Opossums as Pets

Opossums as Pets: Are They a Good Choice?

Last Updated on July 8, 2024 by Arun Roy

Did you know opossums live only about three years in the wild? Keeping them as pets is complex and challenging. They are R-selection species, with a high birth rate but poor health. Specialized care is a must for them.

Before adopting an opossum, know it requires time, resources, and dedication. In captivity, their lifespan may double, but their quality of life could drop. They’re prone to disease, obesity, and might become aggressive towards animals like dogs.

Core Insights to Opossums as Pets:

Opossums have an average lifespan of three years in the wild.

Captivity can extend their lifespan but often results in poor quality of life.

Opossums require specialized care due to their weak immune systems and susceptibility to various health issues.

Adopting a pet opossum involves a significant investment of time and resources.

Opossums can exhibit aggression towards other animals, posing risks to pets.

It’s key to understand the needs and behaviors of opossums if you’re thinking about them as pets. We’ll look at their nature, the legal stuff, how they behave, and what special care they need. If their night-time activities or their help in controlling pests interests you, get all the facts first.

Understanding the Nature of Opossums

Opossums are the only marsupial found in North America. They’ve been around since the dinosaurs, about 70 million years ago. They are very adaptable, surviving big changes in the environment. Their unique behaviors make them interesting to think about as pets.

Habits and Behavior

Opossums show a wide range of behaviors, showcasing their adaptability. They can play dead, using thanatosis to avoid predators. These animals are smart, smarter than dogs and close to pigs. They eat lots of different things, like fruits, bugs, and even dead animals, helping to clean up the environment.

Female opossums roam a lot to take care of their young, not sticking to one area. They live short lives, about 1-2 years. Opossums are tough against diseases like rabies. These facts show how adaptable and resilient opossums are, which is important to know for pet care.

Wild vs. Domesticated Traits

Wild and domestic opossums are very different. Wild ones can have many babies often. They live well around humans in places like western Washington due to lots of food and shelter. They don’t have many natural enemies there.

It’s harder for domestic opossums to act like their wild selves. They keep many of their wild habits, which can be tough for pet owners. Opossums need space to move and explore. Their homes should be like their natural habitat to keep them happy.

Taking care of a pet opossum means knowing their needs well. This includes their diet, how much they move, and how to keep their environment interesting. People thinking about having an opossum as a pet need to learn these things to make a good home for them.

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In the US, whether you can have an opossum as a pet depends on your state’s laws. Some states allow it, making opossums popular pets there. States like Alabama and Florida are examples where you can legally keep opossums.

But, in places like California and New York, having an opossum as a pet is illegal. This is because of worries about their effect on nature and health risks. Always check with local agencies like Fish & Game to make sure you’re following the law.

Even where it’s legal, there are rules to follow. You can’t bring opossums to the US or take them across states without the right paperwork. These laws help protect our environment and health.

StatePermit Required

Thinking of an opossum as a pet? Remember, it’s not just about laws. Owning an opossum means big responsibility. They need the right food, enough space, fun activities, and vet care. Taking good care of them is both legal and the right thing to do.

Opossums As Pets

Behavioral Characteristics of Pet Opossums

Keeping a pet opossum can be an interesting experience. They might act tame, but their wild instincts often show up. This makes it vital to know how they behave.

Docility and Temperament

Pet opossums are usually calm, especially if raised from a young age. They might nuzzle their humans and explore a lot. Yet, it’s important to remember they can be unpredictable. They might get stressed or scared, leading to sudden behavior changes. This is especially true if there are other pets like dogs around.

Interaction with Other Animals

Opossums can sometimes get along with other pets, such as cats. This harmony is fascinating but not guaranteed. Their wild side may take over if they feel threatened. This means careful introductions and watchful eyes are key to keeping peace at home.

Opossums As Pets

Opossums as Pets: Specialized Care Requirements

Holding an opossum as a pet needs specialized pet opossum care. These pets have unique requirements. It is key to know and meet their special dietary, health, and living area needs.

Opossums come with specific care needs. They can be 24 to 40 inches long, counting a 10- to 12-inch tail, and weigh 4 to 12 pounds. The males are bigger and heavier than the females. With 50 teeth, more than any other North American mammal, dental health is crucial.

It’s important to know about their breeding and growth. Opossums have a short 12 to 13-day gestation period. They can have 5 to 13 babies per litter. They breed in late February and March. The babies open their eyes at around eight to nine weeks. They need a diet that’s rich in calories and vital nutrients because they grow fast.

  • Specialized diet: Offer fresh fruits like apples, pears, and peaches and protein sources such as boiled chicken and bugs.
  • Habitat management: Their living conditions improve with properly managed game areas, thinning forests, and adding edges.
  • Veterinary attention: Regular vet check-ups are a must to keep an eye on any opossum health concerns.

Opossums live about 1.5 years in the wild but can reach 5 years as pets. Knowing the right pet opossum guidelines helps them live longer in a home. It’s tough to provide the right care. Not everyone might be up for it.

