If you live in the southern or eastern part of the US, then you’re probably familiar with the opossum, colloquially known as the possum. The species in the US is the opossum, while the true possum is native to Australia.
While many people view the opossum as a pest animal, these fantastic critters are the only marsupial in the United States, and they’re quite beneficial to have around. Possums are omnivores that are known for eating actual pests, like ticks. However, they do get themselves into trouble sometimes, getting into chicken coops and eating both eggs and chickens, as well as stealing fruits and veggies from home gardens. Should you worry about a possum hurting your cat, though? The chances of your cat being attacked by a possum are low, but they can attack them if they feel threatened.
Do Possums Attack Cats?
Opossums are extremely docile animals that are very shy, so they tend to avoid interactions with animals and people. They are especially wary of animals that are their size or larger, including cats.
They do tend to be most active at night, which is often true for cats, so the possibility of your outdoor cat encountering a possum does exist. If cornered or threatened, there is a possibility that a possum will bite or attack your cat.
The primary defense mechanism that possums use, though, is playing dead. If you’ve ever heard the saying, “playing possum,” then you’ve heard someone referring to this ability. Playing dead is an involuntary action that occurs when a possum is stressed or threatened. When in this state, they lack reflexes and, by all appearances, will appear dead. Most of the time, whatever is threatening the possum will lose interest once it believes the possum is dead.
Should I Worry if My Cat Encounters a Possum?
Ideally, you should do everything in your power to prevent interactions between your cat and any wildlife, but possums are attracted by things like cat food. If you have a cat that lives outdoors or spends time outdoors, then there is a possibility of an encounter with a possum.
The good news is that possums very rarely carry rabies, but you should still make sure your cat is up to date on their rabies vaccine according to your vet’s recommendations and the laws in your area. Although the cause of this isn’t completely understood, it’s believed that it’s because of the low body temperature of the possum making them an unsuitable vector for the disease.
Although rabies is a low concern with possums, they can carry other diseases, like leptospirosis. This is a deadly disease that is zoonotic, which means that it can pass to humans. They can also spread diseases after consuming infected animals.
How to Deter Possums
If you want to work to keep opossums away from your cat, there are a few steps you can take. The first is to ensure that all food items are well out of reach. Consider putting your cat’s food bowl behind a microchip cat door or somewhere else that other animals can’t reach. Make sure your trash cans are closed and consider adding fencing around your garden. You may have to avoid putting food in your compost bin as well.
You also need to take away places for possums to hide and live, so keep bushes and trees trimmed back, aiming to keep them away from your roof to prevent possum visitors. Keep firewood stacked tightly to prevent denning, block crawl spaces and areas under stairs and porches, and consider adding a motion-activated sprinkler system to deter possums. Motion lights and loud noises can also deter possums.
Possums are gentle and beneficial animals, and the odds of one attacking your cat are low, although a possum may attack if threatened. Do everything you can to keep your cat away from all wildlife, including possums. This will reduce the risk of injuries, as well as disease spread between wildlife, your cat, and all members of your household. Keep your cat up to date on all vaccines to help reduce the spread of disease.
Featured Image Credit: Scottslm, Pixabay