How to speed up bonding

Frequently many people have asked me just how to speed up the bonding process. There are a few ways so here they are:

  1. When you first get your joey, never chase it around the cage. It is best to take the joey when it is in it’s sleeping pouch. You do not put your hand in it. What you do is take out the pouch with the joey in, and gently ease him out from the outside. Putting your hand into the pouch causes a predator reaction, which means your joey would act on instinct to bite you to protect itself.
  2. Make sure your cage has the bare essenstials. To bond properly, especially with joeys that are not handle friendly, it is best to limit the cage accessories. What I normally do is just have the sleeping pouch, a few climbing materials, the water bottle and food bowl. Do not use hamster houses or bird houses or even coconuts because a joey is normally scared of its new owner. To  the joey’s point of view, you are a stranger so the joey would try its best to hide from you. I know many gliders would hide out in the Wodent Wheel as well. If this happens, take out the wheel to make bonding easier. When you try to get a joey or glider out of a small place, you tend to make alot of noise by tapping the object the joey is in and also making alot of movement. This panics the joey, making it even more scared and angry. This would just prolong the bonding process.
  3. Leave a worn shirt or used blanket on the cage. If you do not mind, take an old tshirt, wear it for 2 nights, then take a pair of scissors and cut them into squares. You make scent blankets for your suggie. Then place these squares in your joey’s sleeping pouch. After you have washed them, just take the cut up cloth and put it on your bed. Sleep on them or put them under your shirt so that you can renew your scent. Your joey would be able to catch your scent by having this lil scent blanket and gets familiar to your smell.
  4. Handle your joey. You have to handle your joey. Hold it in your hands and let it walk from 1 hand to the other. Sort of like a threadmill. This is for the joey to understand that your hands are strong and stable and it should be trusting your touch. This sort of training would get the joey to like your hands.
  5. Handfeeding. If possible, hand feed treats to your joeys. Normally well developed and proper aged joeys would eat by themselves but by handfeeding a bit, your joey would learn that you are the giver of good things. It will trust you more. You can use a spoon or your fingers or palm of your hand.
  6. Carry your joey in the bonding pouch during the day. Normally in the day time a glider would be sleeping. During this time it is best to carry it in a bonding pouch to speed up the bonding process. When it is in the pouch around your neck, it would be sleeping but it would also be able to hear your voice, smell your scent, listen to your heartbeat, get used to your touch. In a way, it is comforting for the joey. Some people resort to bra bonding(ladies thing) which I often do and my joeys bond with me very well. But one bad habit, if you do bra bonding, the glider would have a bad habit of wanting to go into your shirt. Anyway, when carrying in a bonding pouch, keep touching the pouch and talk to your joey. This would normally come with all sorts of crabbing from the joey when you first start but after awhile, it would get used to you and not crab anymore.

These are just a few tips. It may differ from one person to the other but these tips are what I normally advice to people. If you have any problems or need further explanation, can always drop me a comment. Or if you have a tip of your own, please comment and I would even put it up in the article so that others could learn.

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Free range vs. Cage

Question…. should we free range our gliders or cage them?

My answer is yes and no.

Suggies are very active animals, so they require lots of space. Letting your beloved glider free range a bit around your home or room is actually very good exercise but you have to make sure you glider proof the entire room. No holes, closed and locked windows and doors, no active electrical wires around. Make sure no holes, or chemicals lying around. When I free range my gliders, well, not all my gliders because some are not tame and bonded enough to be given full freedom, but anyway, mainly my Kiah, Kapi, Keera, Naya, Kuno and GipGip, they will climb up the curtains, hide in my cupboards and shelves, even chewed a hole in a shoe box to get in. And the best part, they like to use my old printer as a sleeping house. I was a little pissed but I didn’t mind coz that gave me a reason to buy a new printer. So my old one, I threw it away. Still, it is best to keep an eye on them because things can go wrong. Keera destroyed my PC monitor by peeing on it, sparks came out and my room was full of smoke. Some of my furniture and personal items had little bite marks on them. My handphone had little chew marks. But I’m ok with that, since sugar gliders are super curious but some people may not like it. So it is wise not to let them free range without supervision.

