How do you know when your sugar gliders are bonded?

How Do You Know When Your Gliders are Bonded?
By Lisa

This is Part Six of the series on Bonding with Sugar Gliders.  The other parts are here: OneTwoThreeFourFive.

This is a question we hear frequently here at SunCoast and we will share our experiences with you on just the type of responses you can expect to see with these little wonders.

Bonding happens in stages. As we’ve said in the past, bonding is all about trust.  Gliders can learn to trust you a little, trust you a lot, or somewhere in between.  Keeping this in mind along with the fact that they all have unique personalities, we will generalize the type of behaviors that bonded gliders will exhibit.

I keep four gliders as my family members – Arnold (of course), Janine, Buddy and Naomi.  My boys are always the first out to greet me.  While we speak of Arnold a lot, all of these gliders are well bonded and live together in the same habitat.  And their personalities are like North, South, East and West.

Arnold or Buddy are always the first to stick their heads out of the pouch when I come to their home.  Even in the daytime, if I go in an open the cage and start speaking to them, the boys pop up like little jack in the boxes.  Arnold is the showboat of the group.  While he is the smallest, he is usually the first to wakeup, the first to eat and the first to want to come out to play.  He’s not really an alpha personality, as this colony of fuzzbutts all share in their meals and toy usage quite well.  

Now you might be thinking at this point, “well geez, you’re in the business, so you just kept all the nicest gliders for yourself!”  Fact is, three of my four pals were kept because they were “misfits”.  Arnold and Naomi were abandoned before their eyes opened.  Arnold has three feet – he had to have surgery when he was about six months old due to a product testing event gone awry.  This was before we sold our own pouches, and this event is in fact the reason we started developing our own glider products!  

Janine is blind in one eye.  Buddy is the only glider I kept because he was irresistibly adorable and cherub-like as a joey.  He is a giant now and so very gentle.

Arnold and Naomi were both bottle fed as youngsters, a practice we don’t recommend unless the animal’s life depends upon intervention.  Naomi is my moody little girl.  She has a definite cycle and PMS is part of it.  Normally she is quite docile and loving, but periodically, don’t wake her, or expect to crabbed at.   And if you’re a stranger, she may even bite if in the wrong mood.  I, of course, started working with Arnold and Naomi at very young ages as I needed to feed them initially on a two hour cycle.  If I had to rate their levels of “bondedness”, Arnold would be the best and Naomi the least.  She is still a total joy to be with, but I say this for one important reason.   Please do not get caught up in the hype of hand fed babies being the most tame!  I started bonding with Janine and Buddy at older ages and they are both awesome as well.

Here’s a summary of traits of each of these four critters:

Arnold will come to me when I call him.  He won’t bowl me over like my dog will, but when I call, his little radar ears start spinning around, he hops to position himself toward my direction, he poses for a moment, then he starts boinging.  What’s boinging?  It’s my word for an exaggerated hop, something like the old cartoon character Peppy La Pew would do.  It is so amazingly cute.  At night, Arnold isn’t very fond of being held.  He likes to run around a lot, but checks on me frequently.  He likes to play in my hair, run in and out of my shirt, he rarely sits still.  On an exceptional evening, he will sit between me and the arm of the couch and hunker down.  If I pet him, sometimes he will grab my finger with both hands and direct me to where he likes to be rubbed.  He’s an armpit boy.  Isn’t that funny?  He loves to be petted under his front legs.  Then when he’s had enough love, he’s off on another adventure.  The room we play in has had the doors removed, but rarely will he attempt to leave that room.  This room has become part of his extended territory and he covers every square inch of it.

Buddy will usually come to me when called, but he has an unusual habit of liking to run low around the room.  My other three gliders tend to stay on the couch or go up curtains, or jump from chair to chair, but Buddy is my floor runner.  Sometimes he likes to play hide and seek and will go under the couch or under pillows, but he loves to be held and scratched behind his ears.

Naomi is my moody girl. Sometimes she loves to be held and petted, sometimes she likes to find a spot on the bookshelf and just watch what the other’s are doing.  She never comes to me, but always tells me where she is.  If I call her, she will pop her head up and stay where she is.  I have to go to her and she will crawl on my hand and stay with me for awhile.  She’s the princess of the group.

Janine is my brooch.  She’s the least active of my gang and readily comes to me.  Wherever I put her on my body is where she tends to stay.  If I put her on my chest, that is where she will sit.  She totally loves full body massages.  She prefers to be up higher on my body than in my lap.  Most gliders are not content in a lap, but rather on a shoulder or under your hair.  I’ve met lots of people who’s gliders love to ride in the hoods of their hoodie pullovers.

Having gliders is like having two pets in one.  During the day, they tend to want to snuggle up somewhere on your body or in their bonding pouch and go back to sleep.  Three of my four will do just that.  Arnold tends to stay awake, but stays on my body.  Even his activity level is noticeably different.  He’s more content just to hang out during the day.

If I leave the play area when the gliders are out at night, Arnold does not want me to go.  He will jump on me and stay on my person until I return to the playroom.  Then he will immediately glide off of me to the same spot on the couch every time, and start exploring again.

