30 Opossum Facts for Fun and Education

Do you enjoy learning interesting facts about super cute animals? If so, you're sure to love discovering these fun and informative opossum facts.

opossum fact that opossums have multiple babies opossum fact that opossums have multiple babies

Baby Opossum Facts

Baby opossums are some of the cutest animal babies in existence.

  • A litter of opossums typically includes between two and nine babies.
  • Opossums are marsupial animals, which is a type of mammal that delivers babies before they are fully developed.
  • After being born, opossum babies continue maturing inside their mother's pouch for two additional months.
  • Because opossums are marsupials, their babies are referred to as joeys. This term is used for all baby marsupials.
  • Once opossum babies leave the pouch, they often ride on their mother's back for up to two more months.
  • Even after leaving the pouch, young opossums rely on their mother to provide access to food and shelter until they mature.
opossum fact that babies are called joeys

Adult Opossum Facts

Opossums change a lot before becoming adult animals, but they're still really cute.

  • Opossums have gray or whitish fur all over with a white face. Some people describe them as having a vaguely cat-like appearance.
  • They are clean animals that constantly groom themselves in a manner similar to what cats do.
  • The pointy shape of their face and hairless ears are distinguishing components of their appearance.
  • Opossums have 50 teeth, which is more than any other mammal has.
  • Opossums have a prehensile tail similar in appearance to the tail of a rat.
  • Female opossums have a pouch on their belly that is used to carry and develop opossum babies.
  • Opossums typically range between 21 and 40 inches long. This measurement includes the length of their tail when fully extended.
  • Adult opossums can weigh as much as 15 pounds, though some are much lighter. The smallest adult possums tend to weigh about four pounds.
  • They have appendages on their hands and feet called halluxes, which function in a manner similar to a human's thumbs.
  • Opossums have webbed feet, which contributes to the fact that they are strong swimmers.
  • The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only marsupial native to North America.
opossum fact gray or whitish fur

Opossum Behavior Facts

Opossums exhibit some interesting behavioral traits.

  • Opossums are nocturnal, which means they like to sleep during the day and are active when it's dark outside.
  • If an opossum is startled or frightened, it will likely show its teeth (which are very sharp) and hiss. Less commonly, they may bite.
  • Opossums that feel threatened, enter a catatonic state. Many people refer to this as "playing opossum," suggesting that the animal is pretending to be dead.
  • Opossums like to eat fruit, grain, insects (including ticks), pet food, compost, and garbage. They will also eat fish, birds, snakes, and small mammals.
  • People who leave pet food containers outside or who have open compost piles often find themselves with opossums taking up residence in their yards.
  • Having opossums isn't necessarily a bad thing. They do a great job controlling tick infestations. One opossum can eat 5,000 ticks in a single season.
  • Opossums are able to communicate with one another via vocalizations and scent glands.
  • Opossums are very mobile. They can quickly climb trees and fences and move on foot at a pace of around 3.5 miles per hour.
opossum fact that opossums play dead

Opossum Health Facts

Discover a few key facts about opossum health.

  • Opossums rarely become infected with rabies. It is extremely unlikely that an opossum could transmit rabies to a person.
  • Opossums do carry a number of other diseases that can be transmitted to humans, such as tuberculosis and leptospirosis.
  • In the wild, opossums have a lifespan of one to two years. In captivity, they typically live up to four years.
  • Opossums smaller than eight inches long (including tail) or lighter than 7.25 ounces cannot survive on their own in the wild.
  • If you find an injured opossum or abandoned baby meeting the above criteria, immediately contact a wildlife rehabilitator in your state so they can make appropriate rescue arrangements. Do not attempt to rescue on your own.

Opossum vs. Possum

Have you seen opossum spelled as possum before? While possum is a word, it's actually not the same thing as opossum. These words are examples of homophones, which means they sound the same when spoken but don't mean the same thing and are spelled differently. Both are a type of marsupial, but they're not the same animal. Opossums live in North America. Possums reside far away from North America in places like China, Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand. Possums are more closely related to kangaroos than they are to opossums.

Learn More About Living Things

If you've enjoyed learning these interesting facts about opossums, you might enjoy discovering more information about living things. Whet your appetite by exploring species examples in the plant and animal kingdoms. From there, explore the taxonomy of living things to better understand how plants and animals are classified.