Starter Cages; When are Sugar Gliders Too Young to Adopt, Too Old to Bond?; Can Gliders Get Mad?

Dear Arnold: When to upgrade from starter cage? 
by Arnold

Dear Arnold,

I bought a new sugar glider and she came with a starter cage, a supply of food, some vitamins and a running wheel.  She is two months old.  I’ve been researching more about sugar gliders and I will eventually need to get a larger cage. 

When should I plan to do that?
Dear Justin,

Methinks you asked this question “justin” time!

What the heck is a starter cage anyway?  As ya know, we raise baby gliders here.  Baby sugar gliders don’t need a special size starter cage.  Methinks it’s best to just get ’em in a habitat they can be happy at for a long long time.  Ya see, movin ’em to a new home later just causes stress.  Stress on the suggies cuz they like their own space and big stress on your wallet cuz you ended up spending extra money you didn’t need to.

Most gliders (and even peeple) in the know agree that a minimum size housing should be at least three feet high and about the same or a bit smaller width.  But bigger is better and taller better than wider, because Gliders like to climb up high (like in a tree).  Most of our customers get a starter kit with a cage from us before their new joeys come home and some of ‘ em even start their new joeys off in our big super duper deluxe cage!

Also, it also sounds like ya only got ya one suggie.  Who is keeping her company other than you?  Puhleeze consider getting her a pal asap!  If ya wanna keep her at her happiest and healthiest, get her a habitat suitable for her needs and a pal to play with.

Got it?  And Justin, just in case ya need to know where to get super cool stuff fer gliders, come look me up.  I can hook ya up with Arnold tested and approved products and ideas!  Lots of peeps have companies that sell stuff fer sugar gliders, and they don’t even raise sugar gliders.  Nobody knows sugar gliders like sugar gliders do.

Otherwise it’s like asking a vegan how to cook a steak.  So ask a real pro, not some furless two legger that can’t even glide .. whadda they know?  Nyuk nyuk nyuk

Arnold, the Great Glidin’ Guru

When are Sugar Gliders Too Young to Adopt, Too Old to Bond? 
by Lisa

We get a lot of calls and emails from people who’ve made the decision to bring gliders into their home.  They’ve done their homework and are ready for the commitment.  And the question comes down to whether they should get young newly weaned sugar gliders, or give a good home to unwanted older gliders.

I think all sugar gliders deserve a good home, regardless of where they came from, how old they are, what their past history is, etc.  But you must make a decision that is going to meet with your personal expectations, and I hope to give you some general guidelines on what those expectations might be as you are making a decision on the age of the gliders you are prepared to accommodate.

Animals with sketchy histories either as a result of abuse or neglect are likely going to come with some behavioral challenges that may be a tall order for an unprepared human.  If you are looking for the ultimate pet experience, I think with most animals, the younger you can get them, the better the pet experience will be. 

If you are driven by admiration for the species and have a heart full of compassion and patience, you may derive great satisfaction in giving a home to older animals that haven’t found a permanent home yet.  If that’s the case, be fully prepared to supply them an environment that meets their needs both physically and emotionally.

It’s one thing to have animals as pets and an integrated part of your extended human and animal family.  Taking in previously unwanted animals is a completely different path.  While you may meet with a range of success in developing a relationship of trust with animals in this group, the rewards of giving a new chance in life to these animals may be enough for you.  

If you are expecting that unwanted animals will eventually become fully connected to you, your expectations may not be met.  In most cases, the best glider/human relationships are developed when the gliders are brought home as babies.  Now keep in mind here, I am not saying that you want to get them as young as you possibly can. There is a lower age limit – you don’t want to get them too young.  Eight weeks out of pouch is the accepted standard as the appropriate youngest age to get your sugar gliders.  Anything younger than that is not going to be fully weaned yet. 

It is best to let the weaning process happen naturally.  This is not only true because of the simple fact that Mother Nature can always do it better than we can, but this is also a time when a sugar glider learns to be a sugar glider.  Much of their behavior is learned. 

Spending time with other gliders, particularly parents, is going to affect the mental development of these tiny beings for their lifetime. It is fascinating to see how the parent’s teach their offspring how to eat, and also how they exhibit different behavior patterns towards offspring that teach them other life lessons as well. 

For example, pecking orders are an integral part of colony lifestyle.  I strongly suspect that sugar gliders taken from the parents too early produces adult gliders that often turn out to be bad parents.  It is well documented with dogs that pups taken from litters too early tend to have behavior related issues that can produce a lifetime of challenges.

Now, how do you know how old a baby sugar glider is when you find what you think are the perfect little companions?  How does a person not familiar with gliders tell the age?  Do you have enough trust, faith and confidence in the stated age by the breeder, pet store, private party or other vendor you may be dealing with?

I like to think that most of us are honest people, but I’ve had local people come by with gliders they were told were 8 weeks old and because of my experience, I can tell they are really only 4-5 weeks old.  If you get gliders too young, the risk of them dying on you early is greatly increased.  So here are some general guidelines that should apply in most cases. 

