Sugar gliders are fascinating small gliding possums. Much like a flying squirrel but with a keen taste for sugary foods. But how long do sugar glides typically live? Are there any differences between those in the wild and those kept as pets? I spent some time researching these cute Marsupials and will be sharing all that I found here today.
So, how long do sugar gliders live? Sugar gliders can live from anywhere between 3 to 9 years in the wild. In captivity, Sugar gliders typically live slightly longer, from 10 to 15 years. This gives them an average life expectancy of 9 years. Factors that influence their lifespan include nutrition, temperature, the environment, and their health.
While the name suggests they can glide, you’ll likely be surprised just how good they are at it. In fact, they can glide half the length of a football pitch in one go.
Another interesting aspect of the sugar glider, is that they are nocturnal creatures whom can see clearly at night. I suppose that is not much of a surprise considering their large, protruding eyes.
If you are here because you are contemplating keeping one, then remember this.
Sugar gliders are not always the most suitable of pets. They do require a certain level of care, they have a high level of energy and are very inquisitive; all during the times we typically sleep.
Beyond this, the sugar glider industry is renown for its issues – with unethical and immoral breeding practices and distribution procedures. But it goes on because these are cute mammals and there has been an increased demand for exotic pets.
So, if you are considering one, a lot of research and due diligence is required into the breeder and how their gliders are bred and raised.
It also comes as no surprise that, despite their cuteness, they often end up in rescue shelters around the world.
These marsupials need the love and care of an experienced owner, due in part to their nature, but also because they have very specific dietary requirements.
Let us now take a closer look at the difference between wild and captive sugar gliders in regards to their longevity.
We will also be looking a lot more closely at the independent factors that influence their lifespan.
Lastly, we will be covering how to care for a sugar glider and ensure you meet their needs and fulfil their lifespan, if you did decide to take one on.
So, be sure to keep on reading about these majestic gliding mammals!
How Long Do Sugar Gliders Live In The Wild?
Sugar gliders live between 3 to 9 years in the wild. These possums are adept at providing for themselves in their native environment.
In the wild, sugar gliders live communally as they nest in tree hollows. They do so with about ten other adults!
They typically live in forests, but they can be found in rural gardens and even some plantations.
Young sugar gliders stay with their mothers until they are between seven to ten months old.
These creatures are smart at keeping warm when temperatures fall below freezing, as they huddle together and go into a state of torpor.
Torpor is a instinctual mechanism that helps many animals survive and save energy on even the coldest of environments.
For the sugar glider this is essential, as being native to Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Indonesia; they are used to relatively higher temperatures.
The sugar glider’s diet is flexible and varies according to their given locations and seasons.
Some foods they eat include pollen, acacia, nectar, and eucalyptus tree sap.
But sadly, bush fires, predators, and land clearance for farming threaten their existence in the wild.
How Long Do Sugar Gliders Live In Captivity?
Sugar gliders tend to live longer in captivity, generally between 10-15 years. They are relatively long-term pets, if they are to meet their life expectancy and potential.
With that said, sugar gliders need the company of at least one other sugar glider. Otherwise they can suffer from mental health and behavioral issues – and this is quite common in those that are housed alone.
While it’s ideal for sugar gliders to bond with their owners, the company of a human is just not and will never be the same. Despite what we want to think.
In the wild, they are well accustomed to living in colonies of 30 gliders or more – and this is part of their nature.
So, any prospective owners should be thinking about whether they can house and look after at least 2 sugar gliders, at the very minimum!
Nevertheless, when taken care of properly, they do make excellent pets.
They are playful, intelligent, and sociable.
When socialized and once they begin to gain in confidence, they have been known to get very close to their owners.
Some even report that their sugar glider will curl up in their shirt pocket, where they look around and survey their surroundings.
Part of building this confidence is through taming; you will need to handle your sugar glider if you want them to be social in this way.
Ideally, you would need to spend anywhere from one to two hours handling them each day to properly socialize him. But, consider they don’t take well to being handled by strangers or for their owners at first.
Also consider that due to their nocturnal nature, you’ll be up quite light to be able to handle them!
