Published on February 25, 2022
Last Updated on October 11, 2023
Opossums are the only marsupial native to America and have a diet as unique as they are. They are known as scavengers which means they eat pretty much anything they can get their paws on.
The Opossumøs diet includes dead and rotting plants, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. But it doesn’t stop there – they also feast on roadkill, household garbage, and insects including slugs, snails, flies, and ticks.
Are Opossums Carnivore, Herbivore, or Omnivores?
Table of Contents
- 1 Are Opossums Carnivore, Herbivore, or Omnivores?
- 2 Are Opossums Mainly Scavengers, or Do They Also Hunt?
- 3 What Is the Opossum’s Favorite Food?
- 4 Is It Okay to Feed Wild Opossums?
- 5 Will Feeding Wild Opossums Cause Any Issues?
- 6 What Do Baby Opossums Eat?
- 7 Do Opossums Eat Vegetables?
- 8 Do Opossums Eat Much Fruit?
- 9 Will Opossums Eat Nuts and Seeds?
- 10 Do Opossums Raid Bird Feeders?
- 11 Do Opossums Climb Trees For Fruit, Nuts, and Vegetables?
- 12 What Kind of Animals Do Opossums Prey On?
- 13 Do Opossums Eat Eggs?
- 14 Do Opossums Eat Pet Food?
- 15 Can Opossums Eat Processed Food?
- 16 What is a Good Diet for an Opossum in Captivity?
- 17 What Are Some Foods That Are Bad For Opossums?
- 18 Do Opossums Eat Poop?
- 19 Author
As you may have guessed – opossums are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Many wildlife enthusiasts refer to them as nature’s “clean up crew” in reference to the opossum’s habit of tidying up everyone else’s mess. They will sniff about for anything leftover from another animal’s dinner, an overflowing trashcan, or even an animal that has died.
Some gardeners love opossums because they will eat weeds and dead or rotting plants as well as the slugs and snails that damaged them in the first place. When fruits fall from a tree they can attract flies, but opossums are great at removing all the fruit before flies become a problem.
Are Opossums Mainly Scavengers, or Do They Also Hunt?
Opossums are mainly scavengers so their diets are mostly made up of the food they can find in their environment. In the woods, this might include dead animals, fallen fruit, or weeds. When opossums live near houses their scavenging habits will change. In these urban areas, a scavenging opossum may come to depend on trashcans and dog or cat food that’s been left outside.
But don’t be fooled! Although opossums favor scavenging, they are also excellent hunters with sharp teeth and highly dexterous hands. An opossum is a relatively passive hunter, they don’t fight their prey or stalk it over long distances, but they will snap up a slug or frog if it crosses their path.
What Is the Opossum’s Favorite Food?
Opossums love to eat rotting plant matter. This might be an apple that has fallen from a tree and gone bad or weeds that have been pulled from a flowerbed.
Opossums will not pass on the opportunity to go through a trashcan, hoping to find some of their favorite human food including cooked eggs, chicken wings, and pasta.
Opossums like meat on the bone because bone is an excellent source of calcium, which they need a lot of in their diet. They also get calcium from eating eggs whole, including the shell.
Is It Okay to Feed Wild Opossums?
While it’s unlikely that you will feed something to an opossum that makes it sick, a lot of experts ask that you don’t feed wild opossums as it can encourage them into neighborhoods where they aren’t welcome. An opossum in the wild is clever and perfectly able to find its own food. If it comes too close to a house, it may be injured or trapped.
But if you think that a wild opossum is hungry, or would enjoy a treat, you can offer them a little bit of cat or dog food, leftover eggs, and any food that has spoiled in your kitchen. Opossums will eat pretty much anything, but as their regular diet needs to be well-balanced it’s advisable to leave them to their natural eating habits.
Now, I know that some people are going to steer clear of feeding wild opossums. They see them as pests. However, I have found a lot of things that end up being blamed on opossums such as upturned garbage cans and gardens that have been dug up are not actually caused by opossums at all. In fact, as long as you don’t act in a threatening manner towards an opossum, they are surprisingly friendly marsupials.
If you feed wild opossums, then it may encourage them to stick around your home. After all, wild animals love a regular food source. Having opossums stick around may actually be beneficial to you.
If you feed opossums and keep them hanging around, then they will be more than happy to feast on any other pests in your backyard. If you have a problem with rats and mice, then that is going to be a thing of the past with a resident opossum. Same with snails, snakes, and larger insects. Opossums love tucking into them.
Honestly, if you can feed a wild opossum, then I suggest that you do. There are very few negatives, but a lot of positives.
Will Feeding Wild Opossums Cause Any Issues?
The main issue with feeding wild opossums is that you will now have a few opossums hanging around your backyard. However, for the most part, they will keep to themselves, and they are not going to cause any major damage to anything. I promise you. If you notice upturned garbage cans, then it isn’t going to be the opossums that have done it.
