Thursday, August 2, 2012

My First Year with my Sugar Glider Babies

I'm the proud mother of two sugar gliders, Lilo and Stitch.  Not that I'm not even more proud of my own children, but bringing home my gliders proved to be quite an undertaking.  This is because, unlike child-rearing which has clear cut dos and don'ts that have been defined by years of knowledge passed down, sugar gliders are still a fairly new exotic pet in this country with varying schools of thought on their diet and care.  Here were these little creatures who, fully grown, would fit in the palm of my hand and would depend on me for the next fourteen to sixteen years.  Quite honestly, I was scared to death of misstepping and not providing them with all that they needed.

Last year, around this time I was frantically going over checklists, reading over articles and forums again and again, and hanging and re-hanging their cage set in different positions trying to determine which cage design fit best.  I spent weeks sketching designs for cage pieces, and weeks more sewing until my fingers were calloused.  I read review after review because I wanted them to have the right cage, the perfect wheel and everything else to make their new home a sanctuary.  It all culminated on one day in August last year with my pacing the Albany International Airport waiting for my babies to be flown in from their breeder.

In the past year, I've sewn many cage sets and bonding pouches in many colors and themes to fit different occasions and holidays.  I've tried a huge variety of fruits and veggies, snacks and treats.  I've pouched them up and taken them with me everywhere from parks & nature preserves, grocery stores, department stores, malls, movie theaters, drive ins, schools, restaurants and museums.

I've learned a lot in this past year.  I've learned that my gliders are true foodies.  They love to eat and eat and eat.  They both have their favorites.  Lilo loves her corn, pine nuts and sunflower kernels and gets mad when you try to restrict how much she can have.  Stitchy loves his meats - chicken, turkey, eggs, even the occasional browned ground beef.  They both love their papaya and melons and love foods that are like a puzzle they can open like sugar snap peas.  They crave variety, though.  Other than their usual staples of mixed vegetables and apples, I need to rotate their fruits and veggies often.  The first night, they'll gobble.  The second night, they pick through.  By the third night, even their favorites tend to go untouched.  Keeping up the balance of calcium to phosphorus isn't as hard as I originally fretted about.  After a while, picking out higher calcium foods to balance the lower ones becomes second nature.  And strangely, though many sites recommend making large batches of hpw and freezing them, serving small frozen portions each night - my babies prefer their hpw fresh each night, and slightly warm.  They prefer their fruits and veggies fresh and cut up into small pieces, as well.  No frozen or pureed meals in this house thank you!  Despite the fact that everyone claims sugar gliders love their mealies, mine won't touch them, alive or freeze dried.  They bark at them until they're gone.  They know whenever we're eating and peek to see if we'll share, knowing especially they get a little extra whenever I have smoothies or yogurt and always get excited when they get special treats for holidays and special occasions.

Even though I hadn't intended for my gliders to be bra babies, I've learned that they naturally like to crawl in and hang out in clothing.  They love to hang out in shirts, pockets, up pant legs, down bras - anything they can get into.

I've also realized that I wear a disproportionately large amount of black.

I've discovered that my gliders can be huge hams, knowing that running in their wheel, doing cute poses, or giving us kisses automatically pulls us right in.

I've also learned that they're huge prima donnas.  If they don't get their way or feel even the smallest bit slighted, they'll purposely ignore the offender and lavish attention upon others so that there's no question who has displeased them.

My babies are also very playful, loving to climb and explore.  They don't care about whether their cage set matches - that's purely human aesthetics.  They just want a variety of things to climb on, go through and sleep in - and they prefer it rotated every few weeks to keep things fresh and new.  They also love Legos.

I've also learned that it doesn't matter how many times I tell them not to go on my back because I can't reach them - they rode on their parents' backs as babies and they *will* go on mine.. again and again..

There is no potty training gliders - they will pee and poop wherever they wish, whenever they wish, with no regard for what I'm wearing or where I may have to go.  While they are naturally nocturnal, I have little say in when they choose to be up or sleep - I'm the one who has to adapt.

Because gliders prefer the dark, it's not always easy getting a good picture of them - most of the time I catch them out in better lighting, it is usually in transit from one darker area to another.  Trying to snap pictures of moving targets usually ends up with blurry tush shots or the ever popular dead stare that seems to scream "Really?!  Another picture?!"