Unfortunately there is a crazy amount of misinformation floating around out there. This is often due to the mills and backyard breeders who are trying to get easy impulse purchases at malls and flea markets or festivals.
We’ve compiled a list of the most common myths and misconceptions when it comes to sugar gliders.
Please take a moment or two of your time to review them, some of them may surprise you!
They never bite.
Sorry folks, this is FALSE! They have teeth, right? So they can and will bite. Anything with teeth is capable of biting you. Gliders can draw blood by biting, too. Thankfully if they’ve been handled and are used to humans they’re pretty friendly. They will nibble(pinch lightly) you with their teeth to ‘taste’ you, it’s their way of exploring new things. They may also scrape their teeth against you, this is part of “grooming”, it typically happens once bonding really begins to show. But they typically only bite hard when very startled, frightened or given a reason to ‘defend’ themselves.
They need a heatrock.
This too is FALSE! Most joeys that are sold with heatrocks have to have them because they are sold well before the typical ‘wean’ date(usually 8-12 weeks). Before they’re fully weaned they’re too small to regulate their own body temperature, which is fine when they have mom and dad to cuddle with in their pouch.. But when the broker/breeder takes them from the parents and sells them they have to send the heatrock along with so they don’t die from getting too cold. So long as your house is 70-85 degrees your gliders should be happy. If you worry about winter months you can put a fleece cage cover on their cage, get a small space heater for their room or put small fleece blankets INTO their pouches. NEVER put any sort of heating item IN their cage!
All they need are pellets and apples.
This is also false! Sugar gliders are still considered an exotic animal. Their needs are much different from many of our other pets that are far more domesticated. Due to this they need a specialized diet to ensure they stay healthy and live a long full life. There are many popular diets developed by vets and long time sugar glider owners that have been properly balanced so that our gliders get exactly what they need. You can find a list of those diets on this website under Diet! Most pellets are all fillers and with a proper staple diet they don’t need pellets at all. However, if you prefer to offer a pellet for a day time snack something like a high quality cat food would be MUCH more healthy. One of the most popular ones is Orijen, you can find this at pet specialty stores or online.
They will bond with your cat/dog/etc.
This is VERY much false! Sugar gliders are very small delicate animals, they often move fast and can trigger the prey instinct of other animals quite easily. Even if your cat or dog only wants to play they could still injure or even kill your glider. One paw batting at them too hard, one playful nip or bite from their mouth, each of these is normal for larger animals playing together but could be quite dangerous to such a small creature like a glider. Also, cat saliva is deadly for gliders, so this is another thing to be very careful about. (Also important to note, catnip is also toxic to gliders. So if you DO have cats it’s best to not leave any where a glider may get into it.) Gliders can also kill small animals like mice or rats, so they should never be kept with any other species, even if they are close to the same size.
It is not ethically possible to ship sugar gliders.
This is one really big negative! If done properly shipping sugar gliders is actually very safe though it can be costly. The only legal and safe way to ship a sugar glider is to purchase a flight through an airline that accepts live animals as cargo. They get dropped off at the airport the same day of the flight just hours prior to the plane’s departure. They travel in a climate controlled pressurized cabin so it’s entirely safe and comfortable for them. Once they land the new parents pick them up at the airport as soon as they’re unloaded from the plane. They aren’t sitting in limbo on a truck for days on end waiting to be delivered like many people suspect. They can also NOT be delivered directly to your home, anyone offering this sort of shipment is likely attempting to scam you. This is a common scam with items like cars, normally, but some scammers are branching out into animals now too, sadly. Also, many breeders and suggie lovers often attempt to set up railroad systems to get gliders cross country via car or truck, one glider lover at a time, taking many to make a long stretch from one home to another. There are options besides shipping, if you are still unsure or worried, which is understandable. Your precious little one is going to go on such a big trip all on their own, some new parent anxiety is pretty normal! But please do know, many breeders ship gliders every day without any sort of physical or emotional trauma.
Everything you read online or on internet forums is false!
This is VERY much false! There are quite a few mill brokers or mill breeders who tell their customers this in an attempt to keep them from finding out real information on sugar gliders. Some even go so far as to refer to them only as ‘Sugar Bears’ so that when people go to search for them online they’ll find only the content put there by the mills or mill brokers. One company actually manufactured multiple fake websites that look entirely professional solely for the purpose of trashing online communities of sugar glider owners like forums and other websites. These fake websites range from ‘review’ pages with false reviews to a falsified veterinary organization to make them look more professional and official. (Heck, they even have a vet who they paid to do videos for them on youtube. You’ll notice their subtle methods in his teaching or their cage and wheel in the background of his ‘office’.) Truly, the people on those glider forums and websites have nothing to gain from trying to help share sugar glider information with you. We’re not getting a sale from you, right? In all honesty, I’d be more likely to trust the person who didn’t have a financial interest in my decisions. Because of these false websites they create and all of the other information about ‘bears’ versus gliders people who are new to the world of sugar gliders often end up finding false information right off the bat.
