Keeping Sugar Gliders as Pets – A Beginner’s Guide

With their big eyes, long tails, and cute appearance, the sugar glider is a popular pet. Proper sugar glider care is complicated, and sadly these marsupials are often kept in improper conditions affecting their health, wellbeing and welfare. 

About the sugar glider 

Sugar gliders are small gliding possums which are native to northeast and eastern Australia, Papua, New Guinea, Tasmania, and Indonesia. These tiny creatures are nocturnal, which means they are active at night, and their big eyes help them with locating prey in the dark. The natural color of sugar gliders is soft light brown to grey, though in captivity you will also find them in white. They have soft fur, a long tail, and a gliding membrane which reaches from outside of the first digit of the foot to the first digit of the forefoot. They have relatively long lifespans, especially in captivity, and with proper care a sugar glider can reach ages of 10-15 years.  

sugar glider 


Almost all cages sold by pet stores are unsuitable for sugar gliders. Sugar gliders need lots of space to be able to climb, move and play. A good size cage for 2 sugar gliders would be a cage that’s at least a minimum of 120 cm high (not counting any standard under the cage) and has 60 cm width and depth. Bigger is always better, and an ideal setup would be an aviary type of enclosure so they have plenty of room to glide. Within the cage, provide your sugar glider with hammocks, braided ropes, wring vines, pouches, an exercise wheel, food bowls, water bowls or drippers, toys and enrichment materials.  

A suitable enclosure for sugar gliders. This enclosure is 130cm wide, 110cm deep and 200cm high.

Sugar gliders like to sleep in pouches and hammocks, so provide these to your sugar glider. It’s important to regularly check these pouches and hammocks, and any other fabric materials, for loose threats as they are a strangulation hazard and your sugar gliders might get hurt if they get tangled in them. 

Within the cage you can place braided ropes, perches, fringed vines, and items alike, for them to explore and climb on. When it comes to toys, every sugar glider will have its own preference. You can use floor toys which they can pick up and move through the cage, a small “ball ‘pit” filled with pom poms they can hide a crawl into, foraging toys, ladders, etc. Make sure that the materials you choose are sugar glider safe, like fleece. 

When choosing a wheel for your sugar glider’s cage, it’s important to choose one that is safe. A sugar glider safe wheel will have no axle in the middle on the inside of the wheel. Exercise wheels with an axle in the middle create an injury risk as their tails might get stuck into the axle while they run in the wheel. In rare but awful cases, sugar gliders have had their tails ripped off or got tangled and died by the use of unsafe wheels. You can either choose a cage mounted or floor mounted wheel, but both will need to be secured to prevent moving. 

It could be useful to set up more than one feeding station to prevent fights over food from happening. If you use water drip bottles always place two in the cage, so that if one ends up blocked they always have a second water source available.  

Exercise and enrichment 

When setting up the cage for your sugar glider, give them the opportunity for exercise by providing them with enough space and a sugar glider safe wheel. When you keep your sugar gliders in a cage instead of an aviary, they should also get plenty of time outside of the cage to give them the opportunity to glide, this because cages will have insufficient room for gliding.

You will also need to provide your sugar glider with enrichment. Sugar gliders love eucalyptus. While their natural habitat can be any forest that has a food supply, sugar gliders are most common in forests that have eucalyptus trees. A great addition to the cage for enrichment would be pesticide free eucalyptus branches and leaves. Another great way to provide your sugar glider with enrichment is through the use of foraging toys. Foraging toys will enable a search for food, providing your sugar glider with a purpose and mental challenge. If you are having trouble finding suitable toys for your sugar glider, you can look at the bird supplies and toys. Puzzle bird toys are also a great choice for sugar gliders. 

Provide your sugar glider with loads of enrichment materials.


Sugar gliders are omnivores. Their natural diets are complex and vary depending on season and habitat. In the summer period, 40-60% of a glider’s diet are insects and arachnids, but during winter they would mainly consume sap, honeydew and gum. Most ready-made commercial foods sold at pet stores are less than optimal for them. Most health issues vets see in their clinics with sugar gliders are related to being fed an unsuitable diet.  

