It is easy to be touched by the sight of a cute and cuddly baby possum. You may come across one who has become detached from its mother or has otherwise lost its way. If you are to help the little fur baby survive, it is important to learn a little about how to nourish and care for it.
Baby Possum Habits and Biology
Female possums are without a placenta. They carry their babies in a pouch between 80 and 100 days until they are big enough to leave.
Possums are scavengers. A baby possum is about the size of a honey bee when it is first conceived and will not leave the mother’s pouch until it can scavenge on its own.
The possum is a nocturnal creature with poor eyesight but excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell. This gives it some advantages when trying to survive in a human habitat. Possums forage for food while humans sleep, and they are more alert to potential threats in the dark as they rely more on sound than sight.
As scavengers, possums are not very good. However, what they lack in skill they make up for in memory. Once they have a hit scavenging jackpot, they remember where it is and return to it again and again to feed.
Although possums do not hibernate, they do slow down in winter. They burrow themselves into holes that they fill with leaves or whatever else they can find to keep themselves warm. Their fur and fat reserves also help keep the chill out.
And here is a fun fact. Ever wonder where the phrase “playing possum” comes from? It refers to the fascinating defense mechanism possums used to protect themselves against predators.
When possums are frightened or harmed, they go into a kind of catatonic state. They freeze, paralyzed with fear, and sometimes lay down as though dead.
A baby possum who is left unharmed will usually recover from this state after a few hours.
Do baby possums eat dirt?
No. Possums are omnivorous and survive by eating a wide-range of foods. Dirt is not among them.
What do baby possums like to eat most?
Once a possum is mature enough to scavenge on its own, it will do so. Baby possums are not picky about what they eat. Evolution has given them the ability to make the best of what’s around.
One little known fact about possums is their high need for large amounts of calcium. It is why they will eat the remains of rodents and roadkill. Here are some of the other things that baby possums like to eat most:
-They are especially fond of snails. They will also eat insects, including ants, cockroaches and the like.
-Plants. If you are taking care of a possum or have spotted a few rummaging around your house (remember, they will remember where food is once they have found it), then you should keep your potted plants at an elevated level and build a fence around your garden plants.
-Fruits and grain. Baby possums are likely to eat low-hanging fruit from trees or fruit that has fallen to the ground. But they will also climb a tree to get at the fruit.
-Frogs. If you have any around your house, you are unlikely to be burdened by the noise they make for very long if there are possums around.
-Dog food, cat food, and scraps. It is said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The aphorism can certainly be extended to possums. They are known for rummaging around trash looking for discarded food and containers with minute quantities of food in them.
The bottom line is that baby possums will eat nearly anything they can find. Accessing source of food is not a typical problem for them. Their sharp sense of smell gives them the ability to track down the exact location of the food.
They have sharp claws that enable them to dig up the ground when necessary. Their sharp claws and long tail also give them the ability to climb trees to get what they need.
Food You Should Avoid Feeding Baby Possums
As was stated above, possums eat just about anything. However, you should take care when feeding baby possums. Unless you have the education and training, you are unlikely to be able to tell the exact age of a baby possum.
If you find it rummaging through animal remains or discarded trash, it is probably old enough to have left its mother’s pouch and scavenge on its own. However, the possum may be small enough to look like a baby in your eyes, and you may want to feed it milk.
This is the wrong thing to do. Marsupial milk differs considerably from other animal milk or formula. Additionally, possums don’t suckle like human beings. Trying to feed them like you would your own baby can cause them to aspirate and die.
Here are a couple of other things you should avoid:
- Don’t feed an injured or orphaned baby possum
Feeding them the wrong kind of milk can cause a deadly and irreversible metabolic bone disease to develop in them. Feeding a malnourished and dehydrated baby possum can cause a shock to their system and kill them.
- Don’t force-feed a baby possum
If a possum is old enough to have left its mother’s pouch, it is old enough to find its own food and eat it. You can leave out scraps or even insects and slugs for it to eat. The possum will do so in its own time.
Tips to Feed Baby Possums
In general, it is best to leave a baby possum alone—even if it has been separated from its mother. Most baby possums only look tiny, fragile and helpless. In reality, they may not be as young and vulnerable as they appear.
In fact, any possum that seems able to get around pretty good under its own power is probably a juvenile possum. And the latter are perfectly capable of surviving on their own.
You should know that in most states it is illegal to care for possums unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. However, if you have come across a baby possum—an actual baby—that has somehow become separated from its mother, then you can offer temporary care in the form of feeding.
You should warm the infant baby possum before attempting to feed it. You must stimulate it before the feeding by lightly rubbing its genital areas with a warm and moist cotton ball.
You can feed the baby possum Esbilac over a 24-hour period. However, this should be dispensed using a dropper or syringe.
If the baby possum seems a little too large to be a baby but it seems injured, you can feed offer it water in a shallow bowl or jar lid. The possum is likely to defecate in it, so you will need to change the water often.
For more explicit guidance, watch this video:
Remember, the best place for a wounded or orphaned possum in a clinic or refuge run by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
1. How long can baby possums go without food?
Like most animals, baby possums cannot survive long without food. They are unlikely to live more than a few days without proper sustenance.
2. When do baby possums eat solid food?
When they are between 3 to 5 months old.
3. Can baby possums eat cat food?
You can feed them cat and dog food in moderation.
4. Can baby possums eat apples, bananas, and other fruit?
Yes. Possums eat fruit of all kinds.
5. What do baby possums eat in captivity?
If they are mature enough to eat sold food, you can feed them just about anything. Snails is among their favorite foods.
6. What do baby possums eat in the wild?
Baby possums are scavengers, and will eat anything they can find and get access to—from plants to roadkill.
7. What do baby possums eat in New Zealand?
Possums have been filmed eating the eggs, chicks, and adults of birds that are native to New Zealand.
8. What do baby possums eat in Australia?
Possums in Australia have a high tolerance for toxins in certain plants and will eat some that other animals find poisonous.
9. Can baby possums eat carrots?
Yes. They eat vegetables of every kind.
10. Can baby possums eat baby food?
Possums can eat baby food when they have started on solids.
Baby possums are adorable little creatures. But they are tougher and more resilient than other young animals. It is best to let an orphaned baby possum alone. If it seems in distress, you should follow the guidelines above to care for it, and contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.