Traveling with Gliders, Bonding, Working with Breeders

This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter
Greetings Marsupial Maniacs! 

Lisa here, and welcome to our October issue of the GliderVet Newsletter.  Can you believe Halloween is just around the corner?  I suspect many of you are beginning to feel a chill in the air unlike us in Florida.  With temperatures changing, remember to keep your critters nice and cozy.  

First off, habitats should not be located too close to vents as 
gliders do not do well in drafts.  And if you’re cranking up the heat you might want to consider placing an inexpensive humidifier near your gliders’ home.  Sugar gliders prosper in warm humid conditions.  Their normal body temperature is only a few degrees different from humans, so if the temperature is comfortable for you dressed in short sleeves, your gliders are likely to be comfy as well.  If your home temperature is cooler in the fall and winter months, then make
provisions to warm the area of your gliders’ home.  

We recommend the use of an external ceramic heat lamp, sometimes called an “emitter“.  You can get these at many pet shops or in Arnold’s Store. These lamps generate no light, just warmth, and it should be situated close enough to provide ample warmth for your suggies, but not close enough that your critters can physically reach it.  Inside the cage heating devices, like heat rocks, are a big No-No.  First, heat rocks create dry heat and if the sugar glider lingers on it or near it for too long, risk of dehydration increases.  Dehydration is a serious and often fatal condition for all animals, particularly animals as small as sugar gliders.  Second, heat rocks need to be plugged in, so you end up with an electrical cord far too easily accessed by the curious natured glider.  No pun intended, but we at SunCoast find it shocking that some pet stores and websites would recommend the use of any in-the-cage heating appliance for use with sugar gliders!

Coming up in the rest of this newsletter we will start off with a multi-part series on bonding.  The ultimate enjoyment of sugar gliders is experienced as the human/critter relationship grows.  There are many variables that affect the process of bonding and because this is such an extensive topic, we will bring it to you in sections over the course of the next several newsletters.  

And of course, no newsletter would be complete without hearing from our good ‘ol boy Arnold Schwarzenglider and his gal Debbie, the Mistress of Marsupials.  They will take charge of answering this month’s FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) concerning traveling with sugar gliders.  Last, but certainly not least, Dr. C will address why it is inadvisable to allow the public to visit private breeding facilities and what you should ask and look for when acquiring new pets.

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.  As sugar gliders increase in popularity, our community continues to grow.  GliderVet Newsletter is now distributed in 15 countries around the world!  As a community, I have no doubt we can increase the quality of life for sugar gliders everywhere!  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 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:
Can you travel with sugar gliders?

By Arnold (with a little help from Debbie)

What do you get when you cross a sugar glider and a bunny rabbit? 
Hehehehe … Sugar Buns!

Did ya hear about the sugar glider with the really big muscles? 
We call him Petaurus Biceps … Yuk yuk yuk

Where do baby gliders go to school? Give up? 
KinderGliden … Oooooh yukity yukity meeee!

Arnold, Debbie here … That’s some pretty funny stuff there … but you know that you have really important business to discuss … Can we get on with it please?

Yeah yeah … lighten up there a bit Deb-O … don’tcha know laughter is good fer ya?  And who changed the title of my article here?  I wanted it called “The Tail in Two Cities”! Now get outta here … I got jokes to tell … Errrrr … I mean work to do!  And turn those lights down a bit, would ya?  I’m getting an eye ache … which is about as bad as a giraffe with a sore throat!  Yuk yuk yuk!

Okee dokee … I s’pose ole Debbie’s right.  I really do have important things to discuss, as per usual.  So, let’s hit the road … which is just what I wanna talk to ya about.  When you humans travel, do your fuzz butts come along with?  It’s OK to travel with your suggies and I’m gonna tell ya just whatcha need to do to make it not so scary for me fine furry friends.  Ya see, us sug-sters are a bit territorial and to move us from place to place can be a bit frightful.  We like to know where we are and who we’re with!  

