Is it “possum or opossum?” That’s always a point of confusion. No one is certain how the “o” was dropped, but the correct term is “opossum.” However, the name “possum” began to appear in print as early as 1613 and is the accepted name for North America’s only marsupial.

There are more than 60 species of possum, the most common being the Virginia possum. This animal has always been perceived as a dirty scavenger, but possums do have a few positive features. For one, possums have a remarkable ability to find food and then remember where it is located. They return again and again to the same food sources. In laboratory tests, possums scored higher than rats, rabbits, cats and dogs in their ability to recall where food was placed. With that said, just what do possums eat?

The possum diet

The possum menu consists of dead animals, insects, rodents and birds. They also feed on eggs, frogs, plants, fruits and grain. A little known fact about a possum’s diet is their need for high amounts of calcium. Due to this fact, possums readily eat the skeletal remains of rodents and other roadkill animals. Unfortunately, possums are also known to eat dog food, cat food and table scraps. It’s not uncommon to happen upon a possum rummaging through your garbage cans.

Built for scavenging

What do possums like to eat? Possums will eat practically any food source they can find and gain access to. Accessibility to food is most often not a problem because of their anatomical makeup and feeding habits. Possums have poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell and hearing. They are most active at night and move constantly in search of food. They are also equipped with sharp claws, which they use for digging, climbing and capturing prey. They have a long tail to aid them in climbing.

Too young to hunt

While adults are well equipped to scavenge for food, newborn opossums are only about the size of a honey bee. So what do baby opossums eat? Young opossums will stay in their mother’s pouch for around 80 days before they are mature enough to scavenge on their own.

On the positive side, because rodents, cockroaches, snails and slugs are included in the possum’s diet, they can decrease the number of these pests. To ensure you keep possums and other pests under control around your home, call a Terminix® pest management professional for a free inspection.