Opossums are the only marsupials in North America. They are generally gentle and cuddly, which makes them adored by many people. Because of how calm they seem, you might be thinking of getting one as a pet.
Opossums are magnificent animals, but concerns should be addressed first when considering getting one as a pet. Keeping an opossum requires a lot of patience, commitment, and research. Let’s learn more about what to take note of if we want to take care of these cute and friendly animals fully!
Do Opossums Make Good Pets?
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Opossums are typically docile, slow-moving, quiet animals. If you are considering getting one as a pet, then you should be ready to know their needs and lifestyle.
If you find an opossum in the wild, you shouldn’t try to handle it on your own. Remember that opossums are taken in as pets when they are still very young or just out of their mother’s pouch. They are raised to adapt to the human environment.
Pet opossums are tender and loving towards their adoptive parents. But since they’re not domesticated animals, there’s a chance that they’ll keep acting like wild animals when growing up, and it can be problematic to release an opossum into the wild, that is not used to fending for itself.
Are Opossums Social? (Do They Need Company?)
Opossums are solitary animals, so they spend most of their short lives on their own. In the wild, they usually forage alone and do not socialize with other animals. The several exceptions for this are:
- When an adult opossum finds a partner during mating season,
- Female opossums taking care of their young, and
- Gathering a group of 8 opossums to share a winter den.
However, they can be the most affectionate, intelligent, and sociable pets when raised since infancy. They usually crave their owner’s attention and like to rub and cuddle when they feel comfortable.
Do Opossums Get Along With Other Pets?
Opossums are also solitary creatures that might not get along with other animals. An opossum might not be the best choice if you already have pets like a dog or cat.
Pet opossums are can be friendly to other animals, but only if their owners have raised them in that environment.
Are Opossums Only Active At Night?
Most opossums are active at night and look for food throughout the night. But it’s not unusual to see an opossum during the day, especially when it’s cold.
They retain these nocturnal instincts even if kept in captivity and usually roam around the area at night. Pet opossums tend to sneak into their owner’s room and lick them in the face at night, too.
Are Pet Opossums Smelly?
Pet opossums do emit musky-smelling substances from their scent glands. This is because the opossum uses it to communicate with its young, its mate, and possible attackers through smell and sound.
Smell glands help the newborns find their mother’s pouch. Before the mating season, the males’ sternal scent glands give off a musky smell and stain their fur.
Pet opossums also produce this scent, so it is essential to provide pet opossums with an outdoor enclosure to minimize the lingering smell inside the house.
However, this does not mean that they are dirty. On the contrary, pet opossums are extremely clean animals that groom themselves much like cats.
Can You Train An Opossum To Use A Litter-Box?
Yes. Training opossums to use litter-box is possible with a calm demeanor and a lot of patience.
Since opossums are clean animals, they designate areas for urinating and pooping. This makes it easier to train them to use litter boxes.
Remember to focus mainly on positive reinforcement and verbal praise, but if you think treats might help your opossum learn to like her litter box, give them one. Once your opossum is using the litter boxes regularly, fill them with regular, unscented, dust-free cat litter.
Opossums May Not Be Legal To Keep As Pets Where You Live
Opossums are wild animals, and most people in many states think of them as part of the natural wildlife. Because opossums are often considered wild animals, it is against the law in most states to keep one as a pet.
Always check your local laws and regulations to ensure that having an opossum as a pet is not against the law. In some states, you need a special permit or license to own this kind of pet.
You will, in many cases, need a wildlife rehabilitation permit from your state if you want to keep an opossum as a pet. Depending on where you live, you may need to volunteer with a wildlife rehabilitator, take a training class, or pass a written exam to get the permit.
Are Opossums Difficult To Care For?
Taking care of an opossum will require a lot of commitment and patience. Because they are naturally shy and easily scared, they like a slow-paced, quiet home.
Train your pet opossum kindly. Use a firm tone of voice, a spray of water, or a light tap on their nose to let them know when they are being bad.
The best temperature for opossums is 71°F (22°C), but 50–86°F (10–30°C) is a good range. The humidity should be at least 50% to keep their skin from getting dry.
Let your opossum roam around the house or provide them an outdoor enclosure like you would with a pet cat. If opossums are kept in a cage, they will be uncomfortable and aggressive.
Make Your Home Safe From Opossums
Virginia opossums are interesting animals that can move in surprising ways. They will open cabinets and look in all the places they can in your home.
Take the same precautions you do if you were making your home safe for other pets, and also ensure that all windows and doors are locked.
What Can I Feed A Pet Opossum?
Pet opossums have a very versatile diet and can eat fruits, nuts, insects, and small animals. Opossums are omnivores, meaning they will eat almost anything in the wild.
