Before Buying a Sugar Glider
Sugar gliders are cute, exotic and entertaining. But before you buy one of these marsupials for a pet, there are things you need to know. First, buying a sugar glider and setting up its habitat is expensive. You can expect to pay at least $500 and even closer to $1,000 just to take your sugar glider home and start your journey together. From there, the animal’s diet, habitat, toys, veterinary costs and general upkeep will cost at least another $1,000 per year for most owners. Considering your pet should live 10 years or more, these adorable little creatures can put a dent in your wallet, between $10,000 and $20,000 over the course of their lifetime. But these are only your first considerations before buying your pet.
It is also very important to know that it is illegal to own one of these Australian marsupials in some U.S. states. In others, you need to meet special permit requirements. These laws can change, too. So if you invest in taking a sugar glider home, you must be prepared to meet permit requirements and maintain your pet’s legal status.
Once you get your sugar glider home, you will need to invest time each day for habitat maintenance and the animal’s socialization. Sugar gliders’ cages must be cleaned at least weekly. But you will also spend at least a half hour or more each day preparing its food, changing bedding and cleaning up after your pet. If you do not have a second sugar glider to socialize as a pair, you also need to spend time every day handling your pet.
If you own other pets, bear in mind that a sugar glider may not be a good choice as an addition to your home and family. These cute creatures do not do well in a household with other pets, such as dogs and cats. If you decide you want to be a sugar glider pet owner, you should also respect the animal’s need to be the only pet species in your home.
How much does a sugar glider cost?
Sugar gliders are expensive pets, for certain. Although the animal itself costs less than many pure-bred or designer mix puppies, the marsupials have many costly ongoing needs that can bust your budget. It is important to understand these costs before picking up your new furry family member.
The cost of a sugar glider is between $100 and $500. Adults are on the low end of the cost spectrum. Babies are at the high end of the scale. These animals are very social and do best when they live in pairs. Having two sugar gliders will keep your pets happy and reduce the amount of time you need to spend socializing with them each day. Having only one of the marsupials is common, but this means you must dedicate daily focus on playtime with your pet. Obviously, having two animals to better meet their social needs means doubling your upfront and ongoing pet care costs.
Your local or state laws may add to your upfront pet adoption costs. Many of these exotic animal permits require you to pay fees. If you do not pay them, you are likely to face even steeper fines and may even have your animal taken from you.
Also bear in mind that it is sometimes possible to find sugar gliders being given away for free. But just because the animal is a “good deal” does not mean they are not expensive upfront. The previous owners likely realized how costly and time-intensive their care really is and are giving away the animal to stop having to care for it. Consider this a lesson to heed before making your decision to invest.
Set up costs include about $250 to $500 for a suitable cage and associated climbing ropes, ladders, feeding dishes, bedding and other accessories. Sugar gliders need lots of space, making it important that you provide a cage no smaller than 2 feet wide and 3 feet long. Dietary and habitat needs will cost about $700 per year or more. This includes their regular dietary pellets, supplemental fresh fruits and vegetables, insects to eat and bedding, which needs frequent replacement. Veterinary checkups and treatment for illnesses add up to between $250 to $550 per year. As you can see, annual upkeep of your sugar glider and its habitat costs well over $1,000 per year and more realistically over $2,000.
New Sugar Glider Owner Shopping List: What to Buy
Bringing a new sugar glider pet into your home is exciting. Certainly, there are many things you need to do to prepare for your furry family addition before acquiring the animal, itself. These exact needs can be both confusing and overwhelming. But we make it easy with this new sugar glider owner shopping list, below:
- Cage – A sugar glider needs a cage that is at least 2 feet wide by 3 feet long — the bigger the pet’s cage, the better. Here are the best sugar glider cages, reviewed and ranked.
- Exercise wheels – Much like pet rodents like a hamster or mouse, your new sugar glider needs an exercise resource while in the cage
- Food dishes – Your marsupial will eat a mixed diet consisting mostly of nutritious food pellets with supplemental fresh fruits, vegetables and insects you need to provide each day
- Water bottles and water bowls – Keeping drinking water clean is not easy for your little pet, so you should provide multiple water supply options within their habitat
- Nest pouches or nest boxes – To provide your sugar glider with privacy and security while they sleep more than 13 to 19 hours daily, a nest pouch or nest box is an important aspect of any cage habitat
- Toys – Sugar gliders love to play, even at night while you are sleeping, so they need many options to help them stay happy and entertained. Here are some great sugar glider toys to get you started.