If your gliders are bonded and tame, free ranging for a bit is good exercise, your gliders would love it, climbing up and down, hiding and exploring, but remember, to always safely secure your electronic items and lock down all windows and doors. And make sure no other animal is in the room. This is all for safety reasons.

The cage will always and should always be their permanent home when you are not around. Why? It is a secure and controlled environment. It gives us a peace of mind that our gliders are safe and secure, away from danger. Gliders are just too curious, so leaving them alone in a big room full of fun stuff and hiding places is very dangerous and risky. A glider could end up electrocuted by chewing on live wire. It could eat some poisonous or toxic substance left by something in your room. So just be safe, never let them free range without anyone around. Caging is still the best.

Your 1st joey

Sugar gliders will always make excellent pocket pets because…. well…. they really can fit and ride in our pockets LOL. This here is my glider in my jeans pocket. But it is not advisable to carry them everywhere in your pocket. The best carrying unit is still the good old bonding pouch.

I find that many newbies or new glider owners often ask me this question after purchasing a joey:

“Why is my glider making so much noise and why it looks like wanna attack me?”

The truth is, when a joey is separated from it’s previous home and owner, it will of course go through a bout of home sickness. This is normally seen when a joey refuse food for the 1st night. Then they get irritated and scared with their new surroundings.

Normally joeys would react out of defense. The new owner is firstly, very new to the joey. My joeys have seen me since they first open their eyes and I handle them often, which makes them comfortable with me. My joeys can sleep in my palm, ride on my shoulder and sleep in my shirt without much hassle. But once it goes to a new home, I’m not there, so they become tense and scared. They react by crabbing at their new owners. Some would even go the extra mile by lifting a hand and act as if it is ready to pounce and bite. Believe me, all these are just intimidating stunts to make you scared of them. This is a born defense drive in them, they would react this way if a cat or a snake was in front of them.

As a new owner, you should never be scared of all these signs. If you act scared, the joey will then understand that you are afraid of noise. The more it crabs, the more you stay away, then you are in big trouble. You must understand, you have to create a bond with your joey.

Your first act would be to touch and handle your joey even while it is crabbing. If it jumps away, just gently grab it back in your hands and handle. Let it walk up your arms and in your palm. Try not to let it hide behind your back or your neck because you want your joey to learn that your hands are safe. After a few attempts, I would say in a day, your joey should have less fear of you. And in a few days time, your joey will enjoy each handling sessions.

So the big lesson here is, never be afraid of the noises and actions a little joey makes, it is all a show to make you leave it alone. Remember, gaining a joeys trust is by making it understand that you are it’s friend. A glider is not like a hamster or a puppy. It is totally different.

Glider safety….

How safe is your glider or joey when you bring it out? When I was at a petshop. the owner told me that one of his customers recently just bought another joey coz the previous one ran away. How? The guy told the shop owner that his joey was sitting on his shoulder when he passed a tree. The joey jumped on to the tree and went missing. He could still laugh and say the joey must miss being free and it may have seen wild gliders up there calling for him…. wait a minute! There are no wild sugar gliders living in trees and jungles in Malaysia…. so what is this guy talking about?

Anyway, when we bring our joeys or gliders out, we must make sure they stay safe. The best way to bring them around is in a bonding pouch. Not in your shirt pocket or sitting inside a shopping bag, a bonding pouch with a zipper would be secured enough and comfortable enough for your glider to travel. Some may advice using leashes and harnesses but I personally feel those are just not suitable for our gliders.

When travelling long distance, always use a small cage as a travel carrier. Never let your glider free roam your car while driving, especially at night…. who knows what might happen.

For joeys or gliders that have still not bonded with their owners, try to not let your joeys out of their bonding pouch in open space areas or in crowds…. an accident could happen when either the joey jumps off you and tries to run around, or if it is in a crowd, it could get lost in a sea of different people or worst, get trampled.

So remember, do what is safe for your gliders. Keep an eye on them when you bring them out of your home.

The leash and harness

Is this necessary for bonding? I have read a few websites that have adviced people to purchase or get hold of a leash and collar or harness for easy bonding with their gliders. To me, I don’t think it is very safe, especially with hamster leash and harnesses since it is thin, and is only suitable for hamsters.

