Sugar Glider Leashes, Bonding # 2, Breeding Gliders # 1

This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
Hi Gang!  Lisa here, and welcome to our November issue of the GliderVet Newsletter.  Wow, we have a lot of stuff we want to cover this month.  We had a record number of comments and questions in response to the October newsletter.  Bonding is such a major topic of discussion, and as promised we will be bringing you another month of bonding information.  I expect we will continue this series for several more months to come …. After all, that is what you are asking for and that is what you will get!  Let’s face it … those of us who are willing to take the time it takes to bond well with our fuzzy butts and take the time to keep that relationship building are the humans who will maximize our enjoyment of sugar glider stewardship. 

While most of the mail we received this month were questions and stories related to the bonding issue, we also received a significant amount of correspondence on our comments regarding the use
of heat rocks in glider cages.  As the winter months approach, it is important that you make the appropriate provisions to keep your glider warm and cozy.  If you missed last month’s newsletter discussing the dangers of using heat rocks in the glider’s habitat, please click here.   But to quickly recap last month’s comments, we recommended the use of ceramic heat lamps – sometimes called “emitters” – they do not blow air like space heaters do (sugar gliders don’t like drafts or air blowing in their direction) and humidifiers. 

Quite a lot of people either had difficulty locating ceramic heat lamps in their pet stores or were not sure exactly what the product was.  So we went out and purchased some of these devices with a few  accessories.  If you still need one, get the full details on the product and take advantage of a super package deal price by clicking here.  By the way, if you haven’t checked out our store recently, we’ve overhauled our shopping cart and while the store pretty much looks the same, our new cart system can now remember your name and shipping info and provides more shipping options.  Our order processing is now super duper fast – and you can even use your “back” button in the shopping cart now!

We’ve also received e-mails from several people who have attempted to use the Reptarium as a permanent sugar glider home!  Here’s a brief comment from Russ.  His comments were typical of the feedback we received:  “I am getting the (new) cage because although the Reptarium is GREAT, there are some problems … as you have pointed out.  The gliders can chew through it, and in fact, the fabric after time, absorbs more and more of the odor.”  Bottom line is that our recommendation remains that the Reptarium is quite useful as a temporary cage or a travel cage, but please reconsider its use as a permanent habitat.

Whew!  Now that we’ve looked back a bit at last month, let’s look forward to what this month’s newsletter brings!  Once again, our most qualified question answerer, Mr. Arnold T. Shwarzenglider, will respond to this month’s FAQ (Frequently Asked Question).  And as you know, Arnold can’t really type, so I have the honor of helping out Arnold this month, which is usually Debbie’s privilege.  But Debbie and Dr. C have put together a new series for your enjoyment and education on breeding.  Dr. C can certainly tell us the important health, habitat and nutrition issues that we should consider when breeding and raising sugar gliders.  Dr. C also felt it was important to include practical knowledge that she believes only a good breeder can provide via experiences and insight.

I just want to remind everybody that this newsletter is intended to express the wishes of the whole sugar glider community.  We thank everyone who has taken the time to write us with so many great ideas for future topics of discussion.  In time, we hope to address each and every one.  Sugar gliders are increasing in popularity at a rather rapid rate.  Those of us who keep gliders already know that our critters are not really hard animals to keep, but they are quite 
demanding.  Sugar gliders are by no means the right pet for every household.  As a community, I hope that we can continue to grow a solid body of information that can be accessed by anyone interested in learning more about our fine furry’ed friends.  Please continue to submit your stories of interest, your burning questions, your funny sugar glider tails (I mean tales) or anything else that you believe will further the education and enjoyment of keeping sugar gliders as pets. Send your comments here.

If you ever want to find earlier issues of GliderVet News, you can access our archives here.  Fun pics of sugar gliders sent in by our customers are found here.  If you are looking for sugar glider tested and approved products, check out our ever expanding store here.

Are you new to sugar gliders or just in the early stages of trying to decide if one is right for you?  Questions you can ask yourself to help make this very important and long term decision are here.   A very confusing area for those considering glider ownership (and for
some current owners too!) is diet.  See what our vet has to say here.  And if you decide that a sugar glider (or two!) would become future members of your household, then you might want to check out Arnold’s great deals on starter kits, with or without cages.