Adult sugar gliders have an estimated daily need of 18-35kcal/day, but growing and reproductive active gliders will have higher requirements. Their need for protein is moderate to low and should be between 20% to 30% of their diet. The nectar, saps and gums a sugar glider would consume in their natural habitat are very low in protein. Calcium requirements are estimated to be around 0.5% and phosphorus 0.2-0.5%. When choosing a diet, the right calcium-phosphorus ratio is important, which should be 2:1.  

When it comes to sugar glider diets, there are a few popular choices amongst sugar glider owners which contain the nutrients your sugar glider will need and have these in the right proportions. These diets have been assessed and proven suitable for sugar gliders. 

  • Australian Wombaroo Diet 
  • BML-Bourbon’s Modified Leadbeaters diet 
  • Critterlove  
  • The Pet Glider/TPG/Priscilla’s diet 

These staples are often fed alongside a specific mix of nuts, certain fruits, veggies, and/or insects calculated specifically for that diet. This is to ensure all nutrients are fed in the correct ratios.  

The following foods should not be fed to your sugar glider. This is not a complete list. 

Grapes, onions, garlic, pits, seeds, raw bitter almonds, chocolate.  


Good treats for sugar gliders are insects like mealworms, crickets and earthworms. Do not feed any insects caught outside as they may have pesticides. Insects are high in fat content, so feed sparingly unless instructed differently by the diet you feed. Keep in mind that if you are following a specific diet for your sugar glider that adding insects will change the ratios in that diet. Another popular treat are nuts. When fed they should be the unsalted and raw kind. As nuts are also high in fat, feed them sparingly. 

sugar glider treat


Sugar gliders are incredibly social animals and in the wild they will live in family groups. A sugar glider should never be kept alone as it will cause them stress and seriously affect their well-being. A human can never replace the company of another glider. Gliders that are kept alone are known to self-mutilate due to stress. 


Daily tasks are cleaning their food and water bowl. If you use a water dripper, check it for blockage. Spot clean any messes and remove any old fruits, vegetables etc. Empty out the whole cage weekly to give it a thorough clean, including all the toys, perches etc. Use a non-toxic cleaner like diluted vinegar solution or diluted soap. Make sure to rinse the cage really well after cleaning. Some sugar glider owners prefer to clean the cage in steps as this way their smell will remain in the cage, which prevents stress. For example, Monday they will clean the toys, Tuesday the pouches/hammocks, Wednesday the bars of the cage etc.  


Sugar gliders groom themselves so they don’t need to be brushed or bathed. Keep a close eye on the health of your sugar glider by keeping track of their appetite and stool. Loss of appetite, or stool that looks abnormal, needs to be investigated by a vet. Also, regularly check their body for wounds or sores (also under the feet) and their overall appearance like breathing and fur. A sugar glider has a total of 40 teeth and they are diprodonts, which means that their two lower incisors are much longer then the upper incisors and point forward.The nails of sugar gliders in captivity often don’t wear down enough by themselves and will require regular clipping. Once the nails of your sugar glider get too long they may get tangled in fabric and injure themselves. To know more about nail clipping, you can read our blog named “Understanding Pet Nail Care”. Any abnormalities require a vet visit sooner than later. They are tiny and fragile animals, and health issues can progress very quickly. 

Sugar gliders are nocturnal which means they are active at night. Their big round eyes are extremely sensitive to light. For the comfort of your sugar glider you can consider installing a red light so when you want to handle your sugar glider during the day, you can close the curtains and turn the red light on so they aren’t exposed to sunlight.

A sugar glider enclosure in red light,

Keeping sugar gliders as pets 

Is more complicated than one might think. The care, food, and correct setup of the cage will require a decent investment by sugar glider owners. By providing information to pet owners, we hope to improve the overall welfare of sugar gliders that are kept as pets and inform people so they can make a thoroughly thought through decision if sugar gliders are the right pets for them. Did you know we also pet sit sugar gliders? Our pet sitters are knowledgeable about sugar glider care and will love your glider like it’s their own. Feel free to contact us for more information about our pet sitting service.

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