What Can A Sugar Glider Eat?

I was considering getting a sugar glider and I learned a lot about them in the process. It turns out that sugar gliders are new to the United States and still not much is known about them. There is also controversy over what to feed them as veterinary guidelines are still being established.

So what can a sugar glider eat? You should keep your sugar gliders diet as close to what they eat in the wild. This includes insects, meats, fruits, nectar, and sap. In captivity, they can be fed Leadbeater’s mixture, cooked meat, green vegetables, sweet potatoes, and certain fruits.

 

Sugar Glider 1
©Manuka Honey USA

 

What a Sugar Glider Can Eat

It’s important to feed the right diet to your sugar glider. They need a complex and balanced diet. Feeding them the wrong food can lead to nutritional diseases. Some people have even killed their sugar gliders by feeding them with the wrong diet.

I’ve compiled a table of foods that are approved by various breeders & published veterinary studies but keep in mind that there is a lot of controversy over what the best diet for a sugar glider is. The foods below are safe but please follow whichever dietary plan your breeder recommends.

 

Fruit Vegetables Protein Other
Apples Asparagus Meal Worms Honey
Apricots Beets Crickets Dried fruits (no added salt/sugar)
Bananas Broccolo Boiled Chicken Yogurt Drops
Blackberries Brussel Sprouts Turkey Cheerios
Blueberries Carrots Scrambled Eggs Cooked Noodles
Cantelope Cauliflower Hardboiled Eggs Apple Juice (very limited quantities)
Cherries (Sweet) Celery Avian Pellets
Coconut Collard Greens Leadbeater’s mixture
Crab Apples Cucumber
Cranberries Dandelion Greens
Dates Eggplant
Figs Green Cabbage
Grapes Green Beans
Grapefruit (limit) Mushrooms
Honeydew Melon Mustard Greens
Kiwi Parsley
Kumquat Green Peas
Lemon Potatoes
Lemon Peel Pumpkin
Lemon Peel Red Cabbage
Lime Squash
Mandarin Sweet Potatoes
Mango Tomatoes
Melon Yams
Nectarine (limit) Yellow Corn
Orange Peel (Limit)
Oranges (Limit)
Papaya
Passion Fruit
Peach
Pear
Pineapple
Plum
Prunes
Raisins
Raspberries
Strawberries
Tangerine
Watermelon (limit)

 

This list is not exhaustive as we are learning more each day. You may want to experiment with certain foods and see what works. The goal should be to establish a balanced diet and stick with it for the duration of the glider’s life.

 

Foods NOT To Feed Your Sugar Glider

The foods listed below should be avoided completely. If you think you may have fed them something on this list then be sugar to monitor them closely. If anything appears out of the ordinary contact your veterinarian immediately.

  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Chocolate
  • Baby Foods
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Caffeine
  • Cheese
  • Chives
  • Chocolate
  • Fried Foods
  • Cheese
  • Chives
  • Chocolate
  • Fried Foods
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Pits (From Fruit)
  • Lima Beans
  • Raw Eggs
  • Raw Meat
  • Rhubarb
  • Too much acidic juice

 

A Proper Diet Has Not Been Established Yet

There is controversy and disagreement over what type of diet is best. As their name indicates, sugar gliders love sweet things. In the wild, they prefer fruits, nectar, sap, and pollen but they also eat insects and even small birds. It can be difficult to replicate this in captivity and the verdict is still out on the best type of diet to feed them.

Many zoos and veterinarians recommend feeding a mixture of pellets, nectar, and insects. A study published in PubMed indicates that sugar gliders prefer to eat pellets over fruit. The study also showed that they can digest a wide variety of “energy substrates” including simple sugars, fats, starches, and insoluble dietary fiber without any issues.

 

Sugar Gliders & Calcium

Sugar gliders have complex nutritional needs that need to be met to keep them in optimal health. There is still debate over what those needs are. A diet deficient in calcium could lead to developing metabolic bone disease. Many breeders recommend including a calcium carbonate powder sprinkled onto their food. 

