For the first time in a while, I don’t have to hide the fact that I have an exotic pet. I thought I’d celebrate that fact with a post to talk about my experiences keeping a sugar glider.
In October 2011, my mother decided to get a sugar glider. She called to tell me about them and enthused that I would enjoy owning one too. Off to the store I went, never suspecting that I would be the only one of us who would go through with it. I called to tell her the good news. We were in the same boat. We could pet sit for each other. Our sugar babies could grow up together.
“What did you name yours?” I asked.
“Oh, I changed my mind.”
I paused. “That’s a strange name.”
To start you need one or two animals, a cage, heat rock, sugar glider pellet food, and a bonding pouch you wear around your neck. The pouch zips up to ensure your new fury baby doesn’t escape during the first few months while you love it and it struggles to get away from you.
When I tell people my pet’s name, they usually think I mean “Alice”. I correct them, then they ask how I came up with “Elske”.
“It came from a book.”
“What’s the book called?”
(If you haven’t heard of Cynthia Voigt, now you know one series of hers I recommend.)
The first weeks were rough. Sugar gliders don’t have many defenses but a loud chiggering noise is one of them. Beata beata beata. It still makes me jump. Grabbing her from her warm nest of fleece and shoving her into the pouch while she holds on with opposable thumbs feels a bit rude.
Sugar gliders are nocturnal, marsupials, and, in my opinion, cuter as adults than they are as joeys. They have long tails and skin between their limbs that helps them glide from a high place to a lower place. They eat insects in the wild and enjoy sweet foods when they can find them. In captivity, they can live 12-15 years.
Eventually she grew comfortable with me. She stays in her cage when she’s not in a pouch, but I do let her play. I can stuff a blanket under the crack below the door and she explores the room while I write. She climbs around me, especially near my neck and ear. She even comes when I call her name, although if she’s having too much fun she might run away when I try to scoop her up. You must keep sugar gliders away from water. They cannot swim. The toilet lid is always down when she’s out.
She travels well. While she’s in the pouch she gets an apple slice to munch on for food and liquid. She sleeps during the day so she’s very docile when I take her places. When I’m in a good spot, I let her on the ground to pee or poop (she lets me know she has needs when she gets squirmy). Afterwards, she jumps back on me and crawls right into her bag. I’ve taken her to work with me and she does great all day.
Over the seven years we’ve been together, I’ve added to her things. Barrels of monkeys, a quiet running wheel, pouches I have sewn or hand tied, fuzzy bags. I have a hamster cage I use when we’re moving and when I’m cleaning her cage.
Elske has been to multiple jobs, parties, volunteering at a LTC facility, and even writers group meetings. People who don’t like mice tend to react negatively. People who like soft tiny animals say they will get one.
Then again, so did my Mom.