This just got my blood boiling when I saw a staff at a pet counter, selling a hamster harness and leash to a lady, saying that it keeps the glider safe and can bring it for walks. Is that proper? I have seen a few designs that people have come up with overseas, and the harneses are thick and uses velcro to strap on, making it safe I guess…. but thin rope-like harnesses I think would just hurt the glider, especially if it tries to jump by spreading out its gliding membrane.

How about your thoughts? On my side, I believe the bonding pouch works well enough and once a glider learns to trust us and is already bonded, it will very likely not jump off you without a reason.

My glider bites….. how?

I hear this a number of times. Why do gliders bite? Well, any animal with a face would obviously bite if it is scared, it is an animal’s instinct, their way of protecting themselves. A young joey that in unfamiliar with handling will crab, raise a paw and act like it wants to bite. A joey normally does this when they are extremely scared, they just want to scare you off than to really attack you. Anyway, let me explain the different bites and nips gliders like to give us.

Joey bite

This is by young joeys, 8 weeks OOP…. their bite is usually a sharp prick if they do bite you. Doesn’t draw blood, hurts on a little. Like I explained earlier, joeys would normally do it when they are really scared and before they bite, there is usually a little crabbing. Now a 12 week OOP joey would give a different sort of bite, it would be march sharper, like someone pinching you. Again, it’s all fear. Now gliders are smart and learn quickly. If you show fear when a joey crabs and bite you, it will remember that you are scared of these actions and sounds and as it becomes and adult, it will just keep crabbing and biting you.

A contented glider gnaw

Sugar gliders often like to groom one another when they are happy or contented. Sometimes while your glider is sitting on your shoulder or head, you would feel an annoying scratch beginning and from just being annoying it can become a bit painful. Relax, your glider is not trying to eat you, it is just grooming you. They would use their teeth to scrape another glider’s fur but since we do not have fur, it’s direct skin so it can be a bit painful. It’s like someone using a fork scraping our skin. And be happy about it too cause it shows that your glider enjoys you and has bonded pretty well. Of course when it is too painful, just push your glider to another spot or offer a treat to distract it.
Finger nibbling

I actually have a few gliders that like to finger nibble. It has a few reasons. Gliders see us as food givers, we provide them with yummy treats so it is only natural for them to try and nibble our fingers to see if we have anything for them to eat. Another would be that we may have some scent of food or residue on our fingers and the enticing smell and taste may cause a glider to nibble out of curiousity. So just wash your hands and give a little food, it mostly would stop.

A warning Nip

Nipping is normal for even tame gliders. It is where a glider takes a sort of like a bite at you but it doesn’t cause any wound or draw any blood. It just gives you a sudden pressure on your finger, like someone using a toothpick to prick you. My gliders normally nip when I handle them in an uncomfortable way or I am picking them up at the wrong timing. This kind of nip is just to warn you that you are doing something wrong or uncomfortable to them. My gliders would nip when they are handled too often too, a sign that tells me it is time for them to rest. When a glider becomes really annoyed, the nip can be slightly more painful than usual, so don’t panic but just let your glider calm down for a moment, then proceed to pick it up or handle it with more care.

An angry bite

Now this happens to protective gliders and untame or unfriendly gliders. Can’t blame them for doing what is natural. I often get bitten by my breeding adults, particularly the males as they are being protective. What I do is just act normally, make a hissing sound and proceed with what I’m doing to their cage. Puncture wounds are normal when a glider bites you hard. With untame or protective adults, it is always wise NEVER to offer our fingers. The best way is to hold your hand into a fist and let them smell the back of your hand. If it does bite, it cannot grab hold of your skin or fleshy parts so it is quite safe.

Just remember a few tips when you bring home a new joey or glider, never offer your finger to it’s face. Never do sudden fast movements and never scare it with your hands. Gliders need to learn to trust you and feel safe in your hands and presence. So treat it with TLC.

How to introduce 2 gliders

Some people have been asking me how to introduce 2 gliders properly. There are a few ways. Normally joeys or gliders younger than 5 months OOP are easier to introduce, there is less chance of frighting.

