The other day I was watching the sunset when I heard my dogs frantically barking in the back yard. I rushed outside to find out what all the commotion was about, and saw a tiny possum cowering behind the fence. I looked everywhere but could not find its mother. I decided to bring the little guy something to eat and drink, but I had no idea what was safe for him! I decided to do some research and find out what the experts have to say.
What do baby possums eat and drink?
The answer to this question depends on the age of the possum. A possum that is at least 7 inches long (from nose to tip of tail) is actually old enough to be on its own. If you want to feed a possum this age, you can give it water and diced fruits and veggies. Smaller babies need to drink diluted, powdered formula, and when they get a little bigger, they can eat mashed fruits and vegies or baby food.
If you see the possum walking around on its own, it most likely does not need its mother anymore. If you find a possum smaller than 7 inches, how you care for the little guy is dependent on its age. The rest of this article will discuss what to do if you find an orphaned baby possum, how to care for an orphaned baby possum, and what they can eat and drink.
What to Do if You Find a Wild, Orphaned Baby Possum
First of all, if the possum has all its teeth, hair, whiskers, it’s eyes are open, it is at least 7 inches long, and it is wandering around without its mother, you DO NOT need to and SHOULD NOT take it in. Possums are marsupials, which means the mommy possum carries her babies in a pouch until they are old enough to be on their own, just like a kangaroo! The possum I found was old enough to be on her own, but sometimes babies are a lot less fortunate than the one I found.
There are basically two scenarios where baby possums need to be taken in. First, sometimes an older baby will fall out of the mother’s pouch or off her back. Possum mothers carry their babies with them, so if a baby smaller than 7 inches is found that means it is orphaned. The mother usually has around 13 babies at a time, so she does not go looking for missing ones. The second scenario is much more unfortunate, and I am so sorry for anyone who has to experience this. Basically the second scenario happens when you find a deceased mother who still has babies clinging to her back or in her pouch.
If you find a deceased mother with pink babies still attached to the nipples in her pouch DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE THEM. Their mouths are attached to her body, and they need to be cut lose by a vet. If you try to remove them yourself, they will likely die.
You might also find pink babies in the pouch who are not attached to the nipple and their eyes are open. Any pink babies need to be warmed AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Hypothermia kills more orphaned possums than starvation. Do not touch the possums with your bare hands. Use gloves or fabric as a barrier and to not touch your face until you have thoroughly washed your hands. If the babies are attached, wrap the mother in a towel, sheet, old t-shirt, or any other fabric. Place her in a box with a warm water bottle or two to keep her and the babies warm. Take her to the nearest wildlife center or exotic vet that can help. If the babies are not attached, try to use an old t-shirt or fabric to wrap them in because their claws easily get caught in towel loops.. You can use the hot water bottle or gently hold the babies close to your body to share your warmth. NEVER use a human heating pad. These get way too hot and you could accidentally cook the babies.
You should call a local wildlife center and ask them if they can take the babies. Sometimes the centers do not have the room or supplies to care for baby possums, so you should ask if they raise the young ones or just put them down. NEVER call animal control! Most of the time, animal control has to put animals down.
Raising the baby possum or possums yourself should be an absolute last resort. Each state has laws regarding the private ownership of possums that you need to look into. Possums can be very dangerous and should be raised and released by an expert. But sometimes you find yourself in a situation where your local wildlife centers cannot care for the babies. If you are the babies only hope for survival, the rest of this article will teach you how to care for wild, orphaned baby possums.
How do You Raise and Take Care of a Wild, Orphaned Baby Possum?
If you are reading at this point, your baby possum or possums are less than 7 inches long, their eyes are open, and they are safely wrapped in a cloth. It is very difficult to raise an orphaned wild possum, so again this should be your absolute last resort.
The first thing you will need to do is correct the babies body temperature. An adult possum’s body temperature is around 95.36 °F or 35.2 °C. Possum expert Dr. Ron Hines says the best initial heat source for the babies is a hot water bottle. Babies are more likely to die from hypothermia than starvation, so take care of their body temperature first.
