The opossum, commonly known as just a ‘possum’ is North America’s only marsupial. But they’re also a very misunderstood creature, with a lot of the fear surrounding them stemming from misconceptions or beliefs that they’ll behave like other animals.
But are possums vicious animals? Will they attack you or your pets, and do they carry any diseases? Let’s find out below!
What Do Possums Eat?
Possums can adapt to just about any environment thanks to their biology. For example, they are immune to nearly all forms of snakes and snake venoms, meaning that they often will eat snakes like rattlesnakes or cottonmouths.
Possums aren’t picky, and are opportunistic eaters. If it looks good and if it’s in easy reach, they’ll eat it!
Possums also enjoy rats, mice, frogs, crayfish, slugs, snails, plants, fruit, and carrion.
Because they’re opportunistic eaters, possums will also eat any food you leave out for your cat or dog on your porch. They’ll also find their way into the food in your garbage if the lid on your garbage can isn’t secured.
What Diseases Do Possums Carry?
Contrary to popular belief, possums are the least likely out of all the critters you may find in your backyard to have rabies, but they may carry other diseases.
These are Coccidiosis, Leptospirosis, Spotted fever, Toxoplasmosis, Tuberculosis, Tularemia, and Relapsing fever.
Most of these diseases are also found in the parasites that possums carry, and all of these diseases can lead to you becoming seriously ill.
Are Possums Safe Around Children?
Of course, nobody would want their child to be around a wild animal but as possums are typically docile creatures there is very little to worry about in terms of your children getting attacked by one.
Still, they are wild animals and should be viewed from a distance.
While possums are less likely to carry rabies than other animals, they still carry the diseases mentioned above.
Children (particularly younger children) tend to have a weaker immune system than adults, so it’s also best to keep children far away from animals that could pose a risk to their health.
Are Possums Safe Around Pets?
Possums are rather passive creatures who dislike confrontation and will often ‘play dead’ when confronted by a predator or any other animal.
A possum is very unlikely to attack your pets, and in fact it is often the case that possums are often the victims of attacks by pets such as dogs rather than the other way around.
But while cats may potentially injure or kill younger possums, adult possums and cats have been known to coexist.
But before you consider bringing a possum into your home to be buddies with your cat, remember that possums are wild animals and for the sake of their safety should be left to live in their natural habitat.
Can Possums Damage Your Property?
Possums are not just opportunistic eaters, but opportunistic animals in general.
However, it’s worth noting that they will not damage property in order to move into your home. Instead, they’ll make use of existing holes in roofs ir siding in order to get into your attic or similar.
They also may dig into your lawn looking for insects to enjoy.
Are Possum Droppings Dangerous?
As we’ve mentioned, possums can carry several diseases, such as a bacterial disease called Leptospirosis.
This disease is transmitted through possum urine and feces, and may begin with flu-like symptoms but can develop into meningitis, respiratory complications, liver failure, and kidney damage.
It is advised to keep your pets vaccinated against Leptospirosis so they don’t catch this disease if they come into contact with a possum. If you find any possum feces or urine on your property, clean it up with bleach.
Meanwhile, Coccidiosis is another disease that can be spread through the feces of a possum.
Are Possum Bites Dangerous?
Possums are famous for being non-confrontational animals. So much so that they have even evolved to slip into a fugue state to avoid confrontation.
In their fugue state they ‘play dead,’ lowering their heart rate to fool their predators.
They also drool to give off the impression they’re rabid and will secrete a green fluid from their anal glands. This fluid has a disgusting scent (worse than canine glands) that will drive away predators and humans alike.
However, that’s not to say a possum won’t stand up for itself in some circumstances. They will sometimes bite in self-defense, showing off their row of sharp teeth.
This is rare though and only happens when the possum feels as though they are backed into a corner and playing dead won’t work.
Are Possums Actually Useful?
While it’s easy to write possums off as unwanted pests, they can also be helpful. Mainly because they can eat harmful insects and pests such as ticks, cockroaches, rats, and snakes.
But are these benefits enough to justify keeping a possum in the house when they’re meant to live in the wild?
No, not really. Possums are wild animals, not domesticated ones. They may cause damage to your home by trying to make nests in various corners of your house.
They also leave behind droppings that can spread serious diseases for humans. Once they die, they could cause foul odors that would be unbearable to live with and potentially difficult to get rid of.
This also goes for the secretion they naturally produce when playing dead, which may happen when they’re in an unfamiliar indoor environment surrounded by stressors like electrical appliances, other members of your household, and pets.
How Can You Get Rid Of Possums?
Like other pests, the best way to get rid of possums is to make changes to your home that make it less attractive to the possums and less likely for them to stick around.
This includes removing vegetation and debris that could be the perfect hiding place for a possum, securing lids on garbage cans, feeding your pets indoors, securing holes and entry points around your home, and sealing up areas beneath your deck or porch where a possum would like to hide.
Another way to get rid of possums is trimming the trees around your home. Possums are naturally excellent climbers and will use trees to get onto your roof.