- Cage accessories – There are a wide variety of perches, ropes, ladders, bridges, tunnels, plants and hoops to choose from to dress up your new pet’s habitat and keep him comfy and entertained
- Bedding and cage liners – Sugar gliders are messy little marsupials that distribute debris and waste throughout the bottom of their habitat. Bedding and cage liners can help contain this mess and keep their home sanitary
- Cleaning supplies – Just as with any rodent, reptile, fish, bird or other caged animal, your sugar glider enjoys living in a healthy habitat that is regularly cleaned with non-toxic solutions
- Nail trimmer – You will need a pet nail trimmer to maintain your marsupial’s nails for safety
- Food – Your best option is to buy sugar glider-specific diet staple pellets and combine this with fresh fruits, vegetables and insects
- Vitamins – Talk to your vet about whether your sugar glider needs supplemental calcium or a multivitamin, given the diet you provide
- Bonding pouch – A pouch you wear is one of the safest and most secure ways to bond with your animal while also enabling them to explore the world outside their cage
- Travel carrier – Whether for travel or to go to the vet, you will need a travel carrier for your new pet
One of the easiest ways to prepare for your new pet is to buy a sugar glider starter package for their habitat and feeding. These kits enable you to try out popular items before spending more money to buy them item-by-item. With a starter kit you can learn what works best for you and your marsupial.
Ongoing Needs: What You Need to Care for Your Sugar Glider
After bringing your sugar glider home and spending time with them on a daily basis, you will learn what your marsupial pet likes and does not like. You will also know better how to keep their cage clean and comfortable. As part of your new routine with your furry little friend, you will need to restock their everyday supplies and accessories to continue providing a great habitat for them. Below are some of your sugar glider’s ongoing needs and what you should have on hand:
- Nocturnal pet lighting system – This heat lamp keeps your little marsupial warm while providing a light source that does not disrupt their circadian rhythm
- Fruit fly traps – Unfortunately, one of the effects of having a caged pet like a sugar glider is also having occasional fruit fly problems. These fruit fly traps can help free your home of these little pests
- Pet odor remover – The surfaces on which your sugar glider lives can develop odors from their waste, body oils and other fluids. It helps to have pet odor removers of various types on hand to combat odor problems
- Nest boxes or pouches – Because your pet will use the same nest box or pouch most of the time, one or more of these can become quite dirty and frayed. Keep a spare nest or box on hand for quick replacement
- Toys – These marsupials need a lot of entertainment and socialization. This means you will want to keep some toys to exchange with or add to the pet’s current cache and prevent boredom
- Bedding and cage liners – Like a bird cage, your sugar glider’s habitat gets very dirty with most of the animal’s waste and food debris collecting at the bottom, where gravity takes it. Frequently replacing cage liners or bedding will help keep the habitat clean and fresh
- Cleaning supplies – From now until your sugar glider’s lifespan ends, you will need to keep plenty of non-toxic cleaning supplies on hand
- Food and treats – Once you establish a healthy diet that keeps your marsupial happy, you will need to ensure you have enough daily food pellets, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables on hand for daily consumption
- Vitamins – If your vet recommends vitamin supplementation, you should keep these prescriptions filled as you refill your own medications
Exercise and Ongoing Sugar Glider Care
Like any pet, sugar gliders have ongoing needs for exercise, cage cleaning, grooming and veterinary care. You also need to keep their habitat clean, although that is certainly a challenging task!
While in their cage, your sugar glider will need plenty of stimulation to keep them active, engaged, healthy and happy. There are great toys, branches, perches, ropes, ladders, plants, bridges, tunnels and hoops available through pet stores for this purpose. But you should also provide each individual sugar glider with their own silent exercise wheel. These wheels are much like hamster wheels but have no center axle. They are also quieter and bigger than rodent wheels to suit the sugar glider’s size and exercise needs. If you invest in a wheel as is highly recommended, consider also getting wheel sandpaper to file the animal’s nails as they run.
It is no secret that sugar gliders are messy little animals. But because they are such delightful little companions, most owners do not mind having to perform a little extra work to keep the habitat clean. This work involves cleaning up excess food debris, washing the food containers and refilling with fresh food on a daily basis. It is important to ensure your pet has a clean water supply at all times. Also wipe debris from the cage trays daily. Replace the cage liners at least twice every week.
Besides light daily checking and cleaning, you also need to deep clean the cage once every two weeks. Use a mixture of hot water and vinegar or dish soap to sponge all cage surfaces and wipe away fluids, debris and waste. Wash and dry sleeping pouches, cloth toys and other fabric items in your washing appliances at least once weekly. Do not use fabric softener. If these items are heavily soiled or torn, throw them away and replace them.
It is important to know that sugar gliders do not “potty train” like cats or dogs. They tend to urinate and defecate on their humans. But as you will soon learn, most of this takes place right after they wake up. If you allow them time in their cage to use the bathroom after waking, you are less likely to be affected by this natural need.
Clipping your sugar glider’s nails is an important responsibility for any of these pets’ owners. With long nails they will possibly injure you and other members of your family. Their nails are capable of cutting into skin and causing infection, as a result. In the safety of their own cage, your sugar glider’s nails can snag on cloth or other materials, causing potential for self-injury. The marsupial only knows to keep pulling away when trapped and can cause great harm to himself or herself, in the process. For these reasons, you need to buy a set of animal nail clippers. Keep sandpaper specifically designed for this purpose in the silent exercise wheel for nail filing when needed, too.
