While they’re certainly not the most difficult mammals to care for, looking after Sugar Gliders can still present a few challenges. This Sugar Glider care sheet should give you all the information you need to get started and to give your new pet the best life possible.
There are also a few good books dedicated to caring for Sugar Gliders, and buying one or two of these is highly recommended. The best books are Sugar Gliders (Complete Pet Owner’s Manual) and Sugar Gliders: The Complete Sugar Glider Care Guide. They’re both excellent choices.
Sugar Glider Size
An adult Sugar Glider will have a body length of about 6″-8″ with a tail of a similar length.
Sugar Glider Lifespan
If you look after your pet well, you can expect it to live for at least a decade, but Sugar Gliders can live up to a maximum of around 15 years in captivity.
Sugar Glider Housing
Considering that these creatures are capable of gliding as far as 150 feet in a single leap, it’s impossible to give your pet an enclosure that is not extremely small compared to the range it would have in the wild. A minimum cage size for a pair of Sugar Gliders would be around 2’x2’x3′, but bigger is always better in this case. Basically, make their cage as large (in every direction) as you realistically can in your home.
The cage should have wire sides to allow climbing, with gaps of between 0.5″-0.75″ (to stop young gliders getting stuck). Large finch cages normally work pretty well. Note that of course the minimum cage size will increase if you choose to keep more than two Sugar Gliders, although this is rarely practical for most owners.
If you don’t have a huge amount of space, this flight cage will probably do the trick. (It’s still a big cage though!) If you’re able to give your Sugar Gliders a bit more space, then the cage we always recommend is the MidWest Critter Nation Habitat. It’s an ideally sized cage designed for active small mammals, and it’s more or less perfect for Sugar Gliders in every way. There’s also the option to buy the two-storey version and double the cage height, and your gliders will love you forever. If in doubt and you’ve got the room, get this cage!
Sugar Glider Bedding
To line the bottom of the cage, the best choices are aspen shavings or Carefresh bedding. Some owners simply use newspapers, but Sugar Gliders will often shred this to pieces, sometimes ingesting bits of the newspaper, which contains toxic ink. Cedar is also toxic to Sugar Gliders, so cedar shavings should never be used in the cage.
Sugar Gliders need a warm, dry and cozy retreat to snuggle into at night – you can buy special Sugar Glider pouches that are perfect for the job, but some owners use everything from nest boxes to lined plastic cups. Whatever you use, place it high up in the cage to simulate their natural roosts in the trees.
As intelligent animals, you’ll have to provide plenty of interest and things to do inside the cage. Adding new toys or moving things around every now and then will help to keep your gliders active and interested. Ropes are always very popular additions to a cage, as are tree branches (not cedar, walnut, white pine or ponderosa pine for health reasons). Other good ideas include ladders, bird perches and bells. Experiment and see what your Sugar Gliders engage with best!
A large exercise wheel should also be fitted in the cage. You’ll want a quiet wheel as Sugar Gliders are most active at night! The Kaytee 12-Inch Silent Spinner Wheel is absolutely perfect.
Temperature and Lighting
Much more hardy than they look, Sugar Gliders are comfortable in a wide range of temperatures, as they cope in the wild in everything from 50F to 90F, but 70F-80F is probably where they’re happiest. Warm room temperature should be fine, but keep the cage away from any cold drafts.
As they’re nocturnal (hence the adorably large eyes), Sugar Gliders don’t have any real lighting requirements. The only rule is to not keep them in bright sunlight all day. In fact, their large eyes mean that too much sunlight can actually seriously harm your Sugar Glider. This is probably why they can only be conditioned to be lively for short spells during the day, while always remaining primarily nocturnal.
Sugar Glider Diet
This is the hardest part of caring for a Sugar Glider – they have quite particular dietary requirements, and getting things wrong will have serious consequences. At first, finding what your new pet will eat will inevitably involve some trial and error – Sugar Gliders can be very fussy eaters.
