Before she died, Susan asked me to care for her three neutered boys. This left me with an additional cage which was hard to find a spot for in this crowded house and it also divided attention that I can give everyone else. I had thoughts about attempting a colony merge but my other half disagrees with my methods and didn't support the concept for fear of the possible/probable dangerous outcome of seven misfit boys fighting. So I didn't do it.
I have recently had several discussions with people who were having miserable outcomes while attempting mergings. I have successfully merged multiple animals in the past using this technique and it had never failed me. I stopped accepting new animals awhile back so I have had none to try it on for a long time.
One recent cage cleaning day I saw a free weekend ahead and decided to give the 4 + 3 boys merging a go in order to build a larger colony of boys, drop a cage, increase attention I can give each colony and to ultimately test my old group merging procedure.
CAGE1 was mine and had four second-hand boys that had all been previously merged using this technique. CAGE2 was Susan's and had her original one boy and then a pair she later got hold of and merged. The one was tame but the added pair were very skittish.
My efforts paid off. It was a complete success. I could not have been happier with the outcome. The seven neutered boys are together with absolutely no fussing or fighting since day 1. The skittish pair are now out of the pouch early and are interacting extremely well with the group and with me. They all really do seem happier after the merging and that begins to question for me the idea of how many makes for a healthy keeping in a single cage.
We all know that a single glider is a miserable glider and that two is always recommended as a necessity. I have always thought that one or two matings is an easy way to build your own single cage family colony at home with 4 to 8 animals. My own cage of 8 related animals is the most fun I have kept and now the 7 boys seem more full of life than the original separate 4 and 3. So I just wonder if a good number per cage would be 6 to 10.
This has got to have been the easiest merging I have ever done, and I am not entirely sure of all of the reasons why, but the group merging procedure worked again and has avoided fussing, fighting and injuries. So it's a working colony cage full of second-hand misfits! PROLOGUE
In order to offer another possible route to use if softer merging attempts have failed, I have decided to share my procedure with you, come Hell, high-water or flaming war. I don't think I have ever done this after trying "traditional" attempts so I cannot say if it will help at that point but it may still. The problem there is that sugar gliders have a very good scent memory. If they end up fighting with a new arrival, they remember the scent well and I think that ruins any future merging attempts. Also, I think that scent swapping pouches and things like that is more of a teaser than it is of a familiarization. In the wild, sugar gliders will steal a sleeping area. Obviously it will have a previous scent to it and they will defend against that old scent if it comes back. I don't think scent swapping is a good idea.
This concept is why I devised the group merging procedure. It is designed to force them to fixate on other things besides the newbies, their smell, or any territorial or alpha issues. I have found that when sugar gliders are fixated, frightened, scared, threatened, whatever you want to call it, they will flock together for safety in numbers where they can. This immediately breaks down the normal smell and territorial barriers and allows the animals to become immediately socialized without the expected fussing, fighting or possible wounds which of course are highly stressful. PROCEDURE
I use water and being wet as a fixation device. While fixated on the abnormal stimulus, sugar gliders are very much less interested in new smells and the fighting that comes with protecting territory. Instead, they focus solely on the abnormal stimulus, and in this case, all they want to do is get away from it. STEP1
: Get em wet and then toss em together into a tiny cage in the shower and continue the stimulus of water. They will fixate on the threat of the water spritzing and being wet instead of each other. Keep them in this situation for over an hour. You can turn water on and off but I just kept it a very light spritz in order to keep them warm. They do need to be absolutely soaking wet. They will look miserable, but as they run around the tiny introduction cage, they are already interacting and are also merging scents. With no animals attacking, none are afraid of the others and your scent introductions are happening. After an hour or so when they slow down, appear worn out, or start to accept the situation, spray a healthy dose of scent mask on every wet bottom. I use mouthwash that may or may not be thinned out as I see fit. This will desensitize their noses and is an extra layer to allow them to come together without fussing. STEP2:
Get them together. While they are still wet and scent-masked, offer a CLEAN/new pouch. They will all immediately scramble to get into it. You can now remove the little cage from the shower. They will find safety in the pouch away from the stimulus, they will groom themselves and also groom each other and will become worn out and go to sleep. Their scents will merge and their introductions will take.
Immediately put them under a lamp and keep them like this in the tiny cage overnight to force them to stay in pouch. Skip this one night feeding to avoid introducing any food fussing issues and to also simply keep them in pouch socializing and normalizing scents. STEP3:
The next day you can move them into a larger sized cage that is very open with only the same single pouch for retreat. The open cage allows them to get out and explore but they can constantly see each other so there are no surprises. Keep them in here for a few days to reinforce the merging. Keep an eye on them and be ready for any fighting, but with luck there wont be any. You can add in a couple exercise wheels as well for them to retreat to. STEP4:
A few days later when you are comfortable with the idea, move them into the larger destination cage that has all amenities. You would be best served by using only the single pouch for awhile, but you can offer places to explore such as boxes and whatnot as well as multiple exercise wheels.
You are done!
I know that nobody wants to see photos of sugar gliders suffering, but I have these here so you can see how this works and what has been surprisingly successful for me. The first step is to get them soaking wet and to keep them that way for awhile. It is what it is and it does various things to bypass their normal mental processes and it really helps the group merging.
Wet boys running around
Wet boys now tired and mostly docile
All scrambling into the new pouch
Desk lamp overnight to keep the boys in and docile
I decided to feed them in the morning since I'm a softie
Not a single fuss
Medium cage for a few days
Seven happy and cozy boys
Large cage with stuff