Sugar gliders are excellent pets, especially for families with kids.
These cute little animals are fun, curious, and love to play with people. So, they’ll engage in lots of fun activities with you and your family.
Before deciding to get sugar gliders as pets, you must learn a few things about them.
So, how long do sugar gliders live? How long do they survive in the wild and in captivity?
Keep reading because we’ll answer several questions about sugar gliders and how to care for them.
Sugar gliders or Petaurus breviceps are exotic nocturnal marsupials with wide round eyes and tiny bodies that make them look cute. These animals are usually confused with flying squirrels, but they’re classified as different species.
The animals can live for up to 9 years in the wild, but they usually live between 3 and 9 years, depending on the conditions in their habitat.
These marsupials are closely related to kangaroos and are able to glide up to 148.5 feet in the air with the help of a gliding membrane that extends between the fore and hindlegs.
Sugar gliders are usually found in the rainforests of Australia, Tasmania, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. The animals get their name from their fondness for sweet meals like fruits, nectar, and tree sap, in addition to their impressive gliding abilities.
In other parts of the world, they’re considered exotic pets and are unlawful in several places, including Alaska, Hawaii, and California.
Sugar gliders can be between 5 and 6 inches long, and their tails add extra 6 inches to their length. Their wide eyes help them see well at night while they’re gliding from one tree to another.
These animals are unable to regulate their temperatures until they’re 100 days old, so the parents help keep the young animals alive. One parent curls up to warm the young sugar glider while the other searches for food.
When the temperature drops, the animals hold one another to keep their bodies warm. They usually live in colonies of 30 sugar gliders or more.
However, bushfires, predators, and land clearance threaten the habitat of this nocturnal animal, so it’s subject to a lot of threats.
In general, sugar gliders can live for between 10 to 15 years when kept in captivity. However, this depends on how much care is provided to these animals.
In captivity, nutrition control, healthcare, and an improved housing environment will extend the life of these animals when they’re kept in a zoo or at home.
This is why sugar gliders are generally considered long-term pets. As a result, they’re perfect for families with children, as long as you’re able to meet their needs.
As pets, sugar gliders tend to live for up to 15 years, especially when kept with other sugar gliders.
They bond well with their owners, so you need to spend time establishing a healthy connection with your pet.
These animals are intelligent and sociable, especially after they’ve successfully socialized. So after a while, you’ll be able to carry around your sugar glider for a short tour around the house or outside.
You need to build the sugar glider’s confidence by spending at least two hours with it every day, so it doesn’t feel intimidated.
In general, sugar gliders are shy animals, so they won’t respond well if they’re handled by a stranger. Caution is also needed if you’re guiding your children to play with your pet sugar glider.
You need to give them time and make sure that the light isn’t too bright because they’re nocturnal animals.
Providing these little animals with safe toys will keep them mentally stimulated. However, they tend to chew on toys, so you need to make sure they’re not able to swallow them.
Because these animals will always try to escape, you need to sugar glider-proof your home to keep it safe and prevent the animal from escaping, which might lead to possible injury.
Sugar gliders are small animals, but they’re sociable and shouldn’t be kept alone.
When kept alone, the animal will feel stressed and aggressive. They also need to live in a suitable enclosure that provides enough space for two or more sugar gliders to climb and glide.
The sugar glider’s life passes through three stages.
The female sugar glider has two uteri and vaginas that lead to a single pouch, which is divided by a membrane. There are four teats in the pouch, which are enough to feed two babies at a time.
The pregnancy usually lasts about 15 days. The mother has one or two babies and can have up to three litters per year.
Before giving birth, the mother licks a trail from the cloaca to her pouch to press the fur down, so it doesn’t get tangled once the baby is born.
The young newborn sugar glider is called a joey, and childbirth usually lasts 5 minutes.
The newborn joey is almost the size of a grain of rice and immediately enters the mother’s pouch, where it stays for up to six weeks.
In the pouch, the joey depends totally on its mother, and staying warm and protected in the pouch is essential for its survival.
The newborn joey’s mouth stays latched on the mother’s breast for the first few weeks of its life. After that, the mouth stays clamped because the joey is still too young to open and close its mouth.
So, if the newborn’s mouth is withdrawn too soon, the joey might not be able to survive.
The joey stays in the mother’s pouch until it’s too big to fit.
After that, it gets pushed out and clings to one of the parents’ backs.
From the age of 6 to 10 weeks, the joey will still depend greatly on the mother’s milk. However, after that, it will start the weaning process and can be considered an independent adult.
The sugar glider would look for food, still living with the group.
Female and male adult sugar gliders have a frontal scent gland that is located on the top of the head, but the hair is missing around this gland in males.
Male sugar gliders usually reach sexual maturity by the age of 8 to 12 months, while females reach sexual maturity by the age of 12 to 15 months.
