Dear Arnold: How Do We Train our Humans?
by Arnold (with a little help from Lisa)
Arnold Ole Boy,
We’ze hope ya can hep us. We’ze just moved to a new house and thar’s sum new two leggers here that we dunno. Dey constantly staring at us and chasing roun our new habitat with their big gigantic hands and when we tell em to stop, they start squealing and making all sorts of noises and chatter that is getting us kinda freaked out.
Then when we get freaked out, dey get more freaked out and so we try our best to hide but they will pick up whatever we hiding in and shake it and poke their eyeballs in it, and make more noises. What does a guy have to do to get some peace and quiet in his home? I don’t think they mean no harm, but I can’t be sure cuz they sure do make a racket and they move so fast, we afraid we gonna get squished. They have anutter four legged runnin around this place too and they call him Marley. He smells and drool comes out of his mouth a lot and they keep inviting him to visit the door of our house? We not even friends! Whatsupwitdat?
Please Arnold, whatever ya can do man! We needs ya!
Zeus and Apollo
Hiya Zeus and Apollo!
Omigod! Is that really youz names? Nyuk nyuk. Worry not. Help is on the way boyz! Me Lisa is going to make sure this letter gets to your two leggers mail so they can see what concerns ya. I know ya can talk and you know ya can talk, but fact is it takes a special two legger to unnerstand us. They have trouble unnerstanding each other a lot of the time so don’t hold it against ’em ‘cuz they don’t always unnerstand us, OK? Now, I’m gonna ask Lisa to speak to em, cuz the two leggers might listen better (maybe) if it comes from another two legger! Lis, whatcha gotta say????
Thank you Arnold, Zeus and Apollo. The first thing I’m going to say to you boys is you just keep being who you are! I think sugar gliders, and all animals, are a lot more clear and honest about things than my species. You see, we still have some evolving to do. But I will now see what I can do to help my species better understand you…
We’ve spoken a lot in the past about bringing the best of ourselves to sugar gliders when we are first getting to know them. And I know how exciting it is to bring home new fuzzy family members, but our brand of excitement can often be misunderstood by animals.
What is going to make them feel most welcome to their new home is a calm and patient approach. Just imagine what it must be like to be them. All of this brand new stuff can seem very scary. Not only is there a new home, but there are new neighbors, and in this case, the new neighbors are both human and canine!
My suggestion when you first meet your new sugar gliders is to be present and not try to rush things; remember, good relationships take time to develop. Doing too much too fast can overwhelm our little friends. Moving slowly into the new situation puts the animals at ease and will likely build trust sooner. Trust equals bonding. Don’t be overly anxious to introduce them to your dog, cat or other pet.
Understand that nothing about sugar gliders is black and white. I could make a statement like NEVER, EVER introduce sugar gliders to any bird family members. But fact is, the majority of the time, this will end up bad…and usually for the bird. Some people feed sugar gliders pinky mice, yet we shared a story years ago where the sugar glider adopted the mouse as her friend and companion. This was not planned nor forced.
We have another correspondent that has a sugar glider that got with her birds and a miracle happened…he likes to sit on eggs! Hence, I try my very best to NEVER use words like NEVER and / or EVER because Nature will always find a way to defy the norm. But please understand that in most cases, certain relationships are likely to be adversarial and as such should be discouraged for the safety of all members of your family.
So what can you do to make this transition to a new home easy on your sugar gliders? Approach them slowly and softly. Be kind, gentle and understand it is you who must earn their trust, in spite of how they may respond to you in the beginning.
If you put something in the cage where they “hide” from you, don’t try to force them out of it. Instead, consider waiting until nightfall when they come out to eat and then remove those items from the cage that they can hide in. Forcing them out of a hiding place is going to create distrust, which is the opposite of what you want to happen for bonding.
Don’t be too anxious to introduce them to Marley. If your dog or cat has an established reputation with being good and respectful with small animals, then I suggest you first bond well with your sugar gliders. Once you have bonded with your sugar gliders, then proceed slowly with any other species introductions when you can hold your sugar glider – and protect it – from any sudden or unexpected responses from your other species. If you have other pets who have a bad reputation with small animals, then just accept that and do everything you can do to keep them separated; otherwise, you are defying a nature that you’ve already been made aware of.
If you do not know how your other pets will respond to a small animal, then make a well-informed decision before attempting to allow them to meet. For example, ferrets are natural hunters so their very nature is to “ferret out” and kill small animals. Your ferret and sugar gliders do not need to be friends. You can be friends with your sugar gliders and you can be friends with your ferrets, but they don’t need to be friends with each other. Most of we humans have friends that we don’t feel need to introduce to every other friend we have, right? For example, I have no expectation that my introverted peace loving friend will become close with my extroverted cousin, the gun collector. The only thing these two share in common is that they both know me. This same idea can apply to the variety of animals you share your home with. Your son’s python is best to stay in his room and not in his sister’s room anywhere near her gerbil friend.
When animals are responding to us in ways that are different from what we want them to be, we should begin by respecting their nature. Try approaching them like you’re going on a first time interview for your dream job! Bringing the best of yourself will go a long way to bringing you an incredible experience with some of nature’s exotic and beautiful creatures. It is a privilege we enjoy in keeping such animal’s in our home. Just as your children must earn their privileges through earning your trust, we must earn the privilege of better human / animal relationships by earning their trust!
Hope this helps!