Sugar gliders also have a terrible habit of escaping, so you will also need to fully sugar glider-proof your home to prevent escape and possible injury.
Sugar gliders can squeeze through the tiniest of openings with great ease.
These little possums tend to be inquisitive and will chew and swallow things they shouldn’t, so you’ll also need to be cognizant of what you leave around along with making sure that you give them pet-safe toys.
Factors That Influence A Sugar Gliders Lifespan
The main factors that influence a sugar gliders lifespan are dietary, environmental and inherited or developed health conditions.
This is true for both wild and captive gliders, although will obviously differ quite a lot by where they live.
Sugar gliders also live longer in captivity than in the wild. But why is this?
These marsupial have to contend with food shortages, predators, natural disasters, and land clearance for farming in their natural environment.
They are well-equipped to deal with life in the wild, but it isn’t easy.
Also, if they feel unwell, they will not get any medical attention or care that can come with being a pet.
All this results in a higher incidence of death. And unfortunately, these things do happen in the wild.
In captivity, sugar gliders are generally more safe, warm, dry, and will likely get the assistance of a vet if and when needed.
They don’t have to search for food, and they can be given food on a regular, recurring schedule.
They also do not go through drastic climate swings or changes and can be better protected from the harsh realities of the elements.
So, let’s look at the factors that influence a sugar gliders lifespan, especially when kept in captivity:
The environment that a sugar glider lives in is paramount to their longevity. Besides, they have live in very specific conditions in the wild.
If your home is not adequately set up for keeping a sugar glider, they are at risk of escape or injury. Besides sugar gliders have an amazing ability to squeeze through small cracks and the tiniest of openings.
Getting to places they shouldn’t can have very negative outcomes.
They can put objects in their mouth that are not food; swallowing can lead to impaction but are also a potential choking hazard.
Sugar gliders have also been known to drown in toilets, and they can also get injured very easily from other animals and pets; these are often fatal.
Sugar gliders are notorious for their sweet-tooth and will eat sweet and fatty foods over wholesome, healthy foods if given a choice.
They tend to overeat as well.
You may feel tempted to spoil your friend, but the effects of overeating can cause illnesses for them.
Be sure to get an expert’s recommendation on diet for your sugar glider as malnutrition can lead to dehydration, obesity, seizures, cataracts, blindness, and even hind-limb paralysis.
Many diseases and disorders that sugar gliders experience relate to dietary imbalances, including obesity, malnutrition, and vitamin/ mineral imbalances.
Other diseases are related to bacterial, parasitic, or fungal infections.
Diseases related to dietary imbalances include:
- Hypocalcemia – This occurs when there is an abnormally low level of calcium in the blood. This happens when a sugar glider is lacking in dietary calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus.
- Hypoproteinemia and anemia – This occurs when a sugar glider doesn’t receive enough protein in their diet. These disorders are caused by long-term malnutrition and can result in liver and kidney problems.
- Metabolic bone disease – This disorder involves softening of the bones due to an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus
Diseases related to bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections include:
- Diarrhea and vomiting – Several microscopic parasites can cause vomiting and diarrhea, in addition to weight loss, dehydration, and abdominal cramps.
- Toxoplasmosis – Sugar gliders can get toxoplasmosis if they come into contact with feces or cat litter that has been contaminated with Toxoplasma gondii or if they are fed undercooked meat.
- Pasteurellosis – The bacteria Pastuerella multocida can be transmitted from rabbits to sugar gliders, and it is deadly for sugar gliders. Pus-filled sores develop on various organs, including the skin, and results in sudden death.
Do Sugar Gliders Die Easily?
Sugar gliders are not the most robust of animals, and do have their own unique needs and requirements. Thus, they can unfortunately die quite quickly and easily if not taken proper care of.
Perhaps the biggest threat to a sugar glider, is through a lack of water.
Sugar gliders can easily die of dehydration.
Something as simple as no access to water, or a broken water bottle with an obstructed water flow can quickly lead to dehydration.
It can be fatal, sugar gliders can completely dehydrate and die within just 12 hours.
