Do Possums Bite? Everything You Need to Know

Do Possums Bite?
"This Photo" by Interestedbystandr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Do you have a nice backyard or a blooming garden? Well then, you have someday, or the other, faced the common nuisance that we commonly term as ‘Possums.’ These food-stealing mischievous creatures can be a headache and especially frightening in the night with their serrated mouthful of teeth and white face. 

However, a very common question that often pops up in the mind of any homeowner with their yard infested with possums must be wondering, do possums bite? Well, with those 50 knife-like teeth that these animals may sometimes bear at you, it’s a legit question to ask.

Before we get into more details, discussing possum bites, health concerns, and facts related, let us give you the answer to the one question people have been asking. A LOT.

Do possums bite? Yes, possums bite. However, possums are docile marsupials that prefer escape rather than attack. They generally don’t bite humans or animals, but upon finding no route to escape or competing for food, they might launch attack-mode and bite.

Have you heard the phrase ‘play possum’? The reference means to play dead, which is exactly what possums do when they face a threat or intimidation. They act dead. Hilarious! Since possums are timid animals, they do not prefer launching an attack but will instead play ‘possum’ or avoid confrontation. 

So what next? Well, let us understand whether possums bite humans, what are the risks of your pet being bitten by your dog and how to get rid of possums from your backyard, and much more…


What are possums?

Let us clear this first: Possums and Opossums are entirely different animals, although both are marsupials. Possums are native to Australia, and Opossums are common marsupials native to the United States. However, in the U.S., Opossums are generally termed as ‘possums’ (we do not refer to the Australian possums). Therefore, every mention here regarding the ‘possums’ is actually directed at the ‘opossums’ and has nothing to do with ‘Australian Possums.’ 

Possums or Opossums are small marsupials, the size of a cat that weighs about 15 pounds and grows to a length of 40 inches. Possums are usually white, their fur tending towards grayish. They also have a distinct pink nose and a mix of black on the otherwise grey or white coat. With a long white pointed face and a rat-like tail, possums have cute round ears that, unlike their body, aren’t covered in fur and are therefore hairless.

Their tail acts as an additional limb to help them climb and is hairless, just like their ears. Possums are native to the United States and are usually found in gardens and yards or other human creations such as Barnes and garbage, where they can likely build a nest for themselves. Possums usually intrude into a yard to find food and shelter.

Are possums dangerous?

Though most possums don’t generally suffer from rabies, because of high immunity and a body temperature that is generally lower than most mammals that are vulnerable to rabies, they carry multiple diseases and fleas and ticks that are potentially harmful to both you, your family members, and pets (if any). 

Possums typically harbor diseases like tuberculosis and spotted fever, which they often transmit to humans. These creatures are also dangerous to the structural integrity of your home since they usually make a mess in your yard and chew into attics and other places that they can treat as nests.

With 50 sharp teeth and the ability to cause serious damage to your home while also being a carrier of multiple diseases, apart from ticks and fleas, it makes possums dangerous animals. 

Do possums bite humans?

Possums are more bark and less bite, if you understand the analogy. The short answer to whether possums or opossums bite humans is yes, they do. But it is very rare. It is highly unlikely for possums to bite you since these are shy animals who have a very docile nature and are seldom ever aggressive.

Possums may hiss and growl at you, maybe give an intimidating show of their 50 sharp teeth, but that is just to scare you away and leave it be. The most possible situation would be a possum playing dead to avoid confrontation, the act of which can last for up to an hour. However, if a possum doesn’t find an escape route or fear that you might hurt it by getting too close, it can bite you. 

When a possum hisses or growls, it may usually look like they are ready to pounce at you and gauge your eyes out, but that is one defense mechanism or a tactic to ward off competitors and potential threats, including humans. On the other hand, if a possum is playing dead, it does have the sense to not react when you touch it.

It is, therefore, possible that you can touch the possum without fearing a painful bite because, of course, the possum can’t pull down the act. However, we still do not recommend it, and you should probably just keep your hands to yourself for the best. 

Playing dead is a possum’s reflex originating in its brain. It’s not the kid that acts asleep when he has done something wrong and wants to avoid his parents. Another tactic a possum may use to avoid human confrontation is to secrete a greenish fluid that makes the possum smell of carrion or a dead, rotten animal. The secretion from its anal glands drives any predators away, given the delusion that the possum is already dead.

Thus, it is easily understandable that attacking and fighting is a possum’s last resort, and it would never opt to attack and bite a human unless cornered or put in an unavoidable situation. Therefore, it is always recommended that you stay away from a possum to avoid getting a painful bite on your limbs. 

Do baby possums bite?

Possums are born toothless, which means infant possums will clearly be unable to bite, even if they hold some past-life grudge with you. Baby Possums get their teeth at around 12 weeks which would mean that now they are starting to climb and explore.

