How Can I Tell If My Sugar Glider Is Happy?

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Sugar gliders are not low maintenance or easy pets, and a lot of thought and time needs to go into ensuring that your sugar gliders are happy and well cared for. This article aims to provide you with evidence-based tips on how to tell whether your sugar glider is content and what you can do to help them.

A happy sugar glider will be playful, active, and well bonded with its owner. Sugar gliders that are bonded with their owners will approach their owners confidently and may groom their owners by licking or nibbling. Content sugar gliders will rarely show signs of stress, such as excessive barking or overgrooming.

To provide an environment conducive to the welfare of our pet sugar gliders, we need to take a cue from the living conditions and lifestyle of their wild counterparts.

As long as you can provide your sugar gliders with an environment that allows them to express natural behavior, eat an appropriate diet and protect them from stress and disease, you are doing a stunning job of being a sugar glider parent!

6 Signs That Your Sugar Glider Is Happy

A happy sugar glider will freely express behavior in line with the natural behavior of wild sugar gliders. So let’s look at how pet sugar gliders will express instinctive behavior:

1. Sleeping Most Of The Day, And Being Most Active In The Evenings

Since sugar gliders are nocturnal, they should be allowed to sleep most of the day. Avoid interacting with your sugar gliders during the day from morning to late afternoon. Their most active times are usually late afternoon.

If you find that your sugar glider is atypically awake during the day, it may indicate that something is not quite right. Some sugar gliders will get up in the middle of the day for a ‘midnight snack’, which is fine, but if you find that your sugar glider is just sitting in its cage in the middle of the day, it might be an indication of illness, and it would be best to have your sugar glide checked out by a sugar glider savvy vet.

2. Rubbing Themselves On You And Other Objects In Their Environment

Sugar gliders will mark their territories by rubbing themselves on objects in their environment to claim them as ‘theirs’.

Male sugar gliders have scent glands on their foreheads and chests, and females have scent glands in their marsupial pouch. In addition, both males and females have scent glands on either side of their cloaca.

Sugar gliders will occasionally urine mark their environment as well. You can read more about urine marking and inappropriate toilet habits here.

Occasional scent marking is a part of natural behavior for sugar gliders, so if they occasionally rub themselves on you, it certainly means that they like you!

3. Approaching You When You Come To The Cage

A sugar glider that is confident enough to approach its owner when they come to their cage is a happy and well-bonded sugar glider. However, this is a generalization, and sugar gliders have different personalities. Some gliders may just be shyer than others.

In contrast, a sugar glider that will try to hide when approached is likely not well bonded yet or may be experiencing excessive stress for several reasons. You can read more on the causes and solutions of stress in sugar gliders in this article.

4. Climbing, Jumping, And Playing Often

Sugar gliders are very active and love to play, jump and climb. Wild sugar gliders will spend hours foraging every day and often jump, glide and play with colony mates. This behavior also serves to help keep them fit enough to be able to escape an attack from a predator.

A happy sugar glider will utilize toys or time outside of their cage (or tent time) to be active and play. But, again, gliders differ in personality, and some sugar gliders will enjoy running, or rather run-jumping on their wheel while others may enjoy running up and down ropes and ladders in their cage.

Ensure that your glider has access to toys such as the Wodent Wheel Senior or climbing toys such as this climbing vine or these climbing ropes. Foraging toys such as this foraging pineapple will also help keep your sugar gliders active and mentally stimulated.

In addition, being active will help prevent obesity, which is one of the most common health conditions of sugar gliders. You can read more on obesity in sugar gliders here.

5. Chirping And Purring

Chirping is a soft ‘chattering noise’ that sugar gliders often make when content. Similarly, some sugar gliders will purr, similar to the purring of a cat, when happy.

6. Grooming Themselves And Their Colony Mates (Including You!)

Grooming is an integral part of social behavior in sugar gliders, and since they are colony animals, grooming is a way of forming and maintaining social bonds. Sugar gliders will groom themselves, their colony mates, and their owners by licking or nibbling on them.

Excessive grooming, to the point of causing loss of fur, on the other hand, is usually an indication of stress or illness. Similarly, not grooming at all is an indication of chronic disease.

If your sugar gliders rub themselves on you or lightly nibble you, it is a sign that they are bonded with you.

