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Wednesday, 16 November 2005
Virginia Opossum Care Sheet by Melonie Buchanan of Ratkateersrodentry.com
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Now Playing: Virginia Opossum Care Sheet by Melonie Buchanan of Ratkateersrodentry.com
Topic: R.R. Care Sheet
Virginia Opossum
Article Written by: Melonie Buchanan.
I just want to note that this aritcle was written entirely by Melonie Buchanan of Ratkateersrodentry.com- plese vist it it is a great site!

Although the North American Opossum is not commonly kept as pet, a growing number of people are fascinated by and dedicated to this unique animal. Virginia Opossums are wonderful pets when provided with a good home environment and proper care. They cuddle on the sofa with you, snuggle under the blankets in your bed, and greet you at the door when you come home from work

North American Opossums are nocturnal and solitary. They are generally slow moving. When frightened, instead of running they will often enter an involuntary shock-like state, known as "playing possum." They will also sometimes hiss or growl, and bare their teeth when frightened or threatened, but in reality are quite placid. North American Opossums are very adaptable animals. They can live almost anywhere, provided they have food, water and shelter. They often live in trees, where they use their long, flexible tail to add stability when climbing. They do not, however, hang upside down from their tail.

In captivity, North American Opossums can live up to 10 years. In the wild, however, very few Opossums live past their first year. In the wild they have numerous predators, including humans. North American Opossums can make great pets. This is especially true if they are hand fed. Most tame North American Opossums are slow, calm animals that love to be held. They are not known to bite, unless they feel threatened.

The mature North American Opossum is about the size of the average domestic housecat. They have gray to black fur, black eyes, and a pink nose.
The North American Opossum, also known as the Virginia Possum, is the only marsupial native to North America. They have a wide range that spreads across the United States into Canada. North American Opossums are essential to the ecosystem of North America. They help keep populations of insects and rats down and work as "sanitary workers," cleaning up dead animals.

They are also used as important models in biomedical research. Additionally, they are also beneficial to the environment as they eat many types of insects, including cockroaches. They also catch and eat rats and mice and dispose of dead animals and over-ripe fruit and berries.

Every opossum has his or her own distinctive personality, so temperament and behaviors will vary from one opossum to the next. The optimal age to obtain an opossum is a baby of 5 to 8 weeks of age. Opossums will only make as good a pet as the amount of time you invest in them as babies, and it is critical that you devote extensive time to fondling and training as soon as the infant arrives in your home. Discipline methods include tone of voice, time outs, a spray of water from a bottle, a gentle tap with your finger on their nose or bottom, or noise from a hand vacuum. Never hit or shake because corporal punishment will cause an opossum to bite. Pet Opossums require full run of the house once they are old enough (5 to 6 months) and tend to neurotically pace or become aggressive when excessively caged. For safety purposes you can, however, confine them to a small room while you are away from home.

They are best maintained as an indoor pet with the exception of a bit of fresh air and sunshine while supervised outdoors each day. Remember!! Opossums are excellent climbers and can escape easily over a fence. Opossum have a hairless tail and is prehensile and is used for grasping branches, balancing and carrying nesting material. The opossum does not hang upside down by the tail, a common misconception.

The opossum also has opposable thumbs on its hind feet for holding onto branches. Opossums are curious creatures and it is necessary to thoroughly safety proof your home also. Much like measures you would take in caring for an infant child. Opossums are generally non destructive once you understand their behaviors and make the necessary accommodations within your home. Again, they are master climbers and escape artists, so doors must be securely latched and all openings to the outdoors blocked. Lock all your doors and cabinets and secure toilet lids, They must never be left outside unattended. Once they escape they cannot survive on their own.

Opossums litter train similar to a cat. They need a litter box nearby their beds and additional boxes in the rooms where they spend a good deal of time with you. Many opossums are religious about using their litter box while others have occasional accidents or develops quirks.