Some people would use the old “toss and let it be” thing, which is to place the new glider straight away with the current glider in the current glider’s cage. Now this is terribly risky. If you are lucky, everything will turn out well but if a fight does happen, then the gliders will be tumbling about chasing and biting each other’s backs and rump. So how to do it the right way?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Have 2 cages. Each glider should have their own cage and it should be kept in the same room so they can smell each other’s scent. Soon they will try to communicate a bit. Let the cages stand about 3ft to 4ft apart first and let this go on for 3 days.
  2. Next, move the cages side by side to 6 inches apart. Let them get used to their cages being closed to one another and again, getting familiar with each other’s scent.
  3. 4 days later, start with exchanging sleeping pouches and whatever toys that are in their cages. Switching their stuff would make them get used to each other’s scent faster. This switching should be done everyday. I would continue this for about 4 to 5 days.
  4. Once the gliders have gotten used to each other’s scent, then move on to neutral ground introduction. How does this go? Well, just take both your gliders to a place where none have ever roamed in, for example, a bathroom with the window and toilet closed, or someone’s study room. Let them check each other out. A lot of sniffing and clicking will take place. If all goes well, then the gliders would just go about investigating each other. Let this neutral meeting take as long as a week. If fighting occurs, then put them back in their cages and repeat Step 3 again. You can even exchange bonding pouches as well.
  5. Once the gliders show no sign of aggression in a neutral place, then proceed to try them out in a single cage. First, take one of the cages and give a good washing and scrubbing to get rid of territorial markings. Then remove toys, bonding pouches and feeding bowls. Let the gliders stay in the empty cage together for a few hours with you watching. Repeat this for 3 days.
  6. If all goes well, then the pouches and food bowls can be included into the cage but place 2 pouches inside to be sure. The gliders are ready for a night together. You still have to monitor, make sure they do not fight. When 2 gliders are sleeping together in 1 sleeping pouch, then you can take the extra one away.

For young joeys, it takes a shorter time. Some joeys get along very well in the 1st neutral meeting, some would act tough, swipe their paw a bit and crab at the new comer but it would be ok after a while.

It would be different for an older glider to a joey. Some adults are friendly and would not mind a younger glider friend. Firstly, try the neutral introduction step, and if it fails, then proceed with my 6 steps for introducing 2 gliders.

Each glider can be different, some will instantly bond with the new glider (I have had several successful pairs) while some just cannot get along in a short period. So do not give up, just keep on trying and your gliders will get along fine.

Bonding

Sugar gliders are social creatures. Most of us get gliders because of their loyalty to their owners, being one of the best pocket pets around. Now gliders do not just stick like glue to you on the first day. You need to start a close friendship with your glider or joey. You need to get your glider or joey to get familiar with your voice, touch, scent and handling. All this is done through bonding and it takes time.

Honestly speaking, joeys are easier to bond with than adult gliders. In Malaysia, adult gliders that are available at pet shops in a price range between RM120 to Rm180 are WILD adult gliders. This is the same with suppliers, selling Wild sugar gliders for around RM60 to RM80. Yes, to a student or anyone who thinks spending RM300 is a waste since an adult is so cheap, these impulse buyers tend to regret later. I have heard of people releasing their adult gliders into our jungles just because it bites, smells, doesn’t like to be held and would not stay in their hands for a second. Gosh, they are so clueless. Impulse buyers with no research. The poor gliders would then starve and suffer in our local jungles for they can’t find their proper food, and they would most probably end up as dinner to our civet cats living in the wild. A pity….

Bonding

Don’t you wish your glider can sleep in your shirt pocket like the one is this picture?

The key to a close glider and owner bond is “The more time you spend with your glider, the closer the bond”. This is very true as I have personally experience gliders living in my room and being on me for most of the time during the day and gliders living out of my room and having only 2 to 3 hours with me. The gliders that are normally with me have a closeness that I can hardly explain. They trust me and come up to me eagerly. Anyway, here are some tips on bonding with a new joey. It applies to adults as well, just that adults take a slightly longer time to bond.

Like I said before, it doesn’t take overnight. Bonding means building a solid relation with your glider. It would take about 1 to 2 months for them to become really bonded to you. If you are the kind of person who spends very little time with your gliders, then the bonding process takes longer, maybe 6 months.

