Weird, cute big-eyed sugar gliders: the new pet craze

Large, wide-set eyes. Twitchy little noses. Lengthy fluffy tails.

Sugar gliders — named for his or her love of candy meals and flying-squirrel-like gliding skills — have a cartoonish cute issue.

Launched to the North American pet commerce in 1994, they’ve lately been gaining reputation on the East Coast. Not like different marsupials, they’re authorized to maintain in all Atlantic provinces, together with New Brunswick beneath the Fish and Wildlife Act.  

Dr. Frank Prepare dinner, a veterinarian on the Moncton Animal Hospital, has observed an uptick in sugar gliders in his workplace — a number of prior to now few months. He likened the present vogue for sugar gliders to the ferret craze of the Nineties.

A sugar glider, nicknamed Bailey, nestles into the clothes of breeder Gwynn Boyé. However do not be suckered in by that candy face: for such a small animal, the marsupials are an enormous dedication. (Julia Wright/CBC)

“They definitely are an up-and-coming unique pet,” he stated. “They’ve the potential to turn into extra common right here. These massive eyes taking a look at you, with the massive area between them — it is fairly exhausting to withstand that.”

However sugar gliders are candy by identify, not essentially by nature.

Because the animals turn into extra common as pets, breeders, vets, and homeowners wish to get the message out: whereas they are often rewarding pets, they are not for the faint of coronary heart.

‘She known as him Demon’

Gwynn Boyé runs Fundy Sugar Gliders, one of many few breeders in Atlantic Canada.

A lifelong fan of unique pets, she obtained her first sugar glider from an proprietor promoting him on Kijiji for re-homing.

The proprietor “known as him Demon, as a result of she thought he was possessed,” Boyé stated. The species’s extra distinctive traits embody loud nocturnal barking and “crabbing” (a bizarre sound, like metallic caught in a paper shredder) when irritated.

Did we point out that they’ve sharp tooth and claws and cannot be house-trained?

Greater is best in terms of sugar glider cages. Boyé retains her sugar gliders in custom-built, floor-to-ceiling mesh reptariums, which might be dismantled and cleaned within the washer. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Boyé, however, was charmed. Demon’s comfortable, gray fur reminded her of the pussy willows she used to gather as a child.

“I like little, tiny fuzzy issues,” she stated.

A decade later, she owns 10 sugar gliders: three breeding pairs, and a pet colony of 4. One of many females lately gave beginning to 2 joeys that Boyé nicknamed Barnum and Bailey.

She retains them in a towering advanced of mesh cages, which reaches to the ceiling of a spare room. They’re crammed with toys, snuggly fleece pouches, and hand-sewn equipment. Through the day, the gliders have a tendency to hang around nestled in a giant ball inside their enclosures.

Fluffer, a two-year-old sugar glider, waits expectantly for a tasty mealworm deal with. One factor would-be homeowners would possibly wish to take into account is ‘what [sugar gliders] would possibly do to the odor of your property.’ (Julia Wright/CBC)

Her two massive canines — a Saint Bernard named Dazey, and Tesla, a Bernese-lab cross — are likely to steer clear. They’re freaked out by the noises the sugar gliders make.

Since she began breeding them 4 years in the past, Boyé has adopted out greater than 100 sugar gliders to properties throughout Canada, from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia. Relying on their markings and whether or not or they have been fastened, the worth tag ranges from $300 to $500.

Boyé has additionally helped re-home some 30 gliders that have been surrendered by their homeowners when the calls for of the little animals turned an excessive amount of.

Boyé is sympathetic. Whereas she adores the little guys, she stated, they’re positively “not for everyone.”

OK, why not?

Sugar gliders are peculiar little creatures.

To start out, there’s their weight loss plan: a particular goulash of yogurt, eggs or rooster, applesauce, calcium and different nutritional vitamins, contemporary fruit and veggies. As particular treats, they get mealworms, hornworms, and beetles. Boyé retains plastic trays stuffed with stay bugs for this goal. However not too many. “They go straight to their hips,” she stated. 

They can not be saved by themselves — they want the corporate of not less than one different sugar glider “or they lose their little minds,” Boyé stated. They can not swim, which suggests they will drown simply in, say, a bathroom bowl if the seat is left up. They’ve a gremlin-like aversion to vibrant lights.

Mealworms and bugs are a favorite snack of sugar gliders. (Julia Wright/CBC)

What Prepare dinner, the vet, calls a “musky odour” emanates from from scent glands “on their brow, close to their entrance legs, and across the hind finish.

“Generally I’ve heard the odor likened to the odor of a pet,” he stated. (Boyé stated neutering the males drastically reduces this.) They’re nocturnal, which suggests they sleep all day and run round, barking and actually climbing the partitions, all evening.

