Glider Proofing Your Home
Glider proofing your entire home is very important. Even if you only ever allow your glider into one room, looking at the entire house from a glider's perspective is imperative. Sugar gliders are very clever, intelligent animals. This intelligence, combined with their opposable thumbs, speed and agility, enables them to quickly get to places we don't expect or want them to. Never leave your glider unattended when they are out of their cage. There are way too many hazards in our homes that have the potential to be deadly to our little companions. The sad reality is that although gliders have a potential lifespan in captivity of 12-15 years, the average lifespan in captivity is only 6-8 years. Accidental deaths account for much of this disparity. This article will identify various areas and things to watch for so that your home can be glider proof. However, please remember that no list can be totally complete. It is your responsibility to observe your home from a glider's perspective to ensure their health, well-being and longevity.
The bathroom can be one of the most hazardous areas in your home for your glider.
Many people use their bathroom as a small, confined space to start the bonding process with their glider. Even if you don't allow your glider access to your bathroom, you must make sure you take special precautions in this highly dangerous room.
The toilet is one of the greatest hazards known to captive gliders. Although gliders can swim, once they fall into the toilet, there is no way for them to get back out again. They will tire quickly and end up drowning. Make sure the toilet lid is kept closed at all times when not in use. Some toilet seats sit up a bit high off the rim of the toilet. Get down on eye level with the seat and check to see how much space is between the rim and the seat. If it is more than 3/8", try to find a lower-profile seat to replace it with. Gliders can fit through very tiny spaces and their curiosity may get the better of them.
One way to prevent accidental drowning in a toilet is to make a "glider ladder" using vinyl-coated hardware cloth - this wonderful gadget was invented by GC's BMXGirl and has saved many gliders' lives. Pictured at left, you can see how easy it would be to make and insert one of these life-saving gadgets onto your toilet rim. Keep the Glider Ladder in your toilet at all times. Make it just long enough that the bottom of it hangs about an inch above the level of the water, then place it towards the back of your toilet - this will keep it more sanitary.
Another way to prevent accidental drownings is by placing a sign in the bathroom to remind people to "Close the Lid!" Keeping the lid closed at all times when not in use will help to prevent your glider from accidentally falling into the toilet to begin with. It is a habit that takes time to get used to, but could very well be the life-saving factor for your glider. I had Chris Hamann (GC's glidrz5) do the artwork for the sign pictured here. Click on the picture for a printable version for your bathrooms!
Other hazards to look for in your bathroom include:
- make sure all cabinet doors are securely closed
- always turn off the cold water last to prevent scalding
- make sure all razors and hazardous chemicals are kept away behind closed doors
- unplug all razors, blowdryers, curling irons, etc. when not in use
- never leave any water in the sink or the tub
- make sure each drain has a screen or cover that your glider can't get through
- look under the sink to ensure that there aren't holes your glider can fit through in the wall or around the piping
- use child safety plugs in all outlets
- make sure any items on the walls don't have any sharp points or edges
- check along the baseboards under the cabinets to make sure there are no gaps a glider can fit through
Other than the bathroom, your kitchen has the potential to be the most dangerous room in your home for your glider. Many of the hazards found in a bathroom can also be found in the kitchen. In addition, the stove, refrigerator and other appliances produce hazards of their own. For example, gliders have been found electrocuted inside electric stoves. Check all areas in the kitchen and glider-proof them to the best of your ability. If at all possible, close the kitchen off entirely from the rest of the house and make sure that the door has no more than a 1/2" gap at the bottom edge.
The laundry room poses its own unique set of hazards for gliders. Washers and dryers both have large gaps under them where a glider could run underneath and hide out. The dryer has a vent that leads directly outdoors. The washer has drain pipes that could be a serious hazard to your glider. Not to mention all of the high voltage outlets and cords. Gliders will curl up in your clothing and go to sleep. If you don't carefully check all clothing items before putting them in the washer, your glider could be killed during the washing cycle. The best way to keep your glider safe from the laundry room is to keep it closed off entirely so that your glider can't access it.
Most furniture has gaps underneath so your glider could easily run underneath. Try to block these gaps with something, such as vinyl coated hardware cloth; otherwise, you may find yourself enlisting someone's aid to move heavy, bulky furniture to try to get to your glider.
Do not keep anything sharp, pointed or breakable on horizontal surfaces, such as dressers, end tables, coffee tables, t.v. stands, etc.
Make sure that all perfumes, colognes, medications, contact lens solutions, etc. are put away in closed cupboards or drawers.
If you have a sleeper sofa, hideaway bed or recliner, try to block the the gaps underneath them with something. If your glider gets into one of these, DO NOT OPEN IT! The glider could get stuck in the hinges.