Are you looking for other sources of great sugar glider information? You may want to check out the Glider Central message board here!

Frequently Asked Question:
Do leashes / harnesses work well for sugar gliders?

By Arnold (with a little help from Lisa)

“Hi Arnold!”

“Back at ya Lisee!  I wishes Deb was here right now, but I’m glad to have you on board in her place.  I know she has important stuff to do with Dr. C.”

“Hey Arn … I have a funny for you.

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Arn who?
Arn ya gonna tell more jokes this month?

Yuk yuk yuk … hehehehe.

Well, if you insist … what does an old glider use to help get around? 

I dunno, Arnold, what?

A Sugar Cane!

Hee hee hee .. ha ha ha … Bark bark!

“Arnold … Lisa … It’s Debbie here.  Now I can’t keep my eyes on you two all the time.  Please get to the question!  This is a serious and important question and people don’t have all day!”

Hmmmm, uh huh … ok … me guess you’re right.  This really is very important.  But ya know, I really would rather be silly, have fun and tell jokes than have to talk about stuff that can be harmful to me fellow glider mates.  But the fact is, sometimes the big humans will buy stuff for their suggies and think it’s a good thing, without realizin’ that the thing they bought is really a bad thing.

Now let me ‘splain here a bit.  Leashes and harnesses are used for lots and lots of different pets and some pets actually even like to have them cause it makes ’em feel safe and secure.  Some pets even need to have them cause they are pets that learn to do something called O Bay … Now sugar gliders don’t know nuthin’ about this O Bay bizness … O Bay don’t you see .. it’s a game not for me … hmmm, I think there’s a song in here somewhere … But anywho, sugar meisters hate, I mean loathe, I mean deplore, and otherwise generally dislike anything that is restrictive on the body.  If you are into being squeezed tightly, then fine .. get yourself one of them big snakes … I think they called boa constrictors … and let that bad boy wrap itself tightly around your body, and see how you like it … Me guesses that most of ya would not like it a lot!  So why do you want to wrap up your suggie in a tight little harness thingy?  I promise, most of us won’t like it at all.

Now the first question me asks me self is why would a human want to do that to their friend?  Have you ever actually seen these contraptions?  It’s really nothing more than some heavy string stuff that wraps around a suggie’s body.  Well me and my Lisa have discussed this and Lisa told me that people want them so their sugar gliders don’t run away.  Well, if you know stuff about us glider’s then you know that we really like to stay with our human when our human is nice and kind to us and we gets real bonded.  

But if you as a human don’t trust us to be good little suggies and stay near our tree (that’s what we call you humans), then by all means get a zippered bonding pouch.  During the day, we are quite happy to stay in the nice dark, warm and cozy pouch and snooze.  During the day we don’t like to be out exposed in the light.  So what’s the point of this harness leash thing?  You want to wrap our body in this uncomfortable contraption and then have us sit on your shoulder looking all cute and such, while we are miserable and in the light?  Yeah, that sounds like fun.  Sign me up!  NOT!  I promise, we will be much happier and much safer in a pouch!

Now as you know we don’t just have unfounded opinion ’round these parts.  We would never express an opinion good or bad without checking this stuff out first.  So Lisa, much to my displeasure, got some of the leash things, and she actually tried to put that bad idea on ME … ME, of all gliders!  I was shocked and upset.  I wriggled around so much … I was bound and determined not to be bound!  Ya know I’m a pretty cooperative little feller when it comes to my Lisa, but I said No Way Jose’!  I’d let her give me a bath before I’d wear that silly thing. Then I start hearing these horror stories about people that made their gliders wear the leash, and guess what… The gliders got so upset that when they made the fight against this contraption, it actually tore their patagium (that’s a fancy word for our wings …) OUCH!  I can’t even imagine how much that would hurt.

Then another time, we let a friend of ours take a leash home to try on her suggies, this was before Lisa learned the right lesson.  Our friend tried to use the leash on her glider Laki … Laki just sat on her shoulder, which he did by himself anyway, and without her knowing it, he just chewed right through that sucker and Laki’s human didn’t even know it right away.  So much for security … Laki could’ve have jumped off and run away at any time if he wanted to … but ya see, he didn’t want to.  Laki’s human got him a zippered bonding pouch soon after and now both Laki and Laki’s human feel much more secure about things.