ONLY adopt from USDA licensed breeders or brokers!
They make this claim sometimes while stating it’s illegal to breed without a license or that only USDA licensed breeders are good. None of this is true! So this statement is a big old false! It is true that in SOME states, like Georgia, you have to have paperwork from a USDA licensed breeder/broker to legally own your sugar glider. In just about every other state that is not true by any means. You don’t even need to be licensed to breed unless you have more than a specific amount of gliders breeding. Also, the standards the USDA holds breeders to are often much lower than the general husbandry practices most small breeders follow. The USDA has no requirements about diets or lineage, but any reputable breeder knows it’s best to feed a balanced staple and to only breed lineaged gliders(so as to avoid inbreeding or other genetic issues). The USDA makes no requirements that gliders be lineaged, so many of the larger licensed breeders are actually breeding gliders that are related to one another which leads to serious health problems down the road. Also, the USDA’s requirements on cage sizing is minimal.. enough for them to stand, turn around, etc.. Very poor conditions for a tree dwelling animal. I visited a USDA licensed facility and they had tiny cages on top of one another stacked five high to the ceiling and all that was in those cages was a bowl of water(they need bottles so the urine and feces doesn’t get in there), a bowl of pellets and a crown royal bag for them to sleep in. Not only is that bag not safe but there was no wheel, no toys, nothing fun or comfortable for them. For all of these reasons you should easily see that USDA licensing doesn’t mean the person or facility is a wonderful place to adopt from since their standards are pretty low. There are some wonderful breeders that ARE licensed, but you should not base your decision to adopt from someone on whether or not they are USDA licensed as that license does not assure quality or health, unfortunately.
Leashes, harnesses and diapers are all great and actually necessary!
Not only is this false but it’s VERY dangerous! First of all there is no way to potty train or have a diaper on a glider. If you mind being pooed or peed on occasionally a different pet may be the best option for you. Any sort of clothing like a diaper or a harness will restrict the glider’s patagium, their gliding membranes. This can cause serious pain, discomfort or even injuries like tearing of those delicate membranes. Some people opt to use a leash around the neck instead of a harness but since they are so small, fast and delicate this can be especially dangerous. Gliders often jump from person to person or from one person to a piece of furniture, and one wrong jump in a leash could snap the glider’s neck, unfortunately. If it doesn’t kill them instantly it could also choke them or cause other serious injuries. We suggest only taking your glider outdoors or into an unfamiliar setting or place only if they are secure in a zippered bonding pouch or carrier. Even bonded gliders may be tempted by something shiny or delicious smelling and in just one instant they could be half way up a tree, in the road, on top of a store display, you name it. They’re fast and quite clever so even the most bonded glider should not be taken out loose, it just isn’t worth the risk.
They only need a small cage, especially when they’re still young!
Nope nope and nope! Quite the opposite! Age or size makes no difference in the environment a sugar glider needs. They require large flight-type cages, like for birds. The bar spacing can be no wide than one half inch apart but the cage needs to be at least three feet tall, preferably, with no less than two by two for the width and depth. Of course, bigger is better, I can’t stress this enough. Many people have six foot tall enclosures that are as much as four or five feet wide. Height is more vital than anything for a glider as they like to climb and jump. They won’t really use and don’t need ladders or shelves, tubes, etc. They can easily scale the cage walls from bottom to top and hop directly from one side to the other without any shelves or ladders to help them. They do like fleece hammocks to sit on occasionally, while snacking or grooming. Joeys will be just as active as adults, too, so it’s vital they have just as large of a cage as an adult would. It doesn’t matter how much time they spend with you outside the cage, either. They are nocturnal and will likely be awake and playing while you sleep, this is one of many reasons it is vital to have a large cage for them at all times.
They don’t have any noticeable smell at all.