Some interactive things we do are put the gliders up on the curtain rods, step back, and beckon them down to us.  This is a great way to capture those great “gliders gliding” photos!  My boys are more adept at gliding between two people, whether they know the people or not.  We start off close and take a small step back between each “glide” and see how far we can get them to jump.  Naomi will only do this with people she knows.  Janine would prefer not to jump at all (she’s a bit on the lazy side).

I get a lot of people asking if the gliders just fly around the house when let out.  Gliders don’t fly and a glide is really a glorified jump. When they jump, they put their front feet forward and back feet backward which stretches the patagium (gliding membrane).  Their jumps are very fast, but you will see them stretched out the higher and longer the jump is.  It’s hard to see a lot of great glides in a one story house; they can’t start high enough.

Can gliders learn tricks? To be perfectly honest, I’ve not really worked hard on tricks, but I have done a couple of things with Arnold and I feel quite confident that gliders can learn some minimal tricks with a bit of effort.  Arnold will do “high five” and he used to do another trick.  We haven’t tried it in awhile, but when the movie “The Green Mile” came out, one of the characters had a pet mouse that would push an empty spool across the floor.  I got Arnold doing that in less than ten minutes.  There were major treats waiting for him!

Gliders tend to be attracted to new things.  So it was easy to get his interest in the spool to try this.  I thought he could, because whenever he is in my office with me, he loves pushing pens and paper clips and anything he can off the desk onto the floor.  I think he also likes the way the computer keyboard feels under his little feet, but I discourage that due to poor potty habits!  Sometimes he’s on it quicker than I can do anything about it.  I take him off, he jumps back on.  Gliders are extreme creatures of habit and tend to repeat behavior patterns.

One evening I was sitting in my yard with two friends.  Arnold was just a youngster and I used to take him outside to play at dusk – I don’t do that anymore.  His curiosity got the best of him and he went straight up a tree one evening, this was one time he didn’t come when called and thank goodness my neighbor had a really really really tall ladder!  

Anyway, Arnold did the following maneuver four times in a row; this showed me just how smart they really are.  He ran down the front of my shirt and out my sleeve.  He jumped to the person on my left (which he knew) and ran in her sleeve, across her back and out of her other sleeve.  He then jumped to the person on her left (who he didn’t know) and ran over the top of her head, down her leg which she then lifted and pointed in my direction and he glided back to me.  He repeated this four times in a row!  I know I just repeated myself.  I guess Arnold trained me well…

Expect the unexpected with gliders!  And expect the process to grow with time.  It may take several weeks or a month to bond, but like fine wine, the bonding and interaction gets better and better.  Arnold and gang have been around for quite a few years now and they still find new ways to interact with me.

The first sign that your glider is bonding is when you come to the cage and they come toward the door to greet you.  This is more likely to happen at night, when they are already awake, but really well bonded gliders will come out even during the day and come to the door to greet.  Offering treats several times a day when you first start is great.  You don’t want to overdo it with treats so the diet stays balanced.  I will often give treats that are actually part of dinner. For example, on mealworm night, I will offer the worms by hand.  So while it’s a treat to the gliders, it’s part of a balanced nutrition plan.

Non bonded gliders tend to run away from you when you approach the cage.  We’ve offered lots of advice to how to get from Point A to Point B and remember that it is a process.  

Once they start approaching you, you know that process is moving on the right track.  Rarely do we encounter “aggressive” gliders.  But if the glider pounces on your hand when you open the door and bites like it means business, you may have one with a more aggressive nature.  This would be more likely with an older glider than a joey, and will take time and patience to befriend such a critter.  But even the feistier gliders can be made friends with if you start them off young.  Most gliders react from fear and tend to run away. Approaching you with curiosity is a great sign that your process is off to a good start.  

When you are first bonding you may encounter the situation of the glider jumping from you and bolting away.  When a glider first jumps off of you, don’t panic.  The patagium (gliding membrane) will spread out and they tend to land with a “splat”.  This is perfectly normal. Don’t give chase.  Just stand still and approach them slowly to scoop them up and bring them back to you!  If you give chase, you are likely to find out just how fast they are and just how quickly they can find a place to hide that may be most inconvenient for you to get them out of!

Always keep your gliders secure when you take them out of your home.  You can take them places with you while you are bonding and certainly after they are bonded.  We recommend the use of azippered bonding pouch for maximum safety.  Gliders early on in the bonding process, keep the pouch zippered and open it only in spaces where their potential escape won’t pose any problems.

If you are having issues getting past some nippy behavior or if you have new pet anxiety and are hesitant to hold them at first, use a “bonding blanket”.  Cut up an old sweatshirt that you’ve worn.  This is made of fleece and shouldn’t snag their nails.  You can also use an old baby blanket or scraps of fleece.  Cut it to a square smaller than a face cloth.  Make sure it has your scent on it.

Put this in the sleeping pouch with the gliders so that it becomes “theirs”.  Now when you go to take them out during the day, you have the blanket over your hand and you can scoop up the gliders (one at a time) in their own blanket.  You only need one blanket as you will be handling the gliders individually.  If you are still having problems getting your gliders remain calm in your presence, you may want to try our Original Bonding Potion to relax them.

The hardest part is just getting started and letting the process begin. Once bonding starts to happen, they will train you well to take care of their every need.  The more time you spend with them, the closer they will get to you.  They will each express their trust in you in their own unique way.  We trust this article will help you understand more clearly what bonded behavior is like!

‘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!