Sugar gliders are becoming an increasingly popular "exotic" pet in the US. Much information is available on the web about them but for the novice owner (like myself) an accounting of their development could be very helpful. This is the diary I am keeping as my gliders' first set of babies grow.
See Sugar glider Life in the Pouch Diary for earlier entries.
Xie is sure she can tell them apart and has named her favorite “Linus”. I’m pretty sure both are girls.
12/20/02 Babies are fully out of the pouch some of the time.
12/21/02 Most often one sees 2 little tails twined about the mom’s longer tail, usually heads are in the pouch seeking the nipple, paws are kneading, and various (and increasing) amounts of the hindquarters are outside the pouch. Mom has this wide legged waddle, much like a very pregnant woman. Both were fully in pouch for only a tiny bit of time that I observed yesterday. When in the pouch now they extend the bulge out to mom’s side and around her flanks. Both seem to scramble and fight to see who can be in and who has to stay partially out but perhaps that is a bit too much of an anthropomorphic interpretation. Ling still does her crazy leaps and loops even with the babies hanging on OOP. Both babies cling competently (what else should be expected? but still I worried they would fall).
12/25/02 5 days OOP (out of pouch), their eyes are still sealed shut. The makes sneezy, huffy little noises when they want their parents. Both mom and dad respond to this. They are most often with mom but dad is very protective and comes immediately if called. He bit me hard enough to draw blood on day 3 OOP. Mom occasionally leaves them in the cloth pouch out of the flesh pouch (thanks to CTF for that term) with dad.
12/25/02 - afternoon - While out of the cage Ling squeezed through a tight spot and one of the babies fell 1 to 2 feet, landing on a metal bar. It made the usual glider baby noises, it latched onto Ling’s nipple and clung tightly immediately when reunited with mom, it seemsto be OK. I hope so. I am never doubting my worries again. I hope the poor thing doesn't have internal injuries.
12/25/02 - night – Thankfully, the only stress this day held seems to be relieved. The baby has continued to nurse and behave normally. I think she is OK. All tight spaces have been widened. Now the questions are, just how protective a glider owner do I become? Will poor Ling be forced into a terrestrial lifestyle? How obsessive can Carla be?
12/27/02 baby crabbing noises and one of four eyes open!
another baby chirp like noise (3rd vocalization heard - huff, crab and chirp)
Babies nap content in human hands without sniffly/snuffly parental calling noises. GROWING
12/29/02 3 of 4 eyes open. Elijah has one eye closed, Linus has both open. Linus is slightly darker and larger than Elijah. Yes, both are girls, Xie just doesn't want to face facts and she is naming them. The reason girls are a problem is girls can't be "fixed" and girls will have to have a new home prior to sexual maturity. Boys on the other hand could be snipped and stay with us in same huge cage as mom and dad.
I was asked what it means that girl gliders can't be fixed. Thought I'd copy it here. I have since learned that girl sugar gliders may be able to be "fixed" and what that means is made surgically infertile in some manner. Similar to a tubal ligation or vasectomy in humans but in animals often includes more (like removal of the testes or ovaries or uterus, depends on the animal, the vet and the owner). Male sugar gliders have a very prominent external scrotal sac so I assume it is fairly simple surgery and it is all removed, including testes. I did read that they have much less of a scent after being "fixed" so that would make sense since scent is a secondary sexual characteristics. Girl sugar gliders, well lord only knows how complex their anatomy must be, and it is all internal. Being so tiny it would be quite difficult and would be major surgery, if it can be done at all....All this to prevent the inevitable inbreeding that would occur if I were to leave the babies with the parents in the same large cage and I don't want to maintain 2 cages.
12/30/02 4 of 4 eyes open.
I don't want to remove the babies from their mother at a young age. If Larry and Meghan decide they want the babies we will have the whole family go live with them for a while so they can bond with the babies, then when the babies are old enough I will bring the parents back to my house. Gliders and human (and all mammal babies) should be allowed to wean naturally. /me turns Lactation Consultant mode off. NO wait, can't turn it off yet without telling you how I keep putting Ling back in the cloth pouch with the babies to make sure they are nursing enough! I said I was going to listen to my instincts after that baby fell, well my instincts tell me she should stay with the babies as much as possible! OK, LC mode now off.
12/31/02 I'm looking into getting a USDA license or certification (not really even sure which, very early research stage) for breeding sugar gliders. I already have a breeding pair, I like hand raising the babies, other people want gliders that have been hand tamed instead of the pet store neurotics, Ling lets me handle the babies with complete equanimity...so why not? I would still only need the one cage, I'm sure the babies would sell easily. Without a license or certification though I can only give the babies away, can't sell them. My son (Larry) and daughter in law (Meghan) are thinking about taking these 2 baby girls (they were the original glider source for me). My son has a new glider cage design in mind...since gliders never touch the bottom of the cage but need to feel they are high up he wants to make just the top 1/2 or 2/3s of the cage but place it on stilts. Sounds logical to me. It would certainly be easier to clean. He made the current cage and did a great job using plastic coated wire mesh and tie-wraps.
1/1/03 Message at top of other users nodelet today "2003 - The year of the marsupial. The year of the damned. The year to actually care when you throw your hands up in the air." Can I pick just 2 out of 3?
1/6/03 The babies shiver when away from mom or dad, the room doesn't seem cold. I'm not sure if this is fear or cold but put right back with parents. One crabbed right at me, then switched to the huffy "call parents" vocalization. Growing, easier to distinguish from each other. Linus's forehead has more perfect diamond mark. Baby girl pouches more differentiated and open from head to tail direction.
