Are Gliders Right for You
Sugar gliders can be awesome pets, for the right person. They are cute, fun, curious, amazing little animals. However, they are not for everyone. If they are not right for you, then neither you nor the gliders will have a very fun time. Many gliders have had to be rehomed for this reason, which can be very hard on them. Their extreme cuteness works against them because many first-time buyers get their gliders on an impulse. The first time you see a little sugar glider head poking out of someone's pocket, you think you've got to have one, but are often times misled or uninformed about what all is involved in their care. Our first gliders were bought on an impulse as well, so I feel that to be a responsible breeder (and a decent person), I should disclose some of the negative aspects of glider ownership and warn you what you're in for. Although they are some of the coolest animals on the planet, there are several things to consider before deciding if you should get them.
Things to Consider:
Are They Legal?
First things first. Be sure to check your state and local laws to make sure gliders are legal to own as pets in your area. Just because they are legal in your state, doesn't mean they are in your city. Getting gliders in an area where they are restricted is a horrible idea and most breeders, myself included, would not sell to you. If the gliders are found out, they risk being put to sleep without a chance of rehoming them.
Two's Company, Three's... Even Better!
Gliders should not be kept single. They are very social animals and although you get to become part of their "colony," you cannot fill the niche that another glider fills. Gliders hug and cuddle in the pouch and groom each other to keep their coat nice. As much as you pet and cuddle them yourself, you will never be able to replace the need for a glider companion. For example, you may love your dog, but you still want a human friend to relate to. Keep in mind that when you buy gliders from two different breeders, you can't just put them together immediately. You must have a second full cage setup because it's necessary to quarantine them for 30 days and go through the proper introduction process before you can put them in the same cage. Unless they are siblings that are already living together, you MUST go through introductions, even if they're from the same breeder. Just remember that if you are pairing two males that at least one MUST be neutered. If a male and female are paired, the male should be neutered unless you have done extensive research about breeding and already owned gliders as pets. And two's not the limit - gliders naturally live in colonies and will be more than happy to have a group to cuddle with!
The initial set-up can be expensive to give them a proper home. As mentioned before, you will need two set-ups unless the gliders you are buying are already cage mates. Even so, it's a good idea to have at least a small backup cage in case one gets sick or you need to travel with them. You will need a good cage, a proper glider wheel, water bottles, feeding dishes, pouches, plenty of glider-safe toys, and other cage accessories (hammocks, bridges, etc.). Don't be fooled because you saw a glider living with much less in the pet store, the mall, or gun show. That glider was miserable. If you don't have a completely glider-safe room to have play time in, you will also need to purchase a junior pop-up tent for a safe place to play with your gliders out of the cage. A wellness exam from a reputable glider vet is also necessary when you get your gliders home. You can expect to spend at least $900 to get a decent set-up with two gliders not counting what your vet charges for the two wellness exams. And that would be assuming you're buying gliders on the cheaper end of the scale. In addition to this initial cost, you will have a monthly food bill, as well as an annual wellness exam from the vet. If something ever goes wrong and your glider is injured or sick, getting it well can cost a pretty penny. It's a good idea to have an emergency fund ready because in many cases, the glider can't wait until pay day to see the vet. Toys, pouches, and cage accessories must be replaced from time to time because they can become unsafe due to normal wear and tear.
Despite what some resources may say, gliders can not be potty trained. They will go whenever they feel the need, even when they're sitting on your arm. Their poo is like little pellets (similar to mouse droppings) and can be easily cleaned up. The fact is, they will pee and poop on you at some point, and you need to be okay with that.
Are You Stable?
I know that's an odd question, but these guys can live 10-15 years. Questions that come to mind are: Do you move around a lot? Are you in college? Do you have a steady income? How often do you travel? I personally have felt the pain of having to re-home my gliders when I was young because of having to move, and you never want to go through that.
Is Glider-Slavery for You?
Many people in the forums consider themselves "glider slaves" and joke that they are owned by their gliders rather than the other way around, because these guys become a big part of your life. You must be there to prepare their food every night and spend time playing with them. You have to keep their cage clean and do their laundry (pouches and cage accessories). You can't go anywhere overnight without having a solid, reliable friend or family member who is willing to feed them for you. It often takes a lot of time and effort to build and maintain a bond.
Bringing home a glider is not like bringing home a puppy. It's not going to love and trust you automatically. Although gaining their trust can take a little time, it's rewarding to know you've earned it. It can take anywhere from one day to several months to gain that trust. During this time, you must tread lightly so as to not set back the process. You have to convince this little critter that you are it's big safe tree. In the beginning, the glider may be very scared of you and crab, lunge, and even bite you if you're taking things too fast. Do you have the patience to move at your glider's pace?
Gliders and Kids
Gliders and kids usually don't mix very well. That doesn't mean you can't have gliders if you have children, but they shouldn't be for the children. Gliders are just not good pets for small children. A very responsible adolescent could make a good glider owner if the primary caregiver is an adult. You will also have to have a plan for what will happen to the glider if/when the teen goes to college and cannot bring the gliders along. If the child will easily bore of the gliders or is afraid to go through the bonding process, the gliders will end up stuck in a cage all the time. Small children are often noisy, high-energy, and too unpredictable, which is the opposite of what makes a glider feel safe. If I could calm my kids down enough, I would let them hold my adult gliders under my supervision, but they don't even want to because they're afraid of being bitten. Another thing worth mentioning is that kids can freak out about the gliders' sharp little nails. Even with a regular clipping routine the nails can be quite scratchy. All in all, gliders make better pets for responsible adults, and should never be a surprise present for a child.
Who's Getting Sleep Around Here?
Sugar glider are nocturnal, which means they sleep all day and play all night. Will the cage be in your bedroom? They can make a lot of noise playing with their wheel, ringing bells on toys, and can even bark for extended periods of time, all in the middle of the night. On the other hand, are you too noisy during the day? Do you have kids screaming or running through the house near where the cage will be? Gliders need to be able to sleep during the day so loud music and banging around near their cage can disturb their sleep as well.
Will You Have Time for Them?
Because they are nocturnal, you will not be able to play with your gliders during the day. However, you can carry them around in a bonding pouch while they sleep. In order to actually play with your gliders out of the cage, you will need to be up when they first wake up at night or right before they go to bed in the morning. You need to aim for at least a half an hour to an hour a day to play with your gliders.
If you made it through this page and still are considering getting gliders, glider slavery just might be for you. Continue your research and get all ready for them first, and you and your gliders will be much happier for it.