Special Report: Cage Setup
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If you have just purchased your first Sugar bear(s) , it’s very important to know the basics of how to set up their cage properly. Because it is SO important that this is done correctly - in addition to this report – we also have a step-by-step instructional video entitled: “How to SETUP your New Cage!” in the Family Circle section of our website. We STRONGLY recommend that you watch this video – and read this quick report – BEFORE setting up your cage. It will save you a LOT of time! :-)
First off, if you’re buying a new baby Sugar bear from PocketPets, you probably also have one of our special cages that are made SPECIFICALLY for Sugar bears. In fact, we normally won’t sell a baby any other way, because we want to be SURE that every Sugar bear is going to a home that is set up properly, and that they have the right cage and supplies.
Now, when it comes to cages, this is ONE area where it is especially important to be very careful.
Many people out there who sell Sugar bears will tell you that almost any kind of cage, including bird cages, will work just fine for Sugar bears. This is NOT, REPEAT, NOT true, for BABY Sugar bears. Here’s why…
First, if you look at the cage that came with your baby Sugar bear, you will notice that the wire has a special coating on it, and that the holes in the cage are actually one by a one-half inch rectangles – NOT bars. Now, this does make our cages a little more expensive than others, but we do this for a very specific reason.
If you take a good look at your new baby Sugar bear’s hands and feet, you will notice that they are incredibly CUTE, with little fingers, toes, and even THUMBS. However, when they are babies, their feet & hands are also fairly delicate, and when they’re in their cage, they really like to jump around a lot and cling to the sides and top of the cage like little acrobats.
The problem with most other animal cages (especially bird cages), is that they are primarily made up of BARS that run up and down vertically, and therefore have very few horizontal bars. For an active baby Sugar bear, this can be a BIG problem, because when they instinctively jump from side to side, they have to REALLY squeeze these vertical bars to hold on and keep from sliding down. Because their hands are SO small and SO delicate, this can sometimes lead to cuts and tears in their little paws.
In the starter cages we provide at PocketPets, this problem doesn’t exist, because your new baby can easily grab wherever they want and hold on just fine without falling or slipping.
The SECOND reason why many other animal cages can be dangerous – or even deadly – to your new baby Sugar bear is the possibility of ZINC poisoning. Since most animal cages and bird cages out there are made of a cheap pot metal that’s either galvanized or epoxy coated to avoid rusting, they can leave a distinct zinc residue on their animal occupants.
Now, while it IS true that Sugar bears don’t instinctively chew on their cage and destroy it like a hamster or gerbil would, they DO rub up against their cage all the time. Then, since they are also very clean animals who lick and groom themselves almost constantly, any chemical residue on their fur will be LICKED into their digestive system – and they can die from zinc poisoning.
Again, at PocketPets, we have gone out of our way to make sure this can never happen to your baby Sugar bear by providing a starter cage that is not only FUN for them, but also inherently SAFE. In our case, instead of using cheap galvanized metal, we use a much more expensive steel wire that is coated with PVC. This PVC coating is completely harmless to your Sugar bears AND has another big benefit to you in that it makes the cage very easy to clean!
Now, once your Sugar bears get to be a few months old, you may want to get them a larger cage so that they have a lot more room to play and glide around. This is totally fine, but again you must be VERY careful about the type of cage you use. Over the last 15 years, we have tested all different types of large cages – and one thing we can tell you for SURE is that looks are definitely DECEIVING. For example, almost all larger cages nowadays come in roughly the same sizes and styles – and are almost IMPOSSIBLE to tell apart in PHOTOS - but they are VERRRRY different when it comes to how SAFE they are for older Sugar bears. For example, almost all large cages have vertical bars – which are FINE for older Sugar bears. However, they also have EPOXY coating on the bars – instead of PVC. The PROBLEM with this is that almost all of these cages are made in China, and the epoxy coating is very cheap and starts flaking off after just a couple months. Again, once this happens, your Sugar bears can easily get zinc poisoning and die.