Just cause us gliders have hearts like your friend the dog, don’t think we want to be treated like a dog.  After all, does your dog sit on your shoulder or in your pocket when you go out and about?  Would you expect your suggie to walk on the ground right next to your side? Geez, most humans I know don’t hardly even let their suggies feet hit the ground at all … When you are as cute, cuddly and adorable as me, then you should carry me and pamper me in ways that make me feel good.  What’s so hard about that?

It really just gets me last nerve sometimes when people out there just try to sell stuff to other peoples with little regard on whether or not its safe for us critters.  If you are ever in doubt about a thing, just write to us and/or check out Glider Central where lots of people are always available to share an honest opinion.  All I ask is that you at least ask someone who knows us suggies well … maybe your pet shop operator knows us well and maybe they don’t … if you are not sure, then go to a source that you can be sure with.  We needs ya to look out for us cause we can’t read the packaging by ourselves!

Now before me signs off, I have a question for you.  When humans go to sleep its called nighty night … do gliders go dayty day?  Sometimes I have a bit of trouble with the English language cause ya see we’re originally from Australia where they only speak Australian … Yuk yuk yuk

Glide high and land softly!

Yours truly,

Lisa here: Arnold wants your help!  Coming soon we will make available a new web page describing products and food commonly used for sugar gliders but proven to be unsafe.  The driving force behind this page will be a consensus opinion reflective of the beliefs of the glider community as a whole.  Those of us who have been involved with sugar gliders for awhile and are actively involved in the community are aware of only what some of these products are!  We want your product reviews and comments on popular items used for sugar gliders that have proven to be ultimate health hazards.  

Pet shops and others will often promote products merely to create another sale with little regard to the well being of the glider.  However, we believe this is more due to lack of understanding and not a malicious intent on anyone’s part to deceive.  It is simply our intent to educate.  Submissions will be reviewed by an independent committee sponsored by SunCoast (including Dr. C. by the way).  We will procure questionable products and inspect them to ensure these reviews are indicative of true health hazards and not merely the subject of isolated incidents that may have been experienced by just a few individuals under unique circumstances.

We welcome comments on products made for sugar gliders, products made for other pets but commonly used for sugar gliders, and commonly used food items.  We are often asked questions like “what should I avoid feeding my sugar glider?”  Please help Arnold create a cool new page that could help promote higher levels of safety and health for all his friends.  One issue we’d like your input on is baby meat sticks – have you used them?  Can you think of others?  Comments that we will not address are injuries related to normal wear and tear of otherwise good products.  It’s up to us humans to inspect and ensure that our gliders’ stuff is not getting worn out and becoming a hazard.  Please send your contributions here.

Bonding with New Gliders – Part Two
By Lisa and Debbie

If you did not see Part 1 on bonding and want to catch up a bit, justclick here.  And for those of you who did read last month’s, then I will just remind you that the topic was attitude … human attitude that is …certainly an important factor in getting the bonding process moving along well.  More advice on Bonding with Sugar Gliders can be found in Parts ThreeFourFive and Six

Since we started with a human attribute last time, then it only makes sense that we proceed with the most important glider attribute this time.  From our own experiences and the corroborated experiences of many others, I think most of us would agree that the glider bonds primarily by scent.  Your glider will come to know you, not so much by the way you look or sound, but by the way you smell.

So you got your first glider (or two) and you are just starting the all important beginning of your relationship.  When most gliders come into a new home, everything they are used to is different.  The smells are different, the sounds are different, the lighting may be different, and the climate may be different.  Critters that are territorial by nature need time to adjust to these changes.  The fact that the human is different is just another change factor that the glider must get used to. 

Since gliders bond by scent, there are a variety of things that you can do to help expedite the process.  First off, you want to let your new glider settle into its new home for a day or two just so it can get used to the area.  But this is not to say that you cannot begin bonding  with your new pet immediately.  To do this, you will want to place stuff that smells like you in or on the cage.  Some techniques commonly employed are as follows:

Place a T-shirt you have worn in the cage.  It does not appear that exposing  gliders to more than one human scent creates any confusion for the glider during this process.  Wear a big oversized shirt overnight while sleeping.  Use this shirt to cover the glider’s home during the bonding process.  Also, wear this same shirt when actually handling the gliders so that it will carry your scent and the glider’s scent intermingled.