The sugar glider’s life span is affected by several environmental and dietary factors. These factors are true for animals that live in the wild and in captivity.
The main reason why sugar gliders live longer in captivity is that, as an owner, you’ll be able to control these factors.
In the wild, these marsupials are subject to food shortages, natural disasters, and the threat of predators. They’re able to survive, but it’s not always easy.
In captivity, they get access to better food, and they’re given medical attention when they’re sick. The animals don’t have to look for food or deal with harsh weather conditions.
Here are some of the factors that affect their life span.
In the wild, the sugar glider has no control over the environment, but they live in specific conditions. This explains why they live in unique habitats.
At home, you need to set up your home, so this little marsupial has no chance of escaping.
The sugar glider can easily squeeze its body into the tiniest openings to escape, so you need to make sure that the house is proofed to prevent it from running away. Escaping the house can result in a severe injury while running away or when the animal is outside, where it can be hunted down by a predator.
You also need to make sure that the sugar glider has access to safe toys because this animal likes to put different objects in its mouth. It can accidentally choke on a tiny object that eventually kills it.
A sugar glider is also a curious animal, so it might jump into a toilet and drown. Other animals and pets like house cats and dogs can also harm a sugar glider, so you should keep it in a safe place.
Sugar gliders are known for their fondness for sweet foods like fruits and nectar. At home, you need to make sure that you’re offering the sugar glider a healthy diet because it might eat too many sweet and fatty foods.
At home, you might be tempted to spoil your sugar glider with food, and this animal tends to overeat.
This is why offering a balanced healthy diet is essential for its health.
At the same time, you need to make sure that you’re providing the animal with enough food, as malnutrition can lead to several health issues like dehydration, seizures, and paralysis.
An unbalanced diet is usually the reason why a sugar glider will suffer from health issues.
Obesity and mineral and vitamin imbalances can lead to several diseases. Sugar gliders can also suffer from bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections.
Here are some of the diseases that affect a sugar glider’s health.
- Hypocalcemia is a health condition that the animal suffers from when it eats food that isn’t rich in calcium or has too much phosphorus. The sugar glider suffers from an abnormally low level of calcium in the blood, which affects the strength of the bones.
Unfortunately, when left untreated, this animal will suffer from broken bones that usually lead to paralysis. Some of the changes are permanent, so you’ll have to realize that you have an animal with special needs, and you’ll have to help feed and groom it.
- Hypoproteinemia is a disease that results in liver and kidney problems and even leads to organ failure. The animal usually suffers from this disease when it doesn’t receive enough protein in its diet.
- Urinary tract infection is common in sugar gliders due to the overgrowth of bacteria in the cloaca when the animal’s immune system is compromised because it’s not eating a healthy diet.
- Dominance and mating wounds usually happen at the back of the neck and can get worse if the cage is too small or you don’t separate the animal from other sugar gliders. The other animals will lick the area to comfort the injured sugar glider, but this will make the wound get worse.
- Pasteurellosis is a bacterial infection caused by Pasteurella multocida. The bacteria are transmitted from rabbits, but the infection is deadly to sugar gliders.
These bacteria lead to the formation of pus-filled sores on the animal’s organs and skin. Unfortunately, this infection leads to sudden death.
- Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by Toxoplasma gondii. Sugar gliders get infected if they’re fed undercooked meat or if they get in contact with cat litter or feces that have been contaminated with these parasites.
- Diarrhea and vomiting are caused by several microscopic parasites that eventually lead to dehydration, weight loss, and abdominal cramps.
A sugar glider isn’t your typical pet, but with some special care, it can enjoy a happy life at your home. Here are some tips to help your pet live longer.
- Following a healthy diet is essential for the sugar glider’s health. The right diet should be made of 75% fruits and veggies like apples, bananas, and carrots and 25% proteins.
- You can provide the animal with tofu, unseasoned but well-cooked turkey or chicken, and hard-boiled eggs, as these foods will keep it healthy. You can also offer some live insects like mealworms and crickets.
However, such live insects are rich in fats and can make the animal too obese, so they should be offered occasionally as a treat.
- Make sure that the animal is kept in a suitable enclosure that is big and tall enough to allow it to climb.
- A sugar glider needs to be kept with other sugar gliders. So, unless you’re ready to care for at least two animals at a time, then these pets won’t work for you.
- Sugar gliders are nocturnal animals, so you need to set up their cage in a quiet spot in the house where they can rest without being disturbed.
- Castrating male sugar gliders is better for their health, whether they’re kept with other male or female sugar gliders.
Sugar gliders are exotic animals that usually live for up to 9 years in the wild, but in captivity and when kept as pets, these animals can live for up to 15 years.
There are several factors that help these animals live longer in captivity because you, as a pet owner, have control over their living conditions.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house. Growing up, I had pet dogs, cats, deer, sugar gliders, chinchillas, a bird, chickens, fish, and a goat.