You’re a bit concerned when you hear your cat hiss loudly at something. You assume it’s just your neighbor’s cat that’s causing that kind of reaction, but when you look outside, you see a possum wandering around your property. Now, your feelings of apprehension suddenly escalate. You know these animals can become a nuisance as they overturn trash cans and get into birdseed containers in search of food. However, you don’t know what exactly possums consider tasty. Do possums eat cats? Most importantly, should you keep your fur baby locked inside until the possum is gone?
Fortunately, possums are not out looking for your cat when they scrounge for food. While possums (technically opossums, but more commonly referred to by their shortened name) are omnivores and could theoretically kill and eat a housecat or dog, these common backyard visitors are more focused on easier prey. In fact, the scent of cats or dogs is usually actually more of a warning for possums to stay away. Some homeowners go so far as to place cat hair and dog hair throughout their property to prevent possums from making their home in what they see as a rival’s territory.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that possums are completely harmless. In fact, these creatures can spread diseases and fleas to house pets. Moreover, possums have to create a home somewhere, and if they choose your property, their nesting habits can cause damage in your yard, not to mention the waste these animals leave behind.
If you are worried about possums on your property, it’s important to take the time to understand what these animals eat and how they live. Removing tempting food sources and reducing the number of spots on your property that possums would consider a perfect place to nest can help to prevent a possum problem. A possum’s diet varies based on where they live and what is available, but possums are likely to eat:
- Fruits and berries
- Small rodents
- Pet food
- Seeds from bird feeders
Much like raccoons, possums are happy to eat almost whatever they can find.
If you have backyard chickens, you may have been alarmed to see that birds are listed as something a possum will eat. If this describes you, should you be concerned? And what else do homeowners need to know about possums?
Do Possums Eat Chickens?
In some areas, possums have killed and eaten chickens, so homeowners with a coop in their backyard should be concerned if they see possums around their property. Possums will eat young chicks and eggs, and will also prey on adult chickens if they’re easy to get to. Many homeowners don’t realize that possums can easily break through chicken wire, so you’ll need an additional line of defense if you see any of these potential chicken predators on your property. Hardware cloth with hard mesh will keep most possums out of your coop, but this still isn’t a guarantee that your chickens will be fully protected.
Many homeowners would argue that the worst thing about a possum around your chickens is that when possums do decide to eat chickens, they usually don’t eat the whole bird. Possums may bite the chicken’s neck and may even suck its blood. They’ll bend chicken wire to get as much of the bird out as they can. In some cases, however, they aren’t able to get the entire chicken out. When they’ve had their fill, possums will leave behind whatever they couldn’t get through the coop and you may wake up to something akin to a crime scene.
It’s not just possums that you need to worry about if you have chickens. Raccoons will also eat chickens. Therefore, if you find dead, half-eaten chickens on your property, don’t assume it’s a possum that was responsible.
Even if your chicken coop is secure enough to prevent a possum from eating your adult chickens, chicken eggs can still be vulnerable. In fact, if you have extra eggs, you could consider using them as bait to trap a possum.
If chicken coops aren’t easily accessible, possums will not hesitate to resort to whatever food scraps or organic matter they can find. If you wonder what is digging up your lawn at night, however, the culprit is not usually a possum, as they aren’t known for digging. To eliminate any potential food sources on your property, put your garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids to prevent possums from making your trash can their neighborhood hangout. In addition to garbage cans and chicken coops, possums may also be attracted to:
- Vegetable gardens
- Compost piles
- Pet food dishes
Although possums rarely enter homes, some are not afraid of humans and may make their way indoors by way of a pet door. If you suspect you may have a possum problem, keep these entrances securely closed at night and don’t leave easily accessible doors and windows open.
In order to get rid of possums, it’s important to understand not just their diet, but also how they get around.
Can Possums Climb?
Yes, possums are actually great climbers. These animals have evolved to be scale trees so they can escape predators such as foxes and wolves. Possums actually most commonly gain entry to yards and homes by climbing fences and trees, as well as hopping from tree branch to tree branch, while on the lookout for food. Possums are built to climb, with opposable thumbs on their hind legs for gripping and a tail that helps them keep their balance.
