Update on PVC Cage Toxicity Issues
by Lisa

These are all actual correspondences that I’ve received within a week of our last newsletter.  I will also mention that Kitty has also worked as a first responder in firefighting and an EMT.  She concurs with Lee’s knowledge of out gassing, which we discussed last month.

Hello Lisa,

So unfortunately I’ve been affected by the toxic cage epidemic.  I received a new cage from pocket pets, but just today they emailed me again (my first baby passed away and I now have 2 more) to tell me that the new cage may have been contaminated as well and there sending me a new one.  So I think it’s definitely time to move on.  Has there ever been any trouble with the powder-coated cages? I’m interested in the deluxe rectangular.

Katie
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Dear Katie,

We’ve never heard of a problem with powder coated cages.  They are not all created equally, but the difference seems to be in the quality of the paint jobs and how well they are machined (poor machining means more difficult assembly).  We have been pleased with HQ brand cages for many years and use only HQ brand for our own gliders.  Did I mention we have quite a few gliders?

Lisa

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Hi Lisa,

Just an FYI back to you.

As a retired firefighter I would tell you that if you want to see how toxic PVC can be, look at this youtube video.  It shows the smoke produced by burning PVC.  It produces a thick acrid smoke that is full of deadly chemicals.  When it burns, it produces Phosgene gas, Dioxin, and cyanide gas.  So, as you said, if there is off gassing they may be getting these chemicals and gasses into their systems.  Maybe this will help determine what is happening to these little guys.

Thanks for all you do and the information you provide!

Lee
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Dear Lee,

Thank you.  I watched the video and it seems that after a bit of black smoke the PVC quit burning and the other two materials continued to burn.  Are these three different types of PVC?

Lisa
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Hi Lisa,

They were 3 different materials.  Only the middle one was pvc.  It was the only decent one I found showing the smoke it produces.  Just wanted to let you see that.   

You actually, as always, have great timing for these articles.  I am looking for a new cage for my lone female (currently looking to adopt a friend for her as she and my other female don’t get along at all) and that answered my question as to whether or not to get her a cage with PVC coating.  Thank you!

Lee

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Dear Lisa,

Change your date of toxic wire showing up to 2008.  That’s when I bought the toxic wire that killed 9 of my gliders and cost me over $35,000 in vet bills.  I remember everyone of my gliders and each moment of their death.  You know I called the manufacturer quite awhile back and they could not even apologize. 

Kitty

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Dear Kitty,

I know someone else who had problems with that same supplier wire even further back than that and like you said, they took no responsibility.  I think all PVC wire is at risk.  It is not our intention to pick on any one company or call people on the carpet, I think it’s just the nature of the process of how PVC is made.

Lisa

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I think that the standard cage testing, which usually involves testing for lead and zinc is not the right path to answers.  We test our cage paint for Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Mercury, and Selenium as well as Lead and Zinc, you can see an example report here:

https://www.sugar-gliders.com/images/store/blk-2011.pdf

I think it easy enough for companies who sell such products to test for the levels of raw materials used in the actual manufacture of PVC.  So here’s my question if anyone knows the answer, I would love to hear it.

As Lee pointed out, some of the gasses produced by PVC may be Phosgene gas, Dioxin, and cyanide gas.  Does it not make sense to test for these and any other raw materials that go into PVC to find the answer?  I find it hard to wrap my brain around that one company is sending out replacement cages and I’ve had more than one person tell me the replacement cage was also toxic.  So if the companies who sell these cages don’t know what they are testing for, how can they insure that replacements are safe?  And if they do know what the toxicity is from, then please publish that information for the safety and health of the sugar gliders.

PVC cages have had waves of toxicity issues; this is not the first time, only the largest incident.  As the numbers of people who keep gliders increase, and these larger companies get into selling them and supplying cages, that the problem has been recognized “all of a sudden”.  But I have a very strong compelling inclination to believe that the problem has been around for awhile and some batches of PVC just are not suitable for safe animal habitats.

