10 Reasons Why Sugar Gliders Should Not Be Kept as Pets
This article is for those of you who are considering getting a sugar glider or know someone who has one as a pet. However, these animals are not pets and, unfortunately, are not treated well by people who keep them as pets.
What Is a Sugar Glider?
- Sugar gliders are small marsupial animals native to Australia, Indonesia, and the surrounding areas.
- They are nocturnal—they sleep during the day and become very active at night.
- These animals are very sociable and cannot be kept alone.
- They physically resemble a flying squirrel-type creature.
- Sugar gliders live for 12-15 years on average.
- While they may look cute and cuddly, they typically aren't.
- They do not belong to the rodent family.
- They require specialist care, a lot of space, and do not make good pets for beginners or children.
- They can bond very well with humans and other gliders.
- They also go by the names Suggie, SG, Glider, and SugarG.
If you want to learn more specifics about sugar gliders, you can check out this article.
Reasons Why Sugar Gliders Make Bad Pets
- They Require Specialized Care
- Most People Can't Offer Enough Space
- Vets Find It Hard to Treat Them
- Many Are Farmed and Bred From Cruelty
- There Are Legal Issues With Owning Them
- They Are Expensive to Purchase and Care for
- They Are Prone to Injury and Disease If They Are Not Properly Cared for
- They Eat a Specialized Diet
- You Can't Leave Them With Someone Else
- They Are Messy and Smelly
1. They Require Specialized Care
The care of a Suggie is much different than the care of a hamster, a rat, or even a dog. They require a lot more space and an enclosure that is 100% secure and locked.
- Enclosure: People often build indoor aviary-type cages or use very large vivariums that are at least four feet high and twice as wide. The bigger, the better. Of course, the more gliders you have, the more space you need.
- Food: They require nectar drinks, water, protein, fruit, vegetables, vitamins, supplements, pollen, etc. As they are not native to the U.K. or the U.S., so some of these items are difficult to get a hold of and can be quite expensive.
- They Need to Be Socialized: You cannot keep them alone. They must be kept in pairs or in small groups of the same sex to prevent breeding. They are highly social animals and to keep one alone is very cruel as it can lead to depression, emotional distress, physical illness, weight loss, and even a shortened lifespan.
- Risks: Sugar gliders can and will likely bite you, especially in the early stages of ownership. Their teeth are very sharp and can cause a lot of harm, which means you should be very careful and be fully vaccinated before owning them. Some of these animals are imported and may carry disease. There is always a risk of infection from bites.
- They Like a Dark Environment: They are nocturnal and do not like to come out during the day. Sugar gliders enjoy being kept in a darker environment. Imagine those indoor habitats you see at the zoo where they keep SGs and flying squirrels. Suggies enjoy hiding away in daylight hours and sometimes may not be seen at all. They will sleep for most of the day and become very active during the night, which makes it harder for you to play with them. Waking them up during the day can confuse them and mess with their hormones.
- They Need Special Vets: You can't take them to a regular vet as most vets are not trained in this type of exotic animal. A regular exotic animal is a hamster, a snake, a lizard, or a terrapin. Sugar gliders are something else entirely.
2. Most People Can't Offer Enough Space
It's a sad truth that most people cannot provide these curious little creatures with enough space. Sugar gliders are very active and very sociable creatures that enjoy climbing, running, jumping, and, of course, gliding. They are very much like squirrels and require lots of room.
How Much Space is Needed?
A large rat or degu cage is not enough. Sugar gliders should be housed in their own habitat, preferably one that closely resembles an aviary with climbing apparatus. While they are not large creatures, they need the space to get enough exercise and to keep themselves healthy. Because they cannot be kept alone, the space should be multiplied per glider. Most households cannot offer this vast amount of space. You should have a cage that is at least 24 inches deep by 24 inches wide by 36 inches tall at at minimum.
3. Vets Find It Hard to Treat Them
Hamsters are classed as exotic due to their metabolism, small size, and difficulty of treatment, but suggies are even harder to take care of. It takes a very specially-trained vet to deal with SGs.
