Sugar gliders can live anywhere from 10 to 15 years as long as they’re in captivity and taken proper care of. With that said, if you want your pet to live longer, you should consider looking up cages for sugar gliders. Of course, there are several other factors to consider, which we’ll get into down the line.
Sugar-Gliding From Down Under
At first glance, you might think that sugar gliders are rodents – more specifically related to squirrels. Not the case at all. In fact, sugar gliders are marsupials, just like kangaroos, koalas, and opossums. You’ll notice the similarity to kangaroos once you realize that female sugar gliders have a pouch in which they raise their younglings.
Wild sugar gliders typically have gray fur with a black stripe on their back and a white belly. Domesticated sugar gliders, on the other hand, were bred to have a variety of colors and patterns. This is by far the easiest way to tell the difference between the two. Obviously, if you’ve never dealt with sugar gliders before, it’s a good idea to get domesticated ones.
Anatomy and lifespan of sugar gliders
Like other marsupials, such as kangaroos and opossums, sugar gliders are born immature, and they grow in the mother’s pouch for 60-70 days. They are native to cool-temperate and tropical forests in Indonesia, Australia, and Papua New Guinea, and they are known by their scientific name as Petaurus breviceps, which means ‘short-headed rope dancer’.
The translation of their scientific name is more than fair since they glide, crawl, and climb, and are capable of stunning acrobatics. Their fur is mostly gray, except for their underbellies, where it’s white. Plus, they have stripes of black fur on their heads. They reach 6.3 to 8.3 inches in length or 12 to 13 inches, including the tail, and weigh 4.1 to 5.6 ounces.
What you’ll notice when taking a closer look at their body is a thin, furry, and stretchy membrane, which is known as patagium. This membrane is what allows them to glide, just as their name suggests.
What’s remarkable is that they can do so up to 150 feet through the air, and this movement allows them to move from one tree to another in the wild. When gliding, they use their tails as rudders.
Plus, the opposable big toe on their hind feet is large enough to enable them to grip branches. Sugar gliders use their second and third toes as a grooming comb and the other toes to grab insects.
One anatomical characteristic that sets them apart is their large eyes that enable them to hunt at night and search for food. Moreover, the large eyes help them identify their landing location when gliding, making it easier for them to reach the place of interest.
What is the lifespan of a sugar glider, though? The answer depends on the sugar glider’s environment. In the wild, the average lifespan of a sugar glider is 3-9 years. However, the sugar glider life expectancy increases in captivity, and they can live even up to 15 years, which is one reason why they make good pets.
Various factors contribute to the sugar glider lifespan in captivity, ranging from their diet to how much physical activity they engage in.
Sugar glider reproduction
Even though these marsupials are native to cold-temperate and tropical forests, sugar gliders have been found in rural gardens and plantations as well. They nest in tree hollows and live in colonies so that such nests can accommodate up to 10 adult sugar gliders.
Sugar gliders are social animals, and that’s why if you intend to get a sugar glider as a pet, it is best to get at least a pair but neuter the male if you want to prevent them from copulating.
In case you don’t want to neuter the male, it is best to learn more sugar glider facts regarding their reproduction and the needs of the young sugar gliders. Such facts should help you make the right decision concerning keeping them as pets.
Female sugar gliders have one or two joeys at least once every year. The gestation period is of 16 days or so, and since the young stay with the mother in the first 7-10 months, you should take all the necessary steps to provide the sugar glider family with what they need to grow and live healthily and happily.
Keeping sugar gliders as pets
Sugar gliders make excellent pets as long as you treat them well. You can get them from shelters, breeders and even pet stores. To find a pair in the least possible amount of time, you can search for sugar gliders for sale/adoption online.
Keep in mind that they are very social animals. That’s why we recommend getting at least a pair. They get very depressed when left alone, which ultimately impacts their lifespan. Fair warning: if you want to keep a male and a female sugar glider but don’t want them to copulate, you will have to neuter the male after about 5 or 6 months of age.
The procedure is simple and can be performed by most veterinarians. So you shouldn’t have any problem with that. If you don’t neuter them, they’ll copulate like crazy. Males mature sexually at about 8 months of age and females at around 12 months. Once they mature, they can reproduce rapidly.
As mentioned earlier, they are very social animals. As such, they’re very friendly both to their cage-mates and to humans. They have no problems adapting to new homes as long as they are taken care of properly. They love to curl up in shirt pockets because of their natural instinct to stay inside their mother’s pouch. Keep that in mind if you plan on taking them for a “walk”.