Once the babies are warm, the second thing you need to do is hydrate them. Dr. Hines has been caring for orphaned possums for over 60 years. He says you will need a “1cc syringe with a short portion of medical silicone rubber tubing placed over the needle end” to feed and hydrate babies under 6 inches long. He says you should give them Pedialyte through the syringe until you have the proper formula for them. As soon as the babies stop greedily accepting the Pedialyte even slightly, stop letting them drink. It is better to give them too little than too much.
The home for the babies needs to be warm and humid. You should get a plastic bin with a lid and poke air holes or get a terrarium from a local pet store (avoid the metal-mesh kind). Put old t-shirts, fabric, shredded newspaper, or paper towels in the bottom of their bin or terrarium. Use a commercial pet heating pad for warmth. Human heating pads, lamps, and light bulbs are too hot, unpredictable, and can be fire hazards, so DO NOT use these. You could cook the babies alive on accident because they are not old enough to move away when they get too hot. For humidity, place several damp sponges in a shallow dish and put the dish in the bin or terrarium.
If you brought the babies home, they should be fearful of humans. Give them places to hide in their bin or terrarium, then place the bin or terrarium in a quiet place with low lighting. Avoid making loud noises and sudden movements and interact with the babies as little as possible. Make sure the bin or terrarium is secure so the babies cannot escape when they get bigger.
Baby possums cannot go to the bathroom on their own until they are around 10-11 weeks old. As the experts say, you need to “stimulate to eliminate.” Dr. Hines recommends taking a clean cotton ball or Q-tip and dampening it with warm water, the gently rubbing the baby’s genital area until it goes to the bathroom. This needs to be done for them to go #1 and #2.
How to Feed a Baby Possum & How to Teach a Baby Possum to Eat
You will not have to teach the baby how to eat. Eventually they will figure out that you are their only food source and give in. Just keep offering them food until they accept it. Again as Dr. Hines suggests, you will need to use the 1cc syringe with the protective medical silicone over the sharp needle end. If you want to read Dr. Hines’ article on caring for orphaned baby possums, check out this link.
How you hold the baby while feeding is extremely important. You will want to elevate their head, make sure there is no pressure on their chest or stomach, and feed very slowly with frequent breaks. As soon as the baby stops greedily eating, even just a little, stop feeding. It is better to give too little than too much at this stage.
How much formula to feed the baby possum depends on its size. The formula needs to be diluted. Dr. Hines recommends you feed the following;
|Weight (in grams)||Average Amount of Formula to Feed|
Experts recommend using the powdered form of Esbilac by PetAg for formula. For possums under 30 grams, mix 1 part formula with 5 parts water. Once they weigh over 30 grams, slowly decrease the amount of water until you reach 1 part formula and 2 parts water. Once the baby’s eyes and mouth are open, you should mix their formula with soft kitten food and offer them the dish to eat on their own. The kitten food needs to be a high quality brand with NO FISH in the ingredients.
How often do you feed a baby possum?
Again this depends on age. Baby possums grow at different rates and sizes, so experts recommend using physical characteristics and behaviors to determine how often to feed the baby.
|Characteristics and Behaviors||How Often to Feed||How to Feed|
|Furless and pink, eyes and mouths closed, make a sneeze-like “choo-choo” sound when hungry or looking for mom||Every 2 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night||Formula mix in 1cc syringe with medical silicone on sharp needle end.|
|Show first signs of skin pigmentation and fur growth, will cry out loud when upset||Every 2 hours during the day, try to eliminate night feeding.||Formula mix in 1 cc syringe with medical silicone on sharp needle end.|
|Whiskers begin to grow around mouth||Every 2 and ½ hours||Formula mix in 1 cc syringe with medical silicone on sharp needle end.|
|Fur begins to grow around neck and back||Every 3 hours||Formula mix in 1 cc syringe with medical silicone on sharp needle end.|
|Eyes and mouth begin to open, begin crawling around bin or terrarium||Every 3-4 hours||Offer formula mix in a shallow dish. Of a baby does not eat from the dish, use the 1cc syringe to “top them off”|
|Can go to the bathroom on their own.||Every 4-5 hours||Mix their formula mix with soft, high-quality puppy or kitten food, put in shallow dish, and place dish in bin or terrarium. After about another week they can be given mashed fruits and veggies (try Gerber baby food)|
What do newborn baby possums eat
Newborn baby possums drink their mother’s milk until they are between 80-90 days old. Orphaned baby possums can drink Pedialyte, powdered formula (Esbilac), and some water.
