Pet of the week: The sugar glider
Saturday 16 January 2010
I've never even heard of a sugar glider
As pets go, this one really is out of the most exotic drawer. It is a squirrel-like, nocturnal marsupial found in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, where it spends time climbing up trees, spreading itself out like a big furry handkerchief and gliding down to the next tree. It is the BASE jumper of the sub-tropical canopy.
Wow – sounds like a bit of a handful in the home
Sugar gliders are definitely for people who know what they are doing, but like any animal, if you are prepared to commit time and effort (these critters can live up to 12 years) they are very rewarding and build strong bonds with humans. Steve Allen, who is one of the UK's leading authorities on gliders, says: "They're very intelligent, and behave a bit like kittens." That said, "They are definitely not for children – they have quite sharp little claws."
Not much bush tucker round here
Sugar gliders like to eat exotic fruits, and their diet is crucial – they can be quite fussy eaters. Steve recommends a mix of about 40 per cent protein (mealworms, pinkies, fresh chicken), and 60 per cent fruit and veg, with occasional handfuls of dietary mix. But they are used to foraging for their food, which makes them inquisitive little creatures, and they like to climb up on things (furniture, shoulders, etc) and have a good look round. They never like to dawdle on the ground.
So where do they sleep?
As they are nocturnal, they sleep during the day in their cage. The cage is very important for them, and must be at least four foot square and as tall as possible. You'll need to provide plenty of branches for your gliders to hang from and toys for them to play with. Steve uses a converted aviary in a spare room (they aren't noisy or smelly creatures). As far as sleeping quarters are concerned, there's nothing your average glider likes more than a nice cosy pouch to snuggle up in all day. What better place to see out this cold weather.
How wild are they?
Their natural instincts are still very much intact, even in captivity, so don't expect them to be docile or want constant cuddling. Although they sleep most of the day, they thrive on interaction and will seek out human company for a few hours in the evening, and will become very attached to their owners. This social behaviour is another link with their ancestral past and colonial instincts. For this reason they must be kept in pairs (of the same sex if you are not breeding), as playing and feeding rituals are vital to their welfare.
Where can I find out more?
Steve's excellent website uksugargliders.co.uk gives all the advice you will need, plus sound clips of sugar gliders barking and chirping. Once you hear those, you'll be hooked.
Life & Style blogs
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
- 1 Games of Thrones actor Lena Headey makes emotional promise to her unborn daughter
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...