What Do Sugar Gliders Eat?
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If you’re looking for a cute, furry little pet, you might be considering a sugar glider. The sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) is a small, arboreal marsupial endemic to Australia, New Guinea, and some Indonesian islands.
This type of exotic pet is known for bonding closely with their human caretakers, but they definitely aren’t the right pet for everyone.
The sugar glider is not the kind of pet you’ll find in pet stores.
It’s an exotic animal and has complicated nutritional needs. In the wild, sugar gliders are opportunistic omnivores which means they eat a wide range of foods depending what’s available.
Though they are technically omnivorous, pet sugar gliders require specific nutrients and it can be difficult to create a balanced diet at home. The key to keeping your sugar glider healthy is to mimic his natural diet as much as possible.
Unfortunately, commercial sugar glider food may not be enough to completely provide for your sugar glider’s nutritional needs.
Without a varied diet that includes the right nutrients, your exotic pet could develop serious health problems. Read on to learn what foods are and are not safe for sugar gliders and to learn more about what sugar gliders eat.
Safe and Unsafe Foods for Sugar gliders
Because sugar gliders eat a variety of foods in the wild, there are many different things you can feed them. The natural diet of a sugar glider consists of the gum and sap of the eucalyptus and acacia trees as well as pollen, nectar, fresh fruits, and insects.
Though sugar gliders can eat many different things, what’s really important is that you strike the right nutritional balance. Before we get into the details of a balanced diet for these marsupials, let’s take a quick look at the foods that are and aren’t safe.
Foods That Are Safe for Sugar Gliders:
- Commercial sugar glider food
- Leadbeater mixture
- Acacia gum
- Eucalyptus sap
- Bee pollen
Foods Sugar Gliders Can Eat in Moderation:
- Boiled egg
- Cat food
- Dog food
- Unsalted nuts
- Sweet potatoes
- Sweet corn
Foods That Are Not Recommended for Sugar Gliders:
- Raw sugar
- Sugar substitutes
- Salted nuts
- Wild-caught insects
- Processed food
Foods Toxic or Harmful for Sugar Gliders:
- Dairy products
- Collard greens
- Apple seeds
- Fruit pits
Now that you have a better idea what your sugar glider can eat, you may be wondering what he should eat. Read on to learn the basics of a healthy sugar glider diet and what you can do to make sure your pet’s nutritional needs are being met.
Types of Sugar Glider Diets
As an exotic pet, the sugar glider has unique nutritional needs that can’t be met with a bag of food you pick up at the pet store.
The best feeding recommendations for these marsupials comes from experts like Australian zookeepers and veterinarians.
They recommend a specific blend of foods supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables in small amounts.
Here is a quick breakdown of the different components of a pet sugar glider’s diet:
- Leadbeater’s Mix – A mixture of warm water, honey, boiled egg, baby cereal, and vitamin supplement. This should be fed in equal amounts to insects.
- Insects – Provide a variety of insects, ideally gut-loaded with healthy foods and dusted with a calcium supplement or multi-vitamin powder.
- Fresh Fruits – Very small amounts of fresh fruits mixed together.
In addition to these foods, sugar gliders can eat small amounts of vegetables as well. They tend to prefer sugary foods, however, so you may want to stick to things like sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Avoid foods that have very high fat content like peanuts and offer unsalted seeds only in small amounts. Fruits and vegetables high in oxalates may impair calcium absorption, so avoid things like raspberries, blackberries, spinach, beets, and figs.
Meeting Your Sugar Glider’s Nutritional Needs
When it comes to sugar glider food, you should remember that no single food can meet your pet’s needs for a balanced diet. Commercial sugar glider pellets help provide protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and essential nutrients but pet sugar gliders still need insects and a veterinarian-developed mixture called Leadbeater’s mix.
It consists of water, honey, boiled egg, high-protein baby cereal, and vitamin supplement blended into a smooth liquid.
In addition to providing the right variety of foods for your sugar glider, you also need to pay attention to the vitamin and mineral content of his diet.