It can be very difficult to diagnose and treat them correctly without causing them serious distress, harm, or even killing them. You couldn't easily take a Suggie to a regular vet that treats dogs, cats, or even guinea pigs, as these vets are often not trained or have been trained very little in these animals. Treatment is also very expensive. Animals don't respond in the same way to surgery, antibiotics, fluid draining, or skin ointment the same way we do, and it is extremely easy to overdose them, poison them, or cause a bad reaction.
Suggies have not been kept as pets for enough years or on a common enough basis for us to do thorough research on suitable treatments for them. Mites, fleas, and skin problems are very common in these creatures, and people often find that regular small mammal ointments will not work or will cause negative reactions.
4. Many Are Farmed and Bred From Cruelty
Suggies have become more popular in the past couple of years, much like pygmy hedgehogs have. Due to the increase in demand and their relatively low population, their breeding is similar to the breeding of pedigree dogs.
Backyard breeders will overbreed and inbreed the animals and sell them for either very low or very high prices just to make some money. They don't give thought or care for the animals at all. Unfortunately, there is little to no control over their breeding. Because they are exotic pets, it can be even harder for the law to control them.
Overbreeding animals can result in severe health problems and trauma to both the male and the female being bred. Along with inbreeding, it can produce sickly animals with behavioral problems, shortened lifespans, genetic disorders, mental instability, increased risks of diseases, dwarfism, dead babies, and infertility.
SGs should only be purchased from a licensed, professional breeder or adopted from a shelter. There aren't a lot of good breeders around, but if you really want to find one, you should look for the following:
- A professional website
- The availability to visit them
- Professional photographs
- A breeder who is willing to answer lots of questions
- Multiple ways to contact the breeder
- A breeder who is willing to teach you how to care for them and tell you what they need
- A breeder who will vet you as much as you vet them
A dismissive breeder is someone who is willing to hand sugar gliders off to anyone and asks few or no questions. They will also seem to be mostly interested in money. You do not want to purchase from these breeders.
5. The Legality of Owning Sugar Gliders
In some countries, it is illegal or only borderline legal to purchase these animals as pets. They are often bred and kept in cruelty by people who think that they are fashionable and who have little to no knowledge about them. Neglect, abuse, and cruelty are all punishable crimes. In the U.K. or the U.S., you will likely be banned from keeping animals and receive a hefty fine or a jail sentence. In other countries, the punishments can be much harsher.
Regulations on Importing Sugar Gliders
In most countries, it is illegal to import or export these creatures due to laws that protect against disease, animal importation, and risks to the environment and public health. SGs are no exception to these rules as they can carry harmful bacteria and negatively affect the local wildlife.
In the U.K. and the U.S., very few pet shops sell sugar gliders, and the law does not offer them protection from cruelty. This is why SGs are often sold in dodgy backyard sales by people who should be reported for cruelty but are not because there is a demand for sugar gliders. It is likely that the sugar glider you purchase is an illegal import riddled with disease. Owning, importing, or releasing an SG could lead to serious penalties.
Are Sugar Gliders Legal in the U.S.?
For those living in the United States, each state has its own regulations regarding sugar gliders. It is illegal to own a sugar glider in California, Alaska, and Hawaii. States such as Georgia, New Mexico, and New York have special regulations that you should look into before trying to get a sugar glider. The remaining states do allow people to own sugar gliders, but they may require certain permits, so be sure to check what kind of regulations your state has.
6. Cost: They Are Expensive to Purchase and Care for
These animals can be very expensive to purchase and keep. A pair of gliders can cost anywhere from £400 to £1000 (that's $527 to $1317), not to mention the cost of care. You can do the research on how much their tanks, food, and toys cost, but as you can imagine, taking care of a sugar glider can be as expensive as caring for a horse.
Vet Bills Are Costly
Vet bills for these creatures are also horribly expensive because they have to see an exotic vet who will often have trouble treating them. They are also not included in insurance, so if they need surgery or specific treatment, you will be paying out-of-pocket. You can't get these animals "on the cheap." If they are sold at a very low price, it is likely that they are either inbred or illegally imported, or the seller is urgently trying to get rid of them because there is something wrong with them.
7. Lifespan: How Long Do Sugar Gliders Live?
With proper care, these creatures can easily live to be 15 years old. Yes, 15! Despite their longevity, these animals are prone to stress and other complications. Their bodies are fragile, and they do not have strong immune systems, so keeping a clean habitat, giving them a healthy and proper diet, giving them regular health checkups, and handling them properly are all very essential to maintaining their health.