Now as I understand it most humans travel by the rolling machine method … I think you call car … or the flying machine method … I think you call plane.  Now here’s your first problem, two legger!  How in tarnation are ya gonna fit a big cage in a car or a plane?  We’ve had tons of people write to us and share ideas.  Some people use what’s called a travel cage.  In other words … a tiny wire box hardly even big enuff to fit a Wodent Wheel.  So you humans get all excited cause we’re going on vacation and going to have a lot of fun.  FUN???? What’s fun about living for days in a tiny wire box not big enuff for a Wodent Wheel?  Where’s our fun?  So we get to the vacation place and you humans spend all day and all night hanging out with a giant
mouse that only has three fingers and a large time is had by all, right? Wrongo, cheeseburger breath!

Now other humans have become enlightened and come to realize that the tiny travel cage idea not such a good idea.  These two leggers have discovered collapsible cages, in medium and large sizes. When set up properly, these cages make great portable habitats for sugar gliders.  So while you’re hanging out with Mickey and Minnie, we can have our own  amusement park back at the hotel room!

OK, so let’s start at the beginning.  If going by car the best time to do the traveling part is daytime and most of us gliders would prefer to be in a bonding pouch or pocket cause sometimes the car thing can make us nervous.  Don’t let your sugar glider loose in the car cause if we get scared we might do something stoopid like hide in the dashboard.  If traveling at night, you might need a dumb ole travel cage … but I’m gonna warn ya … rattley clinkety noises and car motion can make us a little freaky and the water bottle a little leaky.  So please keep our mental well being in mind when doing the traveling part.  If traveling by plane you have some big time challenges.  Most airlines will not allow sugar gliders in the passenger cabin.  You will need to call them on the ringy thingy to find out the rules fer sure. You might need to call a vet, like Dr. C, to get a health certificate and all this stuff can get ‘spensive (costs a lot!).

Anywho, some people will stick their suggies in their shirt or pocket and sneak ’em on the plane.  Now this sounds like a pretty risky preposition to me … to get caught … to lose gliders … those are the prepositions!  All I can say to this is Hmmm … prolly not a good idea!

OK, now that you’ve figured out a way to get us all safely and comfortably to the destination location station, here’s where the fun can begin for all of us.  First thing ya wanna do is bring us in the cozy room you rented … yup, that means before baggage or anything else … DoN’t LeAve Us In ThE cAr!!!!  Set up our vacation habitat, which by the way should be pre-scented … n’other words let us play in it for a few nights before the big trip!  And bring along our familiar toys, pouches, and nest boxes … this will make it feel real homey and we won’t get the stresses so bad.  Now if ya gonna use these cages I’m gonna give ya some helpful hints on how to go ’bout this.

The collapsible cages folds down to a small lightweight compact package.  To set it up, you simply click the different tubey things together and then there is a screen like mesh that covers the tubey frame and it zips and voila … insta-big-house!  Ooooh, I’m luvin this!  This type of habitat is not really made for suggies, so ya need to make some special provisions to hang stuff in it.

A really simple thing you can do is make some shelves at home by using PVC coated wire, PVC lattice or vinyl mesh.  If you cut this stuff to the right size, you can attach these light weight “shelfs” to the frame by using nylon cable ties.  Let the shelfs hang downwards, then you can have a place to hang our stuff!

Ya also need to make potty provisions for us cause the bottom of this contraption is just like a screen material. Some people place OOPs towels underneath … these are puppy training pads found at Wally World, or you can use paper towels.

Of course, there are other types of folding cages you can find, but ya won’t find something that folds so small, is so lightweight and grows up to be so big!  Lots of gliders have written to me and told me that they really like the bouncy bouncy surface of the cage and they can run across it much easier than they can on wire type cages.

Hey Debbie, would you like to tell the peoples about some of that safety stuff you humans always discuss?

