Do you know the difference between a possum and an opossum?

The Virginia Opossum is also known as the North American Opossum. It’s a marsupial that lives in North America, Central America, South America, and some Caribbean islands. They are primarily nocturnal animals with grayish fur. Their diet consists of insects, grubs, worms, eggs, and carrion (dead animals).

Possums and opossums are both marsupials but are not the same animal. Possums live in Australia and New Zealand, where they eat fruit or vegetables like apples or oranges.

Do opossums carry rabies?

Rabies is very rare in opossums. They’re usually – probably because of their low body temperature – not carriers of rabies. The chance of contracting it from an opossum is very slim. Rabies can only be transmitted through saliva or brain tissue, so if you’re bitten by a rabid animal, the virus will enter your body through those fluids. If you touch a rabid animal’s fur and then touch your mouth or eyes before washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water, you may contract rabies as well.

What do opossums eat?

You may have seen an opossum out at night scavenging for food. But what do opossums eat? They eat almost anything! Plants, insects, small animals, but mainly dead carrion. Commercial dog and cat foods and human food waste are on their menu as well.

They’re also one of the few mammals that can live several days without a direct water source. Because they’re sleeping heads down, hanging by their tails from tree limbs, they can get enough water from the dew to live for days or even weeks.

Are Opossums dangerous?

They’re almost not dangerous! Almost. You might see them crossing the road at dusk, but they’re not as dangerous as you think. In fact, they’re just about the cutest animal on earth.

But you should know that while opossums rarely carry rabies, they are still wild animals, and close contact should be avoided in general. They have sharp teeth and can bite humans when threatened or cornered. Such a bite can transmit diseases like tularemia, leptospirosis, and bubonic plague!

So while they don’t carry rabies, they might pose other risks to humans who come into contact with them.

How long does an opossum live?

The average lifespan of an opossum is 2-3 years.

Benefits for humans

They are the only marsupial in North America, and they’re adorable. But did you know that they also have a lot of benefits for humans? Opossums eat pests like ticks, rats, bugs, and cockroaches, which is good news because these animals can carry diseases. Plus, their droppings fertilize plants!

Opossum diseases

They’re one of the most misunderstood animals on earth. Opossums have been unfairly characterized as dirty, diseased, and dangerous to humans. But they’re actually quite clean and docile creatures who clean themselves just like cats do and pose a minor threat to people or pets.

What's the difference between an opossum and a raccoon?

Opossums are marsupials, meaning they have a pouch on their stomachs for carrying babies. 

They also have opposable thumbs on their front paws that allow them to grasp things with ease. Raccoons, however, are not marsupials but musteloids, a family of meat-eating mammals and do not have opposable thumbs.

What is the meaning of play opossum?

Play opossum means to act dead. When threatened, an opossum will pretend to be dead by showing no movement or even breathing.

The opossum would draw its lips back to show its teeth, salvia foams around the mouth, and it closes its eyes. It may also release a foul odor from its anal glands as a defense mechanism, mimicking a sick or dead animal’s appearance and smell.

Did you know? The word “opossum” comes from Algonquian, and it means “white dog-like beast.” This creature has a white-gray coat that blends in with its surroundings.

Opossum Habitat

An opossum is a marsupial that lives in North America. They are most active at night and are usually found in the forest or near streams, where they eat plants, insects, small animals, and carrion. They live in trees or brush piles and take up residence under porches and houses if given access to crawl spaces or attics. Opossums have opposable thumbs on their front paws so they can grasp branches to climb trees.

You may not be aware of it, but there are many types of opossums living all over the world! The Virginia Opossum has been introduced to Europe and Australia, where it competes with native species for food and habitat. In South America, there’s also a type called the Patagonian Opossum, which lives high up in trees like its cousins from North America do.

Opossum nest

Opossums can build a nest but spend only a few days there before they move on. Their babies stay in a pouch on their mother’s body. During the day, you’ll find them napping high up in trees or on rooftops where they can be safe from predators like coyotes, foxes, dogs, and cats.

Is an opossum a rodent?

Just because it looks like a rat? No, Opossums are not rodents. They’re marsupials, which means they carry their young in pouches on their bodies, like kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas. This is why opossums have a pouch-like face and long snouts that help them sniff out food in the dark.

If you think an opossum looks like a rodent, it’s because of its long snout and pointed nose. Not to mention its pointy ears! But don’t worry, opossums are actually really cute animals with soft fur and big eyes.

Learn more about these fascinating creatures with our list of 10 fun facts.

  • The American opossum and the Australian possum are two different animals
  • Are omnivores and eat about everything
  • Eat pests like ticks which makes them natural pest control
  • Have thumbs
  • Carry their young in a pouch on their body
  • Rarely carry rabies
  • Can hang on tree limbs due to their impressive tails
  • Play dead when in danger
  • Are very clean animals and groom themselves, as cats do
  • Only live 2-3 years
  • Have 50 teeth