Keeping a pet opossum can make you feel like Snow White, or it can make you want to pull out all of your hair, depending on how well prepared you were to welcome one into your life. Opossums are not domestic animals, and thus have unique needs compared to other pets. If you are interested in learning about what it takes to love and share your life with a pet opossum, just keep reading along.
First thing first, you need to figure out if keeping a pet opossum is legal in your state before you even consider bringing one into your life. Not every state allows pet opossums, and even if the state allows them, there may be restrictions within your city, county, or even your HOA if you have one where you live. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE WILD OPOSSUMS IN AND TRY TO MAKE THEM PETS. If you find a wild opossum in need of assistance, please find a rehabber immediately. Rehabbers can be found by contacting your local wildlife department or by downloading ANIMAL HELP NOW.
Diet is probably one of the most important aspects of pet opossum care. Due to the incredibly slow metabolic rate of Virginia opossums, they burn calories much slower than other pets. Because of this slow metabolism, it pet opossums are often victims of obesity due to overfeeding. The common cross eyed look often seen in pet opossums is not a cute quirk, it is caused by fatty deposits in the eyes as a result of internal organ failure due to an improper diet.
So, what does it take to provide a proper diet for your pet opossum? Virginia opossums are omnivores, and in the wild, they will eat almost anything. As pets, however, it is your job as their owner to make sure your opossum is eating a nutritious diet. The most important factor when it comes to your pet opossum’s diet is variety.
Do not feed your pet opossum cat or dog food. If you are looking for a kibble to feed your pet opossum, use Mazuri Omnivore Diet. It is important to remember when feeding Mazuri that is should act as a base for your pet opossum’s diet, and you will still need to supplement your animal’s food with fruits and veggies.
Opossums should be fed about one tablespoon of protein a day. Acceptable protein options for pet opossums are: cooked chicken (both the meat and the hearts,) cooked and unseasoned salmon and sardines, and frozen (and then thawed) mice. You can feed your pet opossum one thawed adult mouse, or two thawed pinkie mice. Cooked eggs are another good protein source for your pet opossum, but be sure to remove the eggs as they have too much calcium for your pet’s diet. Insects like mealworms (dried or live) are a wonderful source of protein as well, but make sure to buy them from the store as wild caught insects often harbor parasites.
A large portion of your pet opossums diet should be made up of fresh vegetables, nothing canned, cooked, or otherwise processed. Leafy greens including kale and mustard greens that are rich in calcium are good options for your pet opossum’s diet. Carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, broccoli, peas, and squash are more good vegetable choices, and are all best fed raw. Vegetables that are red or yellow are high in Vitamin A, so if you include these, only make them about 15% of your pet opossum’s meal.
Pet opossums should only be fed a few pieces of fruit a day, in order to prevent health issues due to the natural sugars found in fruit. Fruits like apples, berries, melons, persimmons, pears, and kiwi are some examples of fruits opossums love. Including cranberries in your pet opossum’s diet is recommended as well, as this helps prevent UTIs.
In many animals, avocados and grapes/raisins can cause organ failure. While not enough research has been done to determine if this is the case with Virginia opossums, it is best to avoid feeding your pet opossum avocados and grapes/raisins. It is always better safe than sorry.
Dairy is not necessary for a pet opossum’s diet. It is best to avoid dairy if you are a pet owner and something like plain yoghurt has not been recommended by your animal’s vet.
Do not feed your pet opossum junk/human food. As mentioned earlier, pet opossums are incredibly prone to obesity. Feeding your pet opossum junk food will only lead to their death.
For information on supplements for your pet opossum’s diet, this opossum care website is a great resource.
Like any animal you decide to keep as a pet, your pet opossum is going to need proper veterinary care to stay happy and healthy. Before getting a pet opossum, it is important to establish that you have a veterinarian in the area willing to see your animal. Opossums are not animals that normal vets are willing to see. You are going to have to do some research in order to find a vet that is willing to see unique exotic pets like opossums.
Getting your opossum spayed/neutered is recommended in order to help prevent unwanted mating behavior. Male pet opossums that are not neutered will pace around, click, and drool uncontrollably as they are trying to find a mate. Females that have not been fixed also get incredibly restless, and will pace and drool as well.