How do I love my sugar gliders? Let me count the ways.

It’s been awhile since we’ve had any sugar glider love here on the blog. So won’t you indulge me in a bit of shameless gushing? In no particular order, here are a few things that I just adore about my babies.

1. Sugar gliders are exotic in so many ways. They have little conversations with each other that sound like the barking of impossibly diminutive dogs. They clean themselves with what sounds like a tiny sneeze and back feet that are cleverly modified to form a tiny comb. And the way they climb on the ceiling of our screened in porch never fails to remind me of the classic Beauty and the Beast trailer to Lilo and Stitch.

If you take a look at a phylogenetic tree, you’ll find that marsupials branch off right after the duck-billed platypus, and before elephants, bats, cows, and whales. Sugar gliders look superficially similar to any number of small rodents. But up close their tiny hands and feet and noses have a distinctly alien look. As Darwin put it,

On seeing the marsupials in Australia for the first time and comparing them to placental mammals; An unbeliever… might exclaim “Surely two distinct Creators must have been at work.”

2. Related point: even though Axa  is allergic to a majority of furry animals from rats to cats to goats, she does just fine with sugar gliders. I hypothesize this might be a result of how distantly they are related to all those eutherian mammals typically kept as a pets. And no, I didn’t say eutherian with a sneer, or at least any more than a teeny tiny sneer.

3. I am a die-hard attachment parent. Axa barely touched the ground for her first six months of life, because I wore her everywhere when she was a baby. She is now seven, and Raj is five. They have their own projects and things to do, and little to no interest in being carried around all day by their mother. But my sugar gliders have no objection to sleeping in my sugar mommy “purse” all day long. When I’m in extra need of snuggle, I let them sleep under my shirt.

4. Merry and Pippin are not demanding of daytime attention. Like most people I know, I suffer from the modern curse of busyness. While I would love to give several hours of daytime attention to a tiny being of tribble-esque cuteness, I do have children and various other responsibilities. My sugar gliders are happy to sleep all day either in their cage or in my purse, and then get up and play with me when I’m ready to wind down in the evening. Or when I get up early the next morning.

5. They fly! Most of the time it only emerges in their dramatic little flying leaps, but their physiognomy is really very similar to the flying carpet in Aladdin. They are one of the most athletic little animals I’ve ever seen.

6. O.K., I admit it. I do enjoy both the subterfuge and the notoriety of carrying around two mysterious little balls of fur with me all the time. They are small and quiet enough to be utterly undetectable in normal life, which gives me the sort of feeling I imagine I might get if I were actually an alien masquerading as human. But if I feel the moment is opportune, it’s always a great delight to show them off.

7. Inside that little four-ounce body is a pretty big personality. Sugar gliders are determined problem-solvers. It’s so much fun to watch them opening boxes with their tiny hands, taking a flying leap to get onto the top of the dresser, or nimbly climbing up the CD player cord. I think they’re incredibly intelligent, but it’s an intelligence that goes in the opposite direction from trainability. In fact, I know they can tell what I want them to do, because they consistently do the opposite.

8. And finally, I have to say it, sugar gliders are the very personification of “cute.” Darling. Delectably sweet. With their  striped faces and huge eyes and impossibly soft fur, they just beg to be kissed and cuddled and adored. Back in the day, I would have been the first to feel smugly superior over a Facebook pass-along like this:

Now, not content with staring dreamy-eyed at my own pet sugar gliders, I happily seek out photos of strangers’ pets and only with great difficulty restrain myself from posting an endless stream of them on Facebook.

Well, I usually restrain myself . . .

photo credits: albino, sleeping, flying, babies