Opossums do not require extensive bathing and grooming. Nails should be trimmed using human nail clippers about once every 3 weeks. Bathing should be infrequent so as not to destroy the natural oils in their fur. The best shampoo we have found, is a soap free, oatmeal based shampoo. Healthy Opossums do not have an odor. Opossums are very clean and routinely groom themselves. If your opossum has an odor, continuous bathing will not solve the problem because the odor is generally linked to an underlying medical problem.

The average life span of a captive bred Opossum is between 8 and 10 years. The number of years your Opossum will live depends upon the optimal care you provide by feeding him properly, avoiding obesity, keeping him away from chemicals in the home and his food and water, as well a maintaining his health needs. Opossums can quickly deteriorate when they become ill, prompt veterinary attention is essential.

Diet and proper nutrition is the most critical factor in keeping your pet Opossum healthy and increasing his life span. Opossums do NOT do well long term on commercial pet foods of any kind (I.e. cat and dog, etc). Opossums are omnivores, they will eat anything that tastes, smells, or even looks like food! Your task as an opossum owner is to provide a healthy diet that prevents disease and provides for a long life. We recommend using mostly fresh or frozen vegetables; frozen foods should be thawed before serving. Pick a variety of vegetables, even ones you may not like.

Anything from the fresh or frozen vegetable section of the grocery can be tried (with a few exceptions, like asparagus). Canned foods and dried fruits typically contain excessive salt or other preservatives that can be harmful to an opossum. Opossums need sources calcium and vitamin A. If you give him a proper diet, there is no need for supplements. We also suggest the Mazuri Omnivore A diet with the fruits and vegetables.

What to Feed an Opossum
-Give your opossum any fresh and/or frozen vegetables it will eat
-Boneless poultry and fish are good sources of low fat protein also add crickets, mealworms and super worms to their diet as a source of low fat protein. DO NOT feed your opossum beef products, cat food or dog food!
-Eggs, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products add calcium (not whole milk or high fat cheeses)
-Virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, and/or Halo Best Coat can be added to keep the skin and fur soft.
-Cereal, whole grain breads, cooked grains, and other high fiber foods should be used
-Nuts are a good source of essential fats (be careful of allergic reactions), processed almonds are best
-A few drops of organic apple cider vinegar can be added to aid digestion
-Use fruits only two or three times each week
-We also recommend adding garlic juice for improved digestion and to deter fleas, ticks, and other parasites.

Opossums are not legal in all states. Contact your State Wildlife Department and/or and local wildlife officer in regards to the laws on opossum possession and the license that is required in your area. KEEP YOUR RECEIPT to prove your opossum did not come from the wild. Always get the state permit and USDA license numbers of the
breeder/dealer/store where you are buying. Although you may not get into trouble, buying from unlicensed dealers/stores encourages this illegal trade and encourages the taking of animals from the wild.

Prepare Foods Daily. Their digestive system is very sensitive and cannot properly digest processed foods. Sample Diet:
-Vegetables may be fresh or thawed frozen
Cooked Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Eggs, Cheese and yogurt.
Fruits two or three times a week.
-Have fresh water available for them at all times.

Make sure you have a vet first, before you get your opossum. Many vets do not care for opossums. If your vet has problems, please contact the National Opossum Society at PO Box 21197, Catonsville, MA 21228 or http://www.opossum.org.
OPOSSUMS ARE NOT KNOWN TO CONTRACT RABIES. DO NOT GIVE THEM RABBIE VACCINATIONS! There are no approved Distemper vaccines for opossums. Some vets will suggest that you give your opossum rabies and distemper shots, but this is NOT necessary. Opossums do not contract these diseases and do NOT prevent the state health department from taking your opossum if it bites someone.
It is also important to have your opossum wormed regularly. Internal parasites can cause severe vitamin deficiencies in your Opossum. We highly recommend Levamisole (inject able only). Another health concern is “Crispy Ear Syndrome” which can be an outward manifestation of sepsis, a serious, life-threatening condition. Seek veterinary assistance IMMEDIATELY.
Nutritional Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) is a serious disease resulting in severe crippling or death. MBD is a complex disease with many etiologies. However, it is primarily due to poor husbandry, feeding an improper diet.
The most common dietary errors are not enough calcium in the diet, too much phosphorous, too much protein and too many fruits. The opossum must have a certain amount of calcium and phosphorous in the diet. If the opossum does not receive an adequate diet then dietary-induced disorders such as nutritional MBD may result. For more information, please see http://www.opossum.org/mbd.html or contact The National Opossum Society.