This, in turn, means that baby possums older than 12 weeks have a tendency to explore and communicate. Therefore, any baby possum above the age of 12 weeks carries the threat of biting people; therefore, it is advised they are often weaned.

How strong does a possum bite?

Those 50 serrated teeth might give an impression that a possum can bite your head off and run away with it (not really). However, if we consider the strength of possum bite in terms of PSI, it is roughly 45 pounds per square inch.

This may not seem like a big deal, especially when we have cat bites at 60 PSI and dog bites at comparatively higher 200 – 450 PSI. But, here’s the thing, possums weigh only 10-15 pounds on average, and therefore, the bite force is completely justified and still something worth you should try avoiding.

When might a possum bite you?

As we have mentioned countless times, a possum will likely play dead or hiss or growl at the predators or humans. They, however, seldom want to confront humans, which is when they have no escape route and feel the immediate threat.

Since confrontation is one big issue, a possum’s first instinct is to always avoid being spotted, and even if it does get spotted, it will generally try to scare you off or play dead – but is highly unlikely to bite. However, when probed or threatened to a level that the possum can not find an escape, it will bite.

Health Concerns

It’s not just the bite you should be concerned about. Possums are dangerous for the integrity of your house’s infrastructure since they might steal food, chew through vents, hide in attics, and often make a mess in your yard in search of food and shelter. Although they rarely bite, if a possum has rabies, it can cause serious health problems both for you and the pet.

Apart from the bite, possums carry fleas and ticks in their body, which, if incurred by your dog or cat or any furry pet, might lead to an infestation in their body. This isn’t just troublesome but also hugely expensive since pet ticks don’t scurry off so easily. They can also be carriers of certain diseases such as Tularemia, TB, toxoplasmosis, and spotted fever, which is why they are considered dangerous house guests. 


What should you do if a possum does bite you?

If someone gets bitten by a possum, the first and foremost thing that one should do is to wash and clean the wound immediately with warm water and soap. Avoid using soap containing alcohol or any kind of fragrant. As soon as the wound dries up, apply an antiseptic on it. The dressing should be added and replaced on a daily basis until the wound gets healed. 

If you find any kind of infection or experience any kind of side effects, immediately seek medical treatment. Although possums are clean animals, they tend to carry bacterias that might cause harmful bacterial diseases or infections.

Tularaemia is one of the ethical diseases caused by bacteria that possums carry. The common symptoms of Tularaemia are inflammation of lymph nodes around the head, neck and feeling of nausea. Tularaemia can be fought with antibiotics.

Do possums bite dogs? Or any pets? 

Since possums are docile in nature and passive enough to avoid facing your pets and attack them in defense, your pets are most likely safe from getting bitten by a possum. BUT… there’s always a possibility. Although possums usually play dead or escape, they may bite your pet when they do not find a route to escape or feel the serious danger to their life from your pet.

The Opossum Society of the United States is of the view that dogs being comparatively heavier and stronger than opossums will kill or injure a possum rather than a possum biting the dog. However, dogs usually do not mess with possums, given the hissing and the snarling by possums; dogs also do not attack a possum usually since they aren’t familiar with the animal.

Cats, on the other hand, are shown to be mutually respectful to possums and will generally ignore it if they ever encounter one in your yard or home. Cats may be able to kill a baby possum or a possum the size of a rat, but they generally do not attack, and possums may attack and bite kittens if they are probed or threatened.

Possums, given their size and weight, can put up a good fight with cats, unlike dogs, but they will generally shy away and avoid confrontation. Given that, they can and will bite your dog, cat, or any other pet, if they do not choose to play dead or are unable to catch up on their immediate instinct – escape. 


What attracts possums to your house?

So now that we have discussed everything about possum bites let us start with understanding how to NOT attract them into our yards. And the easiest way to do it? Baby steps… Let’s start with understanding what attracts possums and therefore avoiding all attractants as such. 

Possums never make their nests; they reside in natural shelters they can consider cozy and homely such as burrows, garbage cans, holes, and cracks in the lid, etc. Pet foods are possums’ favorite and if you have an outdoor pet or your pet usually feeds in the yard, the smell or the strewn over leftovers can attract possums in the greed of food. If you usually leave pet food outside so that your pet can eat it at their leisure, it’s high time to avoid doing the same.

How to get rid of possums from your yard?

Here are a few ways you can get rid of possums from your yard…

  • Remove all attractants from your yard or vicinity. 

If your garden or yard is often frequented by a possum, it’s high time you understand and remove all objects and things that attract possums. Get rid of open garbage cans, old tires, and other objects that can be potential ‘possum-nests.’ Fill up hollows in trees and burrows and seal up any holes or cracks you find. 

  • Fence your yard and all other boundaries. 

