Suncoast’s Top Ten Bad Sugar Glider Product Ideas
With comments by Arnold!
This time of year, there are lots of people out there new to keeping sugar gliders in their home. And there are lots of conflicting opinions on the web about what’s good for gliders. However, there’s not nearly as much conflicting opinion on what’s bad for gliders, so we like to publish “bad idea” lists this time of year. If you missed What Not to Feed last month, you can see it here.
Drumroll, please: Top Ten Bad Sugar Glider Products
10. Toys with loose strings or unraveled rope
Whatha thinkin there? Can’t ya see we could get caught in that? We do run around like fuzzy tornadoes, so if we can twist it in a knot, don’t let us have it.
9. Products made from fabrics that unravel
Hey, didn’t me start off life with four feet? Isn’t this what happened to one of ’em?
8. Live plants (that are toxic, see next article)
If ya not sure it’s safe, don’t do it!
7. Cages smaller than 36 inches by 30 inches by 18 inches
What kind of insane idea is the starter cage? Some of me buddies start off in new homes in floor to ceiling super mansions … No one (glider or human) ever tole me that the cage was too large! On the flip side, too small is a problem and will contribute to strange and wacky behavior. One sign of a cage too small is back flipping. Back flipping to suggies is like head banging to hoomans. Too weird.
6. Any food or treat products containing nuts or seeds
What do we look like, birds? We can’t even digest this stuff.
5. Ferrets and Jack Russel Terriers
What? These are not products? Well dey are still dangerous to the likes of me!
4. Food Products where soy is a primary source of protein (listed as one of the top five ingredients)
We need meat!
3. Open rung running wheels
Hello, see that long thing dragging behind me? That’s called a tail. I’d like to keep it please!
2. Gliders Leashes or Harnesses
What am I supposed to do with me patagium (glidin’ membrane) if wearing one of these? ‘Cuz we have a membrane, these don’t fit us right and are uncomfy. Try wearing one size too small underwear backwards for a week and get back to me on this one, OK?
1. Heat Rocks
Now wear that underwear on your head so you can look as silly as this one! Me body temp is almost the same as yours. If you are comfy in short sleeves, I’m gonna call that perfect for me! What? Sugar gliders can’t regulate their own temperature? You heard that from a reliable source?
OK, I will admit that is true .. but ONLY WHEN YOU ARE TOO YOUNG to leave your Mum and Pops … and if you with them like you s’posed to be, then Mum and Pops will keep ya warm. And if you do really need extra heat ‘cuz your hoomans keep a cold house, get an out of the cage heating device like a space heater or ceramic heat emitter! Heat rocks so DO NOT rock!
Can you find web sites recommending some of the above products? Sure. But make sure you check the date, OK? Some ideas thought to be fine 10 years ago have proven not such good ideas over time, yet often persist and are even touted as new ideas because they are so different from the current common experience of glider owners.
If 99 / 100 people tell you something is a bad idea, and that 1 person left tells you the other 99 are “outdated”, just how likely is that?
Plants in the Glider Habitat – Real vs. Fake?
A lot of people obviously like to create an environment for their sugar gliders that incorporates key components of a natural, free range home. Since our fuzzbutts originate from the treetop canopy of the Australia region, then it stands to reason that branches and leaves make up the foundation of the perfect glider environment. Around here, we really like to simulate the “tree top” home by using natural branches, vines, ropes that simulate vines, and objects that swing (as branches would sway in a tree).
A lot of people desire to use live plants as this would be as close to real as we can get right? After all, real IS real.
Only use live plants under two conditions. First and most importantly, be sure that the plant is not toxic. Many indoor houseplants can be poisonous to small animals if ingested. Gliders will often try and eat the plant, which brings us to condition number two. You found a plant. You know it is safe and non-toxic. You give it to your sugar gliders. Say bye bye now. The gliders will strip the plant down to the point it will no longer survive.
If you are OK with sugar gliders being complete and masterful plant murderers, then by all means, give them this natural enrichment and treat. I’ve heard of people buying multiple baby fruit trees each year so that the gliders’ will have a new tree waiting as the present one is in the process of being destroyed.
So if you are considering live plants for inside your sugar gliders’ habitat, you might want to think again! The plant is likely to look very nice when you first place it in the cage, and it won’t take long to revisit the “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree”. The moral of the story is this: gliders may enjoy live plants a great deal, but we don’t think the plant will enjoy the experience at all!
Another option to placing live plants in the cage is to utilize live plants in the play area only. This way you can supervise the activity and take measures to protect your tender vegetation. However, it is extremely important that you know what type of plant you are using and whether this plant may be potentially toxic to small animals.
