Display until March 24, 2015
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DEAR PAW’S CORNER: A family of possums has moved in under my porch. They are hideous looking. Are they a threat to my cat? — Julia in New Jersey
DEAR JULIA: Healthy opossums pose little or no threat to your cat, as long as it doesn’t bother them. As scary as their pointed faces appear, opossums (pronounced “possums”) are not a threat to pets nor to you. In fact, they can be beneficial.
Opossums are nocturnal creatures that avoid other wildlife — meaning they move around mostly at night and try to stay out of the way of, well, anything bigger than them. If you’re out at night and accidently come face to face with an opossum — as I’ve done occasionally, especially growing up in the South — you’ll probably get hissed at, which is frightening, but not attacked. When threatened, they often flop over and emit a foul-smelling fart. (They’re not really “playing dead,” as it’s a reaction triggered by stress). Opossums may not even do structural damage under your porch, unlike raccoons and other small mammals.
Opossums really are remarkable animals. They’re the only marsupial in North America, carrying their young in a pouch. (Possums without the “o” are an entirely different marsupial species found in Australia and the south Pacific region.) Opossums are omnivorous and eat snakes (even poisonous ones), slugs, grubs and roaches. They are reportedly resistant to the rabies virus and to Lyme disease, and they even eat ticks with no ill effects Ð- up to 5,000 per year!
If you still don’t want a family of opossums around, contact a pest removal service to trap the family and release them safely somewhere else.
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