The general rule for feeding Sugar Gliders is to make their diet around 75% fresh fruit and 25% protein. They should be fed every day, and are particularly fond of sweet foods, which is where the ‘sugar’ part of their name originally came from. Even when you’ve found out which foods your glider will eat, it’s still important to give them as much variety as you can in order to keep them fighting fit.
Grapes, plums, apples, tomatoes, pears, melons, cantaloupe and berries, as well as vegetables like broccoli, corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumber, peas and yam are all good foods to try. The main things to steer clear of here are bananas and citrus fruits, but most other fruits are fine – the sweeter the better. To give them the protein they need, you can supply your Sugar Gliders with live crickets and mealworms (not from outside due to risk of contamination from pesticides), mashed up boiled eggs, cat food, pinky mice and boiled chicken. Many Sugar Gliders are partial to various seeds and nuts, but these should be kept as rare treats because of their high fat content.
Many owners now use specially designed, commercially available Sugar Glider foods, some of which (like Gliderade) mimic the nectar eaten by these animals in the wild, and can be mixed in with water to make sure your pets take it. These should only ever be used in water bowls, never in water bottles, as it will clog the bottle and leave your Sugar Glider unable to drink if that is the only water source. Too long without access to water will be fatal.
Calcium supplements are often necessary, and should be included once a week. They can either be mixed into your nectar replacement product (again, not in a water bottle!), or sprinkled over the normal food. Failure to provide your Sugar Glider with sufficient calcium can sadly lead to paralysis and death. If your glider seems unable to jump or loses full use of its rear legs, it may well be a sign of calcium deficiency. Unfortunately it may be too late to do anything about it by that point, so prevention is infinitely better than cure.
Sugar Glider Water
We would always suggest that you use both a water bottle and an open water dish, the latter mainly being a backup water supply in case the bottle becomes clogged. A water bowl also enables you to use Gliderade or other nectar supplements (which must never be used in the water bottle), and these are a valuable source of extra vitamins. Another option is to give your gliders fruit juice sometimes, again to provide more vitamins. All water given to your Sugar Gliders should be as pure as possible, preferably bottled or at least filtered.
Handling and Bonding
This is everyone’s favorite topic of Sugar Glider-related discussion, and for good reason! These little furry delights will happily climb all over you or spend the day in your pocket, and once they discover the world under your shirt they’ll want to spend hours there. Top tip: wear a second shirt if you don’t want a torso completely covered in scratches!
These social habits that make Sugar Gliders so endearing are actually extremely important for them. In the wild their social groups are large and complex, made up of lots of individuals with different personalities and temperaments. As groups of this size are not realistically possible unless you happen to own a zoo, you become the object of their affections and interactions instead. This is absolutely lovely, but it’s worth considering just how much time you can spare to play with them. Sometimes they will just happily nestle away in your pocket, but this isn’t always enough for them, especially if they don’t have any companions of their own species. Sugar Gliders are not suitable pets for a single person who spends their whole life working.
Keeping a pair of Sugar Gliders is normally the most practical solution, and reduces the amount of time you need to spend with them. But they will still be very demanding of your time. If they don’t get sufficient company and interaction they will become severely depressed, which can sometimes even result in death. Death from loneliness may well be the saddest end imaginable.
If your Sugar Glider is already used to being handled by the breeder or previous owner, it won’t take long to adjust to its new owner and form a strong bond with you. Young individuals who haven’t previously been handled regularly may take a lot of time and effort before they really trust you and bond with you.
Breeding or selling Sugar Gliders requires a license throughout the US, so for this reason we have chosen not to include breeding information here. If you decide that you want to breed Sugar Gliders, the recommended books in the first paragraph of this page (Sugar Gliders (Complete Pet Owner’s Manual) and Sugar Gliders: The Complete Sugar Glider Care Guide) contain all the information you should need.