But that doesn’t equate to that we can feed them everything. Diet and good nutrition are the most important things you can assure to keep your pet opossum healthy and lengthen their life.
A balanced diet will help maintain the opossum’s health and avoid obesity and metabolic bone diseases.
Wild opossums are used to walking up to a half-mile to find food, which gives them a lot of exercise. This is impossible if they are kept as pets, and they could get too fat and more prone to sickness.
Opossums need to eat a special diet with fresh foods and the right amounts of calcium and phosphorous. The best way to make sure your opossum is getting all the nutrients it needs is to feed them necessary supplements, along with lots of fresh vegetables and, occasionally, meat, eggs, insects, or plain low-fat yogurt as a protein source.
Do I Need To Buy A Lot Of Things For My Opossum?
Yes. You need to prepare a lot of supplies for your pet opossum. First is constructing a 4-leveled cage which is highly preferable as this will create a space with lots of room for them to climb and look around.
They also need a big nest box to sleep in safely and branches and platforms to climb on inside the cage. Buying a litter box will make the area cleaner.
Common supplies such as vitamins, collars, food and water bowls, and toys are necessary for the improvement of opossum’s well-being too.
Do Opossums Neet Much Attention From A Vet?
There are licensed wildlife veterinarians that are dedicated to treating and helping opossums. However, not all veterinary clinics can assist injured opossums from the wild.
Most often, common veterinarians don’t get involved with opossums because they don’t know enough about them or haven’t worked with them before.
The wildlife departments of some states also follow outdated and often unfriendly environmental rules about what can and cannot be done for wildlife.
Should I Trim My Opossum’s Nails?
The nails of pet opossums need to be trimmed regularly. Since they don’t move around as much and usually walk on softer surfaces, their nails must be trimmed.
In cutting the nails of your opossums, be aware of the pinkish vein inside their nails. This is called the quick. Avoid cutting the nails of the opossums past this region as it will result in bleeding. (See a video of this happening on YouTube).
However, do not panic if you ever cut their nails past the quick. Stop the bleeding using cotton balls or dip the nail in styptic powder.
This will clot the blood and stops the blood from flowing. It also helps create a blockage at the bottom of the blood vessel, which keeps bacteria from getting into the blood vessel.
If you cut their nail too short and it won’t stop bleeding, call your wildlife vet’s office for more help.
Are Opossums Affectionate?
Yes. Once pet opossums are no longer afraid of you, they are as gentle and tame as any pet. They are very timid, tender, and carefree animals that love to be held. They tend to follow their owner a lot during their infancy.
They sleep a lot in the morning, meaning you’ll have to spend most of your time together at night. So they might not be the right pet for people who cannot stay up late.
Pet opossums like to snuggle and play around with their owners. Though you still need to be careful of wild opossums and avoid bothering them as much as possible.
Do Opossums Like Playing With Toys?
You can use cat and dog toys to interact and spend time with your opossums. Having an area where you can hang their toys is preferable. They also like chewy toys that they can munch on. However, opossums don’t usually care about toys on their own.
You need to use snacks and foods as treats to encourage them to play with you and the toys. You can use fruits and vegetables as they usually love sweets, but ensure you are not feeding them excessively.
Do Pet Opossums Like To Cuddle?
Pet opossums love to snuggle, rub their head on their owners, and lick them on the face and limbs, similar to usual pets. When they do this, they are being friendly and demonstrating their love to you.
Opossums show their affection through this cat-like behavior called slubbing. It seems like they are grooming you and are leaving their scent on you.
How Long Do Opossums Live As Pets?
You must also prepare yourself because pet opossums have a relatively short lifespan of 2 to 4 years. This is a bit higher than their lifespan in the wild, which is only 1 to 2 years.
So it is our goal to make them feel important and make every minute count in this short period of time.
How Can I Get A Pet Opossum?
If you want to have an opossum as a pet someday, you might be able to get one from a wildlife rehabilitator who has one that can’t be set free because it isn’t healthy enough. This could happen if you volunteer for a while and show that you are responsible by doing the paperwork and getting the right permit.
Can You Domesticate An Opossum From The Wild?
If you find a young opossum that you think was abandoned, you shouldn’t try to take care of it yourself. They may carry parasites like fleas, ticks, mites, and lice, which can hurt the health of people and animals. Getting too close to a wild opossum could be dangerous for you, your family, or your pets.
Like any other wild animal, opossums should be left in the wild and not kept as pets. Call and discuss the issue with a wildlife rehabilitator first the proper actions that need to be taken before you decide to adopt an opossum as your new family pet.
Experts can help you safely remove opossums from your property or keep them from returning. Wildlife rehabilitators will surely do their best to perform the best course of action in the situation. The opossum will be receiving proper treatment and observation if they can be released in the wild or kept in centers.