This article on the Opossum is part of the series of marsupials as pets. Please find links at the bottom of this article for other marsupials.
The Opossum is a marsupial of the family Didelphidae. The name possum is also used. They are nocturnal. Many people have enjoyed possums as exotic pets. Before considering acquiring one as a pet learn all you can about their care.
Of course there was Heidi, a cross eyed opossum from Germany that was a great possum ambassador. Sadly, she passed last year. But she was cuter than a bug's ear! I will provide a link to Heidi, the cross eyed opossum at the bottom of the article.
Other marsupials include the kangaroo, wallaby, and sugar glider. A marsupial nourishes their young in a pouch after birth, while placental mammals nourish their unborn young in utero.
They are highly resistant to disease and are able to slow their heart rate and breathing so that it is barely detectable.
My very first introduction to an possum was when I was very young and lived on a ranch. My father had purchased several of the rectangular bales of hay that were held together with baling wire. We cut the three wires on top of the bale of hay so that it fell apart in segments. Inside this bale of hay was a opossum. He appeared to be dead; his body had obviously been through a hay baler. When we went to take him out he began to growl. Iíd be an unhappy camper too. I have no idea how long he had survived in this bale of hay but he was so badly mangled the only humane thing to do was to put him down.
The term playing possum was coined from their ability to go into a coma-like state. It is almost impossible to tell if the opossum is alive or not. This is why their predators will leave them alone, breaking off the attack, once the opossum plays possum.
I have had many joyful experiences with opossums. They appear to be fearsome animals with their mouth full of fifty teeth and their fearsome growl. In reality they are quite a gentle creature and do make good pets for the right person. A person willing to learn all they can about this exotic pet marsupial and follow up using the information they have learned to properly care for the animal.
Possums are not a dog or cat and do not act like dogs or cats. If you want an animal that acts like a dog or cat please get a dog or cat.
Opossums are omnivores, very opportunist eaters. They will eat most anything. However, as pets you have the responsibility to make sure they have a nutritious diet. They should have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as a diet staple. Provide a healthy protein source. In the wild they eat insects, snails, snakes, eggs and other animal proteins. They will also need plenty of clean, fresh, and filtered water.
Pet possums live for approximately ten years which is quite different from their counterparts that live in the wild. The possum has many predators including the automobile. They rarely live beyond a few years.
Opossum or possum photos courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Opossums can carry parasites that affect horses and birds. So it isnít a good idea to have a possum if you have parrots. Keep the possum away from horses.
The opossum is also a very good climber; please keep this in mind when considering an opossum as a pet. They are also quite dexterous. They have what one would consider as a thumb like toe on their back feet that works very much like an opposable thumb. They also use their tail, using it to grasp, which, increases their nimbleness.
When we lived in the South we had an opossum that would visit us nightly. We had a four-season porch where I had several animals and also stored most of the pet food. This possum was nimble enough to open the latch on the door. One evening we were leaving the house to go out for the evening. We walked through the porch area. An opossum was sitting on the porch looking very ill. Later we found out why. He had opened the ferret food container and had eaten most of the contents. He was so full he couldnít move.
This same opossum would sit right outside our bedroom window. He climbed up some jasmine bushes and would just sit there watching us. At the time we had several raccoons and skunks maybe he just wanted to join in the fun.
While they are able to grasp and steady themselves with their tail you will not see the little guy hang upside down. There is a reason why we never experienced this feat, because they donít hang upside down.
The opossum gives birth to several very tiny babies. The babies immediately crawl up into the pouch where they will stay for up to a few months. The mother will continue to care for her young carrying them on her back for an additional six weeks or so.
It is interesting to note a baby opossum or baby possum has no given name such as a kit, pup, joey, nothing. If anyone has heard a term for a baby please let me know!
Before obtaining this exotic pet, please make sure to check to see if owning an opossum is legal. State laws can differ from what is allowed in a county or city. If it is legal make sure you have the required permit. While owning a wild animal may be legal where you live it may be illegal to transport a wild animal. Check all aspects of the law.
A sweet pet like Heidi, a cross eyed opossum, is more the demeanor of an possum than a ferocious, growling, hissing wild animal. Enjoy your pet possum!
YouTube video - images
Heidi, a cross eyed opossum
**Sugar Glider as a Pet
**Sugar Gliders - The Sweetest of the Sweet!
**Wallaby - Wallabies - Pet
**Sugar Glider Cages
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