Sugar gliders are highly prone to metabolic bone disease which results from an improper ratio of calcium to phosphorus in their diet.
If the diet is too high in phosphorus, the body will leach calcium from the bones to restore balance.
Taking the time to properly balance your sugar glider’s diet is important but you may still need to include a multi-vitamin or calcium supplement to achieve that goal.
Baby sugar gliders can be very tricky to raise.
When they are first out of the pouch, they require frequent feeding with milk replacer if they can’t feed directly from the mother. You’ll need to hand-feed the joey for at least 6 weeks and then start weaning him.
After about six months, he should be ready to start accepting small amounts of dry pellets in addition to Leadbeater’s mixture, insects, and small pieces of fresh fruits and veggies.
To give you an idea what do sugar gliders eat and much you should be feeding your pet sugar glider in different stages of life, refer to this chart:
|Daily Sugar Glider Feeding Chart|
|Age||Pellets||Leadbeater’s Mixture||Insects||Fruits and Veggies|
|Up to 6 weeks||Mother’s milk only or milk replacer (fully weaned by 8 weeks)|
|Up to 6 months||None||75% of diet along with insects||75% of diet along with Leadbeater mixture||25% diet fruits and vegetables, chopped|
|6 months and up||1 tablespoon|
(about 1/3 of diet)
(about 1/3 of diet)
|1 tablespoon (about 1/3 of diet)||Very small amounts, finely chopped|
In addition to providing the food your sugar glider needs for a balanced diet, you also need to make sure he stays hydrated. When your pet is still very young, a water dish may be the best option, but you can eventually teach your pet to use a water bottle. Just make sure it is full of fresh water at all times and that you clean and refill it once a day.
Recommended Commercial Sugar Glider Foods
As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to provide for your pet’s nutritional needs. The challenge with an exotic animal like the sugar glider is that you can’t simply go to the pet store and buy a bag of food. Commercial sugar glider diets do exist, but they need to be supplemented with other foods. Keep this in mind when shopping for sugar glider pellets.
Here are some of our top picks for the best commercial sugar glider food:
- Mazuri Insectivore Diet – This recipe is formulated for a wide variety of insectivores including sugar gliders, so it’s high in protein and fiber. If you’re looking for an alternative to feeding your sugar glider live insects, this may be a good option.
- Exotic Nutrition Glider Complete – Made with 100% natural ingredients and no artificial additives, this high-protein commercial pellet is fortified with vitamins and minerals. It also contains chunks of dried fruit including papaya, pears, golden raisins, blueberries, and apples.
- Vitakraft Vitasmart Sugar Glider Food – This high-protein formula is made with plenty of protein as well as essential vitamins and minerals to deliver balanced nutrition for your sugar glider. It contains dried fruit as well as supplemental omega-3 fatty acids for healthy brain and heart function.
Looking for more information about keeping sugar gliders as pets? Check out our other sugar glider content on We’re All About Pets.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do sugar gliders eat in the wild?
Wild sugar gliders follow a natural diet of sap and gum from eucalyptus and acacia trees as well as bee pollen, nectar, manna, and honeydew. They also feed on a variety of insects. Fruit is not a significant part of a sugar glider’s natural diet, but it is common in captive diet.
How much do sugar gliders eat?
The sugar glider is very small, so these pets don’t need to eat a lot of once. It’s more about providing a balanced diet which you can accomplish by feeding a combination of Leadbeater’s mix, commercial sugar glider pellets, and insects with small amounts of fresh fruits.
What do sugar gliders drink?
Sugar gliders drink water like any other animal. Most get used to using water bottles, though you may need to offer a water dish at first if your pet isn’t used to the bottle yet.
Do sugar gliders eat insects?
Yes, insects are part of the sugar glider’s diet in the wild. When feeding insects in captivity, you should gut-load them first. This simply means feeding the insects healthy foods so the nutrients will be passed along to your sugar glider. You should also dust the insects with a calcium supplement or multi-vitamin powder as well.