Sugar gliders are hypoallergenic pets with dense fur that does not attract mites or lice. Never bathe your marsupial because they do all of this fur care on their own and a bath will only cause stress. Besides not triggering allergies, these furry friends are extremely low-maintenance in terms of fur cleaning.
To clean your sugar glider’s teeth, simply provide them with daily snacks of live mealworms or crickets. The insects’ exoskeletons “brush” the animal’s teeth and remove tartar. You should never scale, trim or file your pet’s teeth. This will cause them pain and permanently damage their teeth, at the same time.
Sugar gliders are different to care for than dogs or cats. For this reason, you need to find an exotic animal vet who has experience with marsupials. Establish a relationship with the veterinarian and take your animal in for a checkup before you need help in an emergency.
Feeding Your Sugar Glider
Wash and dry your sugar glider’s food containers on a daily basis. Feeding time is at night for these nocturnal creatures. They sleep all day and do not need food during these daytime hours. Of course, you should keep clean and fresh water in their cage at all times.
Every evening for feeding time, provide your sugar glider with a bowl of high-quality dietary pellets designed specifically for sugar gliders. These pellets should make up 75% of their daily food intake. The remaining 25% can consist of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables chopped up for easy consumption. You can also feed them nuts and insects, such as live mealworms and crickets. And here are 20+ more foods that sugar gliders love!
To make keeping their cage clean easier, place a shoebox in the bottom of your sugar glider’s habitat. Place their food bowls in this box and then place the animal in the box to eat. As they disrupt the food during their eating process, the mess will be contained in the box, instead strewn about the cage floor.
How long will your sugar glider live?
Your sugar glider’s lifespan largely depends upon the care you take with the animal. If you feed your marsupial a healthy diet and provide it with the means to exercise daily and avoid illness, you can expect it to live 10 years to 12 years. But by the time it reaches 5 years to 7 years of age, your sugar glider is considered elderly and will start showing signs of aging. Learn more about the sugar glider’s lifespan in this article called “How Long do Sugar Gliders Live?”
Common Health Issues for Sugar Gliders
It is very important to have an exotic animal veterinarian caring for your sugar glider through regular wellness checkups and whenever the animal seems ill. Signs of illness in these little marsupials include a poor appetite, lethargy, nasal discharge, labored breathing, sneezing, eye discharge, itching or lumps on the body.
Sugar gliders often suffer low blood sugar when they stop eating because of illness. If you notice your pet appears weak, will not eat or experiences tremors or seizures, take them to the vet immediately. Another type of emergency for these animals is a low calcium level. They also sometimes self-mutilate when stressed. These behaviors can start if one of the highly social animals is housed alone, left unsocialized or suffers pain.
Where to Buy a Sugar Glider
The most common resources for buying sugar gliders are through national pet and pet supply retailers and sugar glider breeders. A simple web search can direct you to a breeder near you. An exotic animal veterinarian can also provide some resources for obtaining your own pet.
It is very important to realize that sugar gliders are illegal in some U.S. states. Alaska and California are two such states. In Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, you must obtain a special permit to own one of the animals. To know whether you can legally obtain and own a sugar glider, you must research your state and local laws. Also bear in mind that these laws and permit requirements can change at any time. This makes it very important to maintain awareness about your region’s rules through your state Fish, Game and Wildlife Department.
Pet Sugar Glider Guide: What You Need To Know FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Do sugar gliders make good house pets?
Sugar gliders are great pets for owners who learn about their unique needs, characteristics and habits before buying one. Because these marsupials are highly social, they tend to suffer depression when living in a cage alone. For this reason, it is important to try to house a pair of sugar gliders. If you cannot own a pair, you need to spend at least 30 minutes per day holding and playing with your pet.
Is owning a sugar glider hard?
Sugar gliders require well-outfitted habitats, primarily a large cage with lots of climbing materials, toys, accessories and bedding. Their diets, veterinary care and other needs are costly when compared to animals like cats and dogs. They also require daily handling to keep them tame, socialized and happy. It is important to keep a sugar glider’s habitat clean, but this can feel like a challenge to many pet owners.
Are sugar gliders illegal to own?
Owning a sugar glider is illegal in Alaska and California. Other states, like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, require special exotic animal permits for owners to keep these animals. It is important to check your local and state laws before buying one.
Can sugar gliders sleep in their owners' bed?
Sugar gliders are nocturnal animals. This means that while most humans are sleeping at night, the animals are wide awake and playing, eating and grooming themselves. For this reason, it is best to spend some time in the evening after your sugar glider wakes up to socialize and play together. They will sleep while you are at work, school or pursuing regular daytime activities.
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