Sugar Gliders as Pets

These cute marsupials need socialization

Sugar Glider
Sylvain Cordier/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Sugar gliders are popular exotic pets. They're small, cute, and unique little animals. But just as you would with any other exotic pet, a potential sugar glider owner should be aware of the care requirements and personality traits of a sugar glider before getting one. Having a sugar glider as a pet is a long-term commitment. They require a special diet, lots of attention, and space.

Species Overview

Common Name: Sugar Glider

Scientific Name: Petaurus breviceps

Adult Size: 5 to 6 inches long; tail adds another 6 inches; top weight is around 5 1/2 oz

Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years in captivity

Difficulty of Care: Advanced; high-maintenance pets that require a lot of socialization

Sugar Glider Behavior and Temperament

Sugar gliders can make endearing, playful, and entertaining pets but regular human interaction is very important if you want your glider to be friendly, especially if you have a colony of them. Sugar gliders will bond to other gliders that they live with. While these glider relationships are very important, you'll still want to make sure your glider is also friendly with you if you want to handle it.

The noises that a sugar glider makes are usually to tell you that it is upset, frightened, hungry, or to express other emotions. “Crabbing” is the most often heard sound of an upset glider and this audible warning should be heeded or you may be in for a nasty bite. You may hear this sound if you wake a sleeping glider up during the day since they are nocturnal. Sugar gliders are very vocal pets, which takes some first-time owners by surprise.

Sugar gliders are quick, love to climb, will glide from place to place if space allows it, and like to cuddle up in a nest during the day to sleep. They cannot be potty trained but they are otherwise fairly clean pets.

Allowing a sugar glider to ride in your pocket or in a pouch that hangs around your neck is an easy way to bond and interact with them throughout the day. If your glider is not tame and isn't used to being handled, it may take some time and patience to get them to the point where they are cuddly.

Remember that they have sharp teeth and nails and although they are not aggressive pets, they will bite if they feel threatened or frightened. 

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Housing the Sugar Glider

A cage 24 inches wide by 24 inches deep by 36 inches high is a good minimum size for a pair of sugar gliders. Bigger is always better when it comes to housing a glider and the height is more valuable than the floor space due to the gliding activity of these little marsupials.

The cage wire spacing should be no more than 1/2 inch wide and the bars should be horizontal to allow climbing. The interior of the cage should contain lots of toys, a closed exercise wheel so your glider's tail doesn't get caught. Branches, ropes, and ladders will also provide lots of opportunity for climbing and exercise. 

The latch on the cage should be secure, as gliders are clever, and have been known to learn how to open latches. They run the risk of serious injury if they fall.

The bottom of the cage should be lined with aspen or fir shavings (avoid cedar shavings which have a strong scent that can cause respiratory irritation in small animals). Clean the shavings at least once a week; most illnesses that affect sugar gliders are due to unsanitary enclosure conditions.

Your sugar glider's enclosure should be away from direct sunlight and in an area of the home that isn't drafty (keep away from doors and windows). The ideal temperature should be between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

A pet sugar glider's cage also should have a nest box, placed near the top of the enclosure.

Food and Water

Pet sugar gliders have fairly strict dietary requirements. Dietary imbalances from inappropriate calcium and phosphorous ratios are common but are thankfully easily prevented by feeding a proper, balanced diet.

In the wild, a sugar glider's diet includes nectar and sap from trees. Sugar gliders are omnivorous, so in addition to the nectar and sap, they will also eat both plant material and meat including fruit, insects, and even small birds or rodents.

For pet sugar gliders, variations of the homemade BML diet are very popular. Honey, calcium powder, and baby cereal are often used in these recipes to provide proper nutrition to your glider but fresh fruit and vegetables should also be offered on a nightly basis.

Formulated sugar glider diets are not readily accessible to most people and are also frowned upon by many breeders. 

illustration of sugar gliders as pets
Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018

Common Health Problems

Sugar gliders are very susceptible to stress, and have even been known to self-mutilate under stressful conditions. Housing sugar gliders that don't get along with each other, or providing too small an enclosure are two major stressors for these small, sensitive creatures.

Like all marsupials and rodents, sugar gliders are prone to bacterial and parasitic infections. Giardia, a protozoan parasite, affects sugar gliders and can cause dehydration, lethargy and weight loss. Most bacterial and parasitic infections occur due to underwashed fruits and vegetables, so be sure to clean any foods you feed your sugar glider.

Maintaining a proper phosphorous-calcium balance also is important for sugar gliders' health.

Before purchasing a sugar glider you'll want to make sure you find a veterinarian in your area who specializes in marsupials and rodents. Most ailments that affect sugar gliders can be detected and treated with regular visits to the vet.

Purchasing Your Sugar Glider

You'll want to seek out a reputable breeder who can provide information about the animal's health history and any conditions or problem it has had. As with any exotic pet, check the rules and regulations in your area to be sure you're complying with the law.

Sugar Gliders in the Wild

Baby sugar gliders start life off in their mother’s pouch and are referred to as joeys, just like kangaroos. They are classified as marsupials, not rodents like the similar- looking flying squirrel

All wild sugar gliders are from Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea where they live in treetops. They get their name from the food they eat and their characteristic mode of transportation. 

Sugar gliders in the wild live in social family units called colonies. This social life is very important to all sugar gliders and they thrive on the companionship and communication from their own species.

Similar Pets to the Sugar Glider

If you’re interested in pet sugar gliders, check out these other small critters:

Otherwise, check out other exotic animals that can be your new pet.