Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Importance of a Good Manicure

Our first "medical" issue with the gliders occurred a month after we got them when Foehn tore off one of the nails on her right front paw. A visit to the vet was reassuring in that she wasn't seriously injured, but he said that the nail may not grow back. Their nails are used for climbing, grooming, and holding food, and while the loss of one nail wasn't going to hold her back, we still felt bad that this happened.  It was just recently that I noticed that the nail has in fact grown back! The last time we trimmed their nails about six weeks ago it wasn't evident. I'm not quite sure but I think it was the second finger that was injured. As you can see in the photo below all of her nails are normal now. Her 'thumb" is under her body and not visible..

Here is a photo of her entire paw (a little out of focus) showing all five "fingers".

If their nails get too long they start to curl under and are prone to catching on things. If they do get caught on something the gliders will try and free themselves and that can result in injury. So, we check their pouches and other things to make sure there are no loose threads or anything else that they can get hung up on. We also attach wet/dry emery paper to their wheel every other week. As they run on the wheel their nails are kept trimmed to a normal length. If their nails get too long then we have to actually trim their nails with a nail clipper, which is an interesting exercise. The gliders are pretty good about it, but it takes both M and I to get the job done. Fortunately, the wet/dry paper on the wheel seems to be doing the trick.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Office Party

I was in Atlanta, Georgia last week for a conference, so M was home alone with Foehn and CB. Since she prefers not to use the tent because it is hard for her to sit in it for too long, she spent time with the gliders in my office, With the office door closed and a blanket on the floor, she let the roam and explore out of the cage. They seemed to really enjoy the "wide open spaces", as opposed to the confines of the tent. They especially like climbing on the outside of the cage and then jumping on to M, and then back to the cage. I;m still a little nervous about them loose in the office because there are places they can get to that we can't, but since they have explored most of it they seem to be staying near the cage and near us. I joined them om the office last weekend after my return from Atlanta, but both Foehn and CM seemed a little skittish around me which was disappointing. However, the last couple of nights of time in the tent seems to have taken care of that. M had them out this evening for a bit and Foehn was jumping to both of us (and from one to the other, as a matter of fact). CB crawled into M's shirt and made himself comfortable there. After a while we got them back into the pouch where they settled down to sleep for a few hours before tent time. We had a good session tonight. Both of them were very active and jumping from me to the tent and back for the better part of an hour. CB found my shirt pocket for the first time and made himself comfortable there a couple of times. They are now back in their cage, and someone is running in the wheel. The only light in the office is from the glow from the screen, so I can't tell who is in the wheel. It's probably Foehn, as CB usually takes a nap after having something to eat.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This 'n' That

Now that Foehn and CB have come so far in their "social development" the additional changes seem to come slower, which is natural, but they are happening.

A good sign that M was starting to get back to normal after her battle with a nasty virus for over two weeks was that she got back into sewing. With the holidays over it was time to replace their Christmas tree sleeping pouch with a new one. M made two new sleeping pouches, one a snowman and the other a mitten.

They are both hung in the cage, but Foehn and CB quickly picked the mitten pouch as their favorite. The snowman is just a little too roomy for them, as they do like to nestle down with their fleece blankets deep in the pouch. We usually leave the fleece blankets (about 6 x 6 inches) tucked in to the top of the pouch. Once they crawl in you see a little squirming, and then the blankets slowly get pulled down into the pouch. There's a little more squirming around as they get things just they way they want them, and then they go to sleep.

They have been spending more time on me in the tent. CB still likes to crawl in my shirt, and now Foehn has discovered my shirt pocket. There was a little incentive, however. I had a small piece of yogurt drop in the pocket, and of course she found it. The other night, however, after checking my pocket and not finding anything to snack on, she curled up in the pocket and made herself comfortable. I think she may have napped a bit, very unlike her when she is in the tent. She spent about 20 to 30 minutes there before she decided to come out and join her brother climbing and jumping in the tent.

M has been letting them out of the cage in my office and they are enjoying the extra exploration space. After climbing out of the cage tonight and to the floor, they started climbing up M's leg to her shoulder and jumping off to the side of the cage. They have never really come to us like that before and it's a sign that their trust continues to develop.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Catching Up

I haven't had much time to blog lately. M has been battling a nasty virus the last two weeks and has been generally out of commission, so I have been preoccupied with other things. There have been a few interesting developments the last week to ten days (at least in my mind). Nothing of great significance all by itself, but collectively I think it shows that their trust is continuing to develop.

About a week ago we had a late tent time - we didn't get started until a little after 10:00 p.m. Normally I shoot for 9:15 or 9:30 at the latest.  We were set up in the family room, and the only light was from the Christmas tree and the TV.  About 11:00 p.m. the lights on the tree went off (on a timer), so it was dark. CB, sitting on my knee, started to bark. He continued to bark for a minute or so. Foehn did not seem to be paying too much attention to it, and I could not quite figure out what he was trying to communicate. About 10 minutes later I decided to call it a night (and it was past their dinner time), and laid their pouch on the floor of the tent as usual. Foehn went and checked it out and then came right back out. CB didn't appear interested, and that was unusual. I waited for five minutes and they still weren't interested. This was the first time they have not gone to their pouch since they started doing it regularly. Perhaps the dark was their cue to play. I left them in the tent and to put their food in the cage.  I turned on the light in the room hoping they would get the hint. Sure enough, when I looked in the tent after placing their food they were both in the pouch, looking out at me as if to say "What are you waiting for??"  One of these nights I'm going to have tent time, or part of it, in the dark to see if this behavior is repeated.