 

My Glider is Preggo
from the Mail Bag

Lisa,

Ok well we have 4 gliders all boys or at least we though we had 4 boys.  It ends up 1 is a girl she has a pouch and a line right near her belly.  The stomach is bulging out and is fluffy.  What do i do?  Does she need to be separated from the other 3 gliders?  her mate is always with her and always follows her so should he come if needed to be separated from the rest?

Percy
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Dear Percy,

Separate the two boys who are not the Daddy … Leave Mum in Pop in the cage they are in.  Change is stress and you want to keep Mum’s stress levels as low as possible.  Sometimes “other males” will kill offspring that is not their own, so this suggestion.

Lisa
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Dear Lisa,

Ok so i separated the gliders.  The mum is with the dad and the other 2 boys are separated too, BUT the 2 boy gliders in a cage are doing something weird.  1 glider is neutered and the other is not.  The unneutered glider goes to the other glider and smells its rectum he also grabs his face and lifts his tail forcefully.

What does this behavior mean?  

And, the preggo glider is not eating and looks sad, what should i do?

Percy
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Dear Percy,

Whenever gliders are put into a new cage, odd behaviors often show up.  When animals are added to a colony or removed from a colony, the pecking order needs to re-established.  It could take a week or more for them to start acting “normal” again.  That is just the nature of change.

Is the second cage nearby with her male friends in it?  Have you tried feeding her some of her favorite foods?  Do you think babies are coming out of pouch soon?  How large are the “peanuts”?  Can you give me perspective by comparing it to an acorn, a grape, a walnut?

Lisa
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Dear Lisa,

It’s like a walnut and i saw a hand come out her belly and it moves a lot.  The second cage isn’t near by and I’ve tried giving her favorite fruits, veggies but nothing she only gets excited for live mealworms.

Percy
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Dear Percy,

Ok … I wouldn’t be too concerned … This is an awkward moment for her and it is common for the mom to look uncomfortable when joeys are coming out of the pouch.  You might consider keeping the two boys in a cage nearby but at least six inches apart.  She is used to having them around and they are used to her.  The trick is to manage as little change as possible right now.  Also, her milk is getting
thicker and I bet she walks like John Wayne, right?  And extra protein would be particularly attractive to her right now … Sounds like a normal situation.  Sit back and enjoy the show!

Lisa

Keeping Siblings with New Joeys
from the Mail Bag

Hi Lisa & Arnold,

My adult pair has been very busy.  They have only be together for 7 months, and are about to “OOP” their 3rd (batch, litter, etc?) in 2-3 weeks.  She’s had healthy twins both times.  The first time was boys. The latest “little ones” are 5 1/2 weeks OOP, and girls.

My main question is: can I keep the “girls” (the boys were adopted) with mom when she brings the new joeys out?  Is there any way the siblings will hurt the young joeys?

Cathy
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Dear Cathy,

Not likely.  Gliders are colony animals and some might even tell you that it teaches young gliders about being better parents.  Just don’t leave offspring in the cage as they approach maturity because gliders will inbreed if given the chance.  Daddy should be in the cage for the birth and rearing, but not after the joeys mature.  Some people will swear up and down that parents won’t breed back to their young.  My thoughts on that: if given a chance, nature will take over and inbreeding is a big no no.

Lisa
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Dear Lisa,

Also, to keep Mama from burning out, should I put Daddy in another cage near his family?  I can’t afford the $180 to have him “snipped”.

Cathy
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Hi Cathy,

No … the stress will be hard on both of them.  Perhaps if there are some baby boys born, you can put Dad in with his sons and Mom with the daughters, but I’m not a fan of bringing Dad in and out like some merchant marine visiting for conjugal reasons.  We leave our males in always, until the females are retired (which is then a permanent decision).  Besides moving Dad out doesn’t always work.  She can hold fertilized eggs up to six months, so you could remove Dad, she could produce again and as you’ve likely noticed, the Dad’s are very helpful in rearing the young.

Lisa 

‘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!