Keeping Sugar Gliders Warm
by Arnold (with a little help from Lisa)
I know how bad heat rocks can be for my fuzzbutts, so that is DEFINITELY a no-no! But they sell a toy that is technically for cats, that you can toss into the microwave for a short amount of time just to toast it up. It doesn’t have any catnip in it, so I was wondering if I could use it for my baby- just so she and her joey can sleep on my tummy for TV time! Do you have any suggestions of what I could use instead?
How bout yer tummy? Isn’t it warm and soft? Why ya want them to be any warmer than dat? Ya see, a suggie’s body temperature is only a few degrees different from yers so too much heat can cause dehydration in our teeny bods. You’ve already gots the perfect warm spot and we fuzzbutts love to cuddle with warm living things! You know how we cuddle with each other? Well, yer our pal and we luvs to cuddle with you too! Me Lisa tree has a nice big, round, enormous warm tummy and I ………
….. ARNOLD, you behave yourself, little man! I would prefer discussion of my tummy not go on the internet, you little rascal. A girl’s tummy is a private thing!
Sowwy Mom! I tawt dis was a complement. OK then, over and out!
I am in the process of bonding with my first sugar glider, Ziggy. I’m been putting in a lot of time during the day with her and it seems to be going well, but she has started nipping me (tasting) when I pet her in the cage. By no mean is it grooming, I haven’t had her long enough for that. It’s just a taste, and what my question is, is it good sign? Is she getting over some fear? And what is the appropriate action? I’ve been just kind of taking it and slowly moving away if the nibbles keep happening. I’m new to this but I have to say I am quite attached and am just hoping I am making strides to get her as attached as I am.
P.S. thanks for all the help, your website is very informative. And having Arnold “write” some of the articles is hysterical. Just saying thanks and great work!
I don’t see tasting as a bad sign…it’s how gliders get to know their surroundings. Their eyesight is probably not so good, so the other senses are elevated (compared to ours), so a lot of what they “know” is from all of their senses. So in a way, I would say this is good as she’s getting to know you! Personally, I don’t necessarily like these tasting bites and sometimes it can be a sign of hunger. I often give them a treat, which may sound odd (…giving them a treat for biting), but you are not rewarding the bite, you are giving them an alternative that does not include your skin!
Don’t preclude this activity from Ziggy grooming you because it’s “too soon”. If she thinks you need grooming, even that can happen right away. Bites unaccompanied by crabbing all have a good and trust-based element, even if it doesn’t feel that good to you!
Thanks for your question!
Coconut Oil for Your Emergency Kit
Just wanted to keep you informed with what’s going on with my little guy’s tail. The closest health food store to me is easily an hour away, but luckily our Kroger has an awesome health food section because I was able to find coconut oil there and I was a bit nervous because I expected it to have a very strong scent, similar to tanning oil. To my surprise the oil hardly has any scent at all, I woke Max up and applied the oil to his tail and I think the fact that it was just a strange feeling is the only thing that attracted him to it. I kept him up for a little bit to make sure he didn’t bother it and once the tail seemed to dry out I let him go cuddle back up to Meiko. He hasn’t been bothering it since I got the oil for him and it’s looking a hundred times better. My adorable little pair seems to be right back on track to a long healthy life and honestly I think the extra attention that i had to give Max was very beneficial to our relationship.
This morning I had to go take care of a few things and as soon as I returned home Max was at the cage door to greet me. He’s gotten very fond of riding around the house on my shoulder, Meiko gets a little nervous when her human tree walks but she loves stretching out on the branches (my hands) and sleeping though. Max and Meiko get plenty of exercise outta their wheel and they seem to like grooming themselves in the tire rope swing that I made them. Thank you so much for all your help, I don’t even know how to express how grateful I am that you let us get these two bundles of joy from you.
Me, Max and Meiko
Dear Me, Max and Meiko,
For a couple of years, I’ve been playing around with different applications of organic coconut oil for small skin irritations and insect bites. For quite a few months now, I’ve asked several of our correspondents to try this as a way to help heal minor skin irritations with sugar gliders. We often hear from people whose glider is losing some hair on the tail.
Once we have ruled out that there are no potential diet issues that may be causing the hair loss, we next discuss any changes to the environment, such as the addition of a new cage, a new cage location, new toys, etc. We also ask if any other sugar gliders are experiencing similar symptoms. Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons. Click here to review a two-part series of articles that cover this topic.
Finding out the reason is one thing, and finding a solution is another, right? In situations where there is no extreme redness (as this could indicate infection), using coconut oil is a simple, safe solution that may provide some help. But if you suspect infection, please see a veterinarian right away.
Coconut oil can be useful for soothing minor skin irritations. When I have the occasional glider losing fur on the tail, I will check for any redness, and if its looks like only a mild irritation, I apply a tiny bit of coconut oil topically. One of the properties of this oil is it has a cooling effect, so the burning and itchiness that often accompanies skin irritations is immediately relieved.
It seems that the soothing qualities of the coconut oil discourages them from licking it off. But I recommend using a very modest amount and not leave a thick coat on the skin. Dab as little as you can into the skin where it will absorb. And then observe your sugar glider (and its habitat mates) for the first hour or so to determine that no one is trying to overgroom that area. If you see this happening, I would discourage you from continuing, as the overgrooming will likely compound the problem. In this case, I would recommend taking your glider to a veterinarian.
While it’s not a guaranteed fix for all skin issues, in the case of mild irritation in sugar gliders, it has been given two paws up!
‘Til next time, in good health for you and your gliders, we sign off in appreciation of all of you who share great glider adventures with us!