Keeping Sugar Gliders with Other Pets
By Arnold (with a little help from Debbie)
Hi folks, Debbie here. We often get asked how sugar gliders get along with other pets in the household. Most sugar glider owners seem to have a menagerie of other critters, from the feathered kind, to the scaly type, to belly crawlers, to the more traditional canine and feline. So we went straight to the source and asked Arnold, our “old man” of the glider nest and the SunCoast mascot what he thinks of being around other household pets.
Take it away, Arnold……
Hi, my name is Arnold, and my best friend other than Lisa is Fais Do, a sixty five pound Lab-radorable Retriever. I’m know I’m not supposed to have chocolate, but Fais Do is chocolate .. Heheheheh. Anywho, Fais Do and I have some very special games we play together. She gets down on all fours and tickles me with her cold nose. Then I get on her back. She is my camel! Then we ride through the house together. When I’m ready to go play elsewhere, I get a good start from Fais Do’s tail, run up her back and boing right off her head into a full blown sugar glider glide. It’s a blast. You can see a picture of me ridin’ Fais Do here.
I also have a kitty cat named Bon Bon. Bon Bon is very lazy. She just likes to lay around and look beautiful. Sometimes I jump on Bon Bon and play in her fur. It is so long and thick and feels good!
Now it might sound to you like I’m great friends with everyone in my household, but you haven’t heard about the evil princess cat, Corey. I’m scared of her. She stares at me with those cold green eyes and makes yummy purrs. I’m not allowed to play with her at all.
And now we have a new Puppy. Her name is Georgia. I think one day Georgia and I will be great friends, but she’s such a silly puppy and I’m afraid her big giant paws are going to land on my little bitty head. Lisa said that could really hurt me, and I’m too cute to be hurt, so I stay away from the Puppy.
My advice to those of you who have lots of different pets is to get to know each one of us. Some of us pets are really cool and easy-going and would never hurt a fly. But some pets hurt other animals. I’m never allowed to play with my Puppy or my Kitty without one of those two-legged human animals around. I’m just a little guy, and other animals can play too rough. So if you are going to get a suggie like me, please make sure the big animals don’t pick on us . And if you have a Corey cat, make sure they don’t invite us little gliders to lunch!
Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says…On Glider Scent and Neutering Sugar Gliders
Sugar gliders are very social animals and in the wild live within family groups. They are very vocal, chattering and yapping to each other. Another important means of communicating is “marking”, using “scent glands”. The gliders use their scent to track who belongs around them and who doesn’t. This allows individuals to recognize each other and define territories. So the two primary forms of communication within the colony are vocal sounds they make and scent signals they leave behind.
All sugar gliders have glands for scent marking, but it is the adult male that produces the strongest scent and this is why many people choose to have their male sugar gliders neutered. The smell is musky, and some people find the odor rather unpleasant. Sugar glider scent is not as strong as ferret scent. Scent marking is a common way dominant adult males claim their territory and identify other members of the colony. If an unmarked sugar glider enters the male’s home area, it may be attacked.
As male sugar gliders approach the age of maturity, they will develop rather conspicuous scent glands on the top of their head (the frontal gland) and one on their chest (the sternal gland). As the frontal gland begins to develop, you will notice that the top of the head will appear to start balding. These two glands are the main sources of scent used for marking. The male rubs his head and chest on the other gliders and trees. In captivity, the male glider will use the same technique to mark his cage and objects in his cage with his scent.
Neutering a male sugar glider prevents full development of the scent glands, thus lessening the musky odor. You will notice over time that the scent glands will eventually shrink in size. Neutering also decreases aggression and territoriality as well. Your sugar glider’s personality will not change other than making him slightly calmer and less aggressive towards other animals.
Both males and females have minor glands on their feet, inside of their ears, corners of their mouths and near their rear. Females also have glands in their pouch. Both males and females have been known to mark each other with urine as well. But it is the glands in the mature male that produce the most odor, and the reason sugar glider owners consider neutering as an option.
Neutering is a minor surgical procedure that involves removing the testicles from the scrotal sac located where you would normally expect to see a belly button. The reproductive anatomy appears to be different in animals from the marsupial group, but everything works similarly as compared to other mammals. In other words, the neutering procedure is quite similar to the procedure that takes place with dogs and cats. A tiny incision is made to remove the testicles. This incision is then closed by using tissue glue or a suture (stitch). If a stitch is used, most veterinarians will use a suture material that will dissolve with time, so you do not have to return to the vet for removal of the stitch.
Neutering is also an efficient means of birth control. Keep in mind that if your sugar gliders do produce offspring that it is important to remove the offspring from the parents’ cage prior to the joeys becoming mature themselves. Offspring will breed back to parents and to each other. Many keepers of sugar gliders really want the experience of rearing joeys, but once sugar gliders start breeding, they can produce offspring two to three times a year. It is important to consider in advance how you will care for and provide housing for so many critters.
A sugar glider can be neutered at any age. The most effective age for odor reduction is before the glands fully develop. I generally recommend an age of five to six months out of the pouch. You can neuter sugar gliders at a very young age, however, it is harder to administer the right amount of anesthesia, and therefore I recommend waiting awhile. It is also easier to perform the procedure when the sugar glider is larger and more fully developed. I’ve also been asked several times if neutering “too early” can affect their overall growth. At this time, science has not proven a definitive answer, although so far no ill effects have been seen.
Your sugar glider will undergo general anesthesia meaning that he will be completely asleep during the procedure. He will be anesthetized both before and during the surgery. This is typically done using inhalation anesthesia, most often using the drug isoflurane. While it is always possible that complications could occur, “iso” is a very safe anesthesia and problems rarely occur. Your exotic animal veterinarian will have you withhold food for a few hours before surgery to prevent vomiting and possible aspiration.
When your glider’s procedure is complete, you will find that in most cases, very little extra care is required. Your vet will keep your glider warm and in a small area until he wakes up. Once awake, he will be able to go home and resume his normal activities. Generally, antibiotics are not prescribed unless your veterinarian sees something unusual that would require antibiotic treatment.
These types of decisions are based on the age and general health of the particular animal. It is important to have fresh food and water available when he returns to his habitat. The prices that veterinarians will charge vary from doctor to doctor and city to city. But to give you a general idea of what neutering costs, I charge my clients $89.00. I am a mobile veterinarian, but sorry, I don’t go any further than Pinellas County, FL.
See you next month!
P.S. If you have any additional questions about neutering your sugar glider, send your inquiries here.
and I will follow up on all frequently asked questions in a future edition of the GliderVet Newsletter.