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Sugar Gliders vs. Flying Squirrels (The Key Similarities and Differences)

Sugar Gliders vs. Flying Squirrels (The Key Similarities and Differences)

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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Are you looking for an exotic pet? Sugar gliders and flying squirrels are fascinating flying animals, and most of the time, people confuse them together.

The truth is that these animals belong to two different animal classifications, and apart from being able to fly, they share more differences than similarities.

Yet, any of them could be the lovely pet you’ve always looked for.

However, several differences can help you understand how to care for your pet. Luckily, we’ll list all of them in our sugar gliders vs. flying squirrels comparison, so keep reading.

Sugar Gliders vs. Flying Squirrels: The Main Differences

Flying squirrels and sugar gliders are small animals that glide long distances.

Because of this trait, many people mistakenly confuse the two species for one or think they’re related.

The truth is that this is that aren’t many other similarities.

Here are the the traits and factors that set both species apart.

Geographic Origin

Sugar gliders come from the Southeastern and Northern areas in Australia, especially in Queensland and New South Wales, and they can also be found in New Guinea.

Flying squirrels live in various habitats in North and South America and some Asian countries.

The wooly flying squirrel lives in Tibet and the Himalayas and the spotted giant flying squirrel lives in the Malay Peninsula, Vietnam, and Eastern Nepal.

Classification

Although both animals are considered mammals, they belong to two different classes based on their different reproductive systems.

Sugar gliders are marsupial, just like kangaroos and koalas. These animals give birth after a short pregnancy, with a yolk-like placenta that can’t provide nutrition until the end of the pregnancy.

The newborn lives in a pouch until it fully develops, receiving nourishment from the mother’s milk.

A flying squirrel is a placental mammal, so the young animal lives in the mother’s uterus until it fully develops. The placenta attaches to the uterine wall and provides nourishment until the young animal fully develops.

After a relatively long pregnancy, the mother gives birth to a fully developed animal.

Appearance

Sugar gliders and flying squirrels look close to each other, but they’re not identical.

As a matter of fact, several differences set these two species apart.

The first difference that you’d naturally notice is the big cute eyes of the sugar gliders. Flying squirrels don’t have such big eyes.

The pouch where the mother sugar glider carries her babies can’t be seen on female flying squirrels. This pouch can be seen while the female is perching or flying.

Flying squirrels’ fur has different patterns; some are spotted, and some aren’t. These differences depend on the animal’s particular species.

Sugar gliders, on the other hand, have a dark gray patch on the back.

Sugar gliders are small animals; average animals measure about 9 to 12 inches from the nose to the tip of the tail. The actual body is quite tiny, but the tail extends to increase the animal’s length.

An average male sugar glider weighs about 4.9 ounces, while a female weighs about 4 ounces.

Flying squirrels come in different shapes and sizes. Some flying squirrels can be about 9 inches long, including the length of the tail. These species usually weigh around 3.5 ounces.

Nevertheless, giant flyers can be as big as house cats.

The red and white giant flying squirrel can measure about 23 inches long, while its tail can be the same size or slightly shorter. These animals can weigh almost 2 pounds.

The Indian giant flying squirrel can be about 16 inches long, with a tail that measures almost 20 inches.

Diversity and Species

There are only three known sugar glider species, and fifty flying squirrel species.

Flying squirrels they live in more different habitats. Some of these species, especially the big ones, have been recently discovered.

These animals probably shared a common ancestor, but according to the evaluation theory, marsupial animals lived and evolved separately from placental mammals millions of years ago.

They remained confined to Australia, while placental mammals lived in different parts of the world. This explains why the flying squirrel is found in several countries across the world.

Life Span

Some flying squirrels can live up to four years in its natural habitat and about ten years when kept as a pet or in captivity.

However, sugar gliders can live a little longer.

In the wild, these animals can live up to nine years, but in captivity or when kept as pets, they can live up to 15 years. This happens because, as a pet owner, you’ll be able to provide your pet with the needed safety, and predators won’t threaten it.