Here is where it gets tricky: a diet with too much calcium could lead to the development of urinary tract disease. Some vets recommend that greens rich in calcium and oxalate should be limited but the common consensus among owners is that calcium supplementation is needed. You will have to come to your own conclusion on this. Talk to your veterinarian or breeder to make the right decision.

 

Tips To Keep In Mind When Feeding

  • Place the food in a bowl towards the top of the enclosure
  • Place food in multiple locations
    • This keeps them active
  • Do not place food on the ground
    • It’s not normal for sugar gliders to spend time on the ground. This will make them nervous and activate their fight/flight response as in the wild they are prey. They spend very little time on the ground in their natural habitat
  • Place a light inside the enclosure at night (if housing outdoors) that will attract insects into the cage. This will be additional food (and fun) for your glider
    • If you live in an area where a large amount of insecticide is used then you may not want to do this
  • Keep fresh water available at all times and change it daily
  • Choose foods that have a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1
    • This will provide a good nutritional balance in their diet. 
  • Give them foods they like but add variety.
    • Sugar gliders are picky about what they eat. They prefer sweet foods but also need a variety of vegetables and proteins.
  • Clean their cage daily.
    • They are very messy eaters and their bedding/lining in their cage should be changed every day

 

Sugar Glider 2
©LuvBat

 

When to feed a sugar glider?

Since they are nocturnal, the best time to feed them is in the evening around dusk. They can be given snacks during the day but it’s best to give them their biggest meal at night. Feeder trays or bowls should be placed up high towards the top of their cages.

 

What kind of worms do sugar gliders eat?

They can eat a wide variety of worms but live mealworms seem to be the most popular among owners. Some of them also recommend using Black Soldier Fly Larvae due to the Calcium-to-Phosphorus ratio of 1.75 to 1.

 

Different Types of Diet

There are a wide variety of diets. Some of them have a strict list of fruits and vegetables while others are more relaxed. You should stick to the diet or meal plan your breeder gave you but if it’s not working you may want to switch. A popular one is the Bourbon’s Modified Leadbeater’s Diet. 

 

The Bourbon’s Modified Leadbeater’s Diet

The original Bournon’s Leadbeater’s Diet (BML) was formulated for Sugar Gliders in Australia at the Taronga Zoo. When gliders became popular as pets this diet was modified to make it easier for people in the United States. This is a very popular diet that is high in calcium.

This diet is strict and has a list of specific vegetables and fruits that should be used. With BML you can feed your glider corn, peas, carrots, green beans, apples, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, frozen pitted cherries, and blueberries.

Make the BML mix and add it to a mixture of these fruits and vegetables.

BML Mix Ingredients & Directions

  • ½ Cup Honey
    • Do not use honeycomb
    • Do not use raw honey
  • ¼ Cup Gerber Juice
  • 1 Egg
    • Scrambled or hard boiled
    • Do not use the shell
  • ¼ Cup Plain Yogurt
  • ¼ Cup Wheat Germ
  • 1 teaspoon Rep-Cal Herptivite Multivitamin supplement
    • Can be ordered online or found at PetsMart
    • Do not make substitutions
  • 2 teaspoons Rep-Cal Calcium Supplement
    • Non-phosphorus with Vitamin D3
    • Can also be found online or at Petsmart
  • 2 2 ½ oz jars of stage 1 or 2 Gerber or Heinz baby food
  • ½ cup dry baby cereal
    • Rice or oatmeal
  • ¼ Apple Juice

Blend ingredients together.

The mix can be made at the beginning of each month and should be enough for 4-weeks or so. Put 3-weeks worth of mixture into the freezer and dethraw as needed.

When feeding use this ratio:

  • 1 tablespoon of the BML mix
  • 1 tablespoon of fruits
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetables.

 

So, what can a sugar glider eat? By now you should have a good idea what to feed and what not to feed a sugar glider. Once you choose a diet and create a meal plan it’s important to stick with it long enough for your glider to adjust. Any sudden changes in diet may be too harsh for your glider to handle–so if making changes monitor them closely.