Can you keep a possum as a pet?


Some people argue it is more appropriate for Australians to keep native animals rather than cats and dogs.  Wild cats and packs of dogs do cause serious damage to our native wildlife, when they escape and live in the wild. But it is important to remember that cats and dogs have been domesticated for centuries, which means they are adapted to living with humans.

Can you keep a possum as a pet?
Can you keep a possum as a pet?

By contrast any adult native animal, including birds and possums, that has been reared in the wild, has learnt to fear humans, watch for other predators, find a diet of natural food and interact with other members of its own species. If it is then captured and contained it is impossible to provide the animal with the quality of life it has learnt to expect. The stress of lost freedom, being close to humans and being unable to follow its natural behaviours, will often result in poor health and serious stress that lasts for the rest of its life.

The problem a wild born animal has in adjusting to captivity, is well demonstrated by the difficulty in “domesticating” a young kitten that has been reared by a feral cat. If the kitten is more than a few weeks old, it is usually fierce and terrified of human contact and will take a long time to adjust to the behaviour expected by its “owner”.

Australian native animals particularly cockatoos and other native parrots can legally be kept as pets provided the animal was born in captivity and you have a licence. In that case, the individual animal has never been free in the wild and from birth has adjusted to captivity, having been reared by an animal parent that is also adapted to life in a cage.

So what is allowed? It is a great pleasure to interact with wildlife and providing some food to attract them to your garden is a popular idea but you should not do it regularly. Bird baths also bring animals to you garden and good access to water is essential for all animals.

For possums, a selection of fruit will work well but remember all animals need a balanced diet which for possums is mainly the leaves and flowers of native bushes and trees. So you by all means leave out some green leaves and pieces of fruit (No bread!) but you should not encourage any wild animal to rely on you for more than a very small part of its diet and avoid providing items every day.