Opossums may not use the litter box all the time. Use unscented cat litter, wood pellets, Yesterday's News or newspaper. To train> Try cutting puppy training pads and put into the litter box. A large, multicat litter box should be used. Opossums will usually use a corner/s and can be trained easily. Let your opossum choose his corner and place the litter pan in the corner/s. Your opossum will learn to go in these places.

Opossums can be leashed trained. DO NOT leave your opossum outside unattended.


Interesting Opossum Facts

-They are exceptionally non-aggressive and non-destructive. They will not harm people or pets.
-They present a far less health risk than dogs or cats. They are more immune to many diseases than the other animals and are far less likely to carry rabies.
-They are quite and reclusive; solitary animals, except for a mother with babies.
-They are clean and always cleaning.
-They do not hibernate.
-The adults have 50 teeth.
-They use their prehensile tail as a fifth hand to help them move around with and they have a thumb (without a nail) on their feet.
-They are nocturnal.

Posted by blkandwtestar at 5:41 PM EST
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Monday, 14 November 2005
Persuasive Essay
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Now Playing: Persuasive Essay
Topic: Persuasive Essay
Virginia Opossums Make Great Pets

The Virginia opossum, also known as the North American opossum, makes a great pet. The best age to get an opossum is around 5 to 8 weeks, when they’re a baby and about the size of a small rat, then they grow to the size of a housecat. At Ratkateers Rodentry you can typically order a baby for $200-$350. They are the only marsupial native to North America, and soon I hope that they will be a commonly kept household pet.

According to Melonie Buchanan at Ratkateers Rodentry, opossums have a personality similar to a loving dog. They are slow, calm animals that love to be held. North American opossums like to cuddle on the couch with you, snuggle under the sheets in your bed, and greet you at the door when you come home. They can also be trained to walk on a leash, like a dog. I think opossums are “man’s best friend” too.

Feeding Virginia opossums is challenging but rewarding task. Studies show they need certain foods to keep healthy. Fresh or frozen vegetables should be fed everyday, while fruits should only be fed 2 to 3 times a week. Poultry, crickets, mealworms, and superworms are all good sources of low fat protein, but should not be fed everyday. Beef products, cat food, and dog food are dangerous to feed; whole milk and high fat cheeses are also not healthy. Most important of all, Virginia opossums require a great deal of calcium. An alternative to feeding a complex diet like described you can also pay to get the recipe for opossum “slop.” In return for feeding them a healthy diet they will give you lots of love and will also live a long, happy, healthy life.

Melonie Buchanan says possums are easy and fun to train, but might take a bit of patience. They can be taught to come to their name, walk on a leash and other tricks you may think of. Opossums also learn to use a litter box, and most use it “religiously.” On rare occasions, when they do something wrong or ill-behaved discipline methods include tone of voice, time-outs, or sprays from a water bottle. Never hit or shake an opossum, or any animal, it is animal abuse and is the only thing that will cause an opossum to bite and defend itself.

So, when you’re thinking of a good pet to get, think the Virginia opossum. They have a great personality, give a challenge to pet keeping, and are smart, adorable, gentle little fur balls of fun. While they have specific diet requirements, it is easy to find common foods that meet their needs. Plus, possums are extremely unlikely to obtain rabies, so they don’t need rabies shots, therefore bringing down medical costs. Now I hope you see that the Virginia opossum, even though exotic, can be one of the best pets.

Posted by blkandwtestar at 8:41 PM EST
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