Sure, Arnold … quite simply we at SunCoast endorse these cages as a suitable travel cage or temporary cage, but it has been reported to us that with long term use, some sugar gliders are able to chew out of the mesh fabric, so be sure you check the enclosure often for any possible breaches!  We all know that sugar gliders are somehow akin to Houdini and if there is a way to escape, a smart little glider will figure it out.  Back to you Arnie!

If ya like this idea about travel cages, by Sugar Glider Officer decree I these are now available in my store and I insisted on an introductory price for them!  A really sharp price so suggies don’t have to be in tiny wire boxes no more.  Oh and I forgot to tell ya … this thing is so easy to clean … you can throw the mesh cover right in the washing machine!  Pretty cool, eh?

Well that’s about all I really have to say, but before I sign off for today, one last joke … How many sugar gliders does it take to screw in a light bulb?  None!!!  Ya big ole silly, sugar gliders don’t like light! So keep the lights down low and your spirits up high!

Yours truly,

Bonding with New Gliders – Part One
By Lisa and Debbie

This is Part 1 in the series on Bonding with Sugar Gliders.  More advice can be found in Parts TwoThreeFourFive and Six

Without a doubt, the number one question most people have prior to adding sugar gliders to the home revolves around diet and nutrition. After the glider or gliders join a new household, everything focuses on bonding.  There are so many variables that go into bonding and while lots has been written on this topic via other sources, we hope to bring a fresh perspective to this topic along with case studies to emphasize an array of different situations and the effect of the uniqueness seen in sugar glider personalities.  We will run this series over the next several months in an effort to adequately cover the bonding process as most people experience it.

Most articles and commentaries that we’ve read seem to place a large part of importance on the character of the critter being bonded, the age of the critter, and step by step processes to get this relationship built.  While we agree that these are all important issues, we’ve come to believe over time that the attitude of the human involved in the relationship is of paramount importance.

You are likely to be already familiar with the fact that sugar gliders bond by scent.  Also, due to their territorial nature, changes in their environment/domain can create some stress that is likely to make them react in a fearful manner.  By starting with this basic  understanding, then it makes good sense to let a newly acquired animal explore the new territory for a day or two.  This will allow the sugar glider(s) the opportunity to familiarize with new surroundings and develop a comfort level with these new surroundings before having to deal with the biggest change of all, a new human.

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for the human to be patient and sure handed.  Your confidence and gentle handling will make all the difference in the world regarding how quickly the sugar glider(s) come to trust you.  After all, that is what bonding is ultimately about. The sugar glider(s) need to see you as a safe haven and trust that you will protect them from harm.

It is amazing to us how such a tiny critter can increase anxiety levels for so many people.  And we would be remiss if we did not admit that we didn’t experience similar anxious feelings the first time we met sugar gliders.  It’s human nature to withdraw from any animal that appears to be agitated.  Sugar gliders, even young joeys, can get in a defensive posture consisting of standing on the back feet, front paws up in a bear-like position, making the most unusual crabbing sound and lunging toward an unknown intruder.  The lunging motion can result in the glider biting.  Baby glider bites generally do not hurt.  As gliders get older, the bite can feel like a hamster bite, and doesn’t feel very good.  Most bites will not draw blood, but on occasion, happens.

So let’s start with handling skills that will enhance your opportunity to bond with your glider(s).  First off, you never want to just reach in and grab your glider.  Gliders do not like restrictive feelings on the body.  The proper technique involves more of a scooping motion.  If my baby gliders are out of their sleeping pouch and holding on to a branch or the side of the cage, I simply placed a semi cupped hand over them and with my forefinger, will tickle the feet up toward my hand encouraging them to latch on to me instead of the cage.  

Our pet gliders come right to us as soon as the door is unlatched.  Most cages do not have openings large enough to use two hands, but if your cage does have this large an opening, then approach the glider with both hands cupped and surround the glider slowly and gently with both hands and scoop them up, out and toward your chest.  If your gliders are asleep in the pouch, we find that removing the pouch from the cage with gliders in it, then gently sliding a hand into the pouch to rest momentarily near the gliders works well.  This gives the gliders the opportunity to wake up without being startled.  

