FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Opossums:
1. Is it Opossum or just plain Possum? Well, technically these Americans are opossums. But informally most folks just call them possums. And the rather distant marsupial relatives in Australia and New Zealand are technically possums. But then again, informally, Captain Cook used the term opossum way back in 1770 in Australia. So, the answer is yes. (Keefe, 30) (return to top)
2. How big is an opossum at birth? Not very. You could easily fit twenty or thirty in a teaspoon. Each baby weights about 2/3 of a grain (Hartman, 99, 101).
Oh, a grain. That's 0.002285 ounces or 0.065 grams.
3. We've got some visitors. Will they stay? Probably not. Opossums are transients, so they probably won't stay around for more than two or three days. Though they might come back again some time later.
4. We've got some visitors. What should we feed them? It's best not to try to make a pet out of your visitor. Opossums belong in the wild.
The Opossum Society of the United States recommends the following for a captive opossum after 4-5 months of age:
90% Dog or cat chow, dry or canned
The society emphasizes that the chow should be high quality and specified as both 100% nutritionally complete and 100% nutritionally balanced. They also emphasize that the supplemental fruits and vegetables should not exceed 10%.
And how much will the opossum eat? Well, anywhere from 1/4 to 2 cups of dry chow a night.
And which is better, cat or dog chow? Well, cat chow is smaller and more bite-sized. So, see what the opossum prefers.
If you have an orphaned baby opossum you should consult a wildlife rehabilitator or experienced veterinarian (see below). The diet specified here is not appropriate.
Will our visiting opossum hurt our cat? dog? There's not much chance of that. The Society talks about a scenario in which a territorial dog has cornered an unsuspecting opossum. "The opossum is not aggressive. You have to get within 6 inches of its mouth for it to be able to reach and bite you and then it will only do so in self-defense."
Can opossums be dangerous to other animals? Yes, for example, they can be dangerous to horses. The opossum serves as host to a parasite that causes a disease known as Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPG). While details are available on the web, you should nevertheless contact a veterinary expert in these matters. You should know also that there are many cases where horses are misdiagnosed as having EPG. New tests reduce the possibility of such "false positives."
Where should we go to get further information about the care and feeding of opossums?
At Possum Network we chronicle possum culture, possum history, possum relations. We make no claim to be zoologists, veterinarians, or animal care experts. If you require expert advise you should contact the experts. Here are some suggestions:
Opossum Society of the United States
The society operates a help line at 949-536-3538.
Hartman, Carl G. Possums, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1952.
Keefe, James F. The World of the Opossum, J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1967