Playing with your Sugar Gliders
Below are comments I received on how people play with their gliders; each is followed by a response from me.
shannonlcorum: “I usually get mine out in my son’s room to play. Their cage is in there already so we put a towel in front of the door — to prevent escapees — and let them run around the room. At least one of us is in there the whole time to supervise. Usually me. They like to scale the curtains, leap to the bed or me, and explore just about every inch. Each one has their favorite space. My little girl loves to climb up the cords and under my son’s desk and either slip into one of the drawers or come out on top of the desk, behind the computer. I’m not sure what she finds so fascinating in the drawer, but that’s usually the first place we find her when she’s disappeared for a few minutes. My little boy loves the curtains. He climbs up one side, across the valence, then down the other side. I love when he’s behind the curtains and plays hide and seek with me. He’ll pop his head out from behind, wait until I see him, then duck back behind them and pop out from a different spot. We have a lot of fun.”
Lisa: This is a classic way that many of us play with our sugar gliders. Have a designated safe room for them, and let them make up the rules. You will find that each has it’s own game it wants to play. In my experience, finding their own favorite hangouts, and having patterns of behavior unique to each sugar glider is what it’s about. Thank you, shannonlcorum
Minnesota Zoo: “Feather teasers and drinking straws if they are in the cage I run them across the bars (or in the tent) and they chase them, grab them and sometimes “attack” them.
Forage for treats in a ball pit for tent time, I bring balls and weebles and a toy tree house into the tent too.
Jump from high place like curtain and shower rods or from the top of tent and land on me… it’s a fun game of back and forth.”
Lisa: I believe you told me about using plastic straws for interactive entertainment and I love the creativity you employ to keep them stimulated in ways that is true to their nature. And for everyone else, don’t worry about them chewing up plastic straws. This suggestion is an interactive play when you are there. If the straw you are using gets a bit worn, then use a new straw! Thank you, Minnesota Zoo
TJones09: “My girls love playing with my DH’s hair brush that we keep in a can or with the bowl of nail clippers when in the bathroom. One of Lulu’s favorite spots is my robe. Skadoosh used to love getting up as high as she could get, then glide down to me. But now she mostly likes to lick my feet or goes into my slipper (I leave on the floor)”
Lisa: TJones also posted up a lot of pictures to show us how her crazy gang of well groomed gliders play. The bathroom is a great designated glider room if you don’t have other safe space, or it just might be convenient. And while Skadoosh is a bit unusual in behavior to like the floor, as most gliders prefer height, I’ve seen this behavior as well and it just all goes to that particular animals preferences. Thank you, TJones09
teresaholcroft: “I still carry my girls with me in a bonding pouch during the day (while they sleep) when I can but when it comes to playing with them; my two girls get out for supervised “playtime” for 1.5 to 2 hours in the evening. Their cage is in a spare bedroom and I have glider-proofed (all the electrical outlets have the child safe plug covers on them , no cords exposed for them to chew on, no loose pictures on the walls that could fall if one of the gliders jump on it, no exposed nails sticking out of walls, cut pvc or a towel to push under closet and entry doors so gliders can’t get into closet or out of room, no glass sitting around that could get knocked off and broken, no sharp objects that a glider could glide to or land on and become injured, no trace of chocolate in room or any other food poisonous to gliders. I don’t keep live plants in their room, ceiling fan off (when they are out) so they can freely run around in it each evening while I act as their human tree.
They absolutely love playtime and cling to the side of the cage when they hear me enter the room. I absolutely love this time to watch them play and bond even closer with them. I open their cage door and they either jump to me or climb up my arm to get out. They hang out on me for awhile and then they are off and on me the remaining time they are out. Remmi likes to be up high and will not run around on the floor so I have toys and climbing objects placed up high, but I also have toys on the floor because Bella loves running around on the floor as well as climbing high. Both girls love to jump and glide from an object to me or visa versa and will often do it repeatedly. If they hear a strange noise or something startles them, they immediately run up my leg or glide to me and stay on my shoulder until they are reassured all is safe. I keep their cage door opened so they can go in and get food and water if they want. By the time playtime is over and they go back in their cage, they are usually ready for a nap. I will leave the room and return within 5 to 10 minutes to find them both fast asleep in their pouch.”
Lisa: Wow! Now this is a super Mom who has really hit so many of the key points on how to create a safe and stimulating place for playtime. There is little I can add to this, however, this does segue nicely into a Baby Arnold story about repeating patterns in play. One day a friend came to visit, and there were three of us at the house. Arnold knew two of us very well, but not this other person and he invented a game that had us laughing hysterically. There was myself, Suzanne (the new person) and Deb (a familiar person). Arnold was sitting on my shoulder underneath my Tshirt. He has always been very curious about strangers, particularly when they show up at “his house”. He ran across my back to my other shoulder stuck his head my sleeve to see Suze, who was sitting on my left. I told her to reach out her arm as he would quite likely jump to her, which he did, then she decided to stick out her leg and Arnold proceeded to run down her leg and jump to Deb. Deb put both arms out, which he then utilized her as a bridge to get back to me. He ran into my right shirtsleeve across my back, came out of my sleeve and jumped to Suze. He did this about six times in a row. He was literally showing off and the more we laughed and responded to his silly antics, the more he showed off. Thank you, teresaholcroft. I commend you for committing consistent daily time with your babies.
