The sugar glider is so cute that it defies description. That it’s a type of possum, an animal most Americans only know as a toothy ghost-faced garbage ravager, is hard to believe. With its giant inkwell eyes, puppy dog ears, and pointy pink snoot, a sugar glider would look right at home on the shoulder of any of Disney’s upcoming princesses. And it’s an entertainer, too — listen to its squeaky little bark or marvel as it kites through the air and you’ll want a dozen of them. But should you rush out and buy so many exotic marsupials all at once? To get to the bottom of such a conundrum you would want to consult with Tianna Nelson of Silver Knight Sugar Gliders in Minneapolis.

“A big part of the appeal of sugar gliders is that they’re so new and unique,” said Tianna. “The other draw is that they’re happy in a cage. Unlike a Newfoundland dog you don’t have to let them out to go potty, and you can’t hold a Newfie in your hand, either — unless you’ve got a really big hand.”

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For so small a thing, a sugar glider has got a huge personality. “They’re hyper and they love to play,” Tianna continued. “Give them a ball pit, hide treats in there, and watch them go foraging. You’ll never get tired of putting one at the other end of the room and letting it glide into your hand. They love getting tangled up in your hair, but you might not love it quite as much because they can’t be potty trained. They go ‘yip yip yip’ at you and at each other if you’ve got a few of them. They talk back and forth to each other all day from my two cages. And they’re loving. If one of them escapes their cage, they’ll wander the house until they’ve found me — usually by crashing into my head. I love putting one of my babies in a special pouch when I go out shopping. He’ll be content to snooze in there until I sneak him a treat at Walmart.

“That said, they can be picky little brats. I give mine a special diet with a little bit of everything that they need to be healthy — if you don’t feed them well their coats will get raggedy and they’ll stink — but sometimes when I walk past their cage, I’ll get hit in the head with a green bean.

“You have to get your sugar glider from a good breeder. If they’re not handled as a baby, they’re not properly socialized and they’re never going to bond with you. A sugar glider from a bad breeder is going to go into a defensive stance, crab at you, and bite when you try to pick it up, which is no fun because their teeth are razor sharp. A sugar glider from a good breeder will bond with you quickly and be your best friend for over a decade!”

In recent years Tianna has had to shift her focus from raucous little sugar gliders to her own raucous little children, so she has let her menagerie dwindle down to two retired breeding pairs. She is still passionate about the scamps, however, and recommends their best breeders, advises on how to care for them, and provides the specialized paraphernalia that they can’t do without. If you would like a charming little pal to love and to hold and to have throw green beans at your head, please visit


By David Scheller