Where Do Sugar Gliders Come From?

Sailing through the air as smoothly as a hawk yet small enough to tuck in your pocket, sugar gliders originated in Australia. These cute, guinea pig-sized pets use their patagium, a thin membrane, to glide through the air from perch to perch. They are social by instinct and enjoy staying close to their owners. Much like some owners carry small dogs in their purses, the sugar glider prefers to ride with its owner in the owner’s pocket rather than staying at home and growing lonely.

The sugar glider is a kind of mammal known as a marsupial, the type of animal that Australia produces in bulk. Marsupials include the kangaroo, koala, wombat, and opossums. One common trait among most marsupials is a pouch. Marsupials give birth to underdeveloped young that need further protection from the mother while they grow strong, so the mothers pack them in their pouches for shelter and warmth.

Those pouches also contain nipples, allowing the young marsupial to feed in peace.

Little Known Facts about Sugar Gliders

While sugar gliders are now gracing the homes of millions of families in the United States and Europe, many individuals may not know their background or from where these animals originate. Below are a few little known facts about these lovable, furry pets.

Question #1: From where do sugar gliders originate?

Answer #1: These animals are marsupials that hail from countries such as Tasmania, New Guinea, Indonesia, and Australia. They earned their name because of their penchant for sweets, most specifically the sap that they suck from certain trees, and their fondness for gliding through the air.

Question #2: What are some special characteristics of these animals?

Answer #2: These pocket-sized pets are nocturnal and prefer to sleep in groups during the day. They are furry animals that have fingers with five digits and claws, except on their hind feet, and possess a membrane between their ankle and wrist that acts as a parachute and enables them to “fly” through the air. These animals are extremely sociable creatures that bond very easily and quickly with their owners.

Question #3: What is the average lifespan of these animals?

Answer #3: These furry creatures can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years.

National Geographic Features Sugar Glider Video

Sugar glider owners who wonder how their pets would behave in the wild may want to visit the National Geographic website to find out. The site features a minute-long educational video introducing viewers to the wonders of sugar gliders. For instance, many sugar glider owners allow the tiny creatures to glide around their living rooms. But in the eucalyptus forests of Australia, the tiny marsupials can stretch their membranes and glide the length of a football field in order to find food, meet up with family, or escape predators. The tiny animals, which use their tails as rudders to steer, can leap and glide with stunning accuracy.

The National Geographic video also features footage of sugar gliders climbing, eating grasshoppers, and sleeping. The narrator reminds viewers that, in the wild, the small omnivores consume nectar, sap, seeds, fruit, pollen, and insects. Their large eyes help them see at night, and they sleep cuddled in nests during the day, when the most dangerous predators are active. The video also explains that sugar gliders will mark a branch with scent to make it easier for their family to follow them and find food.

Caring for Sugar Gliders Part 4: Bonding and Interaction

Among sugar gliders’ most endearing qualities, the marsupials tend to grow very affectionate and affable once they acclimate to their surroundings and owners. As with most domesticated animals, their first concern remains feeling safe and secure. Sugar gliders relate to their surroundings and formulate their responses through two primary senses: smell and touch.

Exposing newly adopted baby sugar gliders to the scents of owner/s, via such efforts as putting a small clothing swatch in the cage, will help the animals develop a sense of trust. Vulnerable and lower in the food chain when in the wild, these marsupials are naturally skittish. Spending a generous amount of time with these pets facilitates bonding.

Sugar gliders love to be snuggled and touched. They relish warm, dark, tight environments reminiscent of their mothers’ pouches. Consequently, a pocket over the chest or similarly positioned “pet pouch” makes an ideal place to encourage a happy, well-adjusted pet. For more information on the comprehensive care of these affectionate, exotic pets, please visit www.sugargliderinfo.org.

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Caring for Sugar Gliders Part 2: Climate Control

Because sugar gliders are native to the warm climates of coastal Australia, Tasmania, and nearby semi-tropical islands, owners should maintain the marsupials’ comfortable temperature range of 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. When enjoying them as portable companions, owners can easily accomplish this feat by keeping the animals close to the body, either in a shirt pocket or specially designed pouch. Experts recommend that, in colder weather, owners insulate sugar gliders with clothing.

The sugar gliders’ indoor cage should contain a pet-sized heat rock, available from many providers of the exotic marsupial. To provide protection from excessive heat and to create thermal pockets, owners should cover the heat rock with a fleece or waterproof blanket with bound edges, such that tangle injuries are unlikely. Finally, because few homes maintain a temperature ideal for the pets, a proximate heat lamp and fleece cage cover can help ensure perpetual comfort. While sugar gliders can tolerate some temperature variance, the newborn and young, in particular, require warmth.

Caring for Sugar Gliders Part 1: Hydration

Similar to newborns in many species, baby sugar gliders require adequate hydration, especially in the six weeks following birth. As these pocket-sized marsupials love fruit, an effective passive strategy to maintaining proper hydration is keeping an apple slice in the pocket with them. Some owners have opted for an equal-parts mixture of non-chlorinated water and an electrolyte-replenishing drink, such as Gatorade or Pedialite. Pet owners can equip the animals’ cage with a miniature bottle that dispenses such a mixture.

Because the marsupials remember pleasant encounters, initially coating the nipple of a bottle with a sweet substance, such as applesauce or a similar fruit paste, will encourage a sugar glider to frequently return to its bottle. As these initial weeks go by, the ratio of water to juice can be increased until, eventually, it becomes pure, fresh water. Additionally, a dish of water should be kept in the marsupial’s cage. A simple nose dip in the bowl typically suffices as training.