|Lifespan:||Long (12 to 15+ years)|
Sugar glider owners can't get enough of their pet's irresistible cuteness, and love to carry their pet in their pocket. But many animal advocacy organizations, such as the ASPCA, dissuade people from buying exotic animals like gliders--and for good reason. The small, pointy-eared marsupial, which hails from Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea, is able to be kept in your home (in most states--check with yours for legality), but removing them from their natural habitat disrupts their environment and poses health risks to both the animal and its new owner. You must take into consideration the special needs of these animals. Since sugar gliders live in the wild, it's hard for us to know of, let alone replicate, the special diets and unique housing and health care they require. And, don't get them if you don't like to get messy--they usually can't be trained to use a litter box, and will enjoy throwing their food just as much as eating it. If you do decide that you are fit for the challenges of this pet, you should get more than one, as sugar gliders are used to living in their native habitats in groups as large as 30. Owners who have only a single glider frequently report that their pet self mutilates and exhibits signs of depression. They're noisy, messy, and nocturnal; however, if you do have a nearly unlimited amount of time, money, and energy (and don't squirm at the thought of feeding them insects), raising a sugar glider can be rewarding--you'll have a close companion for 10 to 20 years.
In their natural habitats, sugar gliders' diets vary with the seasons, but the omnivores will feast on everything including tree saps, nectar and pollen, insects, bird eggs, lizards, fruits, nuts, and grains. It obviously isn't easy to replicate this diet in captivity, so knowing what to feed your glider (many of whom can be picky) will take some experimentation. However, it's important to keep it balanced, with a mix of fruits, vegetables and protein. And, since gliders are used to climbing trees and swinging from branches, a very large cage is a must. Most stores don't carry one that's big enough, so it may be up to you to build your own! It's important to educate yourself as much as possible on potential health problems that sugar gliders can face, many the result of inadequate attention, as you'll have to devote at least three hours a day to your glider. Of course, always go to your vet with questions, but even the most experienced veterinarian likely has little to no experience with sugar gliders.
For more information about sugar glider ownership and care, check out the Seattle Sugar Glider Rescue.