Are Sugar Gliders the Right Pet for Me?

Sugar gliders can be absolutely amazing pets and companions. They can form a very strong bond with their owner, hang out in your pocket all day, and it is certainly a blast to watch them run around and play! These animals, as cute and interesting as they are to would-be owners, do have certain habits that some find off-putting, as well as specialized needs that their owner must be willing to provide if they are to thrive! So let's find out if sugar gliders are the right pet for you!


1. Are sugar gliders legal in your state?

Sugar gliders are classified as exotic animals. Because of this, some states place certain restrictions on where you can own them as well as where you obtain them from. Laws that govern ownership may vary not only by state, but city also.

Some states that ban ownership entirely are California, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. In New York, gliders are illegal in the five boroughs of New York City. This includes Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. They are legal everywhere else in the state. In Utah, they are legal everywhere except Salt Lake City. And in Georgia, ownership is legal everywhere, but law states that your gliders must be purchased from a USDA licensed breeder and have proof of purchase. Be sure to check your state as well as local legislation, as these laws do change every so often.

P1 copy.jpg

2. Do you have allergic reactions to animal fur?

One of the most common reasons I see these pets being rehomed is because their owner or their family is allergic to them. While there are medications that can be used to suppress allergy symptoms, prevention in this case is easier than the treatment. If you have a friend that owns gliders, see if it would be possible to visit them if you are concerned about a possible allergy. Perhaps a local breeder would allow you and your family to interact with them before purchasing.

Some states that ban ownership entirely are California, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. In New York, gliders are illegal in the five boroughs of New York City. This includes Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. They are legal everywhere else in the state. In Utah, they are legal everywhere except Salt Lake City. And in Georgia, ownership is legal everywhere, but law states that your gliders must be purchased from a USDA licensed breeder and have proof of purchase. Be sure to check your state as well as local legislation, as these laws do change every so often.

3. Can You afford the costs associated with ownership?

Sugar gliders are colony animals by nature. Keeping just one can be very detrimental to their health. Based on this knowledge and the fact that a standard colored (wild-type) sugar glider can cost between $200-$250 on average, the animals alone will run you about $400-500 from a reputable breeder with lineaged, healthy animals. If you are interested in the more exotic-colored gliders like mosaics or leucistics, expect to pay upwards of $600 per glider, with some color variations reaching well into the thousands.

     The standard setup for sugar gliders will run you approximately $300. This includes the cage, wheel, cage set, and diet ingredients. Skimping on a correct setup can very much endanger the life of the animal (This will be covered in greater detail in a later blog).

     Depending on where you are living, if you are planning to house the animals in an apartment, your landlord may charge you a pet deposit and/or a pet fee. A deposit is refundable- it is a promise to the landlord that your pet will not cause damage to the rented space. If they do, the tenant forfeits the deposit so that the landlord can fix the damage using that money. A pet fee on the other hand is usually a flat fee that is charged when the tenant brings in a pet. The average I have seen is $250. It is really just paying for the convenience of housing the animal. Depending on your state, there may be laws governing the amount you can be charged for renting with an animal companion. Some states forbids landlords from imposing the fee entirely, so be sure to again check local laws.

     One very important cost associated with sugar glider ownership that a lot of people tend to overlook is medical treatment. As much as we hope we won't ever need to take our pets to see the vet, the possibility of a glider getting very sick is there. Gliders do not need any kind of vaccines, but a once-a-year checkup is recommended. Veterinary costs widely vary by state, so it is wise to have a vet lined up before getting the animals. I have seen wellness checks vary from $35 - $75. If an emergency visit is needed, my vet tacks on another $65 to the bill. A typical neuter can cost you anywhere from $80 - $400 depending on the practice you bring the glider to. Should your glider need surgery, I have seen the bill at upwards of $1,000+. Always have a vet fund set aside in case of emergency. The average I see in a vet fund is ~$1,500. Thankfully, many vet offices will work out payment plans with you, and there is a type of credit card exclusively for vet visits called "Care Credit" that is accepted at most practices. Make sure your vet is willing to accept these methods of payment first, before you need to use them.

