Sugar gliders are interesting animals -- there's no doubt about that. In fact, there's a debate about whether or not sugar gliders should be owned as pets in the first place. These creatures retain most of their wild habits and don't make for good pets for most people. One characteristic of sugar gliders that makes them poor pets is the fact that they have the tendency to bite their owners.
Do Sugar Gliders Bite?
Yes, sugar gliders do bite, and they bite for many reasons. Your sugar glider may bite you because it's hungry, annoyed, curious, or just cleaning you. No matter the reason, this is a behavior that should be understood and discouraged when it's done maliciously.
Unlike animals like gerbils, sugar gliders rely on biting as their main source of defense whenever they feel trapped or threatened. There are many things that can trigger sugar gliders, ranging from strange scents on your hands to quick movements that they weren't expecting.
While defensive bites are certainly prominent in sugar gliders, they also utilize other kinds of bites. Very soft sugar glider bites are actually a display of affection and are commonly combined with numerous licks. Slightly harder bites are more of a warning and are most commonly used by sugar gliders that are more comfortable around their owners. Very hard bites occur when the sugar glider is legitimately scared.
Knowing the many different reasons for a sugar glider bite is important in avoiding and preventing bites in the first place. Bringing the amount of times that you're bitten by sugar gliders down to 0 is actually quite simple to do.
Do Sugar Glider Bites Hurt?
Most sugar glider bites do not hurt. Any bite that's made as an act of affection or is done on accident almost never hurts and ranges from a dull poke to a tiny pinch. However, fear-based bites can hurt depending on the sugar glider and reason behind the bite.
Bites from sugar gliders around 8 weeks old rarely hurt as they simply don't have the strength to put behind a bite. However, a sugar glider around 16 weeks old can pack more of a punch. However, these bites are more shocking than painful as they're usually quick and unexpected. Older sugar gliders are a lot more capable of inflicting pain and breaking skin with a bite, but they rarely do that.
Sugar glider bites are often equated to being poked with a toothpick. Stronger bites are similar to hamster bites. Neither of those are particularly pleasant, but they're also nothing serious.
How To Avoid Getting Bitten By Your Sugar Glider
Proper knowledge is the main part of avoiding sugar glider bites. People with proper animal handling and interaction skills rarely get bitten by sugar gliders because they act in ways that aren't threatening and don't instill fear in the animal. People that run towards a sugar glider with a finger outreached are basically begging the timid creature to bite them.
It's important to utilize these strategies with your sugar glider as early as possible to avoid biting and to prevent bad habits from forming. It can be difficult to get a bite-prone sugar glider back on track and acting appropriately.
Know That Some Bites Are Normal!
While fear-based biting is what most people are aware of (and what this post focuses on), sugar gliders bite for other reasons, too!
Friendly nibbles are incredibly common and are typically done when a sugar glider is just sitting calmly in the hand of a human that they trust. This is a natural behavior that can hurt a little bit but is mostly harmless.
Sugar gliders can also nibble when they're hungry! This is a sap sucker animal, often resulting in them biting items (and humans) in search of food due to their tendency to strip away the bark on trees. When this is done, just offer your sugar glider some food -- most of the time this stops the nibbling once they're no longer hungry.
Move Slowly & Don't Disturb Your Sugar Glider
First thing's first: always move with purpose around your sugar glider. These creatures are small and fragile, meaning that they've evolved to be quite timid and nervous. Even if your sugar glider is safely kept in their cage and you're the only one around, quick movements can cause them to become stressed out and bite in retaliation.
Making sudden movements towards your sugar glider to grab them is a great way to scare them and cause them to bite you in retaliation. Additionally, if you go to grab your sugar glider and they actively avoid your hand, don't try to chase them around. This will stress them out immensely and cause them to bite in hopes of stopping you.
Moving slowly around sugar gliders does wonders for keeping them calm and keeping their teeth from puncturing your skin.
Don't Be Restrictive In Holding Them
It's important to note that sugar gliders really don't enjoy being held. However, as they become bonded to you and feel more comfortable in your presence, they'll gladly hold onto your body themselves. Therefore, handling your sugar glider should be something that you slowly work up to as you prioritize their comfort.
When a sugar glider is in your hands, you should mostly be prioritizing freedom of motion. Don't hold your sugar glider restrictively, as this will make them feel trapped and will cause them to lash out. You should also not move them around quickly, as this will cause them to fear for their lives.
Note that since you won't be holding your sugar glider tightly, you need to make sure that they're safe. Always handle your sugar glider either over soft surfaces or barely above the ground. If your sugar glider bites you and you react to it, you don't want them falling several feet to a hard surface and hurting themselves.
Give Them Time To Trust You
Sugar gliders bond to their owners, and will become much more trusting of them as time progresses. As this trust increases, fearful bites will decrease dramatically, and they may be replaced with some of the biting behaviors described above.
When you get a new sugar glider, it's recommended that you take things slow. Keep handling to a minimum, and let the sugar glider become comfortable in its surroundings and in your presence. Make brief contact with them during feeding periods and while playing, but don't jump into things too fast.
Over time, you'll start to notice your sugar glider becoming more comfortable around you. They may even actively try and climb onto you! If you go to handle your sugar glider and it bites you, simply put it down and wait a bit longer. All sugar gliders are different, so yours may become comfortable quicker or slower than others.