How to properly care for sugar gliders
These adorable pets are very energetic even when they’re young. You should get the biggest possible cage that you can afford to store in your house. That way they’ll be able to jump, leap and play around as much as they can. If they’re confined to a small space for a long time, they might get depressed and stressed out.
The bar spacing on your cage should be no bigger than half an inch because sugar gliders are very versatile and can escape easily. You should allow them outside their cages daily, but only under watchful eyes. Their curious nature will make them explore places they shouldn’t and possibly get lost.
Going back to the cage, it should contain as many branches and shelves as possible. Set them up at different height levels so that they always have where to jump and perch. That way they’ll consume energy and be happy. You can also add several toys that further keep them distracted and drain their energy.
Last but not least, make sure to put a water dish and a sipper bottle, along with multiple food dishes. You never know when they’ll go hungry or thirsty and it’s best to keep their supplies as conveniently placed as possible.
How to feed sugar gliders
Sugar gliders are omnivores, so they require both meat and grass or vegetal foods. To this day, nobody knows what their optimum diet is, but one thing’s for sure: they need protein. In the wild, they consume very few fruits and many insects. They also like feeding on tree saps, pollen, and nectar from flowers as well as gum from their native eucalyptus and acacia trees.
Anyway, even though nobody knows their optimum diet for sure, the best version that was discovered so far goes as follows: 25% protein (be it from meat, eggs or insects), 25% green leaves, vegetables and small fruits (including papaya, grapes, berries, carrots, and sweet potatoes, as well as pellets containing greens), and 50% commercial sugar glider pellets.
If, however, you find it hard to respect this diet, you can also feed them something that so far has stood the test of time when it comes to feeding sugar gliders. The recipe is called Leadbeater’s mix and it goes as follows: combine nectar powder with water, one hardboiled egg, protein-rich cereal for human babies, honey and a multivitamin supplement.
Note that the meal must be refrigerated and discarded if not eaten within three days after preparation. Sugar gliders’ digestive system is more sensitive than our own, so you risk getting them sick if you feed them older food. Always make sure to get fresh ingredients and prepare them properly. You can even search for videos that show you how to do this in detail.
If in doubt, ask a veterinarian exactly what ingredients to get and how to prepare your sugar glider’s meal.
What if your sugar glider gets sick?
Sadly, just like us and other animals, sugar gliders aren’t immune to diseases or infections. They can get cancer, suffer traumatic injuries and organ failure as well as bacterial and parasitic infections. However, the most common illnesses they encounter are obesity and malnutrition as a result of improper diets, stress-related diseases when left alone too much, and dental issues.
Whatever the case may be, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian whose expertise is marsupials. If you can’t find one in your area, try to at least find one online and describe your pet’s problems as detailed as you possibly can.
If necessary, take your pet and drive to the vet’s office as soon as you can. It is crucial to take care of your pet’s problems, as they can seriously reduce their lifespan.
Performing a complete physical examination is relatively easy. Your vet will only require you to restrain the sugar glider gently while they do their job. However, for more invasive procedures, your pet might need an anesthetic. These procedures might involve taking a stool or blood sample to analyze for parasites and other diseases.
Lastly, even though sugar gliders don’t require annual vaccines, it is still best to take them for a complete checkup at least once a year.
Are sugar gliders noisy?
One of the first things that are likely to come to your mind when considering keeping sugar gliders as pets is the noise these marsupials make. If you’re more of a nocturnal person, you will probably not be disturbed by them being active at night because that’s what they are like.
Since they are nocturnal by nature, expect them to make use of the toys in the cage, explore the branches inside it, and do whatever they’re good at when the night settles in.
However, they don’t make too much noise themselves. The things you put in their cage can make a lot of noise, though, so the trick is to choose toys and accessories that will keep the sugar gliders entertained without making too much noise or any noise at all.
Sugar gliders can also be trained to fit different schedules and become diurnal, but many people having them as pets prefer not to interfere with their nocturnal nature. What’s more, since they sleep during the day, they won’t feel lonely and will be happy to see you coming back home from school or work when they wake up.
What about traveling with sugar gliders?
If you decide on getting sugar gliders as pets, but you worry about what to do with them when you want to travel, rest assured that they make good travel companions. Given their small size, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to take them, as well as their cage and things when traveling.
