Frequently Asked Questions – Opossums

Over the years we have been asked  a lot of questions regarding opossums and how to control them. We thought we would address them so that everyone can benefit. We hope you find this reader-requested Q&A beneficial.

Are opossums related to rats?

No, even though they look like an oversized rat, opossums are not related to rats at all. Opossums are marsupials meaning pouched mammals and are related to the koala and kangaroo. Marsupials carry their young in a pouch located on the stomach of the female. The opossum is North America’s only marsupial!

I see an opossum sharing a food dish with my cat. Is this normal?

Opossums are very opportunistic animals. If food is readily available they will eat it. This is not a good thing because then other wildlife usually follows and will eventually create unwanted situation for the homeowner.

Will an opossum attack my pets?

If you have a dog it is more likely it will injure or kill an opossum. Adult opossums and cats seem to respect one another and leave each other alone. Opossums are generally docile, non-aggressive animals and will not attack your pets. They prefer to avoid confrontations and escape when possible. If the threatened opossum can’t escape it will “play ‘possum”, show its teeth, or on occasion bite in self-defense, as any animal would.

If opossums are nocturnal then why do I see one in the day?

There are a number of reasons that an opossum maybe sighted during the day. One of the main reasons is when they get used to a constant food supply (feeding pets outdoors) and the human scent they become less afraid. During the spring or summer months a female opossum as had her babies and must spend more time foraging for food during the day. Another reason an opossum maybe sighted in the daytime is because their nesting or hiding area may be disturbed, often by the presence of a dog or children playing outside and disturbing the bush they may be in. This causes the frightened animal to run out and search for a new hiding place. Other possibilities include a blind opossum, this happens when opossums get attacked by dogs, or a sick or injured opossum. If you suspect the opossum is not healthy then contact your local trapper to have the opossum removed ASAP.

Do opossums carry rabies?

Every mammal can contract rabies. However, the likeliness of rabies in an opossum is EXTREMELY RARE. This probably has something to do with the opossum’s low body temperature (94-97º F) making it difficult for the rabies virus to survive.

Why do I keep seeing opossums in my yard?

This is generally due to an attractant around your home.

  • Opossums are usually attracted to pet food left outside
  • Dense or overgrown shrubs to hide under.
  • Garbage Cans
  • Rotting Fruit

Things to do to prevent opossums from showing up in your yard:

  • Do not leave pet food out at night
  • Do not leave your garage doors, unscreened windows or pet doors open at night
  • Do Pick up fruit that has fallen off the trees.
  • Do cover your garbage cans
  • Do clear away weeds, debris, wood piles and trim bushes and overgrown shrubs.