"Dust bunnies" tend to gather underneath furniture quickly. Dust underneath all furniture regularly to avoid dirt and dust getting into your glider's respiratory system.
When gliders get going, they don't stop to check for the stability of their landing site - they just land. Pictures and wall hangings should be hung with two nails/hangers whenever possible to ensure that it won't tip or fall off the wall if your glider lands on it. Knick knacks, although pretty, should be kept to a minimum in the room(s) your glider frequents. Sharp objects can be deadly to a gliding glider and should be kept in closed drawers or cupboards. If you use a pencil cup, pens and pencils should be kept point-down. Make sure any indoor plants are glider-safe by checking Moondance Sugar Gliders’ Toxic Plant & Trees List. Curtains and tapestries should be checked regularly to make sure there aren't any loose threads or holes that your glider could get a limb or nail caught in.
Electrical Outlets, Cords and Wires
Don't take any chances with electrical outlets, cords and wires. Sugar gliders can become electrocuted very easily by chewing on a cord or by sticking their tongue into an open outlet. It has happened before and is heart-wrenching, knowing that it could have been prevented. Use child safety plugs for all outlets throughout the house. Wipe electrical cords down with Jalepeno Pepper Juice periodically to prevent your glider from chewing on them. Bitter Apple spray will not deter a determined glider, pepper juice will.
Heating and Air Ducts and Accessories
Baseboard heaters, electric heaters, furnace vents, fans, humidifiers, air conditioners, etc. can be hazardous to your glider. Purchase aluminum screening or hardware cloth from your local hardware store and line the inside of these areas so that all holes are blocked. Air and heat will still flow unimpeded, but your glider won't be able to get inside.
Miscellaneous Home Accessories
Gliders love to get up as high as they can and then glide down: ceiling fans are very tempting to a glider for this reason. Ceiling Fans sometimes have holes in the base that are large enough for a glider to get into or stuck in: cover them with aluminum screening or hardware cloth. Also, dust off the blades regularly to prevent dirt/dust inhalation. When gliders are playing in the room, turn off the power to the ceiling fan.
Surround-sound speakers should be checked to see if there are any holes in them. A couple of years ago, one of my gliders discovered a hole in the back of one of our speakers. It was the perfect size for her to crawl inside the speaker. I had to take the speaker apart to get her back out again. Luckily, she didn't chew on any of the wires while inside, nor did the stereo get turned on (which would have deafened her). Again, use aluminum screening or hardware cloth to block any holes.
Watering Cans and/or Vases and/or Buckets: these unexpected sources of water can be a drowning hazard to your glider. Make sure that you do not keep water in them when they are not in direct use. Storing water in a watering can may mean accidental death for your glider as one of my friends found out the hard way. She had a vase with some water in the bottom of it that she hadn't gotten emptied out yet... her glider found it the hard way and drowned before she discovered him.
Fish Tanks: these large sources of water can be extremely hazardous to gliders. Make sure that the entire top of the tank is securely covered to prevent your glider from accidentally drowning.
Chance encounters with other pets can be dangerous to either your glider or to the other pet. Keep other pets out of the room where your gliders are housed if at all possible.
Birds should be kept in a completely different area of the home. In the wild, large birds are the biggest predator of sugar gliders. In captivity, gliders don't know the difference between whether a bird is an actual threat or not. When a captive glider hears a bird, it automatically reacts with fear. This causes your glider undue stress and will affect its overall health over time. Small birds could become the prey of an active, hungry glider.
If you have a cat, don't assume that it will leave your glider alone. Cats are naturally hunters and even the most domesticated cat may revert to its instincts. If a cat gets ahold of your glider, it can easily break the glider's neck with just one toss. A couple of years before I got Pika, she was attacked by a cat in her previous owner's home. The cat gouged her eye out of its socket. Although the veterinarian was able to save her eye, Pika has a corneal scar right over her pupil, rendering her blind in that eye and also has permanent scarring on her forehead. Also, catnip is highly toxic to sugar gliders and should not be kept in the home at all since a cat will leave little bits of it around that could get ground into the carpeting or upholstery and your glider might find it later.
Some dogs are hunting breeds with the instincts that go along with that. Even a small dog could kill a glider with its powerful jaws. Most dogs are intrigued by sugar gliders, at the very least. Keep dogs away from your glider whenever it is out of its cage.
Rabbits are known carriers of a very dangerous virus called Pasteruellosis. This is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is fatal to sugar gliders if contracted. Therefore, rabbits need to be kept in a completely different area of the home from where the gliders are housed. Preferably on a different floor if possible.
If you feel your glider is sick, please seek immediate veterinary assistance. The information on this page and in the correlating articles is for general educational purposes and is not intended to replace proper vet care. Please do not try to self-diagnose or self-treat your glider.