Sadly this isn’t true, either. There are many factors which can influence this, actually. For one, unneutered males develop ‘bald’ spots on their chest and head, these are scent glands which they use to mark their territory and cage mates. This can make a colony a little more smelly than they would otherwise be. However, both genders CAN scent mark, if they choose to. They have a gland in their bottoms which allows them to do this. The same gland also allows them to emit a strong skunk-like smell as a defense mechanism. Normally adults do not do this unless absolutely terrified and the smell does not last more than a short while, unlike a skunk. If keeping a neutered male and/or female colony the smell is typically less noticeable. There is a bit of a ‘scent’ to gliders, like with ferrets, but not as strong and most long time suggie parents don’t notice it. If you over clean their cage, even for females and neutered males, they will go over board in an attempt to make it smell like ‘home’ again. For this reason it’s best to clean periodically and alternate. Leave some slightly smelly bedding(pouches, hammocks, etc) in when you wash the cage. I always try to leave a few ‘smelly’ pieces in when I do their laundry so it doesn’t smell too ‘unfamiliar’ to them. With regular light cleaning and a good diet their smell is very minimal. That said, a poor diet can also contribute to a more musky smell. Once you find the right staple that works best for you and your gliders they should stay properly balanced without excess smell and with a beautiful soft coat, as well.
They do fine on their own and do not need a companion of their own kind.
This is one of the biggest lies, unfortunately! Very much false. I’ve met many gliders in the over five years I’ve been so blessed to enjoy keeping them as a part of my family. Only once have I met a glider who did not do well with other gliders, likely from having been abused or kept alone too long as she was never handled or played with. Many stores or brokers(like Pocket Pets) will tell you they do find on their own if you spend a lot of time with them. This is not true, really. Think about it like this.. no matter how much time we spend with them we can not speak their own language, we can not cuddle together with them in their sleeping pouch during the day, we can not groom eachother like gliders do. There is a lot they are missing out on by not having a member of their own species as company. By nature they are colony animals and live in large groups. Two gliders often do wonderfully together but many people have as many as four, five, six or even more in a colony. Two would be the absolute minimum we would recommend as they can suffer from depression if kept along too long. The signs of depression may not be too apparent as they naturally hide any signs of weakness or illness because this helps them avoid attracting a predator in the wild which would endanger the colony. Because of this it may already be severe by the time you notice any signs of depression. They can over groom and pull out small tufts of fur, they may stop eating or running in their wheel and sometimes they may even start chewing on their tails which can lead to the tail having to be amputated. Most good breeders will even offer a discount if you adopt two at once or a pair of siblings as they want their suggies to have a buddy in their new home!
They get along wonderfully with young children.
Unfortunately in most situations this is very much false! Sugar gliders are small, fast and don’t often like to sit still. For this reason they often end up spooking young children which can cause them to squeeze them or drop them which could result in the glider biting the child or the glider getting hurt from a fall or drop. They do not always bite but many do still nibble as part of a grooming process. Also, they have long sharp teeth and CAN draw blood if they choose to. For this reason they aren’t good for most children. They are NEVER a pet meant ONLY for a child. Their care requires too much work, time and commitment for a child to handle. I know many families with gliders as a family pet where the adult does most of the work and the children are allowed to play with them while supervised, not alone. This can work with patient and well behaved children, but every family is different so it may not work for everyone. Also, these little ones DO live up to FIFTEEN years! Many parents purchase them expecting them to live the lifespan of a typical hamster or goldfish, but in reality they are a very long term commitment much like a cat or dog.
They can easily be potty trained.
This is not exactly true, mostly it’s just misleading. Sugar gliders can not be trained to go in a litter pan or anything like that. They will go when and where they like, on you, on your arm, on the couch.. you get the idea. When they do ‘go’ it’s very minimal, much like a mouse. Tiny little firm pieces of poop, normally, and a small amount of pee, usually a kleenex is enough to clean both up. Gliders will often potty immediately once woken up, so if you are going to take them out for play time give them a moment in or on top of the cage after waking them and they will usually go right away. If you have them out long enough that they need to go potty again they will likely do so anywhere they are, though they prefer to avoid doing so in their sleeping pouches. It’s best to keep some kleenex and hand sanitizer on you at all times just in case. This is a pretty normal part of being a suggie parent that we have all come to accept.
They need to have their teeth trimmed.
FALSE! If anyone suggests or attempts this RUN FAR AWAY! (Optionally, you could also attempt to educate the vet, but most don’t want to accept that they’re misinformed.) Some vets have actually been known to offer this service. These vets know little about sugar glider anatomy and are actually hurting gliders by doing this. Unlike rodents, which sugar gliders are not technically, their teeth do not continually grow. Many rodent’s have this problem so you need to provide chewing items for them to keep their teeth trim. Gliders teeth never grow, once full size. If clipped they will never grow back and they will be in extreme pain almost constantly. If a vet suggests this service to you it will let you know how LITTLE they truly know about seeing sugar gliders and it would be best to find a new vet for your gliders at that point.
They’re never noisy, great for quiet apartments or dorms!
