James and I began researching sugar gliders as pets, and found both positive and negative information. First of all, they were really expensive. $500 just for the glider, plus around $100 for a cage, and the food was also pricey, along with toys and accessories. What drew us in though was how “Needy” they are. Several websites said that sugar gliders bond to their human companions, who must carry them at all times in a little pouch. Sugar gliders are marsupials, so this simulates the rearing done by mothers after birth. Initially, that was what excited me the most, but I would learn that that is actually a horrifying aspect of sugar gliders as pets.
For starters, Fossey and Jane were a little too old to bond to us. They are perfectly bonded to each other, but they are not as attached to James and I. They would jump back and forth between us, and then proceed to run around the room. They are so quick, and very hard to catch once they get away. When you do catch them, they bite, and their teeth are razor sharp, just like their nails. They are also very picky eaters, and will go through periods where they refuse to eat what I give them unless it’s live mealworms. They are also not very well potty trained, and poo and pee EVERYWHERE, including all over you. The smell is interesting as well. In addition to this, they bark at night, almost like a little dog. This is more cute than annoying, but I guess that all depends on how light of a sleeper you are.
I love all of the animals on our home, and I could never bring myself to surrender any of them. But these past couple years with Fossey and Jane have forced me to reconsider how I feel about exotic pet ownership. I will not deny that there was a period of time when I would have wanted a monkey as a pet. Now however, I can’t even imagine it.
There was a show on the National Geographic Channel not too long ago about people who have monkeys as pets. In addition to stories of what happens when the monkeys get older, the program explored where the monkeys come from. Infants are literally ripped from their mothers arms when they are still dependent on them. This is what triggers their neediness towards the humans that purchase them.
This got me wondering: did Fossey and Jane experience the same thing? Is this what all sugar glider breeders do, in order to force the human-suggie bond? All of a sudden I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness for the two beautiful girls I had myself. It also saddens me to think of where all of my other animals came from. While James has forbidden me to get any more animals (With good reason, eight is enough), we agreed that any animals we get in the future will be adopted, no questions asked. At least this way, we know that we won’t be forcing any babies from their mothers, or encouraging the deplorable conditions in places like puppy mills and bird farms, not to mention poor travel conditions.
Sugar gliders, I believe, are still very wild. In fact, most of the time when I tell someone I have them, they have no idea what they are. This is why I believe, that Fossey and Jane are the only true exotic animals in our home. While most vets and pet stores consider anything other than dogs and cats exotic, I think the definition of a “normal” pet can extend to anything that has been living among humans for a long time. That is, they have tameness bred into them, over many generations.
As I said before, I love all of our animals ad could never surrender any of them. I have found ways to try and make Fossey and Jane’s lives as balanced and enriched as possible. There is a very dark side to both typical, and exotic pet ownership, and I encourage everyone to get all the facts before adding an animal to their home. If possible adopt, there are always animals in shelters unfortunately. Take it from my experience: sugar gliders are too exotic to be kept as pets, and what they must go through in life is certainly not worth it to have a cute little companion. If more people were aware of the troubles these exotic pets face to get to their homes, I’m sure the exotic pet trend would lose momentum.