If small animals with large eyes and penchants for "flying" strike your interest, then sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) may just be right up your alley. These furry exotic pets often inhabit the forests of Australia, but some live in houses with people, too. Before hurrying to add a sugar glider to your family, however, it's crucial to make sure that ownership of these marsupials is permitted in your region.
These grayish-blue mammals aren't big at all, ranging from 6 to 8 inches in length. Male sugar gliders tend to be bigger than those of the fairer sex. Males can weigh up to almost 6 ounces, and the females can weigh slightly over 4.5 ounces. They possess membranes that travel up and down their bodies from their back feet to their hands. These membranes, called patagiums, are the reason sugar gliders can glide through the air so seemingly effortlessly.
In captivity, these tree-loving mammals need as much space as you can provide them. Look for a wire cage that is roomy enough for numerous toys and perches, nesting boxes and even an exercise wheel. Ladders and branches not only are fun for sugar gliders, they also promote regular exercise in the form of climbing. If you are keeping up to two of these tiny creatures, make sure that the cage you use is at least 3 feet in width and height. Remember that in nature, sugar gliders spend significant amounts of time up in trees. Height is a totally natural -- and comfortable -- thing for them. Aspen shavings usually work well on the cage floor. Cage placement is also key. A calm, low-traffic area of your home that has ample air circulation is optimal.
In natural environments of Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, these omnivorous animals feast on nectar, tree sap, pollen, tree gum, spiders, bugs and their larvae. When in homes as pets, they regularly consume commercial pellets, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and bugs. Frozen and fresh items are both suitable. For occasional yummy snacks, you can allow sugar gliders to enjoy tiny portions of lean meats that are cooked and entirely devoid of extra flavoring. Beef and chicken both work well. Never allow your sugar glider special treats in excess -- less than 5 percent of his overall diet. In planning a nutritious sugar glider menu, a veterinarian is an important resource. Do not move ahead with feeding any foods or portion sizes until you have the OK from a professional.
These nocturnal cuties are often gregarious and spirited animals. Not only do they usually enjoy living alongside fellow furry companions, they also get a lot of their attention from human beings. Since they tend to get lonely, keeping them in twosomes may be preferable.
Sugar gliders' life expectancies as pets are generally much lengthier than those of their wild pals. Pet sugar gliders often live between 10 and 15 years, while free-roaming gliders usually only live between 5 and 7 years. Annual veterinary checkups are a must for keeping pet sugar gliders in good health. These wee animals are susceptible to a handful of medical ailments, including obesity, calcium deficiencies and dental problems.