Opossum vs Possum – When to Choose Which One and Why?

The marsupial is a type of animal that belongs to possums and opossums. But one common mistake that people do is that they think these animals are the same. Well, they are not. Even if we are clearing these things, you might still be confused first, with the spelling, and then their looks are slightly similar. So today, we will go through the differences they have with the simple definitions of Opossum vs. Possum.

opossum vs possum

How To Avoid The Opossum Vs Possum Error

Opossums may appear threatening, but they are actually very friendly animals. In fact, they can benefit humans by eating many pest insects. As far as pest control goes, possums are very easy to keep under control with scents and sounds. But there are a few things you should keep in mind before going out in search of one. Let’s first talk about how possums live. Possums are native to Australia. They are friendly animals, but their low self-esteem makes them easy targets for fur poachers.

A quick look at an opossum’s body language can tell you a lot about whether it’s an opossum. Opossums typically play with their tongues out, making them appear bewildered during the day. They’re likely to be in a dark, secluded area when you see them, so they’re unlikely to approach small children. However, opossums can be dangerous if children play in these dark places.

A few ways to deter opossums include placing a fox’s urine in your garden. This is a natural deterrent that works by overwhelming the possum’s senses. They’ll think that the scent is too unpleasant to eat and won’t go near it again. Another effective method is to sprinkle some molasses around your garden. Onions and garlic smell very strongly to possums and can be placed in areas where possums are likely to come.

As far as pronunciation goes, the word opossum is generally the correct spelling for opossum. The word possum is more common in the United States, but opossum is not as common in Australia. People frequently mistake possum for opossum in speech and print. While it may not matter for informal writing, it’s important to consider your audience before using a misnomer.

Although opossums are commonly grouped in the rodent category, they are actually not pests. In fact, possums are a boon to gardens because they feed on fallen fruit and garbage. As a bonus, opossums also clean up fallen fruit. They’re also good eaters of slugs and snails. They also eat ticks. Possums can eat up to five thousand ticks in a season.

Aside from trapping opossums, a great way to deter opossums is to use scents that opossums dislike. You can also spray a mixture of camphor oil and petroleum jelly around your garden and lawn to deter them. If you want to deter possums from entering your yard, consider garlic. It has a strong odor, so it won’t be able to den there.

When talking about possums, don’t make the mistake of thinking they are all the same size. Possums are not a common household pet, but they do exist in many cities and neighborhoods. If you think you’ve seen one in your neighborhood, you’re probably right. Possums are common and are safe in urban areas. So, don’t worry, the opossums aren’t dangerous!

Opossum vs. Possum: Difference

An opossum is a type of marsupial but a native animal of America from Didelphimorphia. While Possum is a marsupial animal, native to Australasia. Possums have the scientific name of Phalangeriformes. However, possums are more often used these days. People interchangeably use these words just like bison and buffalo. To briefly define opossum vs. Possum:

  • Opossums- commonly identified with their white faces and sharp teeth. These are native marsupial animals in America.
  • Possums- have prehensile tails and are native marsupial animals to Australia and their neighbor countries.

When to Use Opossum

Most of the time, you can use opossum or opossums when you are referring to the Virginia opossum. These are the only species you can find in Canada and the USA.

Opossums are fierce creatures due to their sharp teeth, which is the main characteristic of Virginia opossum. Virginia opossums usually have white faces, black ears, and coarse gray. Somehow the same size with a domestic cat. Opossums don’t have prehensile tails like possums of Australia. However, they are comfortable on the ground and in the trees.

When to Use Possum

Possum is a Phalangeriformes. A kind of marsupial that can be found in Australia and other Oceanic countries. They are tree-dwelling animals and are nocturnal creatures. Possums have prehensile tails, but they also have varieties of possums that have brushtail and ringtail possums. Their tails act like their fifth limb. Through their tail characteristics, they can use it to grasp and hang from the branches of trees.

Spelling Mistakes with Opossum & Possum

In English, there are lots of words that begin with “opp.” Which writer became confused with the correct spelling of opossum. These errors might be:

  • Oppossum
  • Opposum
  • Oposum
  • Opussum

These mistakes are common and take away the meaning of the word. The correct spelling is O-P-O-S-S-U-M, opossum. And do not be confused when to call that marsupial animal opossum, and an Australian tree-dwelling animal, Possum.


When to use Possum vs Opossum?

Most of the time, you can use opossum or opossums when you are referring to the Virginia opossum. And an Australian tree-dwelling animal is called Possum.

Is Opossum a Rodent?

Opossum are not Rodent. They are marsupial. They use their pouch to carry their babies. They are the only mammals with pouches in the US & Canada.

Does Possum attack?

Just like other mammals, if you try to hurt a Possum or their babies, they will attack you for rescuing themselves.

Do Possum run fast?

Possums run at the speed of 3.5 miles/hour. They do not posses any skill to attack, but they have the skill to run away quickly from the attackers. Possums are good climbers and swimmers. They can climb fences and concrete walls.


Remember that an opossum is a marsupial that is endemic to America and belongs to the Didelphimorphia family. Possums are marsupial animals that are native to Australasia.

Even the names of animals are confusing. But properly knowing their characteristics will help you define which name you will call them. Opossum vs Possum is no doubt almost similar to each as well as their spelling.

While possums and opossums both fall under the general class of marsupial, they belong to different orders and there are variation possum and other widespread possum species like the Australasian marsupials, Tasmanian pygmy possum, Brushtail possums and Australian Possums. Opossums live in North and South America, while possums live in Australia and other countries.

The possum has a furry tail, while the opossum has a bare tail. Both possums and opossums have a flexible diet and they eat various green plants and animal matter scavenged from their surroundings. In North America, the animal is officially called an opossum is a white and gray marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia. 

Are there other terms, words, or phrases that confuse you about when to use or if properly used? Hope this article helped clear key difference in possum-opossum difference. Share us what are those, and maybe we can help you find the answers to differentiate them!

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