Granted, some gliders will begin crabbing immediately upon a hand touching their pouch, but don’t pull back.  Unclip the pouch, remove the pouch from the cage, and if the gliders are already having a fussy reaction, then merely carry them around in their sleeping pouch, pet it gently from the outside and speak to them in a low and soothing voice.  Sit down and relax with them for awhile.  There is no need to rush the bonding process.  It’s not like if you aren’t bonded by a certain age, it will not happen.  Some gliders bond rather quickly, some take more time, but there’s not a glider out there that cannot be bonded with the right attitude and devotion to the process.

Case Study: Alan gave us a call and specifically asked for two older wild gliders.  Seemed like an unusual request, but he really wanted to try and tame down two challenging gliders and felt he was up to the task as he has “tough hands”!  At that time, we happened to have two older male rescues in need of a home that had very little handling ever.  We suspected these gliders were several years old, probably kept in poor conditions, and completely lacking in socialization skills.  

Well, after a period of discussion, we met with Al and he proceeded home with these two gliders.  We were very optimistic about Al’s impending success, just because we saw he had the right attitude!  He was committed to making this work no matter how many nips he had to take and how long it would take.  He knew that he could do it! This is the confidence we are talking about.  Most people get their gliders as joeys, and joeys are undoubtedly easier to bond with, so don’t think this means you need tough hands, you just need a determined attitude and an understanding that any glider can be bonded if your commitment is there to do it!  

And yes, Alan did succeed!

You must be calm, collected and confident when approaching new gliders.  Your sure-handedness is a comfort to them and if the gliders react fearfully toward you, do not draw back!  Animals, particularly exotic (wild) animals, can sense fear.  If you exhibit any fear or anxiety, the sugar glider will accordingly feel higher senses of fear or anxiety as well.  This is not the type of interaction that promotes bonding.  If you are calm and gentle, the glider will eventually assume those same calm and gentle reactions.  If you are doing your part and the glider is still very nervous, try our Original Bonding Potion.

Let us share a common and recurring theme we hear at SunCoast.  We often get calls, from our own customers and from customers of other breeders or pet shops, and the voice on the other end is frantic. “I’ve had my gliders for three days and they totally hate me.”  Well, first off, we really doubt that gliders are capable of an emotion like hate.  It’s more likely that the glider is awfully scared due to the changes in everything it has ever known.  So we will go through a series of bonding steps and activities to help this person get past the initial stages of bonding.  A week or two later, we often get return calls and with an update report and a new problem!  “How do I get my gliders back in the cage?  Every time I try to put them back in their house, they keep jumping back to me!”.  Well, this is the kind of thing that just makes us go “hmmmmm”, is this the same glider that hated you just last week?  The moral of the story is to exercise patience and to develop a true understanding of the nature of the  critter and its needs.  Gliders get scared, but do not hate!  Trust takes time and patience will pay off!

Tune in next month for the next chapter on bonding!

Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On… Working with Breeders
By Dr. C., of course! 

As an exotic vet, my primary concern in my practice is to the well-being of my animal clients.  Good husbandry skills are essential to the health and longevity of captive bred and raised wild animals.  If you’ve read past articles in my newsletter, then you are already familiar with my views on educating the public on the natural history of the breed in question, as it relates to creating a proper environment in captivity.

My relationship with SunCoast Sugar Gliders encompasses more than just caring for sick or injured animals.  I also serve as an advisor on nutritional issues, housing issues, and other policies that affect the environment of the gliders.  Lisa and Debbie have asked that I step away this month from traditional health issues which we normally discuss herein and to share with you my views on the public visiting private breeding facilities.  As you can imagine, Lisa and Debbie get quite a lot of requests for “tours” and in my opinion, this is completely inappropriate.  In order to run a good breeding operation, it is vital to the health of the breeding animals that stress stays at a minimum.  

