Facts About Sugar Gliders

Lifespan, size, temperament, origins, and more

Sugar glider
Kristina Parchomchuk / Getty Images

Sugar gliders have grown in popularity over the years and therefore we know more than ever about these adorable little marsupials. Petaurus breviceps is the Latin name for a sugar glider which means "short-headed rope-dancer."

Lifespan of Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders live about 10 to 15 years in captivity so they are long-term pets.

Size

The sugar glider's body is about five to six inches long and the tail adds another six inches (which acts as a rudder while they glide). They weigh only four to five and a half ounces (100-160 grams).

Origins

Sugar gliders are native to Australia (the Eastern part), Papua New Guinea, Tasmania, multiple surrounding islands, and parts of Indonesia. They are found in the rainforests gliding from tree to tree and make their homes in tree hollows. They rarely ever touch the ground.

Anatomy

Sugar gliders are marsupials which means the young are born very immature and grow in a pouch for 60 to 70 days on the mother's abdomen (like a kangaroo or opossum). Sugar gliders have furry, thin, stretchy, membranes that extend from their wrists to their ankles (the membrane is called a patagium) that allows them to glide up to 150 feet through the air. In the wild, they move from tree to tree by gliding, not flying. Their hind feet have a large, opposable big toe that helps them grip branches and the second and third toes form a grooming comb. Other toes help them grab insects and connects the patagium.

Large eyes are characteristic of these small marsupials which help them see while they glide and triangulate their launch and landing locations. It also helps them search for food since they are nocturnal and hunt at night. Both sexes also possess various scent glands, sharp teeth, and extremely soft fur.

Temperament and Behavior

Sugar gliders are very social and need companionship. This makes them bond well to their owners (especially if you use a bonding pouch) but even if you can provide a lot of attention and spend the necessary time with your glider, keeping a single glider is not ideal. Sugar gliders have a language all their own and live in colonies of up to 30 gliders in the wild. Housing a glider by themselves can lead to behavioral, mental, and emotional, and even physical problems for your pet. Strongly consider keeping more than one glider, if not several of them, in a flight cage. Humans cannot offer the same type of companionship and socialization that other sugar gliders can provide to each other. The vocalizations, grooming, and bonding that they provide for each other are irreplaceable by a human.

Diet

In the wild, sugar gliders eat a variety of different foods depending on the season. They are omnivores and as pets, they are often fed specific diets that are recommended by experts and zoos. These are blended diets using baby food, honey, fruits, vitamins, and other ingredients and then supplemented with fresh items such as fruit, vegetables, and insects. Formulated, pre-packaged diets for sugar gliders do exist at pet stores and online but they are not recommended as a staple diet since they are not nutritionally complete. The Needs of sugar glider have changed as more is learned about them.

Health

Sugar gliders, like other exotic pets, have a multitude of ailments that can affect them. Metabolic bone disease due to inappropriate nutrition, injuries from getting stuck and gliding, diarrhea from eating too much fruit, and parasites are all commonly seen in pet sugar gliders.