Frequently Asked Question:
Is it OK to take sugar gliders outdoors?

By Arnold

Well, it’s about time I got asked to be the question answerer.  Ya see, these humans parade around here like they are some kind of sugar glider x-perts or sumptin, and it’s not that they aren’t in tune with my every wish and whim, but ya see when its comes to gliders who would know better than a glider?  When it comes to gliders I’m practically a G-Nus.  

“Arnold, Debbie here, can you just tone it down a bit?  We all agree that you are a genius but it would really be quite helpful if you could just answer the question. We don’t have all day.”

Hehehehehe, that Debbie!  It’s nighttime now and she’s getting grumpy and I’m ready to rock and roll. But she does have a point so let’s get to the question du jour.

Ever since I was a tiny little guy, my humans would take me out to play.  We would play everywhere.  I remember when it was just me and Janine and Naomi together (before Buddy joined our clan) we would go outside every day around a time called dusk.  When this dusk started to come upon us, we would sit on the back deck at a table with a covery thing called a brella.  

This brella has a big long pole on it and a roof on the top of it.  Me and Janine and Naomi would run up and down the pole and spin on the toys hanging from the brella and have a big ‘ol time every dusk time.  I found out that there was a hole in top of the brella, so I would squeeze through the hole and then I would be on the top of the brella and Lisa would walk around the table looking for me and then I jump on her face. Well, we played this game for months until one day I found out I could jump all the way to the roof of the house.  Sniff sniff … now I’m on permanent time out even though I came right down for a perfect face landing.

But don’t take that to mean that I never gets to go outside any more.  I still gets to go outside a lot.  During the day I really like to travel with my human buddies.  I find a nice warm cuddly place in a pocket or in my pouch or in my human’s shirt.  I especially like being 
in Lisa’s shirt in a thingy called a sports bra.  It’s almost just like being with my real mommy.  Anywho, I hitchhike along lots during the day and I feel safe and comfy and not too adventurous, so I gets to do this a lot.  We do lots of things together during the day.  I nap
and my human cleans the house, or plays Frisbee with the dogs, or we goes to the grocery store … I know everybody at the grocery store.  My favorite person is the one who works with the fruits and veggies.  Or me and Lisa talk on the phone or answer e-mailys or play on the big lighted box in Lisa’s office.  When the big light in the sky is turned on, I’m just not that adventurous so my humans don’t worry about me doing silly things like jumping on the roof.

I kinda caught a little bit of a break on my permanent time out last year on a night called Halloween.  Lisa thought it was hysterically funny to tell these little funny looking two leggers that I was a bat and try to scare them.  We had an absolutely riotous time doing that.

These little short humans show up dressed all silly and stuff and they rings the doorbell and the only way to make them go away is to scare them or give them candy.  Well, I think I must’ve been a big hit, cause I scared so many little humans that they start telling their friends about me, then it seemed like millions of these little humans kept showing up and showing up and wanting to see the scary bat. We had so many of those short, fur-less two leggers that Lisa had to go see my friends at the grocery to buy extra supplies of candy so we could get them to go away.  If I’m on good behavior, maybe she’ll let me play that game again this year.

Then there was this other time that Lisa had some two leggers over for a visit and even though it was after dark, I was still taking a snooze in Lisa’s pocket, so we went outside to wave bye bye, and me got this really great idea. I jumped out of Lisa’s pocket and ran up a big ole tree.  Eeeeeek!  Omigosh!  What have I done?  I remember being up in that tree and wondering if this is what is what like for all me free range cuzzins in Australia.  This tree has a sway to it and I think I got real scared cuz I froze like a statue and couldn’t move.  I didn’t know what to do.  And then I look down on the ground and I see my Lisa with watery stuff coming out her eyes and saying stuff like “My Babee … Where’s my babee?  I can’t see him.  Omigosh! 
What have I done?”  Then Mr. David from next door comes over with a big giant ladder and climbs up the tree and I was saved!

Whew! It was fun and exciting and I really couldn’t help meself and guess what happened after that!  Now I’m on double permanent time out and I only gets to go outside when the big giant light in the sky is on.  I swear I don’t know what makes me do these things sometime. I just got the adventure bug in me and sometimes I just gotta go see what’s going on.