Average Size24-40 inches long, including tail
Weight4-12 pounds
Teeth50 (most of any North American mammal)
Gestation Period12-13 days
Litter Size5-13, average of 8
Breeding SeasonFebruary-March
Lifespan1.5 years in the wild, up to 5 years in captivity
Opossum Diet

The Appropriate Diet for a Pet Opossum

Feeding a pet opossum needs a deep understanding of their varied diet in the wild. It’s key to know the nutritional needs of opossums for their health.

Challenges in Meeting Nutritional Needs

Opossums eat almost anything in the wild. They enjoy mammals, insects, fruits, and even pet food. For example, a study showed that Oregon opossums’ diets were 27% mammals, 11% leaf litter, and 10% fruits. It’s tough but necessary to make a balanced pet opossum diet at home.

Food Options and Supplements

To mimic their natural eating habits, offer opossums various foods. Use high-quality dog or cat food as the foundation. Add in mixed veggies, fruits, and protein like eggs or chicken liver. Sometimes, opossum food supplements are needed for vitamins and minerals. Yet, too much vitamin A or D can harm them.

Here’s a table on what’s good and bad for pet opossums:

Food TypeExamplesRecommendation
ProteinsEggs, cooked chicken liver, insectsEssential
FruitsApples, bananas, berriesHealthy Treat
VegetablesCarrots, green beans, sweet potatoesHealthy Treat
Commercial FoodHigh-quality dog or cat foodStaple
SupplementsCalcium-loaded insects, mineral blocksUse Judiciously
Junk FoodSugary snacks, fatty foodsAvoid

It’s crucial to offer a well-rounded diet with the right opossum food supplements. Keeping an eye on their health and making necessary changes helps avoid problems like obesity and bone disease.

Health Concerns for Opossums in Captivity

Prospective owners must know key facts to keep pet opossums healthy. These pets have different needs than wild opossums because of their diet, living space, and health care.

Opossums As Pets

Common Health Issues

Pet opossums can get too heavy, develop eye problems, and have weak immune systems. These issues might make them get sick more easily. A common sickness is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), caused by a bad diet without enough calcium and phosphorus.

These pets may also face anal prolapse and kidney diseases that need immediate care. Keeping their home around 22°C (71.6°F) helps keep them healthy. Too hot or too cold can make health problems worse.

Veterinary Care Considerations

It’s hard to find vets for opossums because many aren’t trained to treat them. It’s important to find a vet who knows about opossum health. Regular vet visits and good health care can avoid many sicknesses. Since opossums’ hearts beat very fast, watching their heart health matters too.

Also, there are laws about keeping opossums depending on where you live. Some places like Arkansas, Wyoming, and Wisconsin are more easy-going. But, other places are strict. Knowing these laws helps avoid trouble and keeps your pet safe.

Setting Up an Oposham Enclosure

Creating a home for opossums is key to their happiness. You want to make sure their space feels like the wild. It keeps them safe and content.

Their home needs to be big and airy. You could use a mesh cage or a big tank of 20 gallons or more. It’s important to make sure they can’t get out, as they love to climb.

Keeping the right temperature is very important. It should be between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to put in lots of bedding, like straw or shredded paper. They can use it to snuggle and sleep.

Opossums As Pets

Opossums love to climb, so add things like branches and ropes for them to play on. An exercise wheel is also a great idea. It helps them stay fit and happy.

  • Nesting Materials: Straw, hay, shredded paper
  • Climbing Structures: Branches, shelves, ropes
  • Exercise Essential: Exercise wheel

Opossums sleep during the day because they’re nocturnal. Make sure their home has quiet spots for them to rest. Keeping their home clean is also a must. It keeps them healthy.

Paying attention when setting up their home can make a big difference. A stimulating environment and room to move will keep your opossum happy and well.

Short-Tailed vs. North American Opossums as Pets

Picking between short-tailed and North American opossums as pets requires understanding their needs. These include everything from what they eat to the laws about having them.

Differences in Care

Short-tailed opossums need specific care, which is usually easier than for North American opossums. Their diet is key. It should be rich in protein, with dry food containing more than 30% protein and 9-13% fat. Fresh veggies like leafy greens, carrots, and bell peppers should be given, with just a little fruit.

North American opossums, however, gain weight easily because they burn calories slowly. They need protein but should avoid junk food and dairy. This helps stop health issues.

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Short-tailed opossums also need a set temperature (70-85°F) and humidity (40%-50%). They like living in spaces at least 20 gallons big. Since they’re active at night, their homes should fit this lifestyle.

AspectShort-Tailed OpossumsNorth American Opossums
DietHigh in protein, minimal fruit, no junk foodProtein like chicken and salmon, no dairy or junk food
Legal StatusVaries by state, fewer restrictionsIllegal in most states
Environment70-85°F, 40%-50% humidityGeneral warm and clean spaces
Activity CycleNocturnalVarious, generally more active at night

Understanding the law is vital for ethical pet ownership. Most places ban owning North American opossums to protect the ecosystem. But short-tailed opossums are usually legal since they’re not native. Still, they must get proper care and a good home.

Knowing what’s best for the animal is key. Short-tailed opossums need to live alone to avoid fights. It’s important to get them vet care, including spaying or neutering, to keep them healthy and manage their numbers.