If you have an average sized hand, the body length (not including the tail) should be about the width of your hand, or slightly longer.  If the body is smaller than the width of your hand, that baby may be too young.  Also, the hair on the tail should be fluffy and full.  If the fur is laying somewhat flat on the tail, that baby is definitely too young.  Tails start getting pretty fluffy around 6 weeks out of pouch age, so flat tail hair is a sure sign the joey is too young to be leaving home.

On the flip side, we’ve had people call in claiming their joey was stated to be around 8 weeks out of pouch, and the body length exceed a hand length and goes half way up the fingers.  This is not a baby animal, this is a nearly fully grown sugar glider.  And if the glider is a male and starting to show the bald spot on top of the head, this is definitely not a baby.  The bald spot starts showing around 4-6 months out of pouch age.

These tips might help you make a few decisions on whether a person is being truthful or not about the gliders they are selling.  But my best advice goes like this: Trust your gut instinct and do some simple checking on the company that you are considering buying from. 

It’s pretty easy to Google almost anybody, any company or anything these days.  Make sure you are comfortable that you are getting sugar gliders from a company that is reputable and will guarantee the health of the animals you are getting.  

I hope some of this information helps you to verify the age of the animals you are getting is what you expect.  I call it the Goldilocks approach when seeking the best age sugar gliders.  You probably don’t want gliders that are too old.  You definitely don’t want gliders that are too young.  You want them to be just right!

I went on vacation and my glider got mad at me!
by Lisa

Hi Lisa, 

I have a 7 month old male glider named Cookie.  I adore this little rascal.  I am the primary caretaker of Cookie but I get help from my daughter and husband and my daughter’s fiancé when I need it.  I’m disabled at the moment so Cookie and I spend a lot of time together.

OK, now to the problem.  Recently my husband and I went on vacation and my daughter took care of the critters for me.  I asked her to come here rather than take them to her place so they wouldn’t go through the stress of an unknown environment.

After 2 days Cookie stopped eating and rarely came out of his sleeping bag.  I’m assuming it was separation anxiety since she works long hours and could only come by after work.  I came home 2 days early because I was terrified he was going to make himself sick. 

When we got back, I went straight to his cage and he crabbed at me. So I just sat and talked to him and finally he came to me.  When he climbed onto my hand he bit me and I don’t mean the little playful bites he does when I tickle his tummy, I mean he clamped down and held on.  I just gritted my teeth ’til he was finished. 

Then he sat there in the palm of my hand and made this noise that I can only describe as sounding like a high pitched “creak creak creak” very loudly, looking me dead in the eye.  I felt duly scolded.

He did start eating again as soon as I fawned all over him for a couple of hours but he didn’t play with me again for a couple of days.  He didn’t want his tummy rubs, he didn’t want to do tug-o-war, he didn’t play hide and seek in his cups on my bed, he ignored the tickles with the feathers, he wouldn’t play with his toy soldiers, nothing.  He would sit on my shoulder like usual but he was pouting and he wanted me to know it.  

Ok, now that I’ve written you the entire drama, here’s my question.  Soon I have to go in to the hospital for a while.  Is there anything I can do to keep him from stressing out so badly while I’m gone?  I’m afraid he’ll stop eating again and well, I can’t even think about what would happen then.  My family love him and play with him when they’re around but they work long hours and can’t spend a lot of time here.  That’s one reason he has imprinted on me so much, I’m always here.  I know he needs a companion and it’s in the plans but I just can’t afford another glider right now.  Any suggestions you have for me would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks for your time!

Angie C
Hi Angie,

This is a great question and one I think that goes to the heart of main reason I don’t suggest keeping gliders as solo pets.  This is, in my opinion, the main issue of solo-kept gliders being at high risk for behavior disorders.  You see, they tend to become overly dependent on one human to meet their social needs.  When that person is out of the picture, they often stop eating and I agree with you that I think he was mad that you left him.  When keeping two or more gliders, we don’t hear much about this sort of thing, but it is rather common with the solo gliders that have a strong relationship with one person.

I do think a companion glider for Cookie is your best bet along with the support of your family.  Keeping him in his space is helpful, but obviously wasn’t enough for Cookie.  Some gliders will stop eating and literally starve themselves to death.  Others may start over-grooming to the point of self mutilation. 

The fact is, none of us has a crystal ball and we never know when our own life events will make it impossible to care for our own animals. You might try the Sugar Glider Exchange on our website.  There are people out there looking to re-home sugar gliders.  Some people want to be reimbursed something for the sugar gliders and supplies, others are happy to just find a good home for them.  And following good quarantine and introduction procedures is highly recommended. You can access the Glider Exchange by clicking here.

You might even try contacting some rescue organizations as many charge very low adoption fees when re-homing animals.  Also, when I have retired gliders that I think would do well in a new home, I’ve offered that opportunity in the past.  I don’t have any now, but you also might contact other breeders and see if they have any retired gliders to give you, as many breeders are happy to help with a good cause like yours.

I hope the best for you personally along with a speedy recovery from your disability.  And I also hope you are able to find Cookie a permanent playmate.  That would be the best of all worlds.

‘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!