“Ooooh, Mom, we need one of these!” That’s what my 11-year-old daughter had to say about sugar gliders, increasingly popular exotic pets native to Australia and New Guinea.
I need another thing to take care of like I need an extra hole in my head, but I agreed with my daughter that sugar gliders are incredibly cute. They are marsupials, not rodents, and they can glide like flying squirrels. Neat.
After doing some research, I get the appeal of sugar gliders. However, my verdict is that sugar gliders would be a terrible pet for our family. It seems like the kind of thing I’d like to visit at someone else’s house, but not actually own.
If you’re thinking about getting a sugar glider (or two — they’re very social), some great websites to check out are Glider Central and SugarGlider.com. They have tons of great info, and active message boards.
As with all pets, it’s important to do your research before making a commitment to taking care of another living thing. However, exotic pets come with all kinds of other issues, including legality, availability of veterinary care, and unique feeding requirements. Consider the following 12 questions before getting yourself a sugar glider!
1. Are sugar gliders legal where you live?
Before making the investment in a sugar glider, make absolutely sure they’re legal in your state. The animals are flat-out illegal in California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Massachusetts. Other states may allow them, but with restrictions. Pennyslvania, for example, regulates sugar gliders as exotic wildlife, and requires permits in order to sell or keep the animals.
2. Can you afford one?
Expect to pay between $200 and $500 for a pet sugar glider from a breeder. However, because many sugar glider owners give them up within a year, you may be able to adopt one but you may not get complete or truthful information on the animal’s lineage or health history.
3. Do you have room?
Sugar gliders need plenty of room to leap around. Tower-style cages like this one offer multiple levels so that your pet can jump from one to another. Cages should be equipped with plenty of activities to keep sugar gliders busy, and pouches for sleeping.
4. Are you prepared for this?
Sugar gliders jump, leap, and glide. It’s what they do. In the wild, they can glide as far as 50 yards, using their tails as rudders. In your house, they will enjoy climbing your curtains and leaping to bookcases and other furniture. Whee! Sounds kinda cool, but according to SugarGlider.com, they pretty much poo and pee on the go. So just keep that in mind.
5. Is there a vet in your area that is knowledgable about sugar gliders?
Not all vets have experience with sugar gliders, so be sure to locate one before investing. Like all pets, sugar gliders require regular medical care, which can be costly.
6. Are you ready for two sugar gliders?
In the wild, sugar gliders live in colonies, playing together, sleeping together, and grooming each other. In captivity they can become lonely and depressed if kept by themselves. Sugar gliders are happier if kept in pairs, but note that they have the capacity to breed constantly unless neutered or spayed. Two females will get along fine, but two males may fight for domination.
7. Do you want a long-term pet?
Sugar gliders can live for 15 years or even more.
8. Are you a night owl?
Sugar gliders are nocturnal — and noisy. They communicate with chirps, barks, and hisses. Also, because they’re active at night, you can expect to hear plenty of jumping around noises from their cage, as well.
9. Are you squeamish?
Sugar gliders are omnivorous, and don’t just eat little dry pellets from a pet store. If you’re squeamish about handling mealworms, grubs, and crickets, this isn’t the pet for you.
10. Do you have time for cage maintenance?
Sugar glider cages need to be thoroughly cleaned at least once a week, and will require some maintenance more often that that. And considering the size of the cage you’ll need, those cleanings can be time-consuming.
11. Is this the right pet for your family?
Sugar gliders have teeth, and will bite if they’re spooked. They’re also small, making them fairly unsuitable for small children. Also, if you have teenagers that are promising to be in charge of all the care, remember that sugar gliders can live for 15 years and your kid is going to going to hopefully move out some day. Chances are, she’s going to move to a dorm or some apartment that isn’t going allow sugar gliders.
12. Do you have someone that can babysit if you’re going to be away?
When cat owners and dog owners go on vacation, kennel and pet hotel options abound. This isn’t the case with exotic pets. Sugar gliders need fresh food daily, so you can’t leave them alone for days on end. Have a pet sitter lined up not just for vacations, but for emergencies.