I hear a lot of accounts of sugar gliders cannibalizing or maiming their young, and while this sort of activity can be related to issues outside of stress, stress must certainly be factored in as a highly contributory source.  When SunCoast first began operations, my advice was to allow no one to visit the facility unless the visit is absolutely necessary.  Debbie and Lisa have heeded my advice and experience significantly below average incidents that can usually be cited back to stressful conditions.  Case in point, over the last several months, Lisa has shared with me conversations she’s had with two other breeders that were having excessively high rates of joey death and maim.

She asked if I had any advice or insight as to what may cause such events.  The first breeder had recently brought in a new employee.  The increase of incident correlated exactly to the time the new employee began working there, and has since subsided as the animals have become more familiar with this individual.  The second breeder had recently moved and set up a breeder area that she was extremely proud of and wanted to share the tour with local customers.  When it was suggested that she discontinue the tours, her rate of incident dropped almost immediately.  

It is simply not worth the risk to the animals and their offspring for breeders to accommodate such tours.  There are other ways you can check out the quality of your breeder without having to actually view the breeding facility.  Sugar gliders breeders often refer to the whole breeding corps as a “colony”.  While the animals are not generally bred as a colony, but rather in pairs or trios, diseases that affect colony animals are still likely to propagate throughout a breeder defined colony.  In other words, cages are generally situated in fairly close proximity.  

Besides stress issues discussed above, if a member of the public were to introduce a viral or bacterial infection via clothing, shoes, etc., breeders risk the overall health of an entire colony by allowing such visits.  Again, this is not in the best interest of the animals.  With shared air space and the possibility of airborne infection, the risk is simply not worth exposing the animals for the pleasure of sightseeing tours.  Of course, good personal hygiene and hand washing can resolve some of these issues, but its not foolproof and certain infections can spread very quickly amongst a group of animals housed in a common area.

There are methods you can employ and questions that you should ask to make sure you are making a wise decision in purchasing a new pet from a breeder or from a pet store.  It can be helpful to see the conditions that animals are housed in, and this is an easily accommodated request at a pet store as the animals are usually displayed for public viewing anyway.  If the store is dirty, the cages are dirty, the area smells, my recommendation is to not buy from that organization.  You are likely to get sick or weak animals.  Too many people feel like they can “save” animals from these places by buying them, but the fact is you are just encouraging that store to continue bringing in new animals that will now be exposed to the inferior conditions.

When dealing with a breeder, I hope you will be respectful to the well being of the animals and ask questions that will indicate to you that:  1) The breeder is very familiar with the species being raised.

2) The breeder exhibits a true caring for the animals and doesn’t pressure you to buy because “it’s the last one” or some other reason that suits the breeder and not necessarily you or the critter.  

3) The breeder is appropriately licensed by the USDA and any local authority that may preside in that area. 

4) The breeder has a list of satisfied clientele and is willing to share referrals with you.  

5) The breeder has a veterinarian perform regular health exams and treatments as needed.  

6) The breeder is willing to spend time to educate you and support you both before and after the sale including teaching you how to properly handle it, nutrition issues, housing issues and any other issues that may be important to that species.

7) The breeder is able or willing to produce some documentation of good health and warranty that the animal is in good health when you receive it.  At a minimum, you should receive a guarantee at least long enough that will give you time to see your personal vet and have a health exam.  If the health exam indicates poor health conditions, will the breeder either pay for the vet bill or take the animal back? 

Of course, all these questions should pertain to pet shops as well!

Remember, the responsibility is yours to ensure that your are starting off with a healthy pet and are educated and prepared to care for this animal in the best way possible.  I encourage you to research any unfamiliar species prior to bringing pets home.  Too many people lose pets because they bought a pet spontaneously or felt sorry for it.  Please make responsible decisions when acquiring new pets.

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.