The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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When life mixes squirrels, bats, and hamsters in a blender, it gives you sugar gliders.
Sugar gliders are beautiful squirrel-like creatures that have the most squishable faces. They may not be as popular as dogs and cats, but they’re certainly worth your time.
We’ll be showing you everything you need to know to train your sugar glider. The goal is to have her treat you as her tree and your home as the forest.
To avoid labeling a cute pet as ‘it’, we’ll be referring to our sugar glider as a ‘her’ in this article.
Training sugar gliders consists of three main sections:
- Flight (glide) training
- Potty training
You’ll hear various methods and different opinions on how to do each of those. We’ve done the homework and gathered the methods that seem to have the approval of the majority.
Here’s how to familiarize your sugar glider with her new home and with you.
For us humans, sleeping for the first time in a new place is somewhat difficult. We’re not used to the new bed, scent, environment, or ambient noises. However, since we’re intelligent enough to realize that there’s no threat in the new sleeping place, we usually get used to it quickly.
Animals, on the other hand, take a bit more time to get used to their new environment. Once you adopt a sugar glider, you need to give her some time to get used to your home.
Keep in mind that if your sugar glider is a baby, feel free to hold her cupped in your hand as much as possible in the first 48 hours. That will transform you into her favorite tree.
As for slightly older gliders, it often takes just a few days. Some sugar gliders could take more or less time depending on how shy they are and how big or small your home is.
You can do a few things to help your sugar glider get used to her new home faster:
To help your pet glider get used to your home faster, you need to keep her in the same place for a while. If you keep moving her around from room to room, this will confuse her and slow down the process of settling in.
You may be wondering: she will have to get used to the whole house anyway, so why not do it now?
Your glider will indeed have to familiarize herself with the whole house at one point. Yet, before exploring new rooms of your home, your sugar glider should have previously formed a good bond with you.
Once you become the new safe haven to your sugar baby, she’ll get used to other rooms faster with your help.
The smaller your pet is, the more it will view other creatures as threats. Sugar gliders are quite small even in adulthood. Usual pets like cats and dogs could be intimidating to your little bat.
Sugar gliders already take some time to get used to your home. Having other distractions like cats and dogs will slow the process down even more. This is especially important with cats. They’re pretty territorial and could even attack your sugar glider.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal creatures that are more active at night. Nocturnal creatures prefer the nighttime because it has less noise and fewer chances for predators to find them.
You should do your best to keep the first few days of your sugar glider at home as quiet as possible. You and your family members will be quite curious to interact with your new cute pet but we strongly advise against overly doing that.
If you give your sugar glider enough time to familiarize with home on her own, she’ll get used to everything else a lot faster.
Two or three days after you adopt a sugar glider, you should start familiarizing her with you. As we mentioned earlier, you should do your best in those first three days to allow your glider to settle.
After those three days, your sugar glider should start to see you more often. She’ll be quite apprehensive at first and it may take a week or so but in the end, she’ll get used to you.
Do the following to familiarize your sugar glider with you faster:
Sugar gliders, like cats and dogs, can use your smell to identify you faster. Try to associate your smell with the sugar glider’s sense of safety.
To do that, you need to keep your smell close to your sugar glider’s home. Rub a piece of cloth to your body or wear a shirt for a while, then place it near her cage.
You should also spend some time near her without making too much noise so she can associate home safety with your smell and presence.
Last but not least, avoid changing your perfume, cologne, shampoo…etc. Whatever product you use that has a smell, it’s best to not change it while your sugar glider is getting to know you.
If you keep changing your smell, it will confuse your sugar glider and you’ll be back to square one every time you get to interact with her.
Anticipating a good meal can set anyone in a good mood. It’s a pleasure we’re all guilty of and animals aren’t really different from us here.
When your sugar baby is a bit more comfortable with you, start bribing your way to her heart with food.
Try to place some treats on your finger and then let her eat them. She would then associate your smell with comfort and food. For an animal, that’s all they need to be your friend.
Sugar gliders are omnivores and can feed on meat and plant-based diets. So, you can have a variety of options to feed her. Just make sure to do a little research because some foods, like dairy products, could harm sugar gliders since they’re lactose intolerant.
Using bonding pouches is a good method to carry your sugar glider around while keeping her sense of safety intact. A bonding pouch is simply a small bag that your sugar baby can fit inside while being carried around.