Tane's forehead "bald spot" was quite matted with something, I guess his scent gland secretions so I cleaned it with a wet washcloth. Got a nice bite for that too.
I also noticed Tane's penis was "out" tonight. Normally it is inside the cloacae and not visible. On the other hand, the glider scrotom is very large relative to the animal's size, external and located where one would normally expect a belly button. There are pictures somewhere on the web that I saw at one time during my earlier reading. Good thing because this was very weird looking and might have resulted in a humiliating trip to the veterinarian if I hadn't already "seen" one (or two as gliders actually have a double penis). It was described as looking like 2 string-like, pink worms on that site. I hope this was not a mating thing with Ling having a fertile estrous. I don't think I want more babies yet and it seems too early for Ling's and the present babies sake too. I don't think gliders nurse 2 ages of young the way Kangaroos do but perhaps they do stash fetuses as Kangaroos do, delaying growth until conditions are ideal. I don't know. I don't want to separate the parents nor get Tane "fixed" so I'm just hoping for the best right now, whatever that is.
I haven't seen the babies latched onto the nipple in a few days nor have I observed them eating solid foods. I hope they are eating something. I think they are, other than the cold spell they seem OK, growing and moving about.
1/8/03 Another scary event in the life of a glider baby. I heard a baby noise, I'd call it a 4th vocalization, unlike any of the previous ones, coming from cloth pouch "A". I reached my hand in and lifted out a solo baby glider, who felt rather cold to me. This cold baby bit me twice (up to now I've had no baby biting problems). I felt around cloth pouches "B" and "C" and located the rest of the family. I placed the cold baby in with the rest of her warm family and fed peanuts in large quantities to parents to entice them to stay in cloth pouch and warm up her up. Then I got worried and fished around to locate the other baby who was fine. I left the family alone for the day in a doubled cloth pouch. I checked on them this evening and everyone was warm and active. I've read gliders like variety and don't normally sleep in the same spot night after night so I had been providing a variety of cloth pouches, tunnels, and sleeping baskets and changing their locations frequently. No more for now, lesson learned, one cloth pouch per cage when babies are around. I've read gliders tolerate a wide variety of ambient temperatures.
Both babies sat in the collar of my shirt for a good hour today, hanging around my neck and hair and occasionally tugging on my earrings. They didn't scratch me there but my hands are all scratched up again. There is this allergy potential with glider scratches where the tiny scratches swell more than one would expect. On some web page it recommended using a disinfectant after handling them if scratched. I'm sure that would hurt but so does this hand irritation. Everything I read says not to wear gloves because they bond by smell but I think thin cotton gloves might be fine. I've gotten some from the drug store before to hold lotion on my hands overnight. I'm going to try them for the hand holding portion of handling the critters because my hands really hurt. Funny that they don't scratch my neck. I think it is related to their not liking to be picked up and moved about, they prefer to do their own moving.
Both babies are growing by leaps and bounds. They ride on their parents’ backs now, they are too big to hang under their bellies.
1/12/03 Both babies licked at then ate small bits of apple today. Elijah is a more enthusiastic eater than Linus.
1/10/03 Ah, relief. I saw a baby nursing. Today both are sitting in my lap sharing a green grape. The grape is cut in half and they seem to mostly lick it. Ah, the weaning process begins with the first food other than Ling's milk. I just realized it has been some time since I saw a baby IN Ling’s flesh pouch, they are (and have been) at the “stick only their face in the pouch” to nurse stage now. They ride on both parents, most often on their back and I don’t think I have seen them trying to find nipples on Tane for quite some time either. They are often left in the cloth pouch while the parents go out to run around and/or eat. They still shiver when held and I am convinced it is cold as they stop if adequately covered.
1/15/03 Today neither baby wants any solid food, just like us humans they wean at their own speed if allowed. Xie has noticed Linus is bigger, more adventurous, more inclined to eat solids and has a wider head stripe. Elijah is basically the opposite, smaller and quieter.
The problem was today some strips got in contact with the water bottle and wicked out all the water. This left the water bottle dry and the cover wet. Since I am keeping the single allowed pouch on the top shelf as well (to allow babies to see parents feeding more and hopefully to encourage them to learn to eat solid food) the potential disasters included no water and/or wet pouch/sick gliders from wet pouch. But neither occurred and all is well. /me breathes relief.
Another problem identified and fixed before any disaster occurred. I have been using a fleece shelf cover on the top feeding shelf for some time now. I recently cut new ones with a 4-inch fringe of .5-inch strips all across the back (long side). I use these stripes to thread through the cage and tie about 4 pairs of them together to keep the cover on the shelf. The other strips just sit there, I kept them because I expect some will wear out over time. This saves me tremendous time with clean up daily, I just change the cover and almost everything is clean.
1/17/03 The babies rode in a bonding pouch with Xie for about an hour today. Did fine, then returned to cloth pouch with parents.
Walked around the house with them on my shoulder or in my hair - no cloth pouch needed. At one point they began huffing for parents and I went back to the cage area. Ling sprung right out to check on them so obviously she is still quite bonded to them despite their ability to eat and drink.
Observed one baby drinking at the water bottle today. Both ate grapes with vigor. Gliders are omnivores but so far I haven’t seen the babies eat any meat or egg.
Actively researching how long babies can stay with parents - want optimal time as in nature, not long enough to reach sexual maturity and breed with father but long enough to wean naturally and learn glider lifestyle. Not finding any answers. Most breeders want to remove babies as early as possible it seems.
1/18/03 Need new photo but basically babies are about 2 times the size of the baby pictures taken 20 days ago and approximately 1/2 the size of the adults. Remarkable growth!
Photos are on wertperch's gallery found at http://www.wertperch.co.uk/ - search for "glider".