Christmas Sugar Glider

"I think I'll get my kid a sugar glider for Christmas!"  Many people find themselves contemplating buying a sugar glider for their child or family. Many more simply happen upon these neat little creatures while out with the family at the mall and they blindly jump into ownership of this nifty exotic animal all based upon the impulse buy. The purpose of this article is to dissuade sugar gliders as a pet for children or the average person and to at least minimally give you some realities of ownership so that you can be properly informed and begin the much needed task to learn more.

Impulse buy

There are those out there who want you to be immediately charmed by these neat little creatures such that you will fork over some major cash on the spot. Beware of the things you are told by those who aim to make a profit from you. Someone selling exotic animals at a kiosk, store, fair, show, website are not in it for the benefit of the animal or for you. Profit is always the name of the game and to that end most anything goes. Truths will be manipulated and you will most likely be lied to. Marketing magicians will have you believe that their sugar gliders are better than others because they are hand raised when in fact they are really shipped in by any number of mill-breeders that have been contracted to do so. Marketing magicians will have you believe that their pellet food is the only way to go when in fact pellet food is generally a no no with sugar gliders. Marketing magicians will cater to the impulse buy and to children and will use graphics, pitches, mumbo-jumbo and manufactured mental images for their products such as their cages are better because they have "medical grade" coating. So watch out for the shyster.

A sugar glider is not a "pocket pet", it is an undomesticated tree-dwelling wild animal that is a marsupial and has very special needs. They are not simple to keep, feed or care for and they do have a large list of health maladies that an owner must be aware of.

You also do not need to pay some company $200+ for a sugar glider and supplies. They can be had for much less if you take the time to look. A nearby "local" or "home" breeder is the best place to source young animals and so many needing homes are listed on Craigslist, EbayClassifieds, Hoobly, Oodle, Petfinder and many other websites. Most owners who get into these creatures uninformed will soonafter realize how difficult they really are and will be looking for a way out. You can find second-hand sugar gliders everywhere and they are just as good as fresh young ones if not even better for various reasons.

Not for them

Are snakes for kids? Are kangaroos for kids? Would you put a squirrel in their pocket? Lions tigers and bears are cute but they can hurt you and so can sugar gliders. Sugar gliders bite. Biting is a very important way that sugar gliders experience their world. In the wild they will normally constantly explore trees by biting into and removing bark looking for bugs and larvae. In captivity, they explore you. The bottom jaw of a sugar glider is made up of two long sharp teeth that can easily puncture human skin down to the bone and leave behind various forms of bacteria in the process. Even tame sugar gliders will bite things to test and explore and many a finger is easily mistaken for a treat. A simple child's finger sticking into the cage can become a major medical issue.

Sharing your sugar gliders with other people is dangerous. Exotic or wild animals are not a legally protected pet species, so if a guest in the house were to get bitten, they have the absolute legal right to have that animal put down for rabies testing and a doctor visit may even force that action. 

You cannot “grab” or squeeze a sugar glider to pick it up. They cling on to everything and an actual grab could break nails, limbs and will most certainly result in a quick bite from even the tamest of critters. Even a successful grabbing of a sugar glider off your arm will result in long nail scrapes on your skin as it tries to resist your pulling.

Face hugs are dangerous. A leaping glider can land on your face and inadvertently puncture your eye. Children and unsuspecting guests will not be familiar with protecting their face from a glider or know how to react to a potentially dangerous situation.

Sharp nails do constantly puncture the top layer of your skin and will inject various forms of bacteria in the process leaving behind scrapes, wounds, scars, allergic reactions and other possible medical issues. Even managed nails will do this but keeping things taken care of does reduce risks.

Sugar gliders are very agile and can easily escape from adult hands, body or pocket. They are also cage escape artists so extra care must be taken to prevent this.

Not For You

We all know that kids quickly loose interest in things and it may very well be YOU feeding the complex diet at 10pm every night and working all of the other maintenance needs.

Sugar gliders are smelly. Some control can be managed through diet, cleanliness and neutering, but cages certainly do get musky quick no matter what you do and most new owners just are not up to the task of the needed daily maintenance. Sugar gliders are arboreal and always cling to the cage walls or high up on a shelf or limb to pee. It can be a mess.

Sugar gliders are extremely verbal and noisy creatures. They bark like a little dog in the middle of the night. They hiss, fuss, rattle the cage and make noise on the exercise wheel all night long and all of this can easily disturb a normal sleeper.

Sugar gliders are colony animals and they absolutely need one of their own kind to share a cage for mental stimulation. A minimum of two is required or the solitary animal will stress and exist in a mental disorder that can lead to overgrooming and eventually self mutilation. Human contact is not a replacement for colony interaction.

Sugar gliders can suffer from a variety of health issues including calcium deficiency that leads to brittle bones. They require health management, vet visits, cleanliness, complex diet, large cage, mental stimulation and many more things that you can learn about online. To this day, most vets are not familiar with treating sugar gliders due to their exotic nature and small numbers in captivity. You need to be aware of and familiar with the various health issues that can happen over their 15 year life span.

Sugar gliders can carry and transmit disease to humans although it is probably rare. Unfortunately, with mass marketed, mill-bred, shipped animals, you never know what you are getting and where it came from. You can read more about this in the Zoonosis article. Skin reactions are most common and there is history of serious allergic reactions to sugar gliders as well as bacterial infections from bites.

Sugar gliders do not get along with other pets and should never be caged with or unsupervised while other pets are present.

Sugar gliders breed quickly so paying the vet to neuter is a highly recommended practice and is common.


Sugar gliders are not for children, they require more care and effort than the salesman says, and if you are still reading this article, it is obviously going to be YOUR pet to care for, so be informed, keep learning, and participate with others where you can. If you do your own research, you will find lots of useful information from people who are not looking at your wallet: Sugar bears and giardia | Sugar bears ending up deadInfected finger biteSugar glider bites hard | No animal for children | How to NOT handle your sugar glider

An impulse buy customer should at least understand the large investment they are making on an animal that has very high odds of dying before it reaches six months due to neglect by an uneducated and uninterested family. A savvy and interested owner will fully understand the long term commitment they are making when purchasing sugar gliders that can live to be 15 years old.


This article was designed to raise some points to start you on the quest for learning and to introduce you to the community of owners and information that is out there. You are welcome to visit the Sugar Glider encyclopedia and come read through, search and join in any of the forum discussions. The sugar glider chatroom is often busy in the evenings for real-time interaction with other owners. 

Life is full of questions, never be afraid to ask them. Please never stop learning and always share what you learn with others.


You are welcome to repost this article on Craigslist or any other forum or site. You can find the html source HERE for easy copy and pasting.

Last Edited April 11, 2013