Well now I think I’ve really learned me lesson.  I get to come out of my habitat and play every night at nine o’clock.  Ya see, I know how to tell time.  It’s nine o’clock when the room service girl shows up to bring my din din.  That’s when you know its nine o’clock.  So I grab
a nibble, quench my thirst, take care of potty stuff, then I come out to play.  We live in a room that’s connected to another room, but there is no door.  I’ve learned to have lots of fun just in that room and I don’t ever leave it anymore.  

One night my human accidentally forgot to shut our habitat door before going off to slumber, and boy o boy did we have fun.  Me and Janine stayed in our own room and played and played and knocked stuff down and found old candy wrappers and wooooheeee, was it ever a party.  I told Buddy and Naomi they better stay cause if they waked up the humans we would all have to end the big party.  But noooooooooo, did Buddy and Naomi listen to me?  

Nosirreee … they ventured all the way to the other side of the house past the two big dogs and two slinky cats and woke Lisa up on purpose.  Well, next thing I know Lisa is screaming … “The kids are out!  The kids are out!  Close the toilet lids.”

I dunno what a toilet is, but Lisa ‘splained to me that lots of sugar gliders get drownd-ed in ’em cause we don’t know how to swim. Anywho, I thought she’d be mad at me and put me in time out again when she found me and Janine knocking all the shelf stuff down.  Go figure … she wasn’t even mad at all … she just held me and kissed me and kissed me and slobbered on me so bad I thought I was going to be drownd-ed like the poor sugar glider in the toilet.

Anywho, I’m still on permanent double time out.  I’m so glad its not triple time out cause of the big party we had.  And the way I look at it, if I can’t go outside at the dusky time anymore, then no other gliders should be allowed either … Cause sometimes we just can’t help ourselves.  

Seeya next month!

True Stories … Believe it or Not!
As submitted by real people and edited by Lisa.  At least #1…

Story #1: The glider that loves pinky mice!

After releasing last month’s newsletter and Dr. C’s article concerning metabolic bone disease, we received a rather bittersweet story from one of our subscribers.  David met and fell in love with sugar gliders at a flea market one day and just had to have a pair.  The guy who sold him the gliders told him to feed them cat food, bird seed and nuts … all the nuts they wanted.  Well, we all hopefully know that this is just about as bad of diet recommendation as there is and when David’s gliders started acting “sick” he brought both into the vet office.  

Unfortunately, it was too late for Poppers, but David’s quick thinking made it possible to save Tricksee by having appropriate veterinarian treatment and a radical diet change.  This vet recommended amongst other things that David begin feeding pinky mice to Tricksee to help compensate for the lack of protein in her “old” diet.  Well, much to David’s displeasure, he was willing to do this if it would help save Tricksee’s life.  So he went to the pet store and brought home a small baby mouse.  He put the baby mouse in with Tricksee but she would not eat it.  She just slept beside it, but because it was a pinky and not able to eat on its own, it ultimately died.  So this gave David an idea. 

He went back to the pet store and asked for a baby mouse, one that was out of the nest and eating on its own.  The pet store employee gave David a rather funny look, but said of course, so off David went with this new mouse not knowing what to expect when he got home. He put the mouse, now named Stewart, with Tricksee and Lo and Behold, Tricksee licked Stewart from nose to the back of his head. 

From then on Tricksee had her very own pet mouse.  Still feeling badly about Tricksee not having an appropriate mate, David saved up funds and brought home a new glider named Billy.  David also felt that Stewart should have a buddy when Billy came home, so he brought home a new baby mouse named Chocolate.  Well, once again David had a rather poor buying experience as Billy only survived for three days.  Now here Tricksee was all alone again, so David put Stewart and Chocolate back in with Tricksee.  And this is how they lived for the remaining life span of the little mice. 

Believe it or not?  David just moved to a new home and he said that once he finishes unpacking, he hopes to find the pictures of his amazing pets to share with us later on.  Thanks David!

Story # 2: A New Perfume instantly bonds gliders to humans!

Because Arnold sees himself as such a “G-Nus”, he has come up with an invention sure to take the sugar glider world by storm.  He has invented a new fragrance to be used by humans called “Eau de Mealworm” guaranteed to make all sugar gliders instantly bond with and love the human wearing the new designer scent.  As Arnold says “just spray it on and let the lovin’ begin”.  It’s a rather musky, earthy scent that sugar gliders simply cannot refuse.  It’s guaranteed to  work instantly or your money back.  Coming to high quality stores near you at a modest price of only $4,632 per ounce.  So don’t wait, pick some up now.

Believe it or not?  Yuk yuk yuk.

Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On… Behavioral Disorders

By Dr. C., of course! 