Fencing your garden and yard can not only help eliminate entry points but also prevent possums from entering in the first place. If possums are destroying those precious plants in the garden, you can install a mesh fence or screen to keep them away.

Since possums are great climbers, you need to make sure that there are no trees right outside your yard. In case there are trees, trim them up, so they aren’t touching your yard anymore to allow the possums to climb and jump in. 

  • Use devices and resources like sonic repellers, sprinklers, and sprays. 

Possums are a common nuisance, and the chemical industry realizes that. Effective granular or liquid chemical sprays are great possum repellants. You can also use motion-activated lights to keep not just possums and myriad other intruders where they belong – OUT! Sprinklers, too, are inexpensive investments to get rid of possums. 

Now, what exactly are sonic repellants?  These are high-frequency sonic vibration-producing devices that produce a sound that the possums can’t stand, which causes them to leave your yard. These devices usually have a motion sensor and are best advised for use when you don’t own pets since these devices might scare your dogs or cats too. 


Our final takeaway on Possums and facts related to their bite would be to not approach a possum and touch it because we strongly advise you to err on the side of safety. Do not let your pets approach the possum either, and just in case anyone gets injured from a possum bite or scratch, you should immediately seek medical attention because apart from fleas and ticks, possums do carry myriad diseases that they may potentially transfer.

We hope that this article gave you thorough insights into everything related to possum bites, and especially how you can get rid of them without actually having to kill them. 




Do possums chew through walls?

Possums have pretty sharp teeth, and they surely know how to put them to good use. If a possum is accidentally stuck inside your home or attic and doesn’t find an escape, it will definitely try to chew through the walls to get out. A number of homeowners usually find their air conditioning ducts and vents torn and chewed, most often owing to possums entering and leaving. 

Do possums carry diseases?

The worst thing about possums lingering in your garden or yard is the boatload of diseases that they carry on them. The worst thing about possums lingering in your garden or yard is the boatload of diseases that they carry on them. They carry harmful germs and bacterias, which can cause bacterial diseases not only to other animals but also to human beings.

Leptospirosis, tuberculosis, TularaemiaTularaemia, coccidiosis, and Chagas disease are carried by possums. They serve as hosts for insects like fleas, ticks, lice, and mites. These parasites put dogs and cats at risk of becoming infected.

Is it bad to have a possum in your garden?

The answer is both a yes and a no. It’s not all good to have a possum in your garden or your yard, but it’s not all bad either. Let us evaluate the pros and cons of having a possum around your vicinity, maybe in your garden. 

The answer is both a yes and a no. It’s not all good to have a possum in your garden or your yard, but it’s not all bad either. Let us evaluate the pros and cons of having a possum around your vicinity, maybe in your garden. 

The Pros:

They Eat Pests: Keeping a possum in your garden can be beneficial as they keep the damaging pests at bay. Insects are an essential part of the large portion of the possum’s diet, and their diet also consists of small mammals like rats, mice, and snakes. And since ticks are a regular part of their diet, they prevent the spread of Lyme disease.

The Cons:

They cause Potential Yard Damage: Other than creating waste like other animals, the possums urinate in your garden.  And their urine is potentially capable of damaging the greenery of your beautiful garden. Hungry possums can also feed on the flowers and fruits in your garden. Due to their expensive appetite, they rummage through the garbage, which results in stinky and messy yards.  


Why do possums mostly appear at night?

Seeing a Possum during the daytime might come as a surprise, as they are nocturnal marsupials. Possums are generally active at night, therefore taking rest and scarcely hunting for food during the day. But most of them don’t sleep during the daytime like other nocturnals. And it is completely normal for a possum to be active during the daytime.

How to identify a possum in the night?

The solitary nocturnal possums become incredibly raucous as night falls. They make a wide variety of sounds; they screeched, grunt, growl, hiss, and chatter when aggressive, Zook-Zook noise and squeaks. The males usually make a shook-shook and clicking noise when they counter a female. And all these sounds and creepy noises help to identify a possum in the night.

Can you get sick from a possum scratch?

The scratch of a possum might cause redness and a bit of pain; there is nothing to worry about unless the possum has Tularemia. Tularemia is a rare bacterial disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. The common symptoms that a person is likely to see two weeks post incurring Tularemia are mostly fever and nausea.

And an ulcer at the wound can also be found on the body of the people exposed to bacteria by a scratch. Therefore, we strongly suggest that you visit your doctor and seek medical attention as soon as you can, post encountering a scratch from a possum. 

Do Ringtail Possums bite?

Ringtail Possums aren’t aggressive animals. But they are extremely agile and seek food all the time, and have the tendency to eat whatever they can. Being solitary animals, they are not familiar with human interactions, and unwanted handling or interaction can make them feel unsafe, and ultimately in their defense, they might bite or scratch.


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