How long can a baby possum survive without its mother
Not very long unfortunately. The babies need their mother for warmth and food. if their body temperature drops too low after being separated from their mother, the baby will not make it. Hypothermia kills more baby possums than starvation. How long the baby can survive will depend on the temperature of its environment, but without warmth and food it will not survive longer than 2-3 days.
How long can a baby possum survive without food
Again, not very long. Like other mammals, baby possums will probably not last longer than 2-3 days without food.
Can baby possums drink cow’s milk or goat’s milk
NO! NEVER! You should never give a baby possum cow’s milk or goat’s milk; it could kill them. It is way too strong for them and they are not used to it.
Do baby possums drink water
Yes. Orphaned baby possums can drink water through a syringe or in a shallow dish, and wild baby possums can drink water as soon as they are old enough to lap up liquid on their own.
Other Foods that Older baby Possums can eat
There are other foods which you start to introduce and feed to a baby possum once it reaches 7-8 weeks. Let’s see the most common foods and If they would be good to feed to a baby possum.
Only high-quality brands with no fish in the ingredients. You should avoid cheap cat foods if you can, and for a baby possum give them soft cat food. Some good brands include Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, and Victor.
YES! Gerber has a large variety of mashed baby foods that are great for possums to eat! Baby possums do not need a ton of protein so try to stick with fruits and veggies mostly. Avoid fish, raw meat, and beef. Chicken is probably your safest option but try to stick to vegetables and fruits for baby food.
When they are old enough and if bananas are available, yes. Baby possums will eat anything they can find, and if you are raising a baby who is old enough to eat on its own bananas are a safe option for fruit. Gerber actually makes a banana baby food that is already mashed and safe to feed your baby possum!
Cheese or yogurt
From my research, I think the safest thing to do is avoid all dairy. All of the experts I found said not to give possums dairy. A few said older baby possums can have small amounts of cheese and yogurt but I think it would be best to avoid that food group altogether.
YES! Possums are scavengers and will eat whatever they can get their mouths on. When your baby possum is ready to start eating on its own you should feed it mashed fruits or baby food. when it has all 50 teeth, you should cut the fruit into bite-size pieces.
Grass is not usually a first choice, but they will eat it if there is nothing better available. They eat a lot of leaves including sweet potato leaves, lettuce, and broccoli leaves.
Yes and no. While the baby is still drinking milk/formula they do not really eat meat because they get most of the protein they need form the milk/formula. When they get bigger they start eating small insects, nuts and seeds. If you think you need to give a baby possum meat, the safest options are boiled eggs and chicken. Avoid raw meat, fish, and beef.
What do Australian baby possums eat? Australian baby possums are very similar to North American baby possums. They also drink their mother’s milk until they are about 80-90 days old, and then they become omnivores as they get older. Possums eat all kinds of plants, animals, insects, fruits, and veggies!
Are baby possums dangerous? Yes. Possums will bite if they feel threatened, but even babies with no teeth can still be dangerous. Possums carry many infectious diseases and parasites including salmonella, leptospirosis, typhus, fleas, ticks, and many more. This is why you should NEVER touch a possum with your bare hands.
Do possums leave their babies while eating? Never. Possums are marsupials, which means they carry their babies in a pouch until they are big enough to move around on their own. Even after the babies are big enough to leave the pouch, the mother carries them on her back until they are old enough to leave. She takes her babies with her EVERYWHERE.
How do you get a baby possum? You do not “get” a baby possum. You should never try to get a possum as a pet. They are wild animals and can be aggressive and carry diseases. The only way anyone should ever have a baby possum in their home is if they were unfortunate enough to find the baby clinging to its dead mother, and there were no local wildlife centers who could keep and care for the baby.