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Keeping a Pet Opossum

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North American Opossums, also known as Virginia Opossums, are nocturnal, solitary animals. They are very adaptable animals, able to live almost anywhere, as long as they have food, water and shelter. They often live in trees, where they are safe from predators. They use their long, flexible tail to help with climbing.

Background

In captivity, North American Opossums can live up to 10 years. In the wild, however, very few Opossums live past a year because of their many predators, including humans.

The North American Opossum is the only marsupial native to North America. They can be found all across the United States and into Canada. North American Opossums are essential to the ecosystem of North America, helping keep populations of insects and rats down and eating carrion.

Diet

Diet and proper nutrition is the most critical factor in keeping your pet Opossum healthy and increasing his life span. In the wild, Opossums are omnivores, eating all manner of plant matter, insects, and carrion. The best way to ensure your Opossum is getting the proper nutrients is to feed them a quality pellet diet like Insectivore-Fare, supplemented with lots of fresh vegetables and occasionally meat, eggs, insects, or plain low-fat yogurt as an added protein source. You can also offer fruit very occasionally as a treat. Dietary supplements like Taurine and VitaGlow are also recommended for their overall health. 

Obesity is a common problem in pet Opossums. Their slow metabolism combined with their love of food makes overeating easy if you don’t strictly monitor the food they receive. It’s very important that the food they have access to is healthy and nutritionally balanced.

Calcium is very important to Opossums, as is making sure they have the proper Ca:P ratio. Without enough calcium, Opossums are at risk for Metabolic Bone Disease, a debilitating illness that usually results in permanent damage or death. To make sure they get enough calcium, feed them vegetables high in calcium. These include kale, cabbage, collard greens, or bok choy. Always offer meat with the bone or eggs with the shell. Offer insects gut-loaded with calcium, or Calcium-Rich Worms that have a high amount of calcium naturally. You can also use a liquid or powder calcium supplement if you’re unable to give them enough supplementary foods high in calcium.

Housing

Virginia Opossums are solitary animals that should be kept alone, unless they’ve been raised together. A good cage to use is the 4-Level Mansion, as it has plenty of room for climbing and exploring. The ideal temperature for opossums is 71°F (22°C), but a good range is 50-86°F (10-30°C). The humidity should be at least 50% to prevent dry skin. Opossums will usually choose one area of the cage for a bathroom, and can be trained to use a litter box. They also need a large nest box to use as a secure sleeping place, as well as platforms and branches to climb on within the cage. 

Behavior

Opossums are generally non destructive once you understand their behaviors and take necessary precautions in the house. They don’t like being caged all the time and do best when they are allowed to properly bond with their owner from a young age. It’s a good idea to let them out often for exercise, but they need to be constantly supervised. 

Like cats, they are very curious and will get into anything that isn’t locked. Doors, cabinets, and even toilet lids should be secured to prevent them from getting where they don’t belong. It’s also important to closely supervise them if you take them outside so they don’t escape. 

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Please Note: Exotic Nutrition is not in a position to provide specific health and care guidelines on an individual basis. Please visit our animal info tabs or consider purchasing a care guide book for additional information. If you have a health or pet emergency issue, please notify your veterinarian or a specialized technician.



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