Do Sugar Gliders Always Accept New Companions?

By Lisa

Here at SunCoast, we are firm believers that sugar gliders should have friends of their own kind.  It is their nature, as colony dwellers, to be highly social.  To try and keep sugar gliders as solo animals is to try and make them something they are not.

But what happens when you start with two gliders and at some point, one of them passes?  What is the best course of action to keep the surviving glider happy and content?  I wish there was an absolute answer to this question, but since we are dealing with animals that have such unique personalities, there is no “one size fits all” solution.

In most cases, bringing in a new buddy and following good introduction procedures can resolve the problem of a single, lonely glider.  It can get frustrating, however, when you go through the effort of finding a suitable companion to find out that no matter what you do, these two gliders continue to be incompatible.

Please do not let these comments discourage you from going forth with finding a new companion for a surviving sugar glider, particularly if you see any of the following behavior changes:

  • A significant decrease in eating
  • A significant increase in eating
  • Lethargy
  • The sugar glider does not come out as much

In other words, any general demeanor or behavior changes that indicate your sugar glider may be depressed is a cause for concern.
 Finding a companion glider may be critical to ensure the surviving animal’s continued well-being.  We hear far too many stories about a mate glider passing on, and within a month, the surviving glider passes away.  Depression in sugar gliders can reach critical levels.

When faced with this situation, our best advice is to spend as much time with the surviving glider as you possibly can.  Often, this extra attention will help alleviate some of the effects a sugar glider may experience after losing its friend.  But this solution is merely stop gap advice until you can bring a new glider in as a buddy.

I would like to offer some general guidelines for new companion selection.  It is very helpful to find a new companion animal that is close to the same age as the surviving glider.  You may also consider bringing in a new glider of the same sex as the glider that you’ve lost. We do not often have older gliders available at SunCoast, but we do offer a free service to help in this regard, if this is the route you choose to go. 

Another option is to go with a baby sugar glider.  Of course, you would have to let them grow up before you begin introductions, as gliders are quite territorial.  Bigger, older gliders may reject young gliders at first.  In fact, not only can older gliders harm the younger sugar glider, they also may possibly even kill it!

My best advice is to consider getting two young gliders and let them grow up together, with the intention of introducing the surviving glider to the two new gliders at the appropriate time.  I see this method as having several advantages, with only one disadvantage, which is that it may take longer for the surviving glider to get involved with new sugar glider friends.  In this case, you should continue to spend some additional time with the sugar glider until the time is appropriate to begin introducing new friends.

One advantage is that you can “start from scratch” with two babies that are quite likely to bond easier and better to you than an older glider.  If you do not care about a new glider bonding to you as much as to your surviving glider, then go with another older glider, which will be the most expeditious route.  Another advantage of starting with two young ones is that you don’t end up with two solo gliders waiting for the right time to be introduced, which reduces stress on the young gliders because they have the security of a buddy during this time frame.  And lastly, if you are in that rare group where introductions simply do not work, you do not ultimately end up with two single depressed gliders.

Following the right introduction procedures typically gets new gliders to accept each other.  It is rare that they won’t, but it’s something you should be aware of before beginning the process!

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!

Hey Arnold!!!,

We were wondering if we could swim.  Our human mommy is very particular about making sure the aquariums are completely covered and all the potty seats are down every night before she goes to bed. See, we sometimes like to escape during the night and glide around the house and we sometimes even like to find mommy’s bedroom and climb on her while she sleeps!!

We see our mommy climbing into this big ‘ol black thing that is filled with a clear liquid and she seems to be really relaxed while she is in this thing.  How come she always tells our daddy to come get us if we go in there??  Mommy says she is taking a bath, and she says we aren’t allowed in there.  Is that true?? Mommy says she doesn’t know if we can swim, but we’ve never had the chance to find out.

We understand what mommy says about getting into that potty thing and not being able to get out….that’s scary!!  But if we did jump into the bath place with her, would we be able to swim, or would we sink like sharpeis (ya know, those doggies with lots of wrinkly skin)?!?

One more thing….mommy says we don’t need baths, but she does it every night.  How come she does it every night, but we don’t?  Even though we don’t need baths, can we play in the bath with mommy??

Abigail, Hanz, Jigga, Randall, and 
just OOP 4/20, baby Scrat 
p.s. Hey Arnold…this is Abigail….and guess what?!? I’m three legged too!! You are soooo cool!! Bye bye!!

Hey Abigail, Hanz, Jigga, Randall and Scrat!

The answer to yer question is NO!  We cannot swim, cuz we don’t have flippers and we don’t have fins.  If we were meant to swim, I’m sure we would have flippers or fins fer sure!  The only thing we really like about water is to drink it!

And ’bout that bath thing, the reason your Mommy needs a bath is cuz she stinks … see we don’t stink cuz we have self cleaning talents. Now the hoomans might thing that we stink, but we know that it’s really them that stinks.  They obviously know this cuz they takes baths every day and we don’t!  So there!

