Orphaned Opossum

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Skyesrocket, Sep 13, 2009.

  1. Skyesrocket

    Skyesrocket Songster

    Mar 20, 2008
    I remember reading posts in here from people that have raised orphaned possums. I can use your help.
    Someone brought me a 5 1/2 inch (from nose to butt) male possum. They said mom was on the road dead and this little guy was on the road next to her.
    I have been doing some research online and have read that an opossum under 7" long isn't old enough to make it on his own.
    His eyes are open and he gets around on his own. I have him inside of a teddy bear hand puppet (like a pouch) and he is asleep right now. I fed him fresh goats milk with an eyedropper and stimulated him to go potty.
    When he wakes up I'm going to put a shallow bowl of goats milk in the cage to see if he will eat on his own. I'll put his nose in it....like you would a kitten.
    What I need to know is what else to feed him? I have been reading online that catfood is too high in protein and can cause kidney damage.
    For those of you who have raised them and kept them...what do you feed? Does he still need a heating pad? Or will his puppet be enough? The temps inside are in the mid 70's.
    Any advice would be appreciated. Pictures soon. My daughter has my camera right now. Thanks
  2. Chicks_N_Horses

    Chicks_N_Horses Songster

    Mar 30, 2009
    South Alabama
    1. Check for injuries. Seriously injured babies should be taken to a veterinarian that day.

    2. Warm the baby quickly if it feels cold

    Heating pad: Set temperature on low. Place the heating pad half under a closed box the baby has been placed inside of along with ravel-free cloths to snuggle with.
    Disposable plastic bottle: Use a plastic soft drink bottle or other plastic bottle. Fill it with hot water. Wrap it with a towel or other cloth. Place it inside a box with the baby. Make sure that it will not roll around possibly hurting the baby.
    Rice sock: Fill a sock 2/3 full of rice. Microwave it on high for 2 to 2 ½ minutes. Place it in the bedding in the box with the baby.
    3. Treat dehydration. Give fluids by mouth using a 1 cc syringe, eye-dropper, or pet nurser. Offer the fluids at room temperature hourly for up to 6 hours. Do not exceed 12 hours. Any of the following fluids may be used and can be purchased at the grocery or drug store :

    Gatorade ( regular or clear flavors)
    Pedialyte (clear, no flavor)
    Sugar/salt water: 3 teaspoons Sugar, 1 teaspoon salt dissolved in 1 quart very warm water. Cool the water to room temperature before offering it to the baby.
    4. Give it a warm box or pet carrier. Eyes closed infants and eyes open young that are in shock should be placed in a cardboard box or small/medium pet carrier with ravel-free bedding such as a few tee-shirts. Provide consistent source of warmth such as a heating pad on a low temperature setting. Place it half under the box or pet carrier.

    5. Begin offering dilute formula. Make the formula as indicated in the diet section. Offer diluted formula every 2 hours using a 1 cc syringe, eye-dropper, or pet nurser. Syringes are better because there is less chance of aspiration. Give three feedings of 1 part formula / 2 parts water, then three feedings of 1 part formula/ 1 part water. If the baby does not develop diarrhea or bloat offer full strength formula at the recommended amounts and frequency for the age.

    6. Provide food and housing as described below.



    1 part Esbilac powder
    1/3 part Heavy Whipping Cream,
    1.5 parts Water
    Always begin new infants on dilute formula, and work up to full strength formula gradually. Feed 1 part full strength formula + 2 parts water every 4 hours until they can leap from the dish on their own. If at any time the infant develops diarrhea or bloating, cut back on the concentration of formula until the situation clears up. If such problems persist for more than 36 hours, seek medical advice.

    How to feed:

    Use a 1 cc syringe to feed formula. Wrap the baby in a cloth to keep it warm and secure. And hold it in a sitting-up position. Opossums rarely suckle a syringe but will lick from it. As soon as the babies are used to the formula, you may pour some in a shallow dish. Opossums learn to lap from a dish quickly. However, any baby not drinking well from the dish should continue to be hand fed until it is lapping from the dish and gaining weight.

    Stimulating urine and feces:

    This should be done for babies whose eyes are closed or just opening. Use a slightly damp cotton ball or tissue to gently stroke the genital area. The baby should produce urine within a few seconds. Babies may not urinate or produce feces every time.

    Self-feeding diet: Once the opossums teeth have fully emerged begin offering the self-feeding diet. The base chow (Science Diet) should be soaked in water to make it soft and easier to eat until they reach about 12 weeks of age when it can be offered dry. Formula should be poured over the soaked chow until the babies have been weaned from formula at 10 weeks of age.

    Two shallow dishes of water should be offered . One dish for drinking and one for defecating.

    90% of diet: Purina puppy chow or Canine growth Science Diet (soaked in water until the opossums are older). (Pour formula over it until babies are weaned)
    5% of diet: Fruits and vegetables cut in dime to nickel size pieces. Any fruit or vegetable may be used.
    5% of diet: Insects such as crickets and worms, dead mice (cut up at first then left whole as babies get closer to release age).
    Supplements: Lightly sprinkle the food with a calcium/phosphate powder to help prevent calcium deficiencies after the baby is no longer receiving formula.
    Natural foods: Add as many natural food items to the self-feeding diet as are available.

    Releasing hand-raised opossums

    Opossums should be ready for release at 20 to 22 weeks of age. Prior to release, your opossums should have been in a large outdoor cage for at least two weeks, preferably longer. They should be acclimated to weather changes, outdoor noises and the sights and sounds of the world. They should be properly shy of dogs, cats and humans ( EVEN YOU ). They must be familiar with their natural foods.