Make sure you have the money and the time to give sugar gliders proper care for 15 years. If you plan to re-home or sell them later on, then you should not keep them in the first place. They are not to be purchased on impulse.
8. Diet: What Do Sugar Gliders Eat?
It is very hard to maintain their diets. As I mentioned above, it can cost a lot of money to keep them healthy, and they do require very specific foods. The number one problem vets report is health issues related to diet. Suggies are fragile and need to be monitored constantly for signs of health problems.
Many suffer malnutrition, weight problems, deficiencies, and poisonings. Many foods are also toxic to them, so you will need to thoroughly research the correct amount of food to give them, how to feed them correctly, and what they eat. This can be quite strenuous and complex.
Sugar gliders require:
- Fruit and vegetables (mainly vegetables) with a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1
- A protein source
- A nectar drink
- A multivitamin
- Acacia gum and bee pollen
9. You Won't Be Going on Holiday
Unlike a dog or even a rabbit, you can't leave sugar gliders with a neighbor or enlist a friend to care for them when you go away. Sometimes there are specialized professionals who will offer help while you are gone, but they are rare. It is also never a good idea to leave animals like this with someone that doesn't know them well enough.
Reasons Why They Can't Be Watched by Someone Else:
- They cannot be watched by people with no experience.
- They require a lot of attention.
- Health problems can be hard to spot to the untrained eye.
- People don't feed them the correct amounts of food.
- Most people don't want to take the time to prepare specialized meals for someone else's pets while they are off having fun in the sun.
10. They Will Relieve Themselves on You
This is a big issue for many people. Suggies tend to poop and urinate on just about everything. They are messy, and they can be very smelly. Don't forget, they also have scent glands that they can and will rub on you. I have also seen cages where they have splattered their poo everywhere.
They are definitely not on the list of hygienic pets. They can also transmit disease, especially Salmonella.
Alternatives to Sugar Gliders
Here are some alternative pets you can own that will be easier to deal with than a sugar glider. Some of these pets are on the more exotic side of things, but they require far less specialized care. Again, remember that each country has different laws regarding owning exotic animals. The U.S., in particular, has varying laws from state to state, so you will need to do some research to see if owning an exotic is legal.
- Flying Squirrel: The southern flying squirrel, which is native to the Southern U.S., looks similar to a sugar glider but they are far easier to manage. A flying squirrel can be kept in a smaller cage, and you can let it out of its cage to climb on you and hide in your pockets. These little critters need plenty of socializing, and they are primarily nocturnal.
- Rabbit: For some having a rabbit would qualify as an exotic pet and these little creatures are certainly adorable and easy to love. Keep in mind they are not exactly low-maintenance, and they will require lots of care during their long lifespans. Make sure you are ready to have a rabbit as a pet and that you have the proper cage.
- Chinchilla: These tiny rodents are adorable though because of their size you have to be careful when handling them. They will also need a big cage to live in, and you will have to buy more than one since they need to socialize with each other.
- Ferret: Known for their energetic and playful nature, ferrets are fun pets to own, and they are becoming more widespread. Ferrets are small and intelligent, so they are easy to train and take out in public. They do require quite a bit of exercise, so you will have to take them out of their cage every day.
- Mara or Cavy: These large rodents can live indoors or outdoors, though they tend to be pretty messy inside so keep that in mind. The Patagonian Cavy is the larger species while the Chacoan Cavy is much smaller and easier to handle indoors.
- Kinkajou: An exotic tropical mammal, closely related to a raccoon, a kinkajou can be a fun pet but keep in mind they will need a large, tall cage to live in. Kinkajous are used to living in a tropical rainforest, so they will require a cage that will allow them to climb around on various objects.
If you still want a pet glider, make sure you do your research and get one from a reputable breeder that will give you a good quality animal. There is no such thing as too much research or preparation. It's not worth rushing the process and buying on impulse because shelters are filled with sugar gliders that need homes, and they are only re-homed to people who can offer them what they need.
In truth, these animals are not pets and should not be kept as pets. However, there is little we can do to stop people from keeping them. The only thing we can do is advocate against unethical breeding and educate people about why they should not be purchased and kept as pets.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2015 ThePetMaster