And to you lovely Abigail … I’m delighted to make the acquaintance of such a lovely lady tripod like you – a Sheila after this bloke’s heart!

Hugs and Kisses,


Hi Arnold,

I just wrote to tell you that I am itching to get the gliders, I find myself lying awake at night thinking about them.  And I have stopped talking to my girlfriend about them because she is almost sick of hearing about it.  She will understand once they arrive, though, after all I told her she could name the female.

I seem to be spending every free second online looking up stories or just random info about them so that I will be completely prepared for when they arrive.  I took the cage I got from the pet store back and ordered one from you guys, it was a little bigger and it looked better made.  All right well I have to go to class just thought I should email you and see if you had any idea about a cure for the sugarglideritis, at least something to lessen the symptoms maybe.

You have been so much help, thank you, 
Lee McCarthy 
Edmond, OK

Dear Lee
It is an incurable disease … but you can go into remission by letting a couple of gliders keep you!

We also suggest that you consider Sugar Gliders Anonymous, ya know, the 5 step program. We only have five steps ‘cuz we only have five fingers, see?

1. We admitted we were powerless over sugar gliders. 
2. Came to believe that Fuzz Power is greater than ourselves and could restore us to sanity. 
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of sugar gliders. 
4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of all cool sugar glider toys and snacks available in the universe. 
5. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive sugar glider addicts and to practice these principles in all our animal affairs.

You can do it, Lee!  There have been many others walking these steps before you and have managed to keep their jobs, keep their friends and keep their sanity!  If you need to find a meeting, they are only held during the day, cuz all the peeples who need to do this need to be back home at night to care for their suggies!  Hehehehehe!!!

Luvya Lee!
Your pal, Arnold the Glidin’ Guru

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.

Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On… Feeding Bugs and Lizards from Your Yard

by Dr. C, of course!

There are three primary reasons that I will discuss today to explain why I discourage you from feeding bugs, lizards and other small critters from your backyard to your sugar gliders.

Let’s first discuss the biological viewpoint and review animal adaptability.  Animals from different regions of the world adapt to the environment in which they inhabit.  In other words, they must acclimate to the temperatures of the region, the plant life, and the other animal life.  This is nature’s way of instilling survival in the wild.

To look at this in a very fundamental manner, there may be plants and bugs that carry low level toxicity, but through the process of adapting, predator animals will build immunities to this low-level toxicity, allowing them to consume such items without ill effect.

When exotic animals are kept as pets in areas of the world where they are not indigenous, they have not had the chance to adapt to the flora and fauna of the region.  So do not assume that just because the native birds and other animals that inhabit your yard can eat certain bugs, that your sugar gliders can eat them as well, as this may not be the true.

Case in point, many pest control companies that provide periodic service to homes will change the pesticide formula they use on each visit, as the bugs in your home will eventually become immune to certain chemicals if used continuously.  By changing formulas, the unwanted bugs can be eradicated more efficiently, as nature has endowed many animals with the ability to adapt to toxic chemicals.

My next concern is in the nutritional value of the different bugs, snails, worms, lizards, etc. that may inhabit your yard.  Keeping your sugar gliders’ diet nutritionally balanced is the most important thing you can do to promote their long term health and well being.  Take worms, for example.  There are so many different types of worms in the animal kingdom and each carries a different nutritional value.  So just because we’ve found that mealworms are a good food choice to feed sugar gliders on an occasional basis, this does not automatically translate that silkworms, earthworms and other types of worms are good choices for gliders.  The fat contents may be very high, or the worm may carry its own poison defense mechanism, as examples.

My primary concern with the practice of feeding “backyard bugs” is the high likelihood that these insects and other animals may have come into contact with pesticides, herbicides and other toxic chemicals.  Just because you may not use any chemicals in your home or yard does not mean that your neighbor does not engage in this practice.  And your neighbor’s bugs will visit your yard.  Even if you live on large acreage in the country and know for a fact that no chemicals are used near your property, you should still be concerned with bacteria effects from bugs that may have come in contact with other animal feces.

There are also regions of the country where the local government authorizes chemical mosquito control.  This is more likely to occur in more rural areas and these “fog trucks” will usually spray their chemicals very late at night, so you may not even be aware that your property is being treated with pesticides.

While we are on this topic, it’s a great time to answer another frequently asked question about keeping sugar gliders outdoors.  My reasons for discouraging you from doing this are directly related to the possibility of gliders eating toxic bugs, and my advice is that you do not keep your gliders outdoors.  Here in Florida where we are based, many homes have screened in patios.  We’ve had direct contact with several Florida residents whose gliders started displaying neurological disorders, and the assumption in many of these cases was that the gliders ate something that caused a toxic reaction.  While I was not the treating veterinarian on these cases, I can easily understand how this could be the case.

If a bug or lizard gets into your gliders’ cage, you can assume that the gliders will eat it, since it is their nature to eat bugs and other small animals.  Many pet owners will bring pet birds outdoors during the day for fresh air and sunshine, but I do not recommend this for nocturnal animals like sugar gliders.

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.  
(Janine M Cianciolo, DVM)