Because SO many of our customers end up wanting large cages down the road, we spent the last few years DILIGENTLY researching and testing almost every large cage out there – and we found THREE that are ABSOLUTELY TOP NOTCH. They may “look” like lots of other cages at first glance, but the quality is VERY different. Each varies slightly in size – and the Epoxy used to coat the bars is a special high-density polymer that is tough as nails! Now, this makes the cage cost a little more than identical-LOOKING “discount” cages, but the few dollars of extra cost is MORE than worth it – especially considering that the Sugar bear’s LIFE is literally on the line.
Since you are probably a “new mom or dad” right now, you won’t be ready for one of these cages for a few more months. Therefore, we’re not going to get into this much more in this report. If you want to take a look at the three specific cages which have passed our test, just check out the online store on our website.
Ok, now, having said all that, let’s get back to your starter cage and talk about a couple quick things to keep in mind when setting it up. The first is what to use for BEDDING in what we like to call the “poop tray”. Just like the feeding process we mention elsewhere on our site, there is an EASY way and a more COMPLICATED way to do this. Either one works just fine, so it’s up to you how you want to handle it.
When it comes to ‘poop tray’ bedding, the EASY way to do it is just to use some type of non-toxic paper . You will find that your bears are generally very clean little pets, and the amount of droppings they produce is relatively
minimal. Therefore, most non-toxic paper is more than able to absorb whatever falls down onto it…
Now, to make things extra easy, actually have custom-made cage-liners that are made of a special, glider-safe paper and are already cut to perfectly fit the poo tray in your cage. You can check those out at our online store at: www.SugarBears.com. :-)
Now, if you want to take a little more complicated and expensive route, you can always use PINE shavings instead of paper, BUT the operative word here is PINE shavings – not CEDAR shavings. You can find pine shavings at almost any Wal-Mart or any place that carries pet supplies, and there’s no question that a pile of pine shavings has a nice smell to it. On the downside though, if you DO decide to use pine shavings be prepared for a little more mess around your cage, because your Sugar bears will sometimes reach down, grab some, and fling it around a little.
The truth is, whichever way you decide to go on this is fine – but just don’t use CEDAR shavings. Cedar shavings give off a chemical residue that can cause respiratory problems with some small animals – and we have heard of numerous cases over the years where cedar shavings could have POSSIBLY been the cause of a Sugar bear’s illness, so there’s no need to take any chances on this.
While we’re still on the subject of cage setup, let’s talk about how to correctly attach the WATER BOTTLE to your cage. When you open your starter kit, you’ll find a water bottle that’s similar to the kind we’ve all seen in hamster or gerbil cages. Now, ALONG WITH that bottle you will either find a “U” shaped wire to hang the bottle on the outside of the cage, or there will be a STRAIGHT wire actually INSIDE the bottle ITSELF. We started doing this because this way the wire won’t accidentally fall out during shipping, or get lost in the Starter Kit…
Now, if your bottle has a STRAIGHT wire inside it, here’s what you do to set everything up: Just take the wire out of the bottle, and BEND it AROUND the bottle so that it makes a big “U” shape. Then, once you’ve got the bottle filled, just put the bottle where you want it on the OUTSIDE of the cage and use this U-shaped wire you just bent to “HOOK” it to cage. We’ve found that doing it this way holds the bottle VERY tightly to the side of the cage – and it works great, that’s all there is to it!
Again, we show you exactly how to do this – and set up your ENTIRE cage – in a step-by-step instructional video entitled: “How to SETUP your new cage!” in the Family Circle section of our website…so be sure to check that out! :-)
Another thing to consider as far as cage setup goes, is simply where is the best place in your house or apartment to put the cage. The rule of thumb here is very simple. Sugar bears are VERY social animals, and they LOVE to be out where the action is. Therefore, while almost any warm room of the house will work just fine for them, they will be happiest if they are out in the kitchen, living room, or WHEREVER your family normally hangs out the most.
If you are going to place your Sugar bear’s cage in the kitchen, just be sure to NEVER cook with non-stick cookware while they are in the room. It’s a little known fact, but the fumes given off by non-stick cookware is DEADLY to any small animal – including birds, hamsters, mice, etc…- so be sure to keep them FAR away from anything like that.
