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.
Mid October, 2002 - Tane and Ling are 1-year-old sugar gliders. They have been in my house a couple of weeks now. Their coming was an unexpected pleasure but we seem to suit each other well. They are nocturnal ++. They seem to like me. I sure like them. When I open the cage door now they leap out onto me instead of hiding. They certainly love each other; they're in almost constant physical contact with one another - so cute. I'm trying new foods and treats and toys with them and the their curious responses have been fun. They are surprisingly loud and verbose for such little beings. They are about 10 inches long all together. Today we ventured out of their room for the first time and they stayed right with me, either clinging to me or running in and out of the cloth pouch I wore around my neck. They are equal opportunity clingers, able to claw onto skin as well as clothing; a little ouchy at times. Tane is biting less. I think their nails need trimming but I'm afraid to tackle that job. Bonding seems to be going well via frequent gentle handling plus hand feeding raisins, honey and mealworms! I don't want to stress them. I can't really tell but Ling might have a single joey in her pouch. Her tummy seems asymmetrically bumpy to me.
11/5/02 I'm pretty certain Ling has at least one joey in the pouch, maybe two. It isn't as asymmetrical now and it is bigger than it was 2 weeks ago! How cool. If I'm remembering correctly (really need to look this up; it being comparative lactation and all) baby gliders attach to the nipple after crawling to the pouch immediately after birth. The nipple then expands in their mouth and they remain attached for 10 weeks to 4 months (I've read conflicting information). If they were to be pulled off prematurely they couldn't relatch because the nipple would be too large. Good thing they can hang on tight because this girl continues to be very active, leaping and looping all over the place! I need to feed her extra protein without making his little pig self any fatter! (Tane continues in his less active mode)
11/16/02 The feeding solution to the feeding problem has led to a cool benefit. I have a little goldfish bowl. In the middle of the day while the gliders are drowsy I take Ling out and put her in the bowl with some mealworms. She gobbles them down hanging on to the edge of the bowl with her hind legs. I get a great view of her belly. There are two babies in there for sure. She even lets me rub her belly, they feel all tiny and bony, about the size of a jelly bean. So, let's see, I've been aware of them for about a month now. So 4 months in the pouch means the babies should come out of the pouch sometime in February, or maybe a bit earlier. I've read to expect to see bits of tails or legs sticking out now and then. OOP means Out Of Pouch completely. It is used kind of like DOB (date of birth) to designate the gliders' age.
I read that lactating females need more protein (duh) so I'm following the advice of a 4 day rotation of daily supplements of cooked chicken (with a bit of honey), low fat fruited yogurt, mealworms and hard boiled egg ground up with the shell plus vitamin/calcium supplement plus the occasional peanut to Ling for the extra fat. They seem to like it all. I wonder about cooked fish or shrimp but haven't read anywhere if that is OK. One site said don't feed sugar gliders lightening bugs! I couldn't anyway but I wonder why? Would they glow in the dark and go back to bed?
11/22/02 All is well, the babies are growing. No little limbs poking out of the pouch yet but I can feel them wiggle. Ling is tamer each day. I love to rub her little belly. I have to be careful, I don't know if the babies could be knocked off the nipple easily. I doubt it but don't want to take a chance. Tane is Tane, still bites, still fat, still lazy but he tolerates my attention sometimes.
I sit in their room (locked away from the cat) and play on my laptop or read while they have outside the cage time each evening after dark. I'm hearing new vocalizations, a new kind of crabbing that one glider directed at the other during a food heist, a smaller chirpy bark, and a sort of purr...I found a URL with recordings of glider noises...
11/28/02 Thanksgiving update...gliders love turkey!
11/30/02 The glider's cage is about the size of a refrigerator and has lots of fleece pouches, tunnels and 3 cornered hammocks but the walls and shelves are all plastic covered wire mesh. Today I accidentally left a hammock hanging loose on one corner, essentially creating a dangling piece of fabric. Ling went wild on it! Up and down and over and around... She must get tired of clinging to wire. I'm going to make partial cage curtains and anchored shelf covers for her out of left over fleece.
I'm worried about the babies falling. This is very silly as these are arboreal creatures in nature. Guess I'll just have to get over it.
I do feel she needs a nest box, something beyond a pouch where the babies can come in and out with a bit of space. I'll try making lining a basket with some sort of fleece bag like thing.... everything has to be made in duplicate and be washable. Gliders don't use liter boxes
12/4/02 Ling’s pouch was bulging open a just a bit tonight, didn’t see any babies but I’m thinking sometime soon a little leg or something may come poking out. There was a new little warble vocalization tonight as well. I read momma sugar gliders sing to their babies in the pouch. Hmmmm, I wonder if that was what I heard. Tane leaped to a guitar and managed to play a note. Maybe this is the glider's musical début.