Other than this, you will still be leaving food out for the opossums. This may attract other pests. This means that you may want to keep an eye on what is eating the food. Although, to be honest, this isn’t a major issue for most people. The opossums will do a fantastic job at keeping the smaller pests at bay anyway.
When Is It Best To Feed An Opossum?
Opossums are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at nighttime. It’s not uncommon for people to be completely unaware that they have opossums living near their house until they start to notice bits of food going missing, or garbage cans being knocked over. Opossums are unusual to encounter during the day as they are usually tucked away in their beds to sleep.
If you want to feed an opossum, it’s best to leave small bits of food outside overnight. You might not see the opossum, but you might be able to see its footprints.
What Do Baby Opossums Eat?
Baby opossums are called joeys and they drink milk from their mother. Once they are born they crawl across their mother’s belly and into her pouch, similar to a kangaroo’s pouch. Once safely tucked away they latch onto a teat and drink their mother’s milk. Opossum babies don’t start eating solid food for 3 months after they are born.
If you come across an abandoned baby opossum don’t be tempted to feed them cow’s milk. Cow milk is different from opossum milk and can make babies very sick.
Do Opossums Eat Vegetables?
Yes, opossums eat all kinds of vegetables. When they can find them, they like to eat carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, onions, and much more. Luckily for gardeners, opossums prefer vegetables that have already started to go bad, so will choose to eat rotten vegetables over fresh.
Opossums will eat every part of the vegetable, including its peelings, roots, and seeds. Essentially, an opossum sees a compost heap as a buffet, and will happily chomp its way through any vegetable waste from your kitchen.
Do Opossums Eat Much Fruit?
When they can find it, opossums eat plenty of different types of fruit including apples, pears, and berries.
One of the most common fruits for them to find in their natural habitat are apples. In the woods, they may come across a wild apple tree that produces fruits called crabapples. These tend to ripen and fall to the ground towards the end of summer where they make a tasty snack for a passing opossum.
Will An Opossum Eat Fruit Peelings Too?
An opossum will eat every part of the fruit. They will eat the fruit peelings, seeds, and core. Fruit contains a lot of natural sugars, so makes an excellent energy source for a wandering opossum. True to their role as nature’s clean-up crew, they will feast on fruit until there is nothing left at all.
This can be a great way to get rid of any fruit peelings from your kitchen, just leave them in your garden and let the opossums take care of it! But be cautious about attracting opossums to your house, as not everyone may be too happy about your new friends.
Will Opossums Eat Nuts and Seeds?
Nuts and seeds are more widely available to opossums than fruits and vegetables. They like to live in wooded and brushy habitats with lots of seed-producing plants. Acorns, pinecones, and chestnuts can all form part of an opossum’s diet. Sometimes they may be lucky enough to find tastier nuts like walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and pecans in people’s gardens.
Do Opossums Raid Bird Feeders?
As you might imagine, opossums are drawn to bird feeders and the delicious and nutritious nuts and seeds they find inside them. As well as the contents of the bird feeder, opossums are also attracted to these sites as they hint at the possibility of a bird’s nest, which the opossum will raid for eggs and even chicks.
It’s difficult to stop opossums from raiding a bird feeder as they are intelligent, have dexterous fingers, and are excellent climbers. Instead of moving the birdfeeder, one solution is to leave seeds out only during the day or to take the bird feeders down for a couple of weeks.
Many garden birds are most active during the day, so they will be able to eat before the birdfeeders are put away overnight, away from nocturnal opossums.
Completely taking down birdfeeders for a couple of weeks will encourage opossums to search elsewhere for their next meal. Hopefully, they will have forgotten about your garden birdfeeder and your birds can go back to their meals in peace.
Do Opossums Climb Trees For Fruit, Nuts, and Vegetables?
Opossums are excellent tree climbers. Trees provide a safe home for opossums as well as a potential meal ticket. A hungry opossum will have no trouble scaling a tree to get its paws on some fruits or nuts. However, opossums prefer their food to be slightly rotten- so they are more likely to scavenge for fallen apples than climb into trees to pick them fresh from the branch.
What Kind of Animals Do Opossums Prey On?
Opossums prey on small insects, garden pests, small vertebrates, and even poisonous snakes! Their favorite animals to hunt include flies, wasps, slugs, snails, frogs, mice, rats, and small birds.
Opossums are incredibly helpful in the fight against Lyme Disease, which is caused by ticks. Although ticks live on opossums, the opossum won’t let them stick around for long and can munch their way through up to 5,000 ticks a day!
Do Opossums Eat Eggs?
Opossums love to eat eggs. One of their favorite treats is a dish of cooked eggs, but they will happily eat raw eggs too. These may have been looted from a chicken coop or a nest, or from a garbage can.
Eggshells are unappetizing to us, but opossums will happily crunch through a whole egg – including the shell. Opossums need much more calcium in their diet than other animals of their size, and eggshells are an ideal source of calcium.
Do Opossums Eat Pet Food?