Diet

Gliders and flyers are omnivores, but they don’t eat the same kinds of food.

Sugar gliders get their name from their fondness for sweet food, like the sap of trees, nectar, and fruits, and they occasionally feed on small mammals, reptiles, and insects.

They hide under the tree canopies and eat without being seen.

Flying squirrels eat flowers, fruits, nuts, bird eggs, insects, and fungus. They eat wherever they are and don’t mind being surrounded by other animals.

Flyers are also known to be hoarders, and this is something that gliders aren’t known for.

Social Behavior

While both animals are nocturnal and shy, they both enjoy living with a group of their own kind.

However, they have different preferences.

Sugar gliders prefer to live in large colonies that can sometimes include more than 30 individuals. The animals keep each other warm at night and protect one another from danger.

These colonies usually have two male leaders responsible for protecting the other sugar gliders and their young.

In captivity, you need to take care of at least two sugar gliders because these animals won’t survive if they’re kept on their own.

Flying squirrels also love to live in groups, but their groups are usually smaller. They usually live in groups of eight or fewer individuals.

These animals are less shy than sugar gliders, and you can keep one as a single pet.

Gliding

Both animals have a thin membrane that allows them to glide in the air. However, they do it differently.

The sugar glider is able to glide for up to 165 feet after launching itself from a tree. After that, it keeps falling gradually until it lands, and then it can glide again.

Sugar gliders rarely touch the ground but land on a lower tree branch to continue gliding.

Flying squirrels are able to glide for longer distances, up to 300 feet. However, both species would only fly for 50 to 60 feet before taking a rest and trying again.

What are the Main Similarities Between Sugar Gliders and Flying Squirrels?

Sugar gliders and flying squirrels have similarities that usually make people assume they’re closely related.

However, these similarities are limited, and they have more differences.

Here are some of the traits they share.

  • From an evolutionary point of view, both animals are mammals and probably come from a common ancestor.
  • The animals have long, bushy, and rather weak tails. In most cases, the tail length is equal to or even exceeds the length of the body.
  • The animals have a thin skin membrane that extends from the front to the back legs. They use this membrane to glide in the air while searching for food or escaping danger.
  • Both animals are nocturnal, and they spend most of the day sleeping when they’re kept as pets.
  • They live in similar habitats.
  • They’re omnivores, so they’ll eat plant and animal matter.
  • They dwell in trees in the wild.

Sugar Bears vs. Sugar Gliders: Are they the Same?

A sugar bear is what people in the US call a sugar glider.

Scientifically speaking, this name is wrong because this animal isn’t a bear.

It’s a marsupial that is often sold and raised as an exotic pet and has gained a lot of popularity in several countries.

How to Care for a Flying Squirrel

Just like sugar gliders, flying squirrels have become quite popular as pets.

They’re unique in nature and can be fun animals to keep, but you need to make sure that you’re providing them with all their needed requirements.

If you’re planning to get a flying squirrel as a pet, you must get it from a reputable breeder. This guarantees you’ll have a healthy animal you can keep at home.

You should also be prepared to take extra time caring for a baby flying squirrel, as this animal is still weak and needs to be fed with baby formula until it has matured enough.

Here are a few things that you need to take into consideration if you want to keep a flying squirrel as a pet.

Bonding

Generally speaking, bonding with a flying squirrel isn’t extremely challenging. Compared to a sugar glider, you’ll find that a flying squirrel can be more responsive.

You can do this once you receive a baby flying squirrel. By providing it with baby formula, the animal knows that you’ll take care of it, and it’ll bond with you.

Carrying the animal in your pocket, where it can be close to your heart, is highly recommended. It will get used to you and your heartbeats, so it won’t be alarmed the next time you touch it.

However, in a busy household, many people will try to touch and carry the flying squirrel. This isn’t recommended.

In the beginning, the animal will still be adjusting to its new habitat, so it will feel intimidated by too many people around.

If you live with a partner or have a big family with kids, make sure that everyone can bond with the animal individually. This will help it bond with the whole family instead of being overwhelmed.

