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Sugar Glider Barking, Crabbing, & Other Noises - What Do They Mean?

What do all these Sugar Glider Sounds Mean?

Alrighty then… Let’s jump into all the different kinds of SOUNDS that Sugar Gliders can make – and what the “experts” (Dr. Doolittle aside) THINK they mean…

First off, there are only about 4 basic different types of sounds that Sugar Gliders make – and by now you’ve probably heard most of them. They are:

  1. “Crabbing”,
  2. “Barking”,
  3. “Chattering or Chirping”, and
  4. “Hissing”

Let’s start at the top, and work our way down…

“Crabbing” is just the most commonly-used term out there in the masses to describe a Sugar Glider’s “scared noise”… It’s probably the first noise you ever heard your baby(ies) make, and we’ve already covered what this noise means (i.e. “hold me tighter…rub me harder..I’m scared..) – and what to do about it – AT LENGTH in previous emails and reports. Therefore, we won’t spend any more time on that now. Of course, if you still have any questions about this particular noise or how to handle it, just shoot us a quick email with your specific situation and we’ll be happy to help :-)

Now, let’s move on to “BARKING”! If you’re like most new parents – you didn’t know WHAT to think the first time you heard THAT noise coming from your cage! In fact, you probably had no idea your little baby(ies) could almost perfectly imitate a Chihuahua :-)

Anyway, just like a human “yell” can mean a VARIETY of different things (anything from: “Help!… to YEEHA!) a Sugar Glider’s “bark” can also have quite a few different meanings. Here are the two main ones…

First, Sugar Gliders tend to bark as a “warning”. In the wild, if a predator enters the area where their colony is currently “hangin’ out” – one Sugar Glider sends out the alarm (i.e. “FREEZE”) to let everybody else know there’s an intruder coming, and the element of “surprise” is lost!…

Now at home, this might happen at night when they’re suddenly exposed to somebody they don’t know, or a strange animal, or even a strange noise. For example, we had a customer once who said that her Sugar Bear barked every night exactly at 1:25am on the dot. She couldn’t figure out WHY until she stayed up one night, and immediately saw what was happening once she realized that the cage was setup right next to a window (generally not a good idea – see previous email).

As it turned out, their neighbor got home from work every night exactly at that time, and each time he swung into the driveway, his headlights would flash through the window (right into the Sugar Bear’s cage) – and then he would “rev up” his souped-up car a couple times right before shutting it off! (Ladies, it’s a “guy” thing…) Well, mystery solved… She moved the cage, and all was well!

The other main reason why Sugar Bears bark is simply that it’s a “call” – either to you, or other Sugar Bears. Many people mistakenly think that if a single Sugar Bear barks it HAS to be because it’s lonely. Well, while that MIGHT be the case, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll stop if you get them a buddy – because in reality they could be barking for any number of other reasons too.

Like we said earlier, even though a human “yell” – or a Sugar Bear’s “bark” – may sound the same to the untrained ear, it could actually MEAN very different things. For example, every once in a while one of our eleven personal pet Sugar Bears will just start barking – and the others just jump right in for quite an entertaining little “bark fest”!.. We have absolutely NO idea what they are saying to each other, but one thing I can tell you for sure is that they ain’t barkin’ because they don’t have anybody else to play with!…

The truth is, a Sugar Bear’s bark is a very sophisticated means of communication – and nobody really knows for sure what it means… Even though it appears that most of the time they are wanting some kind of attention when they bark, it can also be a way of just talking to each other, locating each other in the dark, or even storytelling.

If you are worried that your Sugar Bear is lonely when he or she barks in the middle of the night, just go up to the door of the cage and talk to them or pick them up… If it stops…put them back…walk away… and see if it starts again… Try this a few times, and you’ll have your answer – and if you really want to have fun with them sometime – try “BARKING BACK” and see what happens! :-)

Now let’s cover “CHATTERING and CHIRPING”… To me, this is one of the most ADORABLE sounds I have ever heard. It’s kind of like a half-purring / half-chirping noise that Sugar Bears use not only to communicate with each other, but also with their human family. Many people think that one of it’s possible meanings is to say: “I LOVE YOU”… and I’ll have to admit that this makes at least some sense, because there are many times when Bandit will just come up out of my shirt…put his nose RIGHT behind my ear – and just start chirping for no apparent reason. It’s pretty cool!

The last primary noise that you will occasionally hear a Sugar Bear make is something that sounds like a repetitive “HISSING” or “SNEEZING” sound… Fortunately, its meaning isn’t nearly as “sinister” as it sounds. In reality, Sugar Bears frequently groom themselves by spitting into their hands (making a sneezing or hissing sound), and then washing themselves with it. It’s a ritual that’s very similar to a cat licking it’s paw and then grooming itself.

They can also make a similar sound when:

  1. Newly-introduced to each other, or
  2. Jostling or wrestling around with each other.

When they make this sound towards each other, nobody really knows for sure what they are saying, but it’s usually nothing to be concerned about :-) Now, a sugar bear can theoretically get a repertory infection (especially if it gets cold). One of the symptoms can be sneezing which unfortunately sounds similar to the hissing, but a little more sneeze like. If you hear a sneeze and are concerned look for other symptoms and consider seeing a vet that we recommend in your area.

Well, that about wraps up another RIVETING “tip-o-the-day” email!.. In closing, the above explanations are really just “guides” to use when you are first trying to interpret what your baby(ies) are saying to you – or each other. “Learning their language” as you deepen your bond with each other is just something that develops over time – so have fun with it!

Ask the Vet: Everything You Need to Know About Sugar Glider Noises