Thankfully, there is a way to test a sugar gliders hydration levels. All you need to do is pull their skin up at the shoulders.
If the skin instantly returns to normal; all is usually fine.
If however, the skin manages to stay up or goes down very slowly, chances are they are dehydrated.
A vet will be able to support rehydration with shots of fluid under the skin.
Dehydration can be symptomatic of a much deeper issue with a sugar glider, so you must try to find the cause of why this is occurring.
Outside of dehydration, sugar glider are quite defenseless. So, if a larger animal was to attack them, they are not likely to survive.
Being just 16cm and 120 grams in size on average, these are very small and are soon overpowered by other animals. Even if they are just inquisitive or playing.
How To Ensure Your Sugar Glider Reaches Their Full Life Expectancy
Sugar gliders need a certain level of care in order for them to thrive. These are quite challenging to take care of, and you do need to research to find out exactly what is required well ahead of time and bringing one home.
Equally, you must be ready to do all that you can for them; being nocturnal and highly energetic certainly comes with its challenges.
Nevertheless, let us now look at what you can do to ensure they reach their full life expectancy, of 10-15 years:
Sugar gliders are so-called due to their penchant for sweet-tasting fruits, but you need to be mindful of the amount of sugar they consume.
They do not need to gorge or exclusively eat foods rich in just sugar; nor should they be eating highly processed sugar substitutes such as high-fructose corn syrup.
About 75% of a sugar glider’s diet should consist of fruit and veg, while 25% should be protein.
They can eat most fruits; just avoid the pips as they can be toxic.
Proteins can include small pieces of lean cuts cooked like plain chicken, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, tofu, and hard-boiled eggs.
Live insects like mealworms and crickets make excellent treats.
Make sure you don’t feed insects from outside as they can be contaminated with harmful chemicals.
Your sugar glider will also needs access to fresh drinking water daily and it should be made available at all times.
Sugar gliders need a sizable cage, as they like having room to play and climb. Ideally, you should keep more than one sugar glider as they will live a much happier and fulfilling life in the company of others.
If you do decide to do so, chances are you will need a bigger cage. The size should adjust with the number of gliders you keep accordingly.
Equally, the wires of the cage should be close enough so that your glider can’t squeeze through.
You’ll also want to avoid putting the cage in direct sunlight as this can cause them to overheat and also cause distress.
However, the room should have lots of natural light too and this will help them to live by their natural circadian rhythm.
But remember, sugar gliders are nocturnal. They will be up in the night!
The temperature of the room you keep them in should be between 15 to 30 degrees Celsius.
You’ll also need to clean their cage regularly, 1-2x per week is advised. When doing so only use safe cleaning products and be sure everything is thoroughly dry to prevent your glider from ingesting anything toxic.
While cleaning, you may need to consider where you put your gliders.
Remember, they are escape artists so letting them out into the room does not typically come advised.
Sugar gliders love to play with toys, and need a lot of these kinds of activities and interactions to stay mentally stimulated and to starve off any boredom .
So, you should look to provide them with as many toys as you can. Chew toys, ladders, bird toys, tunnels, and exercise wheels are all great options.
You can add some natural features like branches and non-toxic wood too.
Sugar gliders generally live longer in captivity than in the wild. But this is not a given.
In fact, it can be somewhat misleading.
They need sufficient and proper care, and their needs and requirements are not necessarily the same as other pets.
For example, sugar gliders can get unwell or stressed from sicknesses, a poor diet, a dirty cage, overhandling, boredom, loneliness, and inappropriate sleep/week schedule.
The signs of a stressed glider will likely be apparent: such as loss of appetite, excessive eating, lethargy, and generally acting frantically. That does not make it easy nevertheless.
At the end of the day, it is imperative to know and remember that sugar gliders are unique animals.
They have only really become popular pets for the last 15 years. And for good reason really.
So, if you plan to own a sugar glider as a pet, it’s essential that you learn as much as you can about them ahead of time and be willing and able to adapt your home to house them accordingly.
Beyond this, you’ll need to be very careful throughout the purchasing process. Speak with different breeders and sellers, and be sure that they have been bred humanely and ethically.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.