Here's Why People Shouldn't Keep Opossums as Pets

Posted by Christy Caplan
Opossum

Unfortunately, they do not make great pets. Wildlife rehabbers are honestly the only people that have the skillset and certification to care for an 0possum.

With that in mind, here are some of the top questions asked and searched when it comes to 'pet' opossums. They are one of the oldest mammals around. Fossils have been found that date back to the dinosaur age.

The Santa Barbara Humane Society has some wonderful fun facts about opossums on their site.

  • Opossums are nocturnal (active at night) and have a solitary life. They are usually non-aggressive and prefer to "play possum," or fake death. 
  • They feed on carrion (roadkill), invertebrates (such as bugs), fruits and small vertebrates. They also eat ticks, helping decrease the prevalence of lyme disease.
  • They have a natural resistance to disease (including rabies). 
  • They have immunity to rattlesnake and insect venom, a prehensile tail and opposing thumbs. 

Can you keep an opossum as a pet? 

It depends on the state you live in and the laws on having exotic pets in your home! Generally speaking, it's not a great idea to keep an opossum as a pet.

Many forums discuss the challenge of their diet. A commercial insectivore diet probably provides the best basic diet, although some feed cat food, ferret food, and a variety of other pelleted diets with success. Look for diets that are high in protein and low in fat.

With that in mind, The Opossum Society of the United States says no that these exotic animals belong in the wild.

"Give the opossum the chance to live the life nature intended...in the wild. In most states it is illegal to be in possession of a wild animal without the proper permits. If the opossum is an orphan or injured then seek immediate assistance. Read the "Found an Orphaned or Injured Opossum?" section. Otherwise, release the animal."

Can you raise a baby opossum and release it back into the wild?

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The Opossum Society of the United States also confirms it is not in the best interest of the animal. They encourage people to become a wildlife rehabilitator if this is something you're interested in doing. 

"Raising wild animals is not the same as raising a puppy or kitten. If not fed the proper diet or if early signs of illness are not recognized then the opossum will suffer and possibly die. Remember, they are wild animals. They will not show you when they are sick, as a dog would.  This does not mean we do not want you to raise opossums, only that you must be properly trained first! Contact OSUS or a local wildlife rehabilitator for volunteer opportunities."

How can you become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator?

The Opossum Society of the United States confirms the following if you are interested in becoming licensed.

"If interested in becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator then contact your state's department of wildlife for information about requirements and obtaining permits. Rules and requirements vary by state. Make sure you have the financial means, space, time and dedication before making the commitment to enter the wildlife rehabilitation profession. Gain valuable hands-on experience and knowledge by volunteering with a local wildlife organization or individual wildlife rehabilitator."

If you must have an opossum and don't plan to get licensed, check this article to see if your state allows exotic pets.

These exotic animals simply don't make good pets. They have sharp teeth! It's certainly cute when they're playing possum but this behavior is to protect themselves from predators.

What about their short lifespan? They will live 4-8 years in captivity so their life expectancy is short!

Do you or anyone you know, live with exotic animals? Please comment below! 

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Here's Why People Shouldn't Keep Opossums as Pets