My first encounter with a sugar glider was absolutely love at first sight, though that doesn’t mean I thought it all the way through. I was wandering around a big market and I was young enough to make impulse purchases without thinking much. A man was holding up two sugar gliders and telling a little story about them. I stopped and stared.
The sugar gliders were so adorable. They were very small, barely bigger than a hamster with short colorful coats. I didn’t know they were very young ones and would grow to be a bit larger, but they never get very big. He had some in the most standard colors, as well as an albino, and a few others. He was explaining that they are marsupials who are native to Indonesia, Australia and New Guinea.
They appeared quite healthy with very bright little eyes. He told us that they rarely have medical problems if well cared for. He fed his fruit, some vegetables, bits of chicken and a commercial diet. I later found out that in nature they thrive on vegetation and insects and sometimes other small sources of protein that they can find or catch.
I asked him if they could be kept alone and he said that they could as long as I spent lots of time with them. He didn’t explain that they really live with other sugar gliders in the wild and that when he said “lots of time” he really meant it.
I took mine home and went to the bookstore for literature since the internet back then wasn’t as searchable or informative as it is now. I was really surprised to learn that they can live up to 14 years and that I had made quite a large commitment! The book I purchased was written for people who keep them as pets. It described a very large area as living space for my sugar glider, not unlike a tall aviary one might keep for birds.
Sugar gliders love to climb about on trees or tree substitutes, and they can soar from branch to brand or the floor using a web of skin which is where they get the name, glider.
I was lucky to have a spare room that was just for storage, so we cleared it out, put up some high shelving and put branches everywhere. I found out rapidly that it was difficult to keep the area clean. My sugar glider was very pleased to be with people.
He would ride on the top of my head or shoulder and liked to cuddle up in a pouch hung around my neck. It was wonderful, but when I had to leave for school classes or work, I felt bad. I could see that he seemed a bit depressed when I would get home. My continued reading revealed that I would have been better off housing him with other males.
Same gender sugar gliders do best together. Although they are friendly with people, they don’t ever truly become domestic animals. Unlike a cat, dog, parrot or a small pig – they do not readily come when called or adapt to living in a home like other domestic animals.
Although I greatly enjoyed my time with a sugar glider and there are situations where they can be kept by humans, a wild sugar glider is happiest in the wild. It certainly isn’t impossible to keep them as pets and if you have all the resources and a great deal of time, it can be done. Most people will find other small animals like geckos or rats a little easier to manage.