BandP: “We play in the bathroom, with noodles stuffed under the doors. One, Luna, goes straight for my husbands pj pockets and then likes to poke her head out at us and play peek-a-boo. Then after about 4 times of this, she disappears for the night into the depths of the pocket. The other one, Cheyenne, loves to run across my shoulders and jump onto the towel rack and disappear behind the towels. She is easily retrieved though, and comes out on my hand and then likes to either jump around and climb on the sink/mirrors, or disappear under my robe and crawl around under my shirt.”
Lisa: Noodles, now there’s an idea other than towels. Terry cloth can be a hazard with un-supervised sugar gliders as can noodles, but when in a safe place, and you want to block those spaces under doors, fine to use either under supervisioin. Gracias, BandP
pop123444: “We take our gliders out of the cage and let them crawl all over us and jump from person to person and get out some toys they like that they can’t have in their cage. They also like to chew on our apple tree limb we cut for them.”
Lisa: Jumping from human to human seems to amuse most sugar gliders and I hear a lot of people use apple trees. Even know one person that buys several small apple trees in pots just for the gliders’ amusement. She buys several because the gliders will tear them up eventually and the tree not likely to survive, but what a great natural enrichment for tree living critters. Merci, pop123444
dinah505: “I let my gliders run all over the drapes while I chase them with a feather or we play Peka-Boo in the curtains. Or they just play in my hair … we have tons of fun.”
Lisa: LOL … mine play in my hair too! My Mom stayed with me for nine months after Hurricane Katrina and she has very long hair that she puts up in a bun. They used to like to hide in her bun … much to Mom’s displeasure! But as she told me as a little girl, my house, my rules! Love me, love my sugar gliders! Grazie, dinah505
Longjump: “We let our gliders loose in my room. I t’s been glider proofed and Baby and Shadow love to play “where’s the glider in the bed sheets”? They’ll cover themselves up and jump out at you, land on you, before racing back to hide again. They also race up and down the sheets and explore the drawers.”
Lisa: Caution: Gliders that play in your hair, or in your bed sheets might go potty! I speaketh from experience here! Domo arigatou, Longjump
Typhoonkitty: “Jasper likes to run around chasing feathers or attempt to clean my clothes for me. Kiki and Buster haven’t got that far yet, but will occasionally attempt to catch a feather if I can lure them out of the pouch during tent time.”
Lisa: Back to my caution: Most of my sugar gliders like to dirty my clothes. Now a sugar glider that does laundry, that’s something special! Danke, Typhoonkitty
Nicolette J: “I sometimes use those “ticklers” to play with mine. I will take it and gently touch their heads with it until they try to grab it and then it turns into a tug of war game … lol … My young sugar glider just tries to take it from me though, and get to my hand to he has the whole thing. He doesn’t care to play, he just wants the toy all to himself.”
Lisa: Nicolette, I know what a glider fanatic you are and pardon me for saying so, but maybe he just doesn’t want to play with you! Maybe he wants to dangle the toy in front of you to watch you pounce and dance! Just sayin. (smile)
Stacey R: “They enjoy chasing my hands, when I glide them across the bed. I also rub their belly.”
Lisa: Rock on Stacey R., sugar gliders do like belly rubs, ear rubs, chin rubs, and Arnold … his favorite .. armpit rubs!
Wendy C.L.: “Petrie loves to play with my hair, she gets all up in it and roots around and makes a nest (which is hard to comb back out, but well worth it). Then she will go to sleep when she has it just right!”
Lisa: So what you’re saying Wendy is your sugar glider likes to play beauty parlor? Would love to see a picture of Petrie sleeping in your hair. Imagine the looks at the supermarket of the lady in the funny hat!
Katie Jo: “We play the “chair game” with my male. I’ll sit in my chair and he climbs down my back and up the chair and waits for me to come around to the back and then he jumps to me and I go and sit down and we do it all over again until he gets tired of it. We also do this with other furniture.”
Lisa: Katie Jo! I love it! You have found a way to interact with your sugar glider and get your own exercise at the same time!
Winter M: “Simply put, I am the human jungle gym. I put the monkeys (from monkeys in a barrel) in one of my outstretched hand and my 2 gliders love to one by one take the monkeys out of my hand and run all over me hanging them from my other hand, my ears, my glasses, it’s really funny!”