     So to break down the start-up costs:

Sugar gliders: $400-500

Housing: ~$300

Diet: ~$20 per month

Apartment housing fee (if applicable): ~$250

Vet fund recommended: $1,500

Total: ~$2,500


4. Do you have the space?

Because sugar gliders are arboreal (tree-dwelling) creatures that have adapted to running up and down trees and gliding between branches, naturally, they need quite a bit of space to live in! The minimum cage size recommended for gliders is 3'L x 2'W x 3'H. More vertical height is always better. Restricting your gliders' living space can lead to anxiety-induced repetitive behavior such as jumping in a circular pattern in their cage (floor to wall to ceiling to floor, repeatedly in the same spot), over-grooming their fur causing bald spots due to stress, and aggressive, territorial behavior as they feel they have no place to run (think of a scared animal being cornered). I always tell potential adopters to buy the largest cage they can afford, while also meeting minimum size requirements. It is important to note here, DO NOT buy galvanized steel wire cages! They are notorious for causing urinary tract infections in gliders, leading to death if not treated immediately. They are cheaply made, and you certainly get what you pay for.

4. Do you have the time?

     Adjustment period - Sugar gliders are sensitive animals. They need a LOT of time to adjust to new surroundings before you can handle them. Being naturally "prey" animals to larger predators, even the smallest, unfamiliar sound in your gliders' new home can spook them terribly! I always tell new owners to give them at LEAST 1 week to settle in before you even touch them. This lets them get used to the new sights, sounds and smells of your home at their own pace. After the first week, you may be able to start touching them or offering treats out of your hand IN their cage. If the glider crabs (a loud, locust-sounding warning noise) back up and give them more time. They are not ready, and progressing further can damage your relationship with them. To an adult this may seem like no problem, but for a kid who is extremely excited to play with their new pet, the wait can be unbearable. Interacting too soon will lead to some pretty bad bites, even to the point of latching on, and now the kid is terrified of them and no longer wants them around. Do NOT rush this process. You'll be glad you didn't.

     Bonding time - Some sites will tell you that you MUST spend at least ___ hours a day with the glider or they will become severely depressed. Although this is mostly truthful in the case of a lone glider (and we would never keep a lone glider, right? ;)), gliders who are kept in pairs do not have this issue. They will have a friend to play and sleep with all times of the day. Gliders do not crave human attention; just for some form of interaction. Although it is true that your glider will bond with you much faster the more time you spend with them, you certainly do not need to spend every waking moment with them! If you don't get to see them for 3 days because you are in the hospital, don't fret- they will be eager to see you when you get back, with no damage to your ever-building bond.

     Food preparation - On the topic of having time for the gliders, we also need to consider food preparation! This is one of the most time-consuming aspects of ownership. Because there is no nutritionally complete commercially-prepared diet for sugar gliders (and no, pellets are not nutritionally complete- more on this in another post) we must make their food using fresh ingredients such as fruits, veggies, and chicken. Much more goes into these diets (again, discussed in greater detail later) and it is SO important to stick to a staple diet plan. Gliders are extremely susceptible to diet related diseases such as hind-leg paralysis and hypercalcemia. A delicate balance of the correct vitamin and mineral ratios must be maintained. Thus requiring us to provide a fresh diet every single night. These diets can be prepared in large batches and frozen, however! I can tell you that I go though about 80 cups of prepared food in about 5 weeks, and takes me about 4-5 hours to make. But, this amount of food can last much longer if only 2 are being fed. Comparatively, you will only need approximately 7 cups of food per month for 2 gliders depending on the diet you feed.