Take a paper towel or small swatch of fleece.  Rub it on your face or skin (preferably where the skin is more oily).  Place this “bonding blanket” in the sleeping pouches with your gliders.  If at all possible, you will want to procure your glider from a person or organization that frequently handles the gliders.  At least this way the glider is unafraid of human handling.  Keep in mind, however, that when the glider comes to you, it still needs to get used to you.  It is not unusual for us to have people come personally pick up their baby gliders. Our practice is to let the gliders pick out their new human whenever we possibly can.  While the baby gliders may handle beautifully for their new parent while on our property, it is not that uncommon that the baby “freaks out” when it gets back to its new home.  An hour or two is not enough time to bond, and whenever a glider is moved to a new location, there is bound to be a settling in period.

Case Study: Arnold, Naomi, Janine and Buddy used to live in a large cage in the “nursery” with all of our baby gliders.  The “nursery” is a small apartment attached to our residence.  We keep this room quite warm.  When Arnold and Gang got their new deluxe cage, we moved them all to “the big house”.  Due to the temperature changes, and likely the difference in smells due to the dogs, cats, and birds that live inside, we hardly saw any of these four gliders for nearly a 
week.  They needed to acclimate to the new surroundings even though they were technically still in the same house with the same people.  Never underestimate their sensitivity to change.  Once
acclimated though, everything returned to normal.

Be aware of personal hygiene products and household products that can hide or change normal scents.  On many occasions, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to glider people with bonded gliders that decided to become “mean” suddenly.  This happens a lot when a human changes cologne, deodorant, or even soap.  Hand lotions and body creams can confuse the glider as to who it is really dealing with.  The primary method of recognition is scent.  If you smell different, you are different to the glider.  This is why our critter-calming Original Bonding Potion scent is very light and disappears within 15 minutes.

Case Study: Just this week, we both quit smoking.  L’il Buddy and Naomi both went through a couple of nights of no longer recognizing Debbie.  Buddy is a glider that we’ve never heard crab before in his whole life.  Not only did he crab at Debbie, but he nipped her as well…
needless to say, this was quite shocking and unexpected behavior … After all, Debbie is the Mistress of Marsupials.  But moments later, we both begun to realize that due to stopping smoking, they no longer recognized us.  So be aware that when you make changes in personal habits, your glider is not necessarily freaking out on you, it’s just taking notice of a change you may not be consciously aware of.

The same thing goes for using spray air conditioners, candles, incense and other air freshening products.  We use all of the above fairly often … but we do try and use the same type of candle or same type of animal safe air freshener, so as the keep some consistency in the environment.  Do be aware, however, that the glider has tiny lungs, so be careful of what you put in the air.  It could cause pulmonary inflammation even if it does not adversely affect behavior patterns.  If your gliders seem to have a strange or unpredictable reaction to you,  ask yourself first: is there anything that I did to change the smells around my gliders?  It is not common for a glider to behave unexpectedly without a logical explanation for the change in behavior.

Next month:
Does the age of the glider matter when it comes to bonding?

Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On… Breeding Sugar Gliders, Part One
By Dr. C., of course!

Go to:  Part Two     Part Three     Part Four

In the wild, sugar gliders live in groups, which typically contain more females than males.  Often only one dominant male will breed and the majority of the females will reproduce.  Sexual maturity is reached earlier in females (8 to 12 months of age) than in males (12 to 15 months of age).  In Australia, gliders tend to breed in June and July with most of the young born in the early spring (seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere).

There does not appear to be a breeding season in captive animals.  They will breed year round.  If you house a male and female glider together, they will eventually mate (even if it’s mother/son, brother/sister, etc.) and are likely to produce young.  This is an important point because keeping intact family members together means a decrease in genetic diversity which may lead to problems such as birth defects.  If you are planning on keeping related gliders
together, it is best that you neuter the males.

If planning on breeding gliders it is best to wait until they are at least a year old.  Our experience at SunCoast Sugar Gliders has shown this produces healthier, more robust babies and seems to cause less drain on the mom.  When sugar gliders breed, the practice can often be brutal.  Bite wounds and scratches are the resulting injuries commonly seen in breeding gliders.  This is not to say that injuries are a likely outcome of breeding situations, but it is prevalent enough that you should be aware and check your breeding gliders often for bites, punctures or scratches that can lead to infection and abscessing.  If the female glider is injured, your veterinarian will need to choose an antibiotic which will have the least effect on the developing young.

