How to Care for a Pet Opossum

By Cuteness Pets Editor

The two types of opossums generally kept as pets--short-tailed opossums and Virginia opossums--are quite different in their natures, though both need a veterinarian willing and able to effectively treat them should health issues arise. Both also require patience to appreciate their unique personalities. Armed with some basic information on opossum care, you should be able to create an ideal home for one of these shy and curious pets.

For Short-Tailed Opossums:

Understand your short-tailed opossum's natural tendencies. A short-tailed opossum is a solitary animal in the wild, and adults will hurt each other when confined. Opossums are nocturnal creatures, so they need to be allowed to sleep during the day.

Be patient with your pet. Let your opossum smell you before you pick him up. Some opossums will immediately enjoy climbing on their owner, while others will be shy. Provide treats to increase your opossum's trust. If your opossum seems irritable or scared, come back later.

Provide an appropriate home for your opossum. You will need at least a 20 gallon home furnished with a nesting box, soft nesting material, an exercise wheel and branches to climb on. Keep the humidity at about 50 percent so your opossum does not get painfully dry skin.

Locate your opossum's home in a quiet and safe place. Your opossum should be out of direct sunlight and drafts, and in a place where other household pets will not try to interact with them. Even birds or large snakes may make opossums nervous.

Choose the right diet. A low-fat, high-protein dry pet food should be used, supplemented with additional protein, such as insects, and fruits and vegetables. Provide fresh water at all times. See the related eHow article "How to Feed a Pet Opossum" for additional details.

For Virginia Opossums:

Understand your Virginia opossum's natural tendencies. Virginia opossums are nocturnal, so you will not see much activity from them during the day. They enjoy a slow-paced, calm household because they are naturally timid and easily frightened.

Allow your Virginia opossum to have run of the house, just as you would a pet cat. If caged, opossums will pace and can become aggressive. Your pet can be confined to a single room when you are not home, if necessary.

Opossum-proof your home! Virginia opossums are curious creatures, and surprisingly agile. They will open cabinets and explore any area of your home that they can. Take the same sort of precautions you would if baby-proofing your home, but also make sure that all windows and doors are securely fastened.

Discipline your pet opossum gently. Let her know when she is misbehaving by using a firm tone of voice, a spray of water or a light tap on her noise. Any sort of physical discipline will create an aggressive pet.

Train your opossum to use a litter box. Most opossums will naturally take to using a litter box if you introduce it to them as babies. Be patient as you litter train, placing your opossum in the box until she uses it and praising her when she does. After she is trained, she will need a litter box near her bed and in each room she spends time in.

Choose the right diet. A zoo-quality omnivore diet is best, supplemented with additional protein, such as insects, vegetables, fruits and grain foods. Provide fresh water at all times. See the related article "How to Feed a Pet Opossum" for additional details.