There are a variety of pets owned by Goucher students, and Bean the sugar glider is definitely one of the more exotic ones. Owned by Grey Cubbage ’19, Bean is a male sugar glider of the gray-faced variety, gray being the most standard coloration. He’s a little older than two years old and, according to Grey, has been “out of the pouch” since June, 2015. They have owned Bean and his counterpart, Spyder, since their first year.
“Bean is an emotional support animal. He’s trained to help me manage my anxiety, depression, and panic attacks,” Grey says. “I have a ton of trouble internalizing any self-care. Taking care of Bean helps me keep my whole life in check. Putting another life’s care in my hands helps me prioritize taking care of both of us.”
As an exotic species, sugar gliders are often considered ‘fad pets.’ Often, they are mill-bred through seedy companies that will sell sick, inbred animals to people who don’t expect them to be hard to take care of. “Bean is from a specialized, reputable breeder. His companion, Spyder, lost his colony to sickness, and because sugar gliders can’t be kept alone and Bean had finished his bonding training, they were paired together.”
Bonding is essential for sugar gliders, and makes them feel safe, relaxed, and happy. Though the process can be lengthy, once a sugar glider is bonded with their owner they are highly affectionate animals.
“I got Bean for company and for the special way sugar gliders behave with their bonded person,” says Grey. “They come to associate one person as ‘mom/safe/home base’ and bond closely with that person. I needed an animal that could keep me company when coming down from panic attacks, and Bean happened to be the right animal to suit my needs.”
As cute as these marsupials are, though, they are by no means easy to take care of. “Sugar gliders are a lot of work. I have to make their nectar mix made of baby food, honey, wheat germ, et cetera over twelve days, since I also have to freeze it in ice cube trays. There’s no commercially viable food that covers all their needs, so I have to keep fresh fruit, dried bugs, and special food at hand at all times,” says Grey. “Bean’s cage is really large – about the size of my Goucher dresser. It can be hard to move back and forth during semesters. By nature of being an exotic species, he’s hard to take care of.”
Of the many varieties of food he eats, Bean’s favorites are mango, cantaloupe, raspberries, spinach, meal worms, and nectar cubes. “Despite ‘sugar’ being in their name, it’s important to keep their sugar intake low. He gets unseasoned boiled chicken, eggs, tofu, fruit, and vegetables. I rotate the menu as much as I can so it doesn’t get boring.”
When Grey’s heart rate or stress level is up, Bean sticks close to them. On weekends or when he’s not with Grey, he’ll sleep all day, curled into one of his many soft bags and pouches with Spyder. In the evening, it’s playtime, and he’ll run around in a hamster ball. When Grey is at work, he’ll snuggle with them in one of the bonding pouches.
“Bean loves his wheel the most. It’s a special extra-large wheel without a center bar so his long tail won’t get stuck in it,” says Grey. “He’ll often run for hours in the middle of the night because he’s nocturnal, but thankfully I’ve learned to sleep through it. He also loves to forage for toys and plastic Easter eggs with dried fruits and snacks hidden inside them.”
Though the construction doesn’t bother Bean, fire alarms do. “He wasn’t happy at all when the fire alarms went off at 3am in Hooper last year,” Grey says. “As for construction, it makes it hard to get to outdoor dumpsters to dispose of pet waste, so some of the pet care side of our weekly routine has become a hassle thanks to the pet policies. In the past, though, Goucher has worked well with my gliders and I. I definitely see strides being made to make the program easier to work with though, which is awesome!”
Since Bean is one of the more exotic pets on campus, Grey will get shocked, funny looks sometimes, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.