This month’s article focuses on common behavioral and medical problems observed in captive sugar gliders which can often be traced back to inappropriate husbandry.

First, let’s take a quick review on sugar glider natural history.  They are arboreal (live in trees) and nocturnal, climbing and gliding through the forests of Australia and New Guinea.  They spend the day in leafy nests usually in tree hollows.  Gliders eat a wide variety of foods in the wild including insects, plant gums, saps and pollen.  Their diet varies seasonally.  Sugar gliders are gregarious, living in groups containing more females than males.  The females are seasonally polyestrous and normally mate in June or July.  In captivity this does not hold true as females can breed all year.  The males are spermatogenic all year (meaning they are able to mate at any time). Females produce one or two young, which remain with the family group while maturing.

So what does the above mean in relation to your glider?  Sugar gliders are WILD animals.  They are not domesticated like a dog or a cat.  Let me again say, even though your glider was born in captivity it is a WILD animal.  Domestication takes generations upon generations to evolve (i.e. think cave men and dogs).  The fact that your glider is captive automatically causes some degree of stress, which is why good husbandry and mimicking key points of their natural history is so important.

For the ease of understanding we may anthropomorphize (i.e. give human characteristics and emotions) at times during this article.

Some stress-related conditions seen in captive sugar gliders are:

1) Alopecia or the loss of hair or bald patches.  This condition may be caused by self-barbaring.

2) Self mutilation of tail, limbs, scrotum or mating member and left unchecked could ultimately result in death.

3) Over-eating which tends to create lethargy and shortened life.

4) Under-eating which tends to lead to early demise due to nutritional deficiencies in the diet.

5) Polydipsia or drinking lots and lots of water without an associated medical reason.

6) Coprophagia or eating their own excrement.

7) Pacing back and forth.

8) Cannibalism of babies.

Before any of the above conditions can be considered behavioral in your glider a full medical checkup including blood work may be needed, as some medical conditions show the same or very 
similar signs.  And if the conditions are diagnosed as behavioral, medical treatment may be prescribed in some events.  For example, a self-mutilating glider may require antibiotics to ward off infection.

After it has been determined your glider’s problems are behavioral and not medical, it is time to inventory your husbandry knowledge in relation to keeping wild sugar gliders.  Keep in mind understanding the needs of these animals is the best means of preventing these sorts of disorders.  Is your cage big enough?  Remember that 2 or 3 gliders need more space than a single glider.  For my past article on housing requirements, click here.  Try to establish height rather than width as a main dimension.  Also remember to have “hollows” about for sleeping.  Sleeping pouches or nest boxes work well for this purpose.

Does the habitat contain enrichment vehicles like things to climb on and a wheel for exercise?  Do you “redecorate” the cage from time to time by moving toys and other items around?  Do you periodically add or subtract from the enrichment activities available to your glider? This variety is important to the mental well being of your pet.  It’s easy to become bored if everything is always the same and boredom is often the culprit of the behavioral disorders discussed above.

Is your glider lonely?  Gliders require lots of attention, when they are awake!  Carrying a sleeping glider around during the day in a pocket or pouch is not good enough.  They need to interact at night, during the time you want to sleep.  If you are unable to play with your glider, consider having 2 or 3 gliders as companions to your pet.  If you need additional information on how to successfully introduce new gliders to an existing pet, you can reference a past article here.  

In my practice, I find that solo gliders are the most likely to develop behavior-based afflictions.  Most people simply do not have the time to devote to the social needs of a single glider and I firmly advocate the keeping of multiple gliders as it is in their nature to crave constant companionship.  Those people who successfully keep single gliders often encounter issues while away on vacation or during other extended absences.  Once a bond is developed between a glider and human or group of humans, that glider comes to depend on consistent exposure to their “human colony”.  The stress of introducing new caretakers can often lead to temporary or permanent changes in behavior.

Boredom and loneliness both can lead to overeating, polydipsia, self- mutilating and pacing.  In males, neutering can help with self mutilation, especially if occurring on the scrotum or member.  Many of the behavioral disorders that captive gliders tend towards can have life-limiting consequences.  Gliders are happier in pairs or groups where they can play glider games and talk to each other (yap, chatter, trill, etc.) just as they would be able if living in the forests.

Remember, prevention is the best medicine and understanding the emotional needs of your sugar glider will ward off many unwelcome conditions.  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 and I will follow up on the frequently asked questions in a future edition of GliderVet Newsletter.