So, next time you encounter one, remember the distinction between possums and opossums!

Possum vs. Opossum: Understanding the Key Differences

Possums and opossums are both different animals. Nonetheless, they are pests that wreak great havoc in human residences and properties that they invade. Households and homeowners in Australia become attractive to these pests if their surroundings are favorable for them. People, nonetheless, mistake opossums for possums and vice versa.

Let’s shed some light on this common confusion. While both possums and opossums belong to the marsupial family, they are actually different species. Possums are native to Australia and nearby regions, while opossums are found in North and South America. In terms of appearance, possums have a bushy tail and are known for their cute, furry appearance. On the other hand, opossums have a hairless, rat-like tail. Despite these differences, both species play important roles in their respective ecosystems.

However, the 2 of these pests have diverse features that are unique and should be known to all householders. Possums and opossums can attack your pets and also do away with their food. These pests can transmit diseases such as leptospirosis, tuberculosis, tularemia, relapsing fever, Chagas fever and more. They can damage the structure of your property, the attics, vents and other parts of the household. 

Listed ahead are some helpful points of distinction that will enable home-owners to understand more about possums and opossums:


Possums have a bushy tail, large pointy ears and big brown eyes. Their fur is silver, grey, red, brown or black in colour. The fur of possums tends to be thicker. Their tails are similar to that of squirrels. These animals also have pointed claws that aid them to climb trees quickly.

Opossums have a thin and pink feet and toes. Their nose is pink and triangular. They have a light pointed face and grey fur on their bodies. Their tails are hairless and scaly similar to that of rats. They have black beady eyes and sharp teeth. The fur on their body is coarse and white, dark grey, and cinnamon brown in colour.


Possums have been originally found in Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea and New Zealand. They are from the Phalangeriformes family. 

Opossums are originally from North and Central America. They come from the Didelphimorphia family.

Weight and size

Possums are 1-2 feet long and weigh between 2-10 lbs. Male possums are generally larger than their female counterparts. 

Opossums measure between 13-37 inches and weigh anywhere between 1.7 and 14 lbs. Additionally, their size also resembles that of a domestic cat. 

Reaction to predators

Possums are generally known to be nonviolent and friendly animals. They would not attack or become violent unless they themselves feel threatened. These creatures would not hide or run away in their own defence. Neither do they act dead in event of coming face to face with their predators. 

When threatened, opossums curl up into a ball and pretend to be dead. They may maintain that posture for hours at a stretch to frighten away predators to fool them and make them go away. They also hiss loudly and show their teeth.


Possums will rub the oil from their chin on specific areas to mark their territories. These pests will also urinate on spots they intend to mark out or reserve among fellow possums. 

Opossums are not territorial in nature. Some regions occupied by possums can house 20 opossums per square miles at a time. 


Possums are omnivorous creatures and can feast on insects, fruits, plants, eggs, fish, birds, rodents, frogs etc. 

Opossums will eat fruits, nuts and berries from your gardens. They are opportunistic scavengers who can also eat pet food, slugs, snails, small rodents, ticks, vegetables, garbage and bird feed. 


Possums are mainly known to occupy urban surroundings. Apart from that they are also able to live in wooded areas, coastal shrub lands, rainforests, eucalyptus forests, suburban gardens etc. They can also enter attics, chimneys, roofs, and garages in homes through tree branches leaning over the property.

Opossums occupy hollows in trees, woody regions, brush piles, and garages. They also prefer drier areas. These pests, prefer making nests in attics, patios and places beneath the deck in human settlements. 


Possums have 1-3 litters in a year. They breed from December to August. 

Opossums have 2 litters per year and breed in February and June.  

Signs of possums and opossums in your property:

  • Scratching, thumping, weird noises, hissing, shrieking and lip-smacking sounds from walls, roof cavities and attics.
  • Damaged shingles and soffits in your roof 
  • Pet food that keeps disappearing from your yard
  • Unpleasant and unexplainable smells

Listed in this blog were some key differentiators that separate possums and opossums. It is recommended that you get in touch with an experienced possum control professional if you happen to come across a possum or a colony of possums living in your attics, basements or garden.

You should refrain from feeding them as they may become aggressive if you do not feed them the next time you see them. They are protected species hence you would have to pay hefty fines if they suffer any kind of injury while in your property. As a result one should opt for professional assistance for having these pests removed from your residence, attic, vents, garage, deck, or crawl spaces at the earliest.

So, next time you encounter one, remember the distinction between possums and opossums!

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog post has been diligently fact-checked and written by Nicholas Willmore, an esteemed Australian expert in the pest control industry

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