There has been a bit of confusion about whether or not opossums and possums are the same things. They are, in fact, not the same thing, however, they are both considered marsupials.
Marsupials are an order consisting of mammals that aren’t fully developed by the time they are born, so they have to live in their mother’s pouch. The most common type of marsupial is a kangaroo, but we aren’t here to talk about kangaroos, possums are just as cool!
So in conversation, it can be a little bit tricky trying to figure out which animal one is talking about.
Most of the time when a person is referring to an opossum they are thinking of a Virginia opossum which is mostly found in North America.
Because they tend to show up in your yard as single animals searching for a meal, you may wonder whether possums live in groups or are they more solitary creatures? Read on to find out more about these interesting animals, both with an ‘o’ and without.
Why Possums Live as Solitary Animals
Possums are solitary animals. They live, hunt, and forage alone. It’s very rare to see two or more adult possums together at the same time.
If anything, anytime you see a group of possums, it’s likely a mother with her babies. Even then, young possums are quick to set out on their own and live their own lives.
However, possums do come together to mate. Getting together is, after all, the only way to make baby possums.
There is one exception to this rule, though. Australian possums are often observed in groups together, and they don’t exhibit many of the standoffish behaviors that North American possums show. Australian possums tend to like living in groups where they can interact with each other.
Possums and opossums are different animals, but they do have similar features. There are a lot of popular kid’s shows that have possums in them as cartoon characters, but because they are digitized they might not look the exact same as they do in real life. Some might say they look like giant rats.
One of the most notable and key differences between opossums and possums is the lack of hair on their tails. Possum tails are full of fur similar to a squirrel tail, whereas opossums have a bare tail that looks similar to a rat tail.
Possums and opossums aren’t usually the same size because possums are smaller than most opossums. The reason is possums’ sizes vary widely, and opossum species have similar measurements.
Opossums’ bodies are usually at most six inches long and their tails can be as long as 14 inches! Opossums typically weigh about five pounds and most of the time the males weigh more than the females. Possums are smaller than opossums measurement-wise, and they also can be a lot smaller.
Most of the time it can also be easy to distinguish which one is an opossum and which one is a possum by looking at the coloring on their fur. Though there are different types of opossums and possums, it can be pretty tricky sometimes!
Both have the same sort of body shape, though the possums are typically a bit more circular. Both have whiskers, a pinkish nose, and small claws.
Most of the time opossums are multicolored; white, brown, black, cream, etc. The majority of opossums have white faces and a darker shaded body with some white pieces of hair, though their tails and ears are hairless. Some of their ears are pointy, some are more circular and they are also typically darker than their face.
Possums on the other hand are typically a darker color all over, rather than having a white face.
Originally possums were mostly found in China, New Zealand, and Australia whereas opossums were mostly found in the USA and the lower part of Canada.
Possums like to live in little dens they make for themselves. Most of the time they make their homes in the forest or other wooded areas.
The only time that possums are not alone is when they are breeding. They typically have at least 4-8 babies which are called joeys.
It’s not wise to take a possum away from their home unless they need to be rescued. It is actually illegal to own a possum unless you have a wildlife rehabilitation permit.
If possums are kept in captivity for too long they can develop some serious health issues. Most possums only live to be about four years old as it is, so they aren’t really the best pet to keep around unless you are trying to help them in some way.
If you do end up having to nurture a possum, it’s important to not put two possums in the same cage. They can become really aggressive with each other, and it wouldn’t be great having them fight.
What Do They Eat?
Possums eat a variety of different small snacks, some of the things you might like to eat yourself. The best thing you can feed a possum is any small piece of fruit, vegetable, grains, and or insects. Possums have also been known to eat dog or cat food, though they shouldn’t really be eating that.
Possums love a lot of things, but one food that they hate is garlic. If you have a lot of possums rooming throughout your yard, you could try warning them off like a vampire by placing garlic throughout the outside of your house.
Most of the time, possums are only out during the nighttime. Their eyes are deep black because of the fact that their pupils are dilated. However, they occasionally still step outside during the daytime. If you see one, it might be a good idea to steer clear of the animal, because it might become aggressive.
At times, possums don’t fight back. Sometimes if they feel threatened they will play dead. If you happen to scare the little creature, it will play dead for up to four hours. So don’t worry, you didn’t frighten it to death! It just wants you to think that, and in the meantime, you can call animal control.
Possums and opossums are different, but sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart.
Most of the time, opossums have white faces and no fur on their tail. Whereas possums have fur on their tail and they are mostly brown.
If you ever have to care for a possum make sure to not leave them in the same cage, they are independent creatures and love doing their own thing.