What Makes A Sugar Glider Happy – Tips To Keep Your Sugar Glider Happy

A sugar glider needs to be able to express natural behavior, have a balanced species-appropriate diet, be free from pain, disease, and stress, and be kept with other sugar gliders in an environment free of threats and predators.

7 Tips To Ensure Happy Sugar Gliders

1. Ensure you feed a balanced and varied species-appropriate diet (you can check this article for feeding recommendations based on the natural diet of sugar gliders).

2. Provide a large enough enclosure for them to jump and glide in with ample pouches to hide in. The cage must be secure enough to prevent any chance of escaping.

3. Keep them with other sugar gliders. Social bonds are as important as food and water to a sugar glider, and they should not be kept by themselves.

4. Keep them in a space where they will not feel threatened by possible predators such as cats, large birds, or snakes.

5. Prevent them from being exposed to excessively cold temperatures. Provide your sugar gliders with a safe source of heat in winter.

6. Respect their nocturnal circadian rhythm by allowing them to sleep during the day and only interact with them during the evening or early morning.

7. Provide access to appropriate veterinary care when they are sick. Have an emergency savings account for medical emergencies for your sugar gliders or, better yet, get pet insurance to avoid not being able to provide medical care when they need it.

8. Provide mental and physical stimulation by exercise and foraging opportunities such as running wheels, climbing ropes, and foraging toys.

Signs That Your Sugar Glider Is Unhappy

Constantly Hiding

In the face of a potential threat, the first instinct of a sugar glider is to flee and hide. However, if a glider hides in their pouch for more time than usual or refuses to come out, it might be due to them perceiving something in their environment as a threat.

Of course, this is not the only reason why a sugar glider will spend more time than usual in their pouch. Hiding can also be a symptom of pain or disease.

Excessive Barking

Sugar gliders will bark to alert their pack to a perceived danger or, as pets, to get their owner’s attention.

Sugar gliders who are new to a specific environment or owner will often bark as they get used to their new environment or if they notice something strange or alerting in their environment.

Suppose you notice any unusual barking from your sugar glider. In that case, the cause needs to be investigated as it can range from anything as simple as a female being in heat, a sick colony member, or a threat.


Sugar gliders may overgroom to the point of breaking the skin when they are frustrated or stressed due to a lack of environmental enrichment (an environment that is mentally stimulating and encourages natural behavior).

Stereotypical Behavior

Stereotypical behavior is repetitive or compulsive behavior that is often linked to poor welfare in animals. In addition, this behavioral abnormality is associated with frustration due to the inability to perform natural behaviors or frustration due to boredom.

Biting or Crabbing

Sugar gliders will bite out of fear to defend themselves. Anyone who may have tried to bond with a glider who is not familiar with humans will probably know this from personal experience!

If pushed too far into a stressful situation, sugar gliders will bite. You can’t really blame them for biting you when they are scared, as this is the only self-defense they have in a frightening situation.

Preventing Stress In Sugar Gliders

Of course, we know that pet sugar gliders are wild animals tamed to live with humans. This means they will never be domesticated like dogs or cats who have evolved alongside humans. Sugar gliders need to be able to express instinctive behavior freely when kept as pets.

This natural instinct also makes them prone to stress as pets. They are shy animals that live in large colonies in the wild. They have many predators, and they eat primarily insects and some plant material. They love to forage, climb and glide and are active at night. If any of these natural behaviors are not appropriately met by a sugar glider owner, it will cause stress.

Prolonged exposure to stress can be detrimental to your sugar glider’s health. The quicker your respond to signs of stress, the better. And as always, if something seems off, do not hesitate to contact your vet. Sugar gliders are excellent at hiding symptoms of illness, so if you are concerned, rather have them checked out by a vet.

We might not be able to protect your sugar gliders from all possible negative experiences. Still, as long sugar glider parents do their best to minimize stress, they should have the happiest little sugar glider lives you can possibly provide them with.


As long as you can provide your sugar gliders with an environment that allows them to express natural behavior, eat an appropriate diet and protect them from stress and disease, you are doing a stunning job of being a sugar glider parent!


Dr. Annerien de Villiers

Dr. Annerien de Villiers graduated as a veterinarian from the University of Pretoria in 2018. She has since worked full-time in clinical practice tending to all kinds of companion animals in general practice. Serving the human-animal bond with care and compassion and making accurate information accessible to pet owners is at the heart of her driving force as a veterinarian.

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