Many normal house plants can be highly toxic and you must be well informed before considering this type of décor/play area. The University of California hosts one of many websites giving voluminous information on plant toxicity levels here.
An option to providing a plant-like atmosphere without having to worry about keeping a real plant alive or worrying about toxicity levels is the utilization of fake plants (or as Arnold prefers … “faux plants”). We use a lot of artificial foliage in our habitats and one thing we found is that the cheaper it is, the more easily it falls apart.
When using faux foliage, check to make sure that there are no little plastic parts that come off easily. Also avoid the type of plants that have thin wire running through thinly sheathed plastic …. if the wire pops out, you have a hazard threatening the safety of your furballs.
Don’t be shy about producing a creative habitat for your suggies! There’s nothing cuter than seeing two big black eyes peeking out through an array of natural looking leaves. Have fun and happy decorating, your gliders will thank you!
Stranger Visitors and Cannibalization
I don’t like to discuss “sad topics”, but if this article helps just one breeder or hobbyist save little lives, then I’ve made the right choice.
Like most breeders, we get a surprise annual visit from our USDA inspector. It is part of the licensing process and as it turns out, my recent visit was performed by a brand new to the agency inspector. Like many inspectors, this one is a licensed veterinarian and she had been on the job for less than a month.
Now USDA inspectors will visit all sorts of facilities and to find dedicated breeders of a single species, such as our facility is not the norm. This job will take an inspector from a monkey rescue one day, to a sea life rescue / aquarium the next, to a zoo the next, and the opportunity to meet a lot of different wildlife and animals is part of the day to day job. Let’s face it, most USDA inspectors are avid animal lovers and many of them are licensed veterinarians.
OK, so back to the story. Please understand that I do not hold any ill feelings to my inspector for what ensued. We were going through part of our breeding facility and were looking at some color sugar gliders. She had never seen some of the special color variations before so I offered to show her some of them. We looked at several colonies and then as I opened one nest box, there were two just out of pouch joeys hanging on to their mother. I tried to shut the nest box immediately, but of course my inspector was curious to see these brand new to the world joeys.
Now this set of parents have been with me for quite awhile and have always been good parents. I should have used better judgment and not allowed extended peeking at the new joeys by a stranger. There is a time of higher vulnerability to cannibalism for new joeys and it seems that is when they are first coming out of pouch. I have personally seen bad things happen before in this situation and have talked to many people over the years who’ve seen the same.
It was only two days later I found one joey cannibalized. The second joey has made it but not without a lifetime reminder of mother’s stress. She did bite the tip of the tail off of the remaining joey. He is thriving and almost fully weaned as of the writing of this story. I just can’t help but feel this whole situation could have been avoided if I would have not shown off this particular family during my inspection.
Stress is not the only reason sugar gliders will cannibalize, it is just one reason it could happen. It will not always happen if you show off joeys during the early stages of pouch emergence, but the risk does go up. This is reason enough for me to not allow visits to our primary breeding facility as there are always joeys just coming out of pouch at any given point in time. We have very little cannibalization and / or maiming of our baby sugar gliders and I credit the peaceful environment to this success. I know every time we hire a new helper, we will have to suffer through a few of these moments and I am grateful that my present crew has all been around for awhile.
The moral of this story is simple. We cannot ask our USDA inspectors not to inspect, but I’m pretty sure if I had asked her to keep her distance from this colony, she would have honored the request. The moral is that we control all others from how much access they have to our breeding sugar gliders and how much interaction we are willing to allow.
I know it’s irresistible to show joeys coming out of the pouch to family and friends, but please consider the possible outcome first.
Now before I sign off on this topic, I do want remind the community that the USDA process is much like the driver’s license process. TheUSDA does not grant an “approval”, what they do grant is a license. And like a driver’s license, there is no statement to the quality or lack of quality of a facility.
Web sites and YouTube videos that tell you to make sure that you only deal with USDA “approved” breeders are misleading. Generally, these folks recommend a very human-centric, hamster-like approach to caring for sugar gliders that won’t kill them, but won’t make them very happy either. We call this the Thrive versus Survive issue. It is like trusting that the licensed driver you are about to catch a ride with is a great driver. I know a few bad drivers that are licensed. I know a few bad breeders that are licensed by USDA. Also small hobby breeders do not qualify for a license, but this does not make them necessarily less desirable to do business with. It is legal to do business with a small breeder having three or less breeding females who does not have a USDA license!
The USDA only regulates and licenses breeders with four or more breeding females and the USDA “approves” no one!
‘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!