Yoda and Plato's breeder was very nice and she and her daughter and husband sat and had a coffee with us while we waited for our train back to Edinburgh. We chatted about Sugar Gliders and Mr. K and I asked a few questions. Domestication of Sugar Gliders is so new that it seems the best way to gain knowledge is to ask people who deal directly with Sugar Gliders questions. There aren't tons of books published on the topic and a lot of the articles on the internet are conflicting. So, when I get someone around who knows Sugies, I ask an incessant amount of questions.
Some websites said to introduce strange Sugar Gliders on neutral ground and to be ready to break up any sort of fights. They said, in order to be prepared for fights, one must have a small bowl of water and gloves at the ready. If the Gliders fought, then you were to dunk their bottom ends or paws into the water. The gloves were meant to keep your hands safe from biting and scratching and the water served to shock the Sugies so that they stopped their scrapping. Most articles agreed that strange Sugies should be placed in separate cages far enough apart to guarantee they couldn't reach one another, yet close enough so that they could smell one another and talk to each other. This method also suggested that sleeping pouches from each cage be swapped every night to give the Sugar Glider's each others' scent. Once the Sugar Gliders were "talking" over the gap, it would be safe to introduce them on neutral ground and then move them in together; as long as the meeting went well. There were several other scenarios laid out on different websites for various situations, but none of them addressed our specific situation exactly. We could take bits and pieces from each technique, especially the one where the Sugies were housed in different cages for a while, but that technique was prescribed for a joey who had always been alone and if you were attempting to give it a new friend. None of them talked about what to do if your Glider was in mourning and desperately needed a playmate.
The last couple of days Fiona's behavior has gotten progressively more aggressive. I attributed it to her loneliness and my thoughts were confirmed when we returned from collecting Plato and Yoda today. Mr. K had attempted to put her in the bonding pouch so that she could accompany us. Her contact with us has decreased drastically with each passing day and today was the worse. Normally, Fiona is a great sleeper and Mr. K is able to scoop her into the bonding pouch. Ever since Gus died, she doesn't sleep soundly and wakes up as soon as Mr. K gets the cage door open. Today was no exception and she manage to evade him. He probably could have caught her, but we didn't want to pursue her and stress her out anymore than she already was. When we got home, she was sitting on the edge of her cage waiting for us to come into the living room. She so desperately wants attention, but is just not ready to receive it from us. We didn't want her to be alone any longer than she needed to be and we were both worried about transferring her to the secondary cage while she was awake. If we thought getting her into a bonding pouch was difficult when she was awake, convincing her to go into a strange cage would be a hundred times worse. However, Plato and Yoda's breeder gave us a suggestion for introducing the three Gliders and we decided to give it a try. We were a bit nervous, but if it worked, then it would produce the best situation.
When I asked her how she would introduce Sugar Gliders, I thought I'd get the same information that I had found online. I had asked just to see if she had a way to make it easier and also to boost my confidence in attempting to introduce them. However, her answer was the complete opposite of everything I had read.
The breeder told us to put Plato and Yoda into the cage and try to put all three of them together while they slept. They usually slept so soundly that they wouldn't even notice another Glider being added to their ranks. She said that a breeder who had handled Sugar Gliders for years had told her to do it this way. She had bulked at first, but tried it and it worked. He had explained to her that the Sugies would smell each other when sleeping and associate the other's scent with warmth, safety and sleep. When they woke up, they would have accepted each other. I was a bit weary, but if we tried this and everyone was happy, then Fiona wouldn't have to move out of her home and she would have new friends sooner than later. I think we decided then and there to give it a shot, but when we got home and Fiona was awake, we both hesitated. The breeder had not said anything about awake Gliders. It was much too early for Fiona to be awake, but as I said, she's not been sleeping properly since Gus left us. Mr. K took a chance and put the sleeping boys, bundled in a fleece pouch into the cage.
Fiona walked around a bit more and I think Mr. K and I both held our breath. Mr. K waited by the cage just in case he'd have to perform an extraction. We figured that there were two who already knew each other and therefore Fiona was at a bit of a disadvantage, but, on the other hand, it was her home. We kind of hoped the two would balance each other out. Within minutes, the most amazing thing happened: Fiona crawled into the pouch with the sleeping Plato and Yoda and went to sleep.
No crabbing. No fussing; just sleeping.
Since then, they all have been awake and moving around the cage. I heard a bit of crabbing from time to time, but it was short lived and petered out quickly. Fiona has been making her happy chirping noise that she had stopped making and there was definitely some grooming going on. Grooming is a very good sign as it indicates acceptance. One of the males-the one we've deemed Yoda-is much more vocal than the other-who is consequently Plato. Yoda crabs when you get near the cage, but we'll just have to work with him. Plato, on the other paw, may be much quicker to come around. He already moves close to the front of the cage and willingly takes treats from Mr. K with no crabbing. We will probably leave them to their own devices until at least Monday, but after that the tent will be put back up and all bets are off. It is just a huge relief that all three can live together and Fiona no longer has to be on her own.
The above technique worked for us, but as our situation was unique, I would suggest consulting a breeder before attempting introducing Sugar Gliders in this manner. Our Sugies are all joeys and therefore acceptance is much more likely. We also took a chance by introducing our Gliders this way. However, we are very happy with the results and so is Fiona. :)