders cannot climb on glass walls.  Restricting their access to lots of climbing can cause a multitude of problems with sugar gliders, including inappropriate joint use, which could eventually cause damage to the joints.

Cages that are smaller or even near the minimum recommended sizes should include exercise type toys, like the Wodent Wheel for example.  If the cage space does not well accommodate the active nature of the sugar glider, then utilize the space in a manner that will still provide ample access to exercise by outfitting the cage with movement type toys and accessories.

Sugar gliders are nocturnal and many activities take place in the dark.  Outfitting the cage with a red light, which you turn on at night will allow you to observe the gliders without disturbing them with “white light” (i.e. room lighting).  This is the same technique used in nocturnal houses at zoological institutions. 

To keep your pet healthy you must keep the environment clean.  A full cage cleaning, including toys, branches and bedding should take place at least weekly and more if the enclosure is on the smaller side.  Food bowls and water bottles should be cleaned daily.

I send my wishes for good health to both you and your sugar gliders. I’ll see you again next month! 

Dr. C.

P.S. If you have any additional questions about this month’s article, send your inquiries by clicking here