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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Sugar gliders aren’t gluttonous eaters.
They only need to eat about 15 to 20% of their weight every day. This isn’t much at all, since they only weigh around three to five ounces.
In most cases, they’ll be more than happy with a handful of nutritional pellets, nuts, fruits, and/or vegetables.
But what happens if a sugar glider doesn’t eat at all? Can sugar gliders purposely starve themselves?
If so, how do you get their appetite back before they fall ill?
In this article, we’ll discuss all the plausible reasons your sugar glider is not eating plus their solutions.
Sugar gliders are finicky eaters.
In a way, they’re like human children. They’d sometimes reject nutritionally balanced food for treats or snacks.
But it’s a completely different story if they stop eating altogether.
Although sugar gliders are known to self-mutilate when stressed (i.e., over-groom to the point of hurting themselves), they won’t purposely starve themselves if they can help it.
Here are some of the biggest reasons your sugar glider doesn’t eat:
Decreased appetite is often a sign of illness. So, if you notice a significant decrease in your glider’s appetite, or worse, stop eating entirely, visit your veterinarian to fix the root of the problem.
Alongside the loss of appetite, signs of illness in sugar gliders include the following:
- Ocular discharge
- Nasal discharge
- Odd lumps on the body
- Excessive sleeping
- Weakness or dragging back legs
- Excessive shedding or bald patches
Healthy sugar gliders have smooth coats, bright eyes, moist noses, pink gums, perky ears, and decent skin elasticity.
Like cats, gliders mask their illnesses quite well. Because of this, there’s a high chance you won’t notice the above symptoms straight away.
Therefore, you must keep a close eye on your glider whenever you notice something even a bit off in their attitude.
If in doubt, it’s best to contact a veterinarian who specializes in wild creatures like sugar gliders. These animals can quickly pass the point of recovery if not treated immediately.
Despite popular belief, sugar gliders don’t really get “depressed”—at least, not in the same way humans do. However, they do get stressed.
Stressed gliders would either seem disinterested in food or stop eating altogether. Overeating is also a sign of stress.
Sugar gliders get stressed for a number of reasons. This includes overhandling, improper room temperature (excessive heat or cold), small or overcrowded cage, dirty living space, noisy environment, and lack of exercise.
They also get extremely stressed when taken out of their cage during daytime hours.
Other signs of stress in gliders include:
- Excessive sleeping
- Self-mutilation (scratching or biting themselves to the point of bleeding)
- Frantic or restless behavior
- Lack of energy
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Constant barking
Sugar gliders are highly social. They require the constant companionship of another glider or a responsive human.
Without a playmate, they might actually die of loneliness. This is why professional breeders and veterinarians always recommend owning at least two gliders.
If you raise a single glider, it’ll quickly grow bored because it doesn’t have anyone to play with. Unless you’re willing to act as its forever companion (and remember, gliders live up to 10 to 12 years), it’s best to give your glider a friend.
A lonely glider won’t act as its usual self. It’ll stop eating and playing.
It’ll also exhibit abnormal behaviors such as incessantly barking and running in circles.
The loss of a companion may also trigger loneliness in a glider. If the glider’s companion dies of illness, or if you separate them for extended periods of time, your glider will feel extremely lonely.
When this happens, human affection won’t be enough. Therefore, you should always make sure your glider has a companion when you’re not around to give it much-needed attention.
If your glider isn’t eating, it might be due to an improper diet.
As previously mentioned, gliders won’t purposely starve themselves.
But if they’re not eating well, this will affect their overall health in the future. They might get malnourished and/or dehydrated.
If they get to this point, it’ll be difficult to fix their eating habits without constant intervention.
In the wild, sugar gliders are opportunistic omnivores. This means that they’ll eat anything they get their hands on, including fruits, veggies, nuts, and even small lizards and birds.
Generally, sugar gliders need to have a diet that comprises 75% fruits and vegetables and 25% protein. They tend to have a bit of a “sweet tooth” for sweet fruits, veggies, and nectar, so make sure to slip them a treat or two every so often.
If your glider prefers one specific food, make sure to feed it in small quantities. If possible, use it as a treat or mix it with other fruits and vegetables so your glider won’t get bored of it.
Also, make sure to switch it up a bit. Gliders aren’t only picky eaters; they tire of foods quite quickly, too. If they eat the same food every day, they’ll get bored of it and stop eating.
Here are some food ideas to feed your glider:
- Fruits and vegetables: bananas, berries, carrots, cherries, grapes, mangoes, peaches, raisins, dates, avocados
- Protein: nutritional pellets, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, yogurt, tofu, cottage cheese, and small pieces of meat with no added spices or sauces
- Treats: live insects, unsalted nuts, dried fruit, yogurt drops
As much as possible, avoid feeding your sugar glider onion, garlic, chocolate, candy, and foods high in oxalates (i.e., spinach and beets). These foods are toxic and unhealthy for your pet.
Once you’ve identified the possible cause of the issue, share your findings with a veterinarian. The veterinarian will perform a wellness check and give you advice on what to do.
If it’s merely a case of picky eating, here are some tips to follow:
- Cut up their fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
- When feeding your glider treats, make sure to do it in the morning so it won’t ruin their appetite at night. Two to three small treats per glider are more than sufficient.
- Establish a feeding routine and stick to it. Gliders are sticklers for routine, so make sure to feed them at the same time every day.
- Feed your glider once in the morning and once in the evening.
- Change your glider’s water every day.
- Regularly rotate between diets to prevent your glider from developing food aversions.
Sugar gliders are generally easy to take care of.
The biggest challenge you’ll face when taking care of them is maintaining a proper diet and socialization.
Once you get those two down, your glider will live a happy, healthy life in your home.
If your sugar glider isn’t eating, it might be due to illness, stress, loneliness, or improper diet. If in doubt, consult a veterinarian to prevent malnourishment and/or dehydration.