12/7/02 I should have thought of this before. It worked with my cat. I'm training the gliders to come to me with treats, words and noises. It is good to have your pets willing to come when called; if they are lost this saves much heartache. So, I am holding the hand feeding treats in my hand, shaking a box of raisins for noise and saying, "treat". I'll work on placing a larger and larger distance between the critters and me over time. As of now they must see the treat within 6 inches before they respond. (They did eat yogurt off a dish next to my laptop.) I'm confident the distance will increase a lot over time as gliders smell, see and hear very well. I've read this is a way to train them to glide to you. I hope the need to have line of sight at all will disappear completely as that will help me to locate them if lost.
12/10/02 I saw baby parts today! The back half of one of the twins popped out of the pouch and then went back in. It was just a tad bigger than a “pinky mouse”. It was hairless, dark gray and that’s about all I can say as it all happened so quickly.
I know the size comparison because I went to my neighbor’s house this afternoon...We call her the “nature lady” as she has so many animals. Well, there on the rug, her 6 year old was playing with his snake’s dinner, 2 hairless “pinky mice”, mouths suckling, looking for their mom's nipple. I think I’m going to be sick now.
12/13/02 Honey, yum, sour cream and honey, yum plus protein! If you are a sugar glider you are meant to lick sap from trees so you have a long tongue. If your name is Ling this means you lick Carla’s finger when she offers treats. If your name is Tang it mean you BITE her like a vicious little beast! ARGGGGG I am not a mealworm, Tang…say it after me…”Carla is NOT a mealworm”.
12/14/02 Funny sight today, two little tails hanging out of the pouch. I've been wondering about the "hygiene" issue, you know baby glider poopies. There isn't any information out there about gliders that I could find but I did read that Kangaroos have a substance that covers the inside of the pouch that the momma Kangaroo eats off before the babies enter the pouch. I have read that gliders begin paying a lot of attention to the pouch prior to birth of the babies so maybe it is the same for them. Marsupial babies are eating enterally, (milk only at this point), so they must be producing wastes. Where does it go?
Pouch skin observation: The skin can stretch quite thin, to the point of being almost transparent and membranous as it slips back over the babies, allowing the pouch to open.
12/15/02 Further Kangaroo reading tells me momma-roo eats the babies' waste products.
12/16/02 "My" babies are coming along great. After that first glimpse they seem to be growing exponentially and more often than not when I peek into Ling and Tane's sleeping bag they are mostly out of the pouch but still latched to the nipple. I've touched them and they are warm, dry, and thin skinned. Sort of like snakes, one almost expects them to be cold, wet and slimy despite all logic. A pouch is not a birth canal. I have not seen their faces or tummies seen yet just their spiney, bony backs and jutting hips and 1 inch long string like tails with the typical glider curl at the tip. Of course, no clue to genders yet.
They can still return completely to the interior of the pouch and the pouch can still close completely over them. Ling still does her crazy circular loops in the cage and leaps and glides her usual little bit when out. The babies are still gray and hairless but the tail is darker than the body.
Baby poops confirmed visually by me. I was holding Ling with babies half out and the "evidence" appeared.
Ling allows me to pet the babies, I'm very careful not to dislodge them from the nipple or stress Ling. She is usually licking a treat from my finger when I see/pet the babies. By the way, Ling vibrates when she purrs, just like a tiny cat.
12/19/02 Babies have all the adult coloration and a little felt like fur now, except I still haven't seen faces because they still have not released their nipples. If only my little possums at work would nurse that well, but then I'd be a lactation consultant out of a job!
I got this cool new glider pouch in the mail today!!! The whole family fit in just fine. It has a cute little mesh window for peeking in or out, a Velcro closure for keeping the gliders in when needed, a nice boxed bottom for comfort, and is lined with fleece for warmth. Ling promptly peed upon it as gliders seem to do upon everything. Horray for washing machines.
12/20/02 Out of Pouch (OOP) day! I went to lift Ling into a daytime bonding pouch and heard this little squeek. A baby had been left behind. A quick mother and child reunion followed and by now both babies have been seen to release the nipple so today is their official OOP day. Kind of like a birthday for marsupials.
At least one baby appears to be a girl.
see Sugar Glider First Month Out of the Pouch Diary for more.