When the female is pregnant, it is important to keep her on a high plan of nutrition.  Just consider how important it is for humans to consider prenatal care and diet.  At SunCoast, we feed protein levels of about 50% and its important to note that the protein should be lean, yet from animal sources.  In other words chicken, meal worms, crickets and the like are good.  Ground beef and other beef products are a bit too high in fat.  Soy is not an animal protein and it is not recommended that you use soy products to increase protein levels. Some levels of fat are important in the breeding females diet as some fat is required as an element in lactation, just don’t overdo it.

It is also critically important to keep stress levels to a minimum.  I don’t advise showing all your friends the developing “peanuts” or constantly checking the nest box.  When pregnant and with young, gliders need their alone “glider time”.  Too much human interaction can actually be an adverse stimulus.

Gliders kept for breeding are often not the same fun little pets that non-breeding gliders are.  You may notice behavioral changes in the male and/or female in the presence of young.  Both parents are capable of displaying protectionist behaviors.  This is a natural response pattern and if your glider behaves in this manner, I suggest that you respond accordingly and give them the space that they need.  Upset parents will have elevated stress levels that can influence the young, as well as create situations that can ultimately be  harmful to the young.  As a result of our observations, we do find that most gliders will “return to normal” once the young are old enough to care more for themselves.

Sugar gliders are not hard animals to breed.  Due to their unique nature and physiology, we’ve accumulated a rather long list of questions that we will now answer for you in a Q & A format.  Questions that are not covered in this edition will be continued next month, so stay tuned!

Q: How do you tell the male from the female?

A:  If you check the glider’s under belly, near where you would expect to see a belly button, you can clearly observe the female’s pouch.  Also in this same area, the male’s scrotum should be visible.  Additionally, the male will have a bifurcated member, which may appear to be two pink string-like appendages in the area of the cloaca.  Thank you to Hope (BMX Girl on Glider Central) for giving us permission to link to her website pictorially exhibiting the anatomical characteristics of male and female gliders; click here.

Q:  How many babies do sugar gliders have?

A:  Generally sugar gliders will have one or two joeys at a time.  On rare occasions they can have three offspring.

Q:  How often do sugar gliders breed?

A:  Typically sugar gliders will produce young twice per year, and occasionally three times a year.  The average number of offspring per breeding pair is about 4 joeys per year.  However, this number can be as high as 7 and as low as 1.

Q:  How long does it take for gliders to have babies from the day the breeding takes place?

  The gestation period is only sixteen days at which time a tiny underdeveloped joey will make its way into the female’s pouch.  Here the baby will stay for approximately ten weeks to complete most of its development.  Once the baby emerges from the pouch, it will still not have a fully furred appearance and the eyes will remain closed for about ten more days.

Q:  What is the youngest age a joey can be taken from the parents?

A:  It is our recommendation that hobby breeders should keep the babies with the parents for a minimum of 8 weeks OOP (Out Of Pouch).  Many breeders, particularly inexperienced breeders, will pull babies far too early.  We’ve met too many people that bought sugar gliders that were only 3-4 weeks OOP age.  The mortality rate of babies this young is exceedingly high.

Q:  Do sugar gliders have a cannibalistic nature like hamsters and other small mammals?

A:  Cannibalism is not a highly occurring event in sugar glider breeding but it can happen.  We believe that three factors are the primary contributors to this situation.  First, the protein levels may be insufficient.  Secondly, stress conditions may be excessive.  This goes back to the above statement about over observing the breeding process.  Third, the female may have a health condition that affects her ability to nurture her young, thus the young are sacrificed for the sake of self preservation.

Go to:  Part Two     Part Three     Part Four

Tune back in next month and we will answer a whole new series of breeding questions.  In the meantime, if you have specific breeding questions, send them here and we will do our best to include them in the next edition of the GliderVet Newsletter.

I send my wishes for good health to both you and your sugar gliders. I’ll see you again next month! 

Dr. C.  (Dr. Janine M Cianciolo)

P.S. If you have any additional questions about this month’s article, send your inquiries by clicking here and I will follow up on the frequently asked questions in a future edition of GliderVet Newsletter.