If you leave some dog or cat food outside when there are opossums around, you will probably find the dish empty by morning. Because opossums are scavenger feeders they don’t have an instinct to always hunt the meat that they eat. Cat and dog food is a tasty and energy-rich meal for an opossum, but they should eat it only occasionally.
Other types of pet food loved by opossums include hamster and rabbit food, as well as birdseed. Opossums kept in captivity are typically fed a diet made up mostly of fruits and vegetables, with meat as a rare treat. So if you are feeding a wild opossum make sure to not rely on cat or dog food alone.
Can Opossums Eat Processed Food?
Although opossums can eat processed food, it doesn’t mean they should. Processed food is pre-made food that we think of as “human food” which you can buy in packets or jars at the store. Things like peanut butter, bread, apple sauce, processed meats, and chocolate are all examples of processed foods.
An opossum will frequently come across these foods when scavenging through garbage, but it’s important not to encourage them to eat these things and they contain too much salt, fat, and sugar for an opossum diet. Opossums have a sweet tooth and they will seek these foods out so be careful not to let an opossum overindulge!
What is a Good Diet for an Opossum in Captivity?
Opossums are omnivores – they eat both plants and other animals in the wild. This translates to their diet in captivity as well. Feeding your opossum with a range of different things is best for their health. They love to eat regular animal food that is created for cats, ferrets, squirrels, hedgehogs, and other small animals.
They also love to eat insects too! Crickets, worms, cockroaches, and other animals are easy to find in the wild or can be purchased nowadays. Don’t worry, you won’t have to literally open a can of worms, you can buy dried insects that come in bags.
Something like a 4 lbs bag of mealworms will keep your opossum happy for weeks but remember that diet variety is important for the health of both humans and opossums.
Types of Food, Supplements, Precautions, Feeding, Water
I have mentioned that they are omnivores, which means that opossums will eat almost anything. But what most opossums love the most are fruits and vegetables. Grapes are a favorite among them.
They also love to eat cooked eggs, baby food, all sorts of meat, and even dairy, which should be given sparingly. They will eat pretty much anything that you give them.
When it comes to supplements, if the possum is fed a wide range of food items, the supplements won’t be necessary. Nonetheless, if you are worried about the possum’s health, you can mix calcium powder with insects when feeding it. You can also mix vitamins that are intended for other animals into food or water.
Be careful when it comes to food that has a high-fat content, though. Opossums can get fat fairly easily, which is why it is best to give them lean meats and not overfeed them. They love to eat as much as we do! Most of us would get fat quickly if we ate tons of fatty food too.
When it comes to feeding, since opossums are nocturnal, it is best to feed them in the evening. Remember to remove the uneaten food in the morning, especially if it is something that can go bad.
And when it comes to water, opossums are again just like any other living being. They need sufficient water to survive. You can fill a small bowl with water or, if the opossum is very small, something like a jar lid will work fine too.
You might have to use a water bottle if the opossum finds it difficult to drink on its own or if it is still a baby. Again, just like human babies! Also, make sure that your opossum always has fresh water around because it has to stay hydrated.
What Are Some Foods That Are Bad For Opossums?
Opossums can eat pretty much anything and aren’t picky when it comes to finding their next meal. However, that’s not to say that opossums should eat whatever they like. Their digestive systems don’t tolerate lactose very well so milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt should all be avoided or limited.
Opossums can also gain weight very easily, so they shouldn’t be fed anything containing too much fat or sugar such as peanut butter, chocolate, and other candies.
Although opossums are well known for their hugely varied diet, their diets must be precisely balanced, or they run the risk of getting sick. The take-home message here is that opossums can eat small amounts of human or pet food, but it should not form the main basis of their diet. If you worry about an opossum in your neighborhood, then contact a rehabilitation center.
Do Opossums Eat Poop?
We’ve talked about everything else that opossums eat, and if you thought the huge list was over then here’s one last addition: opossums eat poop! Lots of other animals eat poop, including their own, but opossums have the unenviable trait of eating both their own poop and that of other animals.
They do this because it’s a practical way to top up their daily need for calories or nutrients. Fortunately, this isn’t standard practice and opossums will only eat poop if they are really desperate. If you see an opossum eating poop then it may be a sign that it’s hungry and could possibly do with some help.
But… Why Would Opossums Eat Poo?
There are two theories for this phenomenon. It can be a stress-induced behavior, say when an animal goes through famine or neglect. It can also simply be a natural means of acquiring extra nutrients out of predigested food.
For instance, rabbits regularly eat their own feces because their diet is too high in fiber for them to metabolize it in the first round. We only see those cute little chocolate chip poops because they eat their gooey cecotropes straight from… Well, you get the point.
Baby koalas also eat feces, but not their own…No, they rely on their mother’s pap as a means of gaining tolerance to the highly toxic eucalyptus leaves that their species has chosen to be their sole source of food.
If you think only koala babies are weird, think again. Many baby animals naturally partake in this banquet of bung. It is the way they establish healthy gut bacteria. So where you might say poo-poo to a restaurant serving Ruminococcaceae and Prevotella microbes, your puppy is already ordering the number 2.