“So if you happen to’re getting them on your five-year-old little one, that is not going to be so nice,” Boyé stated.

Gwynn Boyé, with Fluffer, began breeding sugar gliders as a pastime 4 years in the past and hopes to gather one in each color. (Julia Wright/CBC)

For a small animal, gliders have a remarkably lengthy lifespan.

“Some stay as much as 16 years,”  stated Boyé. “Eight to 12 is the common. It is a dedication, like a canine or a cat. It is not like a hamster that is going to die in two or three years.”

Additionally like a canine, a glider wants numerous human contact.

“If they don’t seem to be correctly socialized they are often imply,” Boyé stated. “I’ve had some that have been genuinely imply little buggers.”

‘My cat is frightened of them’

Katelyn Forbes of Fredericton is aware of among the challenges firsthand.

She and her boyfriend personal two sugar gliders: Julian, a 2 ½-year-old gray male, and Luna, a leucistic (all-white) one-year-old feminine.

Forbes’s boyfriend ordered Julian from an internet breeder, not absolutely ready for every little thing the pet would wish. Fairly quickly, it turned evident that Julian wasn’t doing too effectively on his personal.

“They should be in pairs or they’re vulnerable to self-mutilate,” stated Forbes. “They are going to over-groom themselves and begin biting themselves. Then they will get infections and finally die. They’ll even cease consuming. It is not good.”

As soon as Forbes bought Luna from Fundy Sugar Gliders, “it took two months to get them in the identical cage collectively,” Forbes stated.

Fredericton sugar glider proprietor Katelyn Forbes together with her two sugar gliders, Julian, left, and Luna. (Submitted by Katelyn Forbes)

“Now, they only love one another and are all the time with one another.”

Forbes spends hours prepping contemporary meals for Julian and Luna, which she makes forward of time and freezes in ice dice trays. Then there’s cleansing the cages each morning, and enjoying with them for an hour each night.

“My cat is definitely frightened of them,” stated Forbes.

She has some recommendation for would-be homeowners.

“They’re rather a lot to tackle,” she stated. “I would not commerce them for the world and I like doing it, however lots of people would not be capable to commit that a lot time to them.”

Prepare dinner stated they’d be nice for somebody who desires a needy, interactive pet they do not should take for walks.

Fluffer chows down on a worm. Sugar gliders, like flying squirrels, have a patagium: a fold of pores and skin between the foreleg and hind leg, pictured. Within the wild, glide as much as 50 metres from treetop to treetop. (Julia Wright/CBC)

“They fill a distinct segment for those that actually wish to work together [with their pets] however perhaps cannot work together in and out the way in which you’ll with a canine.”

Boyé, a medic at Ambulance New Brunswick, recalled a army member with post-traumatic stress dysfunction who adopted two of her sugar gliders.

“[He] needed them for remedy animals,” she stated. “Sugar gliders have been his factor, and he completely adored them.”  

Within the wild sugar gliders eat flowers, nectar, eucalyptus tree sap, acacia gum, and bugs. In captivity, they want a diversified hash of yogurt, protein, nutritional vitamins, contemporary fruit and veggies. They get mealworms, pictured, as a particular deal with. (Julia Wright/CBC)

If their reputation in the US is any indication, sugar gliders will proceed to make their method into extra properties in Atlantic Canada.

“Ten years in the past there have been three folks within the Maritimes that had them — and I used to be one,” Boyé. stated. “Now you are taking a look at a few hundred folks.”

They’re additionally displaying up in pet shops — a pattern that deeply troubles Boyé. At a now-closed big-box pet retailer in Saint John, she stated, workers “had no concept” in regards to the intercourse of two sugar gliders priced at $400 every. They have been additionally “too younger … most likely 4 to 5 weeks after I noticed them, and scared to demise.”

A pair of five-week-old sugar glider joeys nicknamed Barnum and Bailey cuddle collectively. Sugar gliders should be saved in colonies of two or extra or they ‘lose their little minds,’ stated Boyé. (Julia Wright / CBC)

“They can not be socialized in a pet retailer, as a result of pet shops are open within the day and stuffed with vibrant lights — every little thing that they hate.” 

Folks ought to by no means get a glider from the short-term kiosks some yard breeders arrange at gala’s, or in purchasing malls, the place consumers have run into all types of great issues.

“The recommendation I’ve for people who find themselves interested by getting them is to do numerous analysis,” Forbes stated.

“Just be sure you can handle them correctly earlier than you really get one.”

Sugar gliders want numerous human contact. (Julia Wright/CBC)

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