If you would prefer to keep possums off your property, you will want to trim back any branches or bushes that lead to your roof. If there is a hole in your roof that leads to your attic, a possum might decide that is a perfect place to nest. Where else might a possum be hanging around on your property?
Where Do Possums Sleep?
Since possums are nocturnal, it’s rare to see these creatures out and about during the day. When it comes to a place to sleep, possums aren’t super picky. These animals actually will live in many of the same types of areas where skunks live. You might find possums sleeping:
- Under steps, porches or decks
- Around sheds
- In attics or chimneys
- In garages or beneath the house
In general, possums will choose to sleep around whatever is accessible and safe, so closing off these protected areas is important if you find possums have become a nuisance on your property.
Other than seeing a possum sleeping, how will you know if you have come across a possum den?
As we have mentioned previously, possums are not high maintenance. Usually, a possum “den” is nothing more than a couple of sticks and other materials arranged together. If you have come across what you believe is a possum den and you find a dead possum, do not try to dispose of it. If a possum heard you or a pet coming, it could be scared and simply playing dead.
When a possum plays dead, the animal goes into shock. Its body does everything it can to convince the predator that they are, in fact, dead. A possum that is playing dead will usually be on its back with its lips curled and teeth showing. When this happens, the possum may also release an odor from its anal glands. This smell often makes predators think possums have been dead for days and therefore aren’t a good food source. Possums can stay in this state for hours before coming “back to life”.
If you would prefer to avoid one of these encounters altogether, what can you to do make your property less alluring to these animals?
How Do You Get Rid Of A Possum?
The best way to get rid of a possum is to make your property undesirable for these creatures. Take a look around your property and see what you can do to make your outdoor spaces less hospitable for a possum. Some of the ways you can do so are to eliminate any potential food sources, remove nesting materials and keep your yard well maintained.
Remove Food Sources
Possums gravitate to areas that have plentiful food sources. Take the following steps to cut off this food supply:
- Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids.
- Fence off your compost pile, if you have one.
- Remove fruits and berries that have fallen off plants and are scattered around your yard.
- Bring cat or dog food and water bowls inside during the night.
- Place bird feeders away from trees and high off the ground. Consider removing bird feeders temporarily if you notice possum activity nearby.
Clear Away Possible Nests
The fewer places a possum can make a nest, the less likely these visitors will stick around. Take the following steps to prevent a possum from making your home their own:
- Trim or cut trees or shrubbery that run close to your roof.
- Stack firewood or fence it off. Store spare lumber off the ground and in neat piles.
- Replace any fencing that has holes.
- Look around your foundation, basement and roof and seal any gaps possums may use to gain entry.
- Screen attic and basement vents.
- Install motion-sensor lights. Possums have terrible eyesight and they don’t like bright and shiny lights.
Keep Up With Regular Maintenance
Possums produce two litters a year with up to 13 babies. In other words, just because you have removed one possum from your property does not mean you have removed them all. Keeping your lawn tidy and neat and being vigilant about keeping food and water away can help you avoid any damage possums can cause, as well as protect your pets from disease or a flea or tick problem.
Homeowners have to be careful when trying to remove possums from their property. Many states in the U.S. list possums as “fur-bearing animals”, which means that they are protected under law. Killing, trapping or using the remains of a possum could be illegal, depending on the circumstances. Some of these activities require a specific license, and violating these laws may result in Class C misdemeanor charges. For effective, legal wildlife control, reach out to a certified wildlife specialist who understands the nuances of these creatures’ habits as well as any related local and federal statutes.
ABC Can Handle Your Wildlife Problems
For many different reasons, dealing with possums on your property is often best left to the professionals. The wildlife specialists at ABC Home & Commercial Services understand fur-bearing laws and go through an extensive in-house training program to understand these animals’ eating and sleeping habits. ABC can remove these creatures quickly and help you prevent these animals from wandering on to your property again.