It was bound to happen. Gus has already escaped his cage once, why shouldn't Fiona?
Last night I was awakened by Mr. K close to 3 AM. He's been a bit of a night owl the past few nights because his semester is over and also because the new Star Wars game was just released. He came into the room, telling me softly that Fiona had escaped and that he had herded her into the bedroom. The bedroom is probably the most Sugar Glider safe room in the flat right now. They probably could be free in our living room, but there are way more hiding spots than our bedroom, or so we thought.
Fiona is not nearly as bonded as Gus. It was only this week that she felt comfortable enough to sit in my hand for more than half a second. Petting her is still difficult as she is usually only obliging when she is asleep in her bonding pouch during the day. Gus on the other hand, grooms Mr. K quite frequently in the tent and likes to hop on Mr. K's arm and hands whenever Mr. K opens the cage at night. Gus is definitely not bonded yet, but he is further along than Fiona.
Mr. K closed the door behind him and was horrified when she disappeared under the bed. Our bed is not very high off of the floor, but there is enough room for a Sugar Glider to hop underneath. Glacier and Roscoe maintained their sleepy positions in their bed even when Mr. K and I started calling to Fiona and trying to coax her out. They are such good boys.
I dangled my hand over the edge of the bed, not entirely convinced I wanted to get out of the warm coziness that was my bed. I called Fiona and she came out to sniff my fingers, but then promptly went back under. We could hear her moving around and chewing on things and so we became a bit concerned. Mr. K shut the power bar off as we thought she might be making a snack out of the power cords that run behind our bed. I continued to call her, but I think she was a bit too frightened to come out. Mr. K thought we should move the bed to try and get her, but I disagreed. Everything I have read says not to move the furniture because you risk crushing the itty bitty Glider. Eventually, I gave in as my reasoning wasn't convincing him and he moved the bed; nothing happened. I mean, nothing. Fiona didn't come out; she didn't scurry around; she didn't make a sound. I started freaking out. I was convinced we had crushed her.
I plopped myself down on the floor beside the bed and waited. And waited. I think I sat there for a good ten minutes before she came scurrying out at the end of the bed. Those were some of the longest ten minutes I have ever experienced. Upon her emergence, I tossed Mr. K a blanket to scoop her up in, but the motion traumatized her further and she hauled butt back under the bed. I sat back down and waited some more. Mr. K and I threw around the idea of getting Gus. Perhaps he could make her feel safe and get her to come out. Maybe he could distract her from her fears and they would start playing. If that happened, we would be able to trap them both in a blanket and put them back, safe and sound in their cage.
Mr. K went out to get Gus, but that didn't go as planned either.
I sat with my hand partially under the bed, with a yogurt drop balanced in my palm and honey on the tip of my index finger. I hoped that Fiona would smell the treats and come out to investigate, but no such luck. My bum was sore from sitting on the hard wood floor for so long, but I refused to move. I have learned very quickly that patience and persistence is the way to win these little fuzz butts over. I heard her little claws clicking on the floor just beside me and fought the urge to snatch her up. One wrong move and she would go further under the bed.
Meanwhile, Mr. K was having Sugie troubles of his own. Gus came out of his cage all right, but not on to Mr. K's hand as planned. Gus had other ideas. He climbed to the top of the cage to investigate what was up there. He hung out up there for a while, not coming any where near Mr. K. At one point, Mr. K thought he had lost Gus too because he wasn't moving and Mr. K couldn't hear him, but Gus was still perched on the top of the cage. Eventually, he came down and went to frolic on the couch next to the cage. Mr. K didn't want to frighten him and so patiently waited until Gus climbed on to his hand.
All of this took long enough for Fiona to come out from under the bed. If Sugar Gliders could tiptoe, I would say she tiptoed behind me. I felt her sniff my back and again fought the urge to catch her. She flittered around behind me for a few minutes, sniffing my back and then backing off again. When I knew she was right behind me, I moved slowly in the hopes of scaring her under the bed side table. The bottom of the table is enclosed all of the way around except for a small area at the front. If I could get her under there, I could at least block her in. My small movement worked and she ran to hide. I placed my hand and forearm in front of the opening and waited for Mr. K to put Gus back in the cage. I knew I had trapped her for sure when she crabbed at me and then darted forward and nipped my finger hard. Miss Fiona is having biting issues as of late. I'm not sure if she nipped me out of fear or if she was playing a game-she thinks darting in to nip and then running away is a game-but I have never felt so relieved to have her little teeth clamp around the tip of my finger. It confirmed for me that she was indeed trapped under the bed side table.
Back out in the living room, Mr. K was able to carry Gus balanced on his hand over to the cage. Gus climbed up his arm and on to his shoulder and Mr. K was able to turn his shoulder to the cage. Once near the open door, Gus happily and willingly hopped back into his home. That was actually a really rewarding part of the early morning,, or late night depending on how you look at it, adventure. Some day, that sort of thing will be common practice and we won't have to trap our little fuzzies under furniture to retrieve them.
Mr. K returned to the bedroom and handed me a T-shirt which I stuffed into the opening of the bed side table. We needed a way for us to keep Fiona there, but that would allow me to move. With my hearing loss I have a hard time hearing where the Sugar Gliders are and so retrieval was left up to Mr. K. He laid on the floor and unstuffed the table and slid his hand up to the wrist in. Fiona was not happy about it. She didn't crab, but backed under the table. Mr. K waited. I suggested opening the bonding pouch in the mouth of the table and wait for her to get in by herself. In the tent, Fiona likes to get into the pouch on her own and hang out. It turns out, we didn't need the pouch. Fiona came out and climbed down Mr. K's shirt and he stood up, both of us pinning the shirt to his body. He got Fiona into his hand and even though she decided she should bite him, he got her back to the cage all in one piece. When she got back in she and Gus started playing immediately.
Glacier and Roscoe were angels while this whole drama unfolded. They went where they were asked to go and held very good "down stays," when asked. Roscoe did crawl to the edge of the bed, sniffer working, when I sat down and called Fiona, but other than that he stayed where he was told. I think Glacier even fell asleep, curled up on Mr. K's pillows. The boys aren't usually allowed on the bed and probably thought it was a great treat. Good thing they don't have thumbs because they may start opening the cage to let the Sugar Gliders out so that they can have a good lounge on the humans' bed.
Mr. K and I had discussed at the beginning of this week that perhaps Gus and Fiona were ready to graduate from the tent to a designated and Sugar Glider proofed room for our evening bonding sessions, but after last night, I think we both realise that Fiona needs a bit more time. I suggested that we try putting them in separate bonding pouches during the day. That way, they are forced to turn to the human for warmth and safety rather than each other. I think they know us enough to be okay with being separated for part of the day. Plus, The two pouches could be set side by side and they would know the other was close. I thought the separate bonding pouches would make it easier to pet Fiona when she was asleep, increasing her contact with human hands. Also, Gus and Mr. K seem to be buddies and Fiona has taken a small fancy to me and the separate bonding pouches would allow Mr. K and I to carry a Sugar Glider each.
So what have I learned from this experience?
1. Do NOT move the furniture when your Sugar Glider hides under/in it. There are two reasons for this: A. You really could crush them without knowing it. I think they freeze when they are really afraid and no amount of noise or movement will get them to move.
B. That sort of upheaval traumatizes them even more than they already are. This sort of fright is not conducive to bonding or retrieving the escapee.
2. Fiona needs a little more one on one bonding time.
and 3. Patience and persistence really do pay off with these little critters. Actually, that lesson could probably be applied to any kind of animal. This lesson I've learned before, but it is good to have it reconfirmed.