This is definitely FALSE. Many people will tell you they’re silent or near silent. Perfect for that dorm room, small apartment or even your own bedroom. Well, first of all, sugar gliders are nocturnal. This means they will typically be up when it’s dark outside, you know, when most people sleep. This means they’ll be awake, running around, jumping and spinning in the wheel, eating, playing with toys and making other noises. They can make a wide range of noises, from barking like a small terrier dog to a ‘crabbing’ noise that many people compare to a mechanical pencil sharpener. They can hiss, click and make all sorts of noises that help them communicate with their colony members. They’re very intelligent, too, so if they figure out that you come to ‘quiet them down’ when they bark they will likely begin to bark simply because they know it means they’ll get attention. Some are more vocal than others, though. Also, some toys and cages are noisy, too. Some more flimsy cages, often on the cheaper end, rattle VERY loudly when they jump from one panel directly to another. That all said, I have had sugar gliders in an apartment and no one has noticed them, really. They do bark, but it’s very soft like a very small dog. However, when I had roommates in a house the people down the hall did hear their barking and they were bothered by it. So you’ll likely not want to keep them in your bedroom but in a room of their own or perhaps on a different level from the one you sleep on. Also, some people suggest they can go ‘anywhere’ with you ‘all day’ and ‘every day’. This is not true! If you work in a quiet environment you can NEVER be sure they won’t bark, crab, hiss or make some other noise. Also, while they will sleep in a bonding pouch they do also enjoy some silent, undisturbed(from moving around, talking, etc) sleep during the day a good majority of the time.
They won’t breed with their own offspring or parents.
Definitely FALSE! Quite the opposite! Sugar gliders have a much different system in the wild. They live in large colonies and each colony has it’s own territory. Within a colony only one dominant male will mate the female within that colony. They will challenge each other, sometimes to the death, over breeding rights within a colony. Since there is no where for gliders to escape in their environments within our home the fights for dominance can be much more severe and deadly. Also, sons will mate with their mothers and fathers with their daughters. This is why it’s so vital to keep lineage when breeding gliders. We have so few of them in the US compared to cats or dogs that the odds of a pairing being related somehow are quite high. Gliders will begin mating as early as four months OOP, most vets will neuter males as early as two months OOP though sometimes they will base it on size or weight if the male is exceptionally small for his age. Females can NOT be spayed as the surgery is too invasive on such a tiny animal, so it’s best to neuter any males before placing them within a colony or they WILL breed any females that are accessible.
Squishing a glider makes them calm down and feel secure.
Definitely FALSE! This can seriously harm your glider! The biggest mill broker in the country insists that you hold your glider on one palm and if he/she crabs(cries/makes a frightened noise) that you should place your other palm over him/her and squish them flat until they stop making noise. They claim this calms them and reminds them of being in the mother’s pouch. This is all a big lie. This only hurts and scares the sugar glider and obedience through fear is no way to begin a life long bond with your little ones. Please do NOT attempt this method. If anything you can gently stroke them through the pouch and speak softly to them like you would soothe a small child or baby.
They never need to see a vet!
Sorry, this is FALSE! While it is true that sugar gliders do not need the shots and vaccinations that our common cats and dogs typically do it does NOT mean that they do not need a vet. In reality, it can be very difficult to find a good vet that will see sugar gliders as they aren’t as common as cats and dogs quite yet. Some will offer to ‘see’ them but sometimes end up harming or mistreating them due to lack of proper knowledge on the species. Because of this it’s best to inquire about their experience and how long they have been seeing gliders. You should seek one out before you bring home any gliders to be sure one is available in your area. It is also best to find a twenty-four hour emergency vet as many emergency situations can arise at night since gliders are nocturnal. Once you’ve found a vet it’s best to go in for a general wellness exam as soon as you bring them home. On top of that it’s good to have to vet run a fecal a couple of times a year to check for any parasites or other problems. Also, vet care for gliders CAN be more costly as they’re considered an exotic. For example, a neuter ranges anywhere from $60 to $500 depending on where in the country you are located.
It’s good to pull joeys from their parents early to form a special bond!
Not only is this not true but it’s potentially dangerous to the joey! If anyone offers to sell you a joey less than eight weeks old run far and run fast! Joeys don’t fully wean until between eight and twelve weeks. Some breeders will prematurely pull the joey from the parents to ‘hand-raise’ it as they feel it makes for a ‘sweeter’ joey. This is VERY dangerous and should never be done. Joeys learn all of their life skills from their mommy and daddy in those weeks they spend with them after coming out of pouch. If someone suggests it’s best to have one under eight weeks old or tells you they will pull one for you I suggest finding a different breeder right away. No reputable breeder would risk a joey’s life in such a way. Some questionable breeders and mills even do that in an attempt to get the mother to have more joeys again sooner so they can collect more profit.