They don’t take too much space, and caring for them while traveling is not different from what you do when you’re at home. Just make sure that the hotel you’ve chosen for your holiday allows pets; therefore, it is best to call ahead to get such information.
In case there is no hotel with available rooms that allows pets in the area of interest, or you simply can’t take the sugar glider(s) with you, it is best not to leave him/her/them alone while you’re away and take the little one(s) over to a friend’s place. As we’ve said above, sugar gliders are social animals, and it is best to make sure they have other sugar gliders and people around.
Do they get along with other pets?
If you have other pets, you’ll probably wonder about how social sugar gliders are when it comes to other animals. It is only natural to ask yourself about the way they interact with dogs, cats, or other pets you may have since all the pets you have should live in a healthy environment and not be disturbed by other animal species they might not be compatible with.
Generally, when sugar gliders are appropriately introduced to other household pets, they bond to most of them. Reptiles, such as snakes, are an exception, though. Plus, sugar gliders may not bond to a few species of large birds, or at least in the beginning, because they are preyed upon by them in the wild. Eagles, hawks, and owls are just some of the birds that prey on sugar gliders.
The thing with sugar gliders is that they look like rodents, but they’re not, so they don’t have a food-like smell to most cats, dogs, and other pets. This might confuse your pets initially as they won’t know what to make of these new pets you’ve brought home.
Talk to your vet about how to introduce the sugar gliders you’ve just gotten to the pets you have. If you follow a few simple steps, and the pets do bond with each other, the sugar gliders may even become a sort of pet for your pet.
If they are not introduced properly, it is likely for your pet to try to go after the sugar glider when seeing them first, and that’s because of the sugar glider’s movement.
It’s enough to take a look at the many photos on the web to see how nicely these little marsupials can bond with dogs, cats, and other pets. More often than not, sugar gliders will end up sleeping, eating, and simply hanging out with other pets.
Interesting facts about sugar gliders
Besides knowing more about sugar gliders’ life expectancy, anatomy, diet, and behavior, you might also be interested in learning more about some of the things that set these little animals apart.
For example, their aerodynamic skills are impressive, to say the least. Their name is related to their diet and the way they move. Adult sugar gliders can glide up to 150 feet, which is incredible, considering their small size. They use their membrane, arms, tails, and bodies to adjust their speed, angle, and direction and thus land where desired.
Moreover, they can also catch insects while gliding, and they use less energy when gliding since they don’t flap their membranes. Besides having amazing aerial control, sugar gliders have a well-developed sense of smell, which they use to communicate.
For example, they use their urine to set territorial boundaries. Plus, they get their various messages across with the help of saliva as well as the scent their chests and foreheads produce. The scents of the sugar gliders in a nest help them understand the social hierarchy and know who the other ones are and their social position.
Plus, scent glands also help us differentiate between males and females. Male sugar gliders have a bald spot – their scent gland- on their head.
Now that you have the answer to questions such as ‘how long do sugar gliders live?’ and you’ve extended the sugar glider info you know, it should be easier for you to know whether your place could become home to these marsupials.
Sugar gliders are adorable, energetic, friendly, and overall wonderful pets. As long as you take proper care of them, they can live up to 15 years. Just make sure to keep an eye on their diet, take them to the vet at least once a year, and keep them happy by offering them a large enough cage with many toys, shelves, and branches.
Feeding them can be challenging, but not necessarily hard. Your vet can determine what diet your particular sugar glider reacts best to. Follow your vet’s advice as well as you can and your sugar glider will most likely stay healthy for a very long time. Of course, you should also request your vet to neuter the male sugar glider.
A kind reminder: they tend to copulate at just 8 months of age. So unless you plan on raising sugar gliders for a living, you’ll be thankful that you’ve neutered them on time. More sugar gliders mean more cages that take up a lot of space in your house. So unless you live in a big castle, it might not be the best idea to start a sugar glider farm.
And as a last advice, consider the fact that sugar gliders are high maintenance pets that require a lot of attention and care. You should seriously ask yourself if you have the time, energy and patience to properly care for such pets. Talk to breeders and veterinarians about this so you can find out the definitive answer.
If you’re uncertain, it’s best not to venture into this field. It’s not for everyone. But, hey, even if you’re not going to raise them, you can still visit breeders and admire these gorgeous creatures in all their splendor.