    The release site should be outside the metropolitan area, on land with appropriate shelter, a constant water source and abundant natural food resources. There should be other opossums in the release area but it should not be overcrowded with them.

    Since opossums are nocturnal (active by night), it is best to release them in the late afternoon to early evening. Release when good weather is forecast for at least 4-5 days and the last chance of freezing temperatures has passed. Ideally, their nestbox should be left at the release site, under some bushes, and back-up food provided for 4-5 days until they have located their natural food sources.

    Keeping Babies Wild So They Can Go Back To The Wild

    A great many baby opossums are orphaned every year. As babies, they are cute in an awkward way and will respond to their caregiver with affection. They are still wild animals though. Individuals raising orphaned babies must not treat them as pets. A baby opossum should be raised with at least one other opossum of similar age. This will aid in helping it revert to its true wild nature after being weaned. You must obtain permission from your county game warden to legally possess any wild animal even for a short period of time.

    Use good hygiene. Wash your hands after handling the babies and cleaning the cage. Wash bedding and dishes separate from your own. Disinfect bedding and dishes using 1 part bleach to 30 parts water. Allow bedding and dishes to soak for at least 15 minutes then rinse. The information in this paper is brief and intended for raising healthy orphans.

    Opossum Facts
    North America's only marsupial (female has a pouch) mammal. The female carries and nurses her young in her marsupium until they are about 2 to 3 months old; then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months whenever they are away from the den.
    Size of a cat; grey to black fur; black eyes; pink nose, feet and tail; black ears; and pointed nose.
    Solitary and nocturnal: usually slow moving; when frightened and unable to flee may fall into an involuntary shock-like state, "playing 'possum".
    Hiss or growl and show their 50 sharp teeth when frightened; but, in reality, they are gentle and placid— they prefer to avoid all confrontations and wish to be left alone.
    Omnivorous: eats insects, snails, rodents, berries, over-ripe fruit, grasses, leaves, and carrion; occasionally will eat snakes, ground eggs, corn or other vegetables.
    Adaptable; able to live wherever water, food, and shelter exist. At home in trees; uses its prehensile tail to help stabilize position when climbing— it does not, however, hang by its tail.
    Few live beyond the age of 1 year in the environment; rare reports of living 5 to 10 years in captivity. Killed by many predators: humans (and cars), dogs, cats, owls, and larger wildlife.
    Opossums are solitary nocturnal animals, but may become diurnal in cold weather. They build the nests in tree hollows and spend most of their time there. Opossums don't hibernate, but remain inactive during severe frosts. Without nests Opossums are unable to survive.

    ***This is instruction from a rehab site.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2009
  3. Skyesrocket

    Skyesrocket Songster

    Mar 20, 2008
    Thanks! I gave it goats milk...figuring any animal can digest it. But this article says no goat milk. I'll have to get some baby formula.
    Thanks Again!
  4. luvmychicknkids

    luvmychicknkids Canning Squirrel

    Mar 6, 2008
    Floresville, Texas
    Hi. [​IMG] Someone directed me to this thread since I have raised them before. However, there really isn't anything I can add to that except my well wishes. [​IMG] Thank you for caring about the little sweetie. They are amazing creatures. Part of ours were released part were not. It was really based mainly on what they seemed to need. We had our male neutered. [​IMG] He was left in the mothers pouch for several hours after the others and was slightly disabled. He wouldn't have made it in the wild and was an awesome pet. Have fun. [​IMG]
  5. luvmychicknkids

    luvmychicknkids Canning Squirrel

    Mar 6, 2008
    Floresville, Texas
    Oh, and it isn't human baby formula you need to get. It is puppy formula they can safely drink. [​IMG]
  6. Skyesrocket

    Skyesrocket Songster

    Mar 20, 2008
    Thanks!! I knew there were a few people on here with possums.
    What kind of formula did you give the babies? This one isn't a tiny baby. His eyes are wide open, he is 5 1/2 inches long, and climbs and gets around well.
    I'm soaking puppy chow in water right now for when he wakes up. It's getting dark here now.
  7. Skyesrocket

    Skyesrocket Songster

    Mar 20, 2008
    We must have posted at the same time. Got ya, puppy formula. Tks.
  8. b.hromada

    b.hromada Flock Mistress

    I too have a opossum! She was about 8 or 9 inches long when we got her.
    Although we really never held her much, she is still quite wild. She is the hubby's!! [​IMG] She really doesn't care much for kids, I think because of how loud and how fast moving they can be! Enjoy you opossum, they make cool pets as stated above. If you want it to be people friendly, you will need to handle him or her a lot!! Good luck, and and have fun! [​IMG]
  9. luvmychicknkids

    luvmychicknkids Canning Squirrel

    Mar 6, 2008
    Floresville, Texas
    He sounds big enough that he should be fine. [​IMG] You can get Hartz puppy formula at WalMart or actual Esbilac at a pet store.

    My main advice is, if you plan to release him, try not to fall in love. He WILL NOT make that easy. [​IMG] i found the boys to be more clingy and needy than the girls. I was so attached to those babies!
  10. Chic-n-farmer

    Chic-n-farmer Showers of Blessings

    I took in a litter of orphans. (Mom was shot.)

    The only advice I would add is to make sure it can not escape what you have it in.

    This little cutie managed to escape the cage that held it's siblings.

    It took a day to find it in my house!


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