About the only other factor to consider when deciding where to put your Sugar bear’s cage is noise. Keep in mind that Sugar bears are instinctively nocturnal animals, and while they themselves don’t really make much noise (other than occasionally barking), they DO usually like to be up at night playing and jumping around in their cage. Now, how much noise they end up making largely depends on what kind of toys you put in their cage with them, and obviously things like bells and squeaky toys will obviously make some noise. The bottom line is that you can pretty much control the noise level at night largely by just picking out which toys are in their cage, and if their cage is located out in the kitchen or living room anyway, you probably won’t even hear it.
There is one more important issue to consider while we’re on this topic, and that is about HOW MUCH you should let your new baby run around in your house.
Sugar bears are extremely curious little animals, and they LOVE to explore things. Baby Sugar bears especially are a lot like little kids, in that they’ll take as much freedom as you’ll let them have. However, just like you wouldn’t let a small child just go blindly run all around the house and over to your neighbors’ yard without a lot of supervision at first, you want to slowly get your Sugar bears used to their surroundings and then let them EARN their freedom a little at a time.
Generally speaking, once your new baby Sugar bears are a little older and the have really bonded to you and your family, they normally would RATHER be with you, hanging out on your shoulder or in your pocket , than they would randomly jumping around. This is simply because you are their safety and security, and everything else is unknown and scary. However, when they are LITTLE babies and haven’t fully bonded to you yet, they will pretty much go wherever you let them.
Therefore, here’s what we recommend. Since the first few weeks are SO important to the bonding process (for more information on this, see our article on Bonding), we STRONGLY suggest that you do NOT let your new little babies run or jump around the house very much at all at first. Since you want them to bond with YOU and the other people in your family (not your house) just make sure that ANY time they are out of their cage – at least during the first six weeks – they are either IN your hands or ON your body somewhere. Again, like we mentioned earlier, we have a whole article that contains lots of information about Bonding, but for now, just understand that during this early stage when they’re tiny little babies, limiting their freedom like this will dramatically increase how FAST and DEEP your new Sugar bears will bond to your whole family.
Ok, now having said that, let’s wrap up this article by quickly covering what are probably the TWO most common ways that a Sugar bear can die around the house, and how you can easily keep this from happening to YOUR new babies…
The first thing to watch for are TOILETS – because an open toilet lid, combined with an inquisitive little Sugar bear, is pretty much a formula for disaster. Now, obviously the danger here is drowning. Once your Sugar bears start to get older and you start giving them a little more freedom, eventually they will find the bathroom. Then, if the toilet lid is open and they fall in, the porcelain is so smooth that they can’t pull themselves out and they’ll drown almost immediately. Luckily, this is a VERY easy problem to avoid, because all you have to do is make sure and put all the toilet lids down before you take your Sugar bear out, and the problem is pretty much solved. We’ve found that for those who like to be extra sure, on top of keeping the toilet lids down it’s also a good idea to just keep the bathroom doors closed too, and that way you can totally avoid ANY problems.
Along these same lines, the LAST danger to your Sugar bear that we’ll cover here is CHOCOLATE. Just like with dogs, chocolate will KILL a Sugar bear. The only difference is that since a full grown Sugar bear only weighs about 5 ounces, it doesn’t take very much chocolate to do it. Remember, Sugar bears naturally LOVE sweet things, so before you let your Sugar bears out to run around, just be sure to put away any chocolate that might be lying around – including M&M’s.
Again, both toilet lids and chocolate are VERY simple problems to avoid, but we just wanted to make sure and take a couple seconds to cover them both here so that there won’t be any innocent accidents made later on by well-meaning friends or family who just don’t know any better.
We know that it may seem there are many things to learn when it comes to taking good care of your new baby Sugar bears, but rest assured that most folks settle in quite fast, and with a little planning and caution, you and your Sugar bears will have a long and wonderful friendship.
Enjoy the journey!
The PocketPets Team