The Unique, Lovable Sugar Glider

A sugar glider that is bonded can be a cherished member of the family.

When cared for properly sugar gliders are gentle and loving pets that can live up to 15 years. vinaithong/iStock/Thinkstock

By Alicia Rudd

The basic care of sugar gliders is often misunderstood. While sugar gliders may be similar in size and resemblance to other small animal pets, their daily needs are very different. Knowing a sugar glider’s needs helps it remain safe and healthy, and develop a great relationship with its owner. When cared for properly sugar gliders are gentle and loving pets that can live up to 15 years.

Anatomy 101

Small marsupials, sugar gliders have an average body length of 5 to 8 inches and an average weight of 3 to 6 ounces. They are native to Australia, Indonesia, Tasmania and New Guinea. Sugar gliders are nocturnal, arboreal and volant — three terms meaning that they are awake at night, live in trees and are capable of flight. To provide quality care for sugar gliders, you must know several of their distinguishing anatomical features.

Sugar gliders are marsupials, so all females have a pouch. Unlike the kangaroo and koala, the sugar glider’s pouch is vertical instead of horizontal. The pouch can be seen by examining the underbelly of a sugar glider. It looks like a small vertical slit. Female sugar gliders have live births. Their offspring, called joeys, are about the size of a grain of rice when born. They crawl into the female’s pouch and attach to a teat. Joeys will continue to grow over the next 10 weeks while safely tucked inside the pouch. After several weeks the joeys will have grown enough to be seen as a visible bump on one or both sides of the pouch. The pouch is usually closed unless pregnant or nursing and should never have drainage or foul odor. Occasionally a pouch becomes infected and must be examined by a veterinarian.

For the full article, pick up the 2012 issue of Critters USA or click here to buy the issue.

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