Sugar gliders are a popular pocket-size exotic pet because of their uniqueness and desire to socialize. When they are in living in captivity, then this marsupial has lifespan which can be up to 15 years, far exceeding what other animals of a similar size achieve. Their body is only 5-6 inches in length, with their tail about the same, so they only weigh about 6 ounces when fully mature.
The sugar glider has grown in popularity because they like snuggle, play, and there are times when they will literally fly around the house. Because they are an exotic pet, caring for them is a little different than if you own a dog or cat. There are special needs that you must offer for these little guys and gals, which means specific considerations must be evaluated before you decide to bring one home.
If you are thinking about owning a sugar glider or two as a pet, then here are the pros and cons of the decision to consider.
List of the Pros of Having a Sugar Glider as a Pet
1. Sugar gliders live longer than other pocket pets.
Most pocket pets fit into the mammalian rodent category, so their lifespan is often limited to a couple of years. Even brown rats typically live for 2-3 years at most. When you bring home a sugar glider, then this marsupial can spend up to 15 years with you, making them more like a family member since this time is comparable to most dogs and cats. That means a decision to have a sugar glider is one which is a long-term change, so you will want to make sure that you are committed to the process.
2. Sugar gliders are highly active animals.
A sugar glider can become bored very easily if they do not have enough access to stimulating activities. Ongoing mental stimulation, human bonding, and colony activities are necessary to keep the animals safe. You will want to invest in an exercise wheel to ensure that they have plenty of time to run. Foraging toys are necessary to help them embrace their natural behavior of hunting for food. Since this marsupial is naturally a tree dweller, you will also want an enclosure that is at least 3 feet tall so that there is enough room for them to climb and jump around.
3. Sugar gliders are a lot of fun to have at home.
Although a sugar glider requires a lot more maintenance than other pets for a successful experience, you will find that their adorable nature and playfulness makes it a lot of fun to have them around. When you can make the time to spend with them to continue the bonding process, you will discover that all of the work that goes into their care is worth it. You will eventually get used to the daily routine, want to carry them around with you all day long, and even have them as a companion when you leave the house on errands at times.
4. Sugar gliders are playful and loving creatures.
Sugar gliders love to play. They are also loyal to a fault once you complete the bonding process with them. You will discover that they love to receive lots of attention throughout the day, which is why a bonding pocket is such a great investment with these marsupials. Their version of snuggling is to hang out with you as you’re getting some work done. That is why this animal makes for such a fantastic companion if you live by yourself and don’t get a chance to interact with others very often.
5. Sugar gliders rarely bite people.
Because sugar gliders have natural instincts as a predator, there is a small issue with biting that some owners have experienced over the years. Most of these marsupials will only try to bite if they are scared, untrained, or are being hurt. Even if a bite does occur, the structure of their teeth is not intended to be like a downward sheering action. It feels like a firm pinch, as if someone grabbed you from tweezers, and it may not even draw blood.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to avoid a bite in the first place is to focus on the bonding experience. When you spend time with your sugar gliders every day, then their loyalty toward you will develop over time so that this issue does not occur unless they get spooked by something.
6. Sugar gliders are clean and predictable animals.
For some owners, the fact that you cannot train a sugar glider to use a litter box or some other type of waste care product can be a disadvantage. It is essential to note that these marsupials prefer cleanliness and want to have predictability in their life. If you are carrying one around with you during the day, then their body language will let you know when you need to put them down to avoid an accident. When they live in an enclosure, then they will self-manage this process by themselves.
List of the Cons of Having a Sugar Glider as a Pet
1. Sugar gliders are nocturnal animals.
When you have a sugar glider living at home with you, then it is essential to remember that they have the most energy at night. You can still interact with them during the day, but you will need to plan for them to be away from around 8 o’clock in the evening until 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning. You can carry them around as a bonding mechanism in a pocket while they sleep, but it also means that the sugar gliders are going to be up all night exploring while you try to rest.
2. Sugar gliders are colony animals.
Some animals require high levels of socialization to be healthy. When you bring home a sugar glider, their family structure is similar to that of other colony animals. Although there are families who are successful with just one of these pocket pets, it is a lot easier if you have two of them. If you have one that is living on its own, then it is not uncommon for them to begin over-grooming themselves, start to refuse their food, or even harm themselves. Human interaction does not replace the attention that they get from their species.
Since the average cost of a sugar glider as a joey is between $200 to $500 at the age of 8-12 weeks, the expense can be somewhat high for some families. Even if you select an adult marsupial, you will find the cost to be in the $100 to $150 range per animal.
3. Sugar gliders have specific nutritional needs you must meet.
Sugar gliders like to glide around the house like a flying squirrel. You will discover that they love to snitch sweet-tasting things if the items are left out. Those foods would be the only thing that they would eat if you let them. It is up to you to provide them with a balanced diet of produce and protein to ensure that their health and wellness remains strong. There isn’t a commercial-quality sugar glider food product on the market, which means you must make conscious choices about what to give them.
Without a proper staple diet, sugar gliders can encounter health challenges almost immediately. Issues can range from an increase in animal odor to paralysis of their hind legs. Expect to pay about $10 per month to feed each healthy sugar glider that you have in your home, using a ratio of about 25% produce and the rest as pellet food.
4. Sugar gliders require a veterinarian with exotic animal expertise.
You will need to work with a veterinarian who is familiar with exotic animals to ensure that your sugar glider receives the healthcare treatments needed for their health. If you live in a small community, then this could be a challenge. Having a medical emergency with your pet without an experienced vet could leave your sugar glider is a potentially life-threatening situation. Even when there is one available in your community, the cost to bring your sugar glider for a visit could be substantially more than what it would be if you had a dog or a cat at home.
5. Sugar gliders require extensive time to bond.
Sugar gliders are frequently given over to shelters and rescue organizations because it takes a lot of work, patience, and time to bond with them adequately. These marsupials are not going to fall in love with you right away like most dogs and some cats. Their exotic nature makes then naturally leery of human beings. If everything goes right and you have invested the time and energy needed for a successful experience, then it might take 12 months before the bonding cycle is complete. It is not unusual for it to take several weeks before the animals are even willing to let you touch them.
6. Sugar gliders do not interact well with other pets.
Although it might be tempting to try bonding your sugar glider with a dog, cat or another pet, these interactions are strongly discouraged. These marsupials move quickly and with a severe suddenness that can trigger the predatory instincts of other animals. Sugar gliders are also very fragile in their structure, so even a friendly swat from a declawed kitty could create a life-threatening injury.
These marsupials are also predators in their own right in the wild, so having them around other pocket pets like hamsters, gerbils, or birds could be dangerous for the other animal. It is always better to play it safe in this regard instead of having everything come crashing to an expensive halt one day.
7. Sugar gliders may be illegal to own in your state.
Because a sugar glider is an exotic animal, their ownership qualifies under those laws, regulations, or statutes in your geographic area. It is currently illegal to own this marsupial in Hawaii, Alaska, or California. Some cities do not allow ownership either, such as St. Paul, New York City, or Salt Lake City, but you could own one in other parts of the state where those urban areas are. Some regions require that you obtain a special permit first, while others make you purchase the pet from a licensed breeder through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is up to you to ensure that all of the rules are followed.
The pros and cons of having a sugar glider as a pet are similar to what they would be for any other animal that you would bring home. You must ensure that there is proper veterinary care available for this marsupial before you purchase one. Always work with licensed breeders as well to discourage the illicit (and sometimes illegal) shipping of these animals around the world. When you take proactive steps to be prepared, then you will find that a sugar glider could be a fun addition to your home.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.