What is a Sugar Glider?
A Sugar Glider is an omnivorous marsupial and possum with membranes of loose skin between both front legs and back legs that allow them to glide for a short distance. Their habits and appearance are very similar to that of the Flying Squirrel, which has often caused the misinformed to become mixed up between the two, however the two species are not related.
Sugar Gliders are highly social animals that reside in large colonies and will become depressed in the absence of a family. Domestic Sugar Gliders can be very friendly if brought up correctly, and will usually imprint on their adopted humans and consider them to be family. Female Sugar Gliders have a pouch in which they carry their young, as is typical of marsupials.
Sugar Gliders have a (barely) prehensile tail, very soft fur, extremely large eyes due to being nocturnal, opposable 'thumbs' on all four feet, and two partially syndactylous toes on each of its back feet that form a 'grooming comb'. They do come in a variety of colors including tannish yellow with a black stripe, white with the same black stripe, and albino; but the most common color is gray.
Being omnivorous, a 'Glider's menu consists mainly of insects, fruits, and other things of that nature, although they have been known to be carnivorous if opportunity strikes.
Sugar Gliders as Pets
Sugar Gliders are legal domesticated exotic pets in many areas. In fact, there is a Sugar Glider breeder right in my state, where I purchased my boys. However, being legal does not make them the right pet for everyone. There is a large number of factors one should consider before deciding to adopt Sugar Gliders. For one, you CANNOT just get one. As was stated above, they are highly social animals and will become depressed and self-destructive without a buddy or two to cuddle, sleep and play with. It is best to adopt when they are still juvenile in order to ensure their imprint on you.
You must have the time and patience to take them out of their cages and play with them preferably once a day. When it comes to cages, the bigger the better. They are very active little critters that enjoy a large area to jump and climb around in, and do love a cage with climby things and a running wheel. The cage I have is huge, yet I still sometimes feel that it is not big enough. They also prefer to have something dark and cozy that they can hide away, cuddle up and sleep in during the day. This can include a variety of things, but I personally have a 'glider pouch', which is basically a thick, fleece-lined bag that hangs on the wall of the cage. I've also gotten them a very soft, little blanket that they curl up under inside their bag, all snug and warm, nice and dark.
Sugar Gliders defecate and urinate wherever they are. They do not have a litter box, so when playing with their Gliders, an owner must be alright with cleaning up little messes left around. Being nocturnal, Sugar Gliders are most active at night, and they can be very noisy what with all the jumping around. They also like to 'bark' loudly and repeatedly. Once I counted my Gliders barking for about 8 minutes in a row. If an owner intends to sleep, they would have to have a separate room to keep the cage in that will block out the sound.
Sugar Gliders are EXTREMELY fast. When taken out of the cage, an owner will have to keep a trained eye on them, or they may lose their Glider. Its best to let them loose in a room free of dangers and small spaces. It is also a good idea to keep a close eye if allowing other household pets near Gliders. Being marsupials, Gliders don't immediate register as 'food' like rodents may to a cat or dog, but that doesn't make them immune to attack.
Sugar Gliders originate from eastern and northern mainland Australia, thus temperatures from 65 to 90 ºF (18 to 32 ºC) for adult Gliders, and 78 to 80 ºF (25 to 26 ºC) for baby Gliders are deemed best. Thus if you live in an area where temperatures drop or rise to an uncomfortable level, you will want to invest in heaters and A/Cs.
Referencing the paragraph on diet, an owner WILL have to feed their Gliders some kind of insect. I like to buy live mealworms at the local pet store and feed my Gliders a few every night. I personally find it to be a severely amusing experience, as they grip the worm like a hot dog and bite off sections, but it is not for the squeamish. Which I am typically, and was at first, but have since gotten used to it and now enjoy it. Other than insects, however, Sugar Gliders in captivity need to be fed special diets, as they can easily suffer calcium deficiencies. The breeder I purchased my boys from also sells Glider products, including food and food supplements. Food supplements that I buy from her include various powders, biscuits and such full of stuff they need to stay healthy, which I add to their meal of grocery-store-bought-fruit and special Sugar Glider pellet food. Please note that Sugar Gliders cannot eat all kinds of fruit and vegetables, so an owner should research before purchasing food.
Sugar Gliders, for obvious reasons, do not like bright lights and loud sounds at all. Exposing them to bright light can cause permanent damage to their sensitive eyes. They don't particularly care for much light at all; my Gliders are hesitant to come out of their pouch until the lights are dimmed low or off. Their ears are also quite sensitive, and thus Gliders will not at all be comfortable in a loud home. I remember one time my father was using a nail gun to put up door frames, and my Sugar Gliders were so freaked out by the noise that they shot right out of their pouch and sat shivering in fear on their climbing branch. I had to feed them treats and pet them for about ten minutes to calm them down.
In captivity, Sugar Gliders typically live up to around 12 YEARS. Sugar Gliders are not like a hamster that you will only have to deal with for a couple of years. Sugar Gliders are a very long-term pet, and they are not something you can just get rid of. As has been stated, Sugar Gliders imprint on their humans and consider them family. A severe change in environment and owners can be traumatic.
In conclusion, Sugar Gliders are not a pet for someone who is not willing or able to give them the time, effort, and resources they require. But for someone willing and able to deal with all the negative sides that have been stated, Sugar Gliders are very rewarding little friends to have.