  • When you have brought home your joey or glider, place it in it’s cage and let it settle itself for about 2 days. Sometimes I advice people to give 24 hours but the best is actually 48 hours of rest from the stress of the new move. A new glider or joey needs time to settle, get used to it’s new environment and feel comfortable. Best is to just provide a sleeping pouch and some ropes to climb on in the cage for the 1st few days. Do not put a wheel inside first as the joey or glider may stay in it to feel safe and won’t venture out.
  • Place some of your worn tshirts on the cage and also inside it’s sleeping pouch. What I normally would do is keep a few old shirts on stand by. Wear them for a night or 2 to transfer my smell onto the shirts. Then I take 1 shirt and cut into a few pieces of scrap cloth. This pieces of cut up tshirt would go into the bonding pouch and sleeping pouch. My scent would be with them during their sleep. With the other shirts, I keep them aside and use them to partially cover the cage. This also makes the cage smell a bit like me and the gliders would then learn to feel comfortable around my smell.
  • No make sure you do not wear any perfume or deodorant. Some gliders would lick some of the residue if they are curious and it can be harmful. Anyway, you also do not want your smell to be overpowered by something sweet smelling as it can interfere with the bonding process.
  • Get a bonding pouch. You can easily purchase a bonding pouch either from Pet Shack or SuggieStuff. This is one of the essential things that you must have before getting a joey. A bonding pouch is a fleece pouch that you can hang around your neck. You can bring your joey anywhere during the day when it is asleep inside a bonding pouch. Some people may say that you do not need to bring your glider or joey everywhere you go but trust me, if you do it, you create a better bond and it shortens the bonding time too. New joeys and gliders would at first feel stressed and fidgety in a bonding pouch, but with time, they would adapt to the idea. Pouch bonding gets your joey or glider to familiarize with different sounds and smells, movement from your body as well as recognizing your scent.
  • Ladies, you can do another way of bonding which is called “Bra Bonding”. This is where you place your joey in your bra during the day. I have used this method before and it creates a bad habit, your glider would then like to enter your shirt or anyone’s shirt to find a snug place to sleep in. But do not worry, guys and girls, you can also do bonding by having your joey or glider sleep in the pocket of a shirt. Only do this when you are in your home or room because most shirt pockets have no zipper, and if a joey or glider jumps out in a public place, then that would just create panic and trouble.
  • No new joeys and gliders can easily get freaked out by fast movements, so slow down yourself when you are with your joey or glider. Never move your arms fast or grab them fast as this would trigger their instinct to either sprint away to hide or attack back by biting and clawing.
  • Gliders recognize voices, so talk to your joey or glider everyday.
  • Never chase your new glider or joey when it is inside it’s cage. This would just make the bonding process longer. Tempt your glider by offering food. Mealworms, dried fruits or a bit of fruit preserve on your finger works wonders. Also, remember to train your glider to accept your hand. Whenever you have time, place your hand into their cage, pet them or hand feed them. This creates better bonding.
  • For playtime, use a small room that is glider safe or purchase a camping tent. I normally use my own bed room for bonding and play time but a tent is better. A glider would have little space to escape and hide, a tent would also have less distractions so a glider would learn to trust and bond easier.
  • Important, never put your hand into your glider’s bonding pouch or sleeping pouch. This can cause panic to your gliders as they feel like they are being attacked. Coax your glider or joey out slowly by using a treat, or just use your hands to nudge them out from the outside of the pouch. I always explain to people that they should slowly push a glider out of the pouch by using the same method when they are trying to squeeze toothpaste. Of course they have to do it gently and slowly.

Some gliders can become pouch protective, so to overcome that, coax your glider with treats. When your glider is in it’s pouch, talk to it and use your hands to touch it from outside the pouch. Normally with new gliders, this would cause a lot of crabbing but once gliders are used to this routine, they would not be pouch protective later.

It is rewarding to have a bonded glider. So take your time to train and bond with your glider. Remember, the longer time you spend with your gliders, the better the bond.

Picture credits go to Andrew and Connie for the first 2 pictures. The last goes to KJ. Thanks