Lisa: Winter, I think you and Wendy C.L. should go shopping at the market together! You would be the best dressed there for sure! So we have a hairdresser and a couturier. And thanks for mentioning monkeys in a barrel, that has been a long term suggestion in the glider community. I had those in several different cages and they all played with them differently. They’re also great as in-cage reset toys.
Whitney H.V.: “My suggie has a little fleece frilly thing that I attach to my finger that she absolutely ADORES. Every night when I get her out we play with that. She loves to chase it and bite on it and climb all over my hand with it. We also have her wheel that she likes to get in, and sometimes she just enjoys jumping all over the place. It’s more about the quality of my company to her. She gets so hyper when I let her out!”
Lisa: Whitney, that little toy you have sounds similar to the “ring thing toys” SunCoast provides new customers with their first order! These little finger toys are constructed from leftover fleece scraps from our bonding pouches.
Bendy: “My gliders are getting old and boring. Playing like they used to is a thing of the past. Now, I let them into my shirt to sleep. One of them likes to preen or lick my forehead. I have no idea why. She’s always been affectionate.”
Lisa: Playing with my fuzzy household members or sharing affection is all good! Like all living things, gliders grow old and slow down. But even though their activity levels may slow down, they still look to us for affection – and we never get too old for love. So continue to enjoy your time with them!
Anne M: “Mine love to play with the kitties who stupidly go to sleep on the glider cage then wonder why they have no white whiskers. They also have a pompom ball pool that I have to refill every night and morning. Love my babies and their new joey. Mine also love to bounce all over me when I zip us into a tent so they can play in safety.”
Lisa: I laughed out loud when I saw this, Anne! I have had a cat that was a kind and gentle friend to my sugar gliders and I presently have a big dog that is the same. I’ve had other cats and dogs that I just have never let them interact with. It takes a lot of trust to let our sugar gliders have interspecies friends, but it can happen, and it usually happens naturally, not something we can really force.
Jaq D: “My gliders LOVE going into my hair and groom me. But a few months ago my female really bit my scalp a few times and “sap” came out. Now she has tasted my blood and wants MORE … and the boy started doing it soon after too! So now I try and avoid the let’s make mommy tree bald and play less hurtful games like feather chaser. I take any feathers that my bird shed (med sized parrot) and run it along their cage and they go CRAZY. That noise is almost as great as the yogurt drop sound! They like it more through the cage, poking their tummy and letting them grab it and try and get it through the bars. Other than that, since I don’t let them free roam since I don’t have a glider safe room to let them all go wild, I will have either one or two out at a time and let them have (supervised) ADVENTURE!”
Lisa: Omy Jaq! We do know sugar gliders are creature of habit and whether they develop a good habit or one we would prefer they not have, they are in fact habitual. Did you happen to change shampoo at this time? How do you look in baseball caps?!
Kristen K: “I let them run around in their room. They like to climb on furniture and glide/jump to me (Sadie would rather jump and climb than do a real glide). They like to explore and then randomly gallop across the room to me to check out Mommy Tree (and Daddy Tree, too!). We also have these wooden perches that came with a cage. We keep them as “climbing rods” and have them climb on them, then parade them around the room and point the rods at other objects for them to check out. They like to play with fingers, strings, zip-ties, and vine balls, pretty much like a cat.”
Shiloh’s favorite game it seems to groom the bejeebus out of me. It’s really sweet when he hops out of the pouch, puts his little hands on my face and starts licking my nose. But he soon gets overzealous and wants to clean inside my nostrils and get to my ears, lol.
If they’re in the pouch, they will literally climb and sit on top of each other for their turn at head rubs and belly rubs. It’s like, “Move over! You’ve had your turn! It’s my turn now!”
Lisa: Kristen, I know exactly what you’re saying, and they are so fast, you can’t always get them before they’re halfway up a nostril. Truly, silly little boogers!
Reita F: “I guess I’ve been doing things OK. I had been wondering how to “play” with my two fuzzbutts. They seem to do the playing and I guess I need to relax and trust them to come back to me when they want to jump away and then back to me. My male is difficult to catch until he wants to be caught. Any helpful ideas?”
Lisa: Reita, I’ve been asked the question many times over the years, but it was your request for advice that prompted me to go to Glider Central, Glider Gossip and our Facebook page to bring the broadest perspective. I hope this helps you and all new glider keepers understand more about the nature of glider play behaviors. As you read this, you will see there are a lot of common themes, but everyone has a little different twist, a little different experience and that is one of the coolest things about sugar gliders. They are each unique in their expression and creativity on your part will be met by their own brand of creativity!
You = Awesome, Me = Grateful
I am sorry we could not include everyone’s stories in this issue. Arnold has me under a deadline, and he said that there aren’t enough newsletters talking about playtime ‘cuz us hoomans are not yet as evolved as pretaurus breviceps! And I sincerely thank everyone who responded to our request to share your experiences.
Now get out there and play!
‘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!