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Home > Rodents > Do Possums Make Great Pets? Legality, Ethics & FAQs

Do Possums Make Great Pets? Legality, Ethics & FAQs

Opossums

When people think about getting a pet, cats and dogs are among the most popular choices in the United States. Some people go for smaller creatures, such as fish, hamsters, rats, or rabbits. Others want reptilian or amphibian pets; lizards, frogs, or snakes are popular ‘exotic’ options. But what about a possum?

Usually, a possum does not come to most people’s minds when they think about owning a pet. These are wild animals, so generally, they do not make the best pets and are not always legal to house. However, there are some species of possums that have done well as tame pets. This article goes over which possums have the potential to make good household pets.

divider-hamster Possum vs. Opossum: Are They Different?

Possum vs Opossum
Image By: Left (Possum) Timothy Christianto, Shutterstock ; Right (Opossum) videorevive, Pixabay

People often use possum and opossum interchangeably. However, this can create some confusion when researching this animal because these are two different creatures. Let’s break down the differences:

  • An opossum is known for its white rat-like face and bare tail. Opossums can weigh between 9 to 13 pounds and get as long as 2.5 feet from their nose to their tail. It is the only marsupial found in North America. The opossum is sometimes called the Virginia opossum or the common opossum. Since this is the only kind of pouched mammal found in North America, some call them possums. This article will not focus on these opossums.
  • A possum refers to one of the many marsupials native to parts of New Guinea and Sulawesi, Australia, and some in South America. These possums range from less than an ounce to over 20 pounds and vary in color. Since there are so many kinds of possums found in those parts of the world, they are often referred to as a specific name instead of possum. The article will focus on some of these possums.

Should I Get a Possum as a Pet?

While some possums are quite cute and easy to handle, there are a few reasons why possums are not the best animals to have as pets.

  • Possums are wild animals. No matter how small and cute some possums are, they are still wild animals. Recreating their natural environments within enclosures or cages is almost impossible. They have more complex social needs. Depending on where you buy a possum, they have the potential to carry very harmful illnesses that are fatal to humans.
  • Possums can suffer from illnesses. Yes, all pets have the potential to catch an illness or disease. But what a pet owner should be aware of is if you can take care of the possum if they do get sick. Not all veterinarians in your area have specialized training in possum care. Dental problems are also common among certain possums. This could lead to higher medical bills than expected.
  • Possums are nocturnal. While you are sleeping, most possums are going to be active. This means they might not get the attention or handling they need to develop into tame household pets. Certain possums are very social and can get depressed if they are left alone for too long. They also might keep you up at night with their movement in their cages.

Is Owning a Possum as a Pet Legal?

Laws vary from state to state in the USA, so there can be restrictions on exotic animal ownership in your area. Also, exotic animal laws can change. Animal rights groups often work to make owning any exotic or wild animal illegal within the United States. If you choose to have a possum as a pet, check on the laws within your state before purchasing a possum. Some states (and counties) require a permit, while in some places owning certain animals is forbidden.

possum eating_hirisflower, Pixabay
Image Credit: hirisflower, Pixabay

leaves divider leaf Species of Possums That Make Good Pets

It is recommended that possums remain wild animals. However, there are a few that have made good pets. Here is our list of those that could make a great addition to your family as a household pet.

Sugar Gliders

These tiny possums look like flying squirrels due to their size and folds of skin under their arms that allow them to glide from branch to branch. Males weigh between 0.22-0.35 pounds (100-160 grams), and females weigh between 0.18-0.29 pounds (80-130 grams). Both sexes can live between 5-7 years. They are nocturnal but are very social.

Sugar gliders can make good pets because they are playful and social creatures. They need a larger cage (minimum 3’ x 2’ x 3’), so they can jump and climb around freely. Ensure that the bars on the cage have a space no larger than 0.5-inch between them, as a sugar glider could easily squeeze out. These possums need a friend, so buy them in pairs. Sugar gliders can get depressed if they are housed alone. Handle your sugar glider daily, so they become tame. It is best not to let young children handle them because they might nip if they are held too tight.

Sugar glider
Image By: Arif Supriyadi, Shutterstock

Short-Tailed Possums

Short-tailed possums are natives of Brazil and have features like a rat. Their coats are grey-brown in color, but their tails are bare. Adults reach a size of 4 to 8 inches with a tail equaling the length of their body. They live for about 4-8 years.

These short-tailed possums are natural-born escape artists, so your enclosure needs to be escape-proof, like a well-ventilated aquarium with a mesh top. They will also need a small tub to nest in and some branches to climb for exercise and entertainment. Unlike the sugar gliders, these possums are solitary. Short-tailed possums will fight each other if two are put in the same cage; they could even kill each other.

divider-hamster Conclusion

Generally, it is not recommended that possums be kept as household pets. Since they are wild animals, there are many things that even a loving pet owner might not be able to provide. However, should you decide that you want to have a possum as a pet, take into consideration the following tips:

  • Research laws and restrictions in your state and county about exotic animal ownership.
  • Learn about the possum you are interested in buying to see if you can provide a happy and healthy life for it.
  • Check on vets in your area to find any that specialize in exotic animal care.
  • Find reputable exotic animal sellers. Do not purchase possums from random or anonymous sellers.

If you have any doubts about whether a possum is the right pet for you, do not buy one. This is the best choice for you and the possum!


Featured Image Credit: daynaw3990, Pixabay

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