CB has discovered that he can crawl into my shirt between the buttons, and now that has been part of his nightly routine. It's warm, and it's familiar. The first few times he did this  he would crawl in one side, around my back, and come back out from the other side. The last couple of nights he has crawled to my left side and settled in. I think he likes the heavy flannel shirts I've been wearing. Usually I can feel him grooming, but the last two nights he has curled up and gone to sleep. This is supposed to be his exercise time, so after five minutes or so I reach in with my hand, cup it around him and help him out.The neat thing is that he has not jumped out of my hand or tried to bite me, but lets me hold him in my hand inside my shirt. CB has been "hand shy" so this is a big step,although he still tends to avoid my hand outside the security of my shirt.

CB catching 20 winks inside my shirt

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Year, and Diet Time

With all the attention on diet and fitness at the start of a new year I thought I would write a little about what sugar gliders, and in particular our gliders, eat on a day to day basis. In the wild sugar gliders eat insects, small vertebrates, flower nectar, and the sap and leaves of certain plants, in particular eucalyptus, acacia, and certain gum trees. They do have a penchant for sweet foods, and hence the name "sugar gliders".  In captivity, we try to keep a proper balance of protein, vegetables, and fruit.  Gliders are susceptiple to calcium deficiency which can lead to various problems, including Hind Leg Paralysis. In general a glider's diet needs to have a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2 to1. Over the past several years there have been a number of diets developed by glider owners and vets to provide sugar gliders with the right balance of nutrients. There have been a couple of pelleted diets developed, but none of them provide complete nutrition. Some are repackaged and relabeled food developed for other animals.  Gliders also like variety, something that pellets don't really provide.  There are two particularly popular diets,  the BML diet and the HPW diet. Both of these provide basic protein, vitamins, and minerals, and are supplemented with fruits and vegetables. There are many other diets out there as well, and they vary in their foods and their complexity to prepare.

Foehn and CB are on what's called the Blended Diet, which we feel combines the best of the BML and HPW diets and is more flexible about what fruits and vegetables you can feed them. Our gliders love this, and there has not been a night yet where they haven't "cleaned their plate". Gliders are small animals - Foehn and CB weigh about 75 to 80 grams right now (about 2.5 to 3 ounces).We give them each about a teaspoon and a half of the Blended Diet. M makes up a batch, freezes it in ice cube trays, then stores the cubes in a bag in the freezer. Each cube is enough for both gliders . We also give them a tablespoon each of fruits and a tablespoon of vegetables.  There are certain fruits and vegetables which are better than others because of their calcium to phosphorus ratio, and we try to give them a good selection. They do have their likes and dislikes.  They love papaya (most gliders do), various melons, grapes, and apples. Actually, they like most fruit we have given them. They are more picky in the vegetable department. They love bok choy (Chinese cabbage), collard greens, sweet red pepper, carrots, and to a lesser exent green beans. They aso like various squashes,  spinach and broccoli. However, you have to be careful to not give too much spinach and other leafy vegetables with high iron because it will inhibit calcium uptake. They do not like green peas at all. I tried again the other night, putting the peas on top of some carrots I chopped into pieces. Well, they showed me. They not only didn't eat the peas, but I don't think they touched the carrots, either, and they love carrots. That was the first time I can remember that they left that much in the dish. During the day, Foehn and CB also get mealworms as a treat.

Of course, not all vegetables are good for them and may in fact harm them - onions and garlic, for example. There are a lot of resources now available or glider owners to determine what is good and not good for their pets.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Someone Had A New Year's Eve Party...

...but it wasn't me! I was in bed before midnight, as I have been most of this week. M has been down with a severe case of the flu (we think) the entire week, and I have not been sleeping well.

Since M has been sick, the gliders have been a little out of their routine. She normally wakes them up mid-afternoon for a mealie snack and to move them to a bonding pouch. I just haven't had time to do that. So, last night I spent a long time (~2 hours) in the tent with them. Both Foehn and CB were in pretty frisky mood, having slept about 14 hours without interuption. There were both climbing all over me and using me as a launch point to the tent sides and to their tent tree. It was a lot of fun, and the only reason I ended it as I was getting tired and they wanted dinner.

I did give them their morning treat today, and surprisingly neither seemed really interested in trying to come out of the cage. That was fine with me, as I was half awake. Within seconds of taking their last licks they were crawling into their sleeping pouch. I went back to bed for awhile myself. It was later in the morning when I came back into the office with my coffee that I noticed the mess in and around their cage. I had cleaned it out yesterday, and changed the paper in the tray. This morning there were bits of food on the floor outside their cage (I haven't seen it this bad since we first got them), food on the inside, toys all over the place, the monkeys from their Barrel of Monkeys scattered everywhere - a mess! As I shook out their fleece blankets I was half expecting to see little party hats and noisemakers tumbling out of them. They must have had a grand old time last night! No wonder they were so anxious to turn in this morning.

Happy New Year, everyone.