Before using a bonding pouch, make sure that your sugar glider is used to your smell. You may place a small piece of cloth that has your smell inside the pouch to help the glider feel comfortable inside it.
Additionally, your sugar glider should have at least one room in your house that she’s comfortable enough with to call home. That way, if she feels uncomfortable while moving around, you can get her back in that room for her to calm down.
Once your sugar glider gets used to her new home, she should see you a lot more often. If you can, you should spend at least one hour near your sugar glider every day. This is especially important at the beginning of the familiarization process.
Try to merge your bonding time with her meal time. That way, you’re furtherly assuring her that your presence isn’t a threat.
This section is probably what most people are here for. So, why didn’t we put that earlier? It’s simple. Sugar gliders won’t come to you unless they feel comfortable and safe with you.
Having them in your house for a long time doesn’t mean that they feel comfortable around you. Once they accept you, training them to fly to you will be easier.
It may take some time but it’s fairly easy. You need two steps to make that happen:
Whenever it’s time to eat, you should make a distinctive sound for your sugar gliders to recognize. The sound itself doesn’t matter much but what matters is that the sound remains the same.
Clicking is one of the sounds that sugar gliders recognize quickly. You can do the clicking yourself or use any small tool to help you do that.
Your sugar glider will associate clicking with meal time. So, whenever she hears a click, she’ll want to come to you.
Now, it’s time to fly. Sugar gliders often learn how to glide by themselves so you normally shouldn’t bother with that. What you need is for them to glide to you.
Start your training by placing your sugar glider on an object that’s higher than you. Then walk away a few steps and make the clicking sound.
Don’t expect success from the very first time, but be consistent and patient. You’ll get there eventually.
You may have heard somewhere that potty training sugar gliders is a useless or meaningless task. It’s somewhat true. You won’t be able to fully train them and expect no accidents whatsoever.
A well-trained glider would still have some accidents from time to time. Still, there’s a lot you can do to reduce these accidents to a minimum and even predict when your sugar glider needs the bathroom.
Potty training should begin as soon as you get your sugar glider to her new home.
You need to hold your sugar baby with one hand and use scentless wipes to gently rub her rear.
This should stimulate your sugar glider to relieve herself. Have a newspaper or any disposable paper under your sugar glider to catch any drips. This step should take you around one minute.
If you’re familiar with potty training of kittens, this shouldn’t be a new process to you.
At this point, you need to allow your glider to move continuously from hand to hand using the tube technique.
The continuous leg movement stimulates your glider to empty any remnants she may have. You may want to wear a glove to avoid having anything fall on your hands.
This step may take up to two minutes.
This step essentially just ensures that your glider has completely relieved herself.
You should repeat step one again for about half a minute to make sure that your glider is completely done.
After these steps, your sugar glider won’t need to use the bathroom again for 2–3 hours unless you give them a meal.
You should be able to pick up a pattern on when your glider needs to relieve herself. Check out an expert’s advice on potty training if you want to know more.
There are a few annoying things to expect while training your sugar glider. Despite being annoying, they’re normal and usually not a sign of concern.
Crabbing is a sound that sugar gliders make when they’re scared, injured, or in a state of distress. It’s quite unfamiliar to most people and it could be your first time hearing it.
In the first days of training (or in the middle of the night when you least expect it) you may hear the crabbing.
It’s quite strange at first but you’ll get used to it quickly.
Biting is natural for most living organisms at a young age, even humans. Your sugar glider may bite you out of fear or mishandling.
Sometimes she may accidentally bite your finger as you feed her. It’s not an act of aggression since sugar gliders aren’t aggressive eaters. She may have just mistaken your finger for food.
Sugar gliders will climb on you a lot, especially when they bond with you. You better be prepared and wear a thick shirt or even double shirts or you’ll end up with many scratches.
Also, you don’t want to have a sugar glider climbing you when you’re wearing expensive clothes. They may tear them.
Potty training sugar gliders could be frustrating and difficult. You will have many accidents in the beginning so try your best not to lash at your squishy baby.
So, how to train sugar gliders? Bond with them, feed them and be safe enough for them to fly to you — all while teaching them how to relieve themselves with as few accidents as possible.
The training may take some time and you might get frustrated. However, the feeling of having a sugar glider trust you enough to fly to your hand is priceless.