By knowing the differences and care needs, potential owners can make good choices. This ensures a happy life for both the pet and the owner..

Opossums As Pets

Human-Opossum Interaction and Bonding

Bonding with pet opossums is rewarding but takes time and understanding. Especially when young, opossums can develop deep connections with their humans. Most pet opossums used to be orphaned wildlife, getting used to people from a young age.

Handling your opossum gently and often is key to bonding. Even though they’re naturally wild, opossums can become gentle. Practices like those by Suzy Heck at HeckHaven prove that love and steady care build strong bonds. Suzy once nurtured baby opossums, offering them constant care.

Salt, an orphaned opossum, shows the power of such connections. Being too frail at first, Salt was nurtured back to health and grew well-known. When released, he didn’t go far, eventually living on his own. Salt’s story is a powerful example of the bond between humans and opossums.

Understanding opossum behavior is essential for a good relationship. They know their names and simple commands but keep their wild habits. They’re nocturnal and like their space but enjoy cuddles and shoulder rides too. However, owning an opossum may be illegal in some places, so check your local laws.

Forming a bond with opossums blends empathy, patience, and knowledge of their needs. Help from groups like the National Opossum Society, offering care tips and diet info, is crucial. Such support helps in creating loving, enriching relationships with these unique pets.

Tips for Adopting a Pet Opossum

Tips for Adopting a Pet Opossum

Opossums make unique pets, so it’s important to learn a lot before adopting one. Before you decide, know what it takes to care for an opossum. Make sure you’re ready for the responsibility.

Finding Reputable Sources

Start by finding a good place to get your pet opossum. Look for organizations or breeders that treat their animals well. This means your future pet will be healthy and happy.

Check with animal rescues or experienced breeders for adoption options. They should have health records and care instructions for the opossum. Since many places offer possum services, make sure it’s okay to adopt one where you live.

Preparing for the Adoption

Before getting an opossum, make sure it’s legal in your state. Learn about their care needs, like what they eat and their health needs. It’s important to mimic their natural diet to keep them healthy.

Get your home ready with the right supplies and cage. Find a vet who knows how to care for marsupials. It’s best to adopt an opossum when it’s young for easier bonding.

Be ready for the commitment an opossum requires. They live for 2-3 years and need lots of care. Since they can chew and shred things, being well-prepared is key.


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Final Remarks

Thinking about opossums as pets needs careful thought and readiness. It’s important to know their habits and legal rules for keeping them. For example, Virginia opossums need a lot of space in the wild. But their needs are very different when they live with us. They live about 2 years in nature, but can live longer with good care.

Caring for an opossum means giving them the right food and a good place to live. This includes understanding their skill in eating ticks, helping control pests. They can eat up to 5,000 ticks in a season! Also, they hardly ever get rabies, which makes them safer than many pets.

To be a good opossum owner, you must meet their needs. This could be a Short-Tailed Possum or a North American variety. Either way, owning an opossum can be a unique and fun experience. With care, knowledge, and dedication, these animals can be great friends. Their health, food, and home need our full attention.


Are opossums good pets?

Opossums are interesting, but they’re not great pets. They can get really stressed in a home and are hard to take care of.

What are some key behaviors of pet opossums?

Pet opossums groom themselves and can solve problems. But they might be aggressive, especially to other pets. They’re active at night and need lots of playtime.

How do wild opossum ABS differ from domesticated opossums?

Wild opossums focus on surviving and reproducing quickly. They love to forage and climb. Even at home, opossums keep some wild habits, which can be a challenge.

Is it legal to keep opossums as pets?

Laws about having opossums as pets change depending on where you live. Some places say no, while others say yes with certain rules, like getting a permit. Always check with local wildlife authorities.

What is the temperament of pet opossums?

Pet opossums may seem calm, but they’re really still wild at heart. This means they can act in unexpected ways. They usually like being alone and might not get along with pets like dogs.

What are the specialized care requirements for pet opossums?

Opossums eat a special diet that’s high in protein but low in fat. They need regular check-ups and a home that feels like the wild. Also, playing and learning keep them happy.

What should I feed my pet opossum?

Their food should have lots of protein, be low in fat, and include treats with vitamins and minerals. Always have fresh water ready to stop them from getting thirsty.

What health issues are common in captive opossums?

Pet opossums often get fat, develop cataracts, have weak immune systems, and can catch diseases easily. Seeing an exotic animal vet often helps them stay healthy.

How should I set up an enclosure for my pet opossum?

Make sure their home is safe, has good air flow, and is warm. They need cozy spots to sleep, branches to climb, and a clean space.

What are the differences between short-tailed and North American opossums as pets?

Short-tailed opossums are easier to take care of than North American ones. But, the laws are different for each. Both kinds need love and a proper place to live.

How do I bond with my pet opossum?

Getting close to an opossum takes gentle care and time. Start when they’re young. They may not learn tricks like pets usually do but can get used to you.

What should I know before adopting a pet opossum?

Do your homework on opossum care and make sure it’s legal to have one. Getting your pet from a trusted place and setting up vet care is very important.

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