Moosh - sugar glider

If you’re thinking about getting a sugar glider as an emotional support animal, you most likely have lots of questions. Would they make a good exotic ESA, and most importantly, are they legal to own? Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about emotional support gliders!

What are sugar gliders?

Sugar gliders are furry little animals native to Australia that are similar to flying squirrels. They can actually glide through the air and prefer to eat sugary foods such as sap and nectar (they’re also suckers for a mealworm snack). They’re typically about 9–12 inches long and weigh about four ounces for females and five ounces for males. Their fur is thick and soft and is usually a blue-gray color. They’re nocturnal and tend to shelter during the day. Sugar gliders have a lifespan of 5–12 years.

Why do they make good ESAs?

Sugar gliders can make good emotional support animals because they’re very cute and are little enough to be easily transportable. Because baby sugar gliders are carried around in their mother’s pouch, they love hanging out in your shirt pocket or in a fabric pouch. They also tend to be affectionate and like to interact and play. However, there are some downsides to owning emotional support gliders. As cuddly as they are, their sharp claws can make it uncomfortable to hold them with bare hands. And because they fly, they can be hard to manage in a large space. Additionally, they tend to mark their territory by defecating, which means they can fly around and poop all over your home. If this isn’t something that bothers you, an ESA glider might be a good fit. If you don’t mind having more than one emotional support animal, it’s also recommended that sugar gliders be purchased in pairs, since they’re used to residing in groups in the wild. The interaction with another glider can help stop them from feeling lonely. Also, keep in mind that a sugar glider will make a good emotional support animal for you if you’re able to spend time with it at night, since they sleep during the day.

Moosh - sugar glider cage

These cute little critters can make great emotional support animals in the right conditions.

Where can I get a sugar glider?

If you want to adopt a sugar glider, make sure to go through a reputable breeder. Be sure to avoid mall kiosks, as they are often run like puppy mills – this means the animals are bred and raised in inhumane conditions. Some are even shipped around the world in tiny containers. Try to steer clear of any breeders that are breeding large amounts of animals; this is typically a sign that unsafe practices are being used. If you’re not sure where to find a breeder, do an internet search or ask your veterinarian for suggestions.

What would I need to house my ESA glider?

Emotional support gliders need large cages to live in so that they have room to jump and glide around. They can be allowed out of their cages – but only if they’re being supervised! The cage should have a small pouch or bag (which you can buy at a pet supply store) that is placed high up for them to sleep or hide during the day. The cage should be lined with shredded paper, which should be changed weekly. There should also be some branches and shelves for the gliders to perch on. Gliders also enjoy bird toys, swings, and exercise wheels (typically used for rodents). Your ESA glider would need multiple food dishes and a water dish or sipper bottle (to be changed daily). For food, they should be eating a diet that includes 25% protein (such as egg and insects), 25% leafy vegetables and fruit, and 50% sugar glider pellet food (which serves as the nectar they’re used to eating in the wild). If you’re not sure exactly what you should be feeding your glider, talk to your veterinarian.

Are they legal?

Emotional support gliders are legal in many areas with some exceptions. Most cities and states in the U.S. permit sugar gliders to be kept as pets, except in California, Hawaii, Alaska, and New York City. Some states (such as Georgia and New Mexico) do require permits or licensing if you’re keeping a sugar glider as a pet. Breeders of sugar gliders are regulated and licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) through the Animal Welfare Act. There are some areas of the globe, including Western Australia, New South Wales, and Tasmania that completely prohibit people from owning sugar gliders as pets.

Moosh - sugar glider in hand

It’s important to check that emotional support gliders are legal where you live before you purchase such an exotic ESA.

Can emotional support gliders be taken on airplanes?

Each airline has various regulations regarding bringing animals on board the plane. These rules are also changing quite frequently as airlines are reacting to people bringing more emotional support animals with them when they travel. Some airlines have recently restricted having exotic ESA pets on board (even if they are strictly being used as an ESA). Both Southwest and JetBlue Airlines have specifically banned sugar gliders from traveling in the cabin of the plane with you. If you’re not sure of the policies of the airline you’ll be traveling with, head to the company’s website, which should have the information you’ll need to know if you’re allowed to bring your sugar glider on board.

Because sugar gliders aren’t terribly common, you might have to do some research to make sure they’re the right emotional support animal for you. But if their behavioral traits will feel comforting to you, an ESA glider can serve as a nice companion to help alleviate some of your mental health symptoms.