Habitat

You should choose a wire cage for your flying squirrels with small spaces that don’t exceed half an inch. These spaces allow for good ventilation, but the flying squirrel won’t be able to escape.

Before the age of 6 months, you can keep your flyers in a small cage but get a bigger one once they mature.

You should ensure enough branches and perches to allow the flying squirrel to climb, jump, and exercise. Physical stimulation is essential to keep your pet healthy and happy.

At the bottom of the cage, place newspaper sheets for easy cleaning. Your flying squirrel will choose one corner for its mess, and it will usually be away from the food and water bowls.

Clean the cage regularly to protect your pet from diseases and infections.

Place a box or pouch high on a perch or branch in the cage. This will be the squirrel’s nesting box.

Line it with wood shavings or cotton, as the animal will use it when it needs to sleep.

Diet

Providing your flying squirrel with fresh water and food is essential for its health.

You can place water in a bottle or a small bowl, but it has to be washed every time you refill it. The bacteria in still water can make your flying squirrel very sick.

A flying squirrel should eat a variety of foods, so you can offer fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds. Commercial squirrel or hamster food provides your animals with the needed nutrients and keeps them healthy.

It’s important not to stick to a single food type as the squirrel needs different nutrients to stay healthy.

Hard nuts like walnuts are rich in nutrients and also help shave the squirrel’s teeth, so they don’t get too long.

Just like rabbits, flying squirrels need to get enough salt, as salt is important for the health and development of their muscles and nerves.

Fresh fruits should be removed after 12 hours because the bacteria will harm your pet. You should also offer orange slices or sprinkle calcium powder on top of the food to keep your flying squirrel’s bones healthy.

Live food like insects and worms should only be offered as a treat. This type of food is rich in fats, and your pet can become fat if you offer too much of this food.

Health Care

Flying squirrels are generally healthy and don’t suffer from regular infections.

Their bodies produce natural oils that protect them from annoying pests like ticks, lice, and fleas.

They don’t suffer from rabies or transfer the disease to humans.

However, if you get a flying squirrel, you should always schedule vet appointments to have it examined. The vet will notice any changes in the pet’s health and suggest the proper action.

What are the Pros and Cons of Having a Flying Squirrel as a Pet?

A flying squirrel is not your regular pet, but it’s become quite popular as an exotic pet that brings much joy and fun. However, having this animal has several pros and cons that you need to be aware of to decide if it’s the right animal for you and your family.

Pros

  • People will know that you have a unique pet, and everyone will be interested in getting to know about it. This can be quite helpful for shy teens or children who need conversation starters to establish social connections with other kids.
  • Flying squirrels are intelligent and sociable animals. You’ll have a cute little pet, which can also be a fun companion because you can play with your animal for hours.
  • When born in captivity, flying squirrels are known to establish very strong bonds with humans. They can be as affectionate as other larger pets that people usually appreciate for this trait.
  • Although it might accidentally bite you, the bite is too small and doesn’t cause a lot of damage. Moreover, this animal doesn’t transfer rabies to humans.
  • You can keep a single one as a pet, and it won’t struggle, unlike other pets that need to be kept in pairs or in a group.

Cons

  • Compared to other small pets, flying squirrels need a bigger cage. This can be a problem if you’re getting a small pet because you don’t have enough space for a big one.
  • Flying squirrels have some specific habitat requirements. Your pet can suffer greatly if you aren’t careful about these requirements.

For example, the cage should be tall enough to allow the animal to jump, but the openings should be too small for it to run away.

  • In some states, you can’t get a flying squirrel unless you get a permit.
  • Unless you provide your pet with some chewing toys, it can be a destructive chewer.
  • Flying squirrels are quite expensive to buy compared to other smaller pets.

Final Thoughts

Sugar gliders and flying squirrels might look similar but have several crucial differences. Apart from the ability to glide, they’re totally different animals.

Sugar gliders are shy pets, but they can be quite fun if you socialize them early enough.

Flying squirrels are exotic pets that are very interesting to play with. These small animals live in different habitats across the world, but they make great pets if you know how to care for them.

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