Long story short, expect to set aside about 3-4 hours of food prep time per month :)


     Cage cleaning - Sugar gliders are MESSY. They will pick up a piece of fruit, suck the juice out of it, and then FLING it 3 feet from their cage when they're done! Cage covers help contain some of the mess, but you will still need to sweep/mop the area around their cage fairly often, maybe 3-4 times per week. The bottom drop tray of the cage will need to be cleaned out a few times a week as well to keep the smell down. Once a week, I run all of the fleece bedding in the cage through the washer, and once a month, I wipe down the entire cage surface (inside and out) with a combination of vinegar/hot water with a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to help keep the cage smelling fresh and clean. Try to avoid cleaning everything at once, as gliders tend to overly scent-mark their cage after this.

Expect to spend an average of 8-10 hours a month on cleaning cages and the areas around them!

     Who will care for them? -  Did you know that the lifespan of a properly cared-for sugar glider is 12-15 years? Kids tend to immediately fall in love with these little guys and want to keep them forever, but when your 12 year-old son is leaving the state for college in 6 years, and your sugar gliders have lived only half of their lifespan, what will you do? Are you willing to take on the full responsibility of caring and providing for these exotic animals for potentially another 8 years? Rehoming them is an option, but places immense stress on their tiny bodies and causes them emotional distress. A big what-if to consider, thinking in the long-term.

5. Can you tolerate their habits?

Here's where a lot of owners struggle - adjusting to the not-so-pleasant habits of sugar gliders. Let's go over some of the basic ones:

     Their sleep cycle - Gliders are nocturnal, meaning they wake up at sunset and go to sleep at sunrise. Their time to play is at night. Waking them up for play time during the day is alright every so often, but try not to make a habit of it as they can become run down from lack of sleep and susceptible to illness. 

W1 copy.jpg

     It is also worth noting here that it is NOT recommended to attempt to change their sleep schedule. I have seen cases in which owners keep their gliders in a closet or boiler room to "keep them up" during the day so the owners can play with them. Gliders, like other mammals, have a natural internal clock or "circadian rhythm" that dictates when they are supposed to sleep and wake. They need light to regulate this cycle. Just imagine if the sun didn't rise for 3 days straight, and we had no clocks to keep track of the time - we would be pretty thrown off our normal sleep patterns! Lack of a natural circadian rhythm has also been shown to slow metabolism in small animals, leading to obesity, an increased risk of diabetes, and an overall disruption in cellular regeneration and function within the body. 

     The noise level -  During the night, gliders can be heard running in their wheels, running up the sides of the cage, and even barking! Barking sounds like a chihuahua yipping. It's loud, and I can hear them bark from down the stairs and across the house in the middle of the night. Not so good for children who need to wake up early for school the next day. This can be mildly combated by using a small night light in their room. It has a somewhat calming effect on them, and in my experience, keeps them a bit quieter.

     Bathroom habits - Sugar gliders, upon waking, have a tendency to almost immediately pee and poop wherever they are. It's not uncommon to find a puddle of pee on your sweatshirt or pellets of poop on the floor underneath them! Luckily, this is easily combated by simply holding them over the bottom of the cage or garbage can for a minute as they relieve themselves.


     Biting/Scratching - Sugar gliders have VERY sharp little nails, like miniature versions of cat's nails! If you don't trim them every couple of weeks, they will scratch up your skin pretty fast. Cuts can lead to infection if not cleaned up properly. Biting on the other hand is something you can train your glider not to do (more on that in another post). But just be aware that gliders have LONG, pointed bottom teeth AND premolars that break the skin in a second if they want them to. You need to be able to take a bite from this animal and not react adversely, i.e., flinging them across the room! This is not the easiest thing to do, but you do get used to it more and more in my experience.

In conclusion...

Sugar gliders can be  amazing, unique companion pets for you and your family. However, they are definitely pets that you DON'T want to cheap out on (not that I would encourage it for any other type of animal either)! They are sensitive little creatures that require a lot of time and effort, and shirking on this responsibility can endanger the life of your pet.

     PLEASE carefully consider each point listed above before making the decision to purchase or adopt these animals that can potentially be in your care for 12-15 years! If you are confident in your ability to provide them what they need, and able to tolerate their normal, everyday habits then they may be the perfect pet for you! :) 

Nalani 5 WM.jpg