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

The opossum vs possum mistake is one that many people make when it comes to referring to these animals. Both are mammals that are native to the Americas and Australia. However, they do not have the same characteristics. In fact, they are two very different animals.

Possums are nocturnal. They can be found living in rural areas, particularly in Canada and the United States. Their diet consists of rotting fruit, garbage, and pet food. Although they are generally harmless, they can be a pest in homes. Opossums are often blamed for killing chickens. It’s important to remember that they are just a natural defense mechanism. If you live in a city, it’s likely that you can find these animals in your yard.

They have prehensile tails and rough, white fur. They are good climbers and run at speeds of about three and a half miles per hour. Oftentimes, they will follow a food trail. A good way to keep opossums away from your lawn is to cover their hiding places. For example, burying a few inches of hardware cloth in the bottom of your deck can keep opossums out of your yard.

Many opossums are aggressive. In fact, if they feel threatened, they will bar their teeth. This is their only defense mechanism. Other common signs that they are threatening to hurt you include hissing, foaming saliva, and drawing back their lips. You can avoid this from happening by making sure that your pets aren’t allowed to play with wildlife.

Another reason why opossums are considered a pest is because they tend to dig up trashcans and other places in your home. This can lead to problems if the opossums become trapped. Several ways to keep them from entering your house include sealing holes and openings, using fencing, and releasing them near fences.

If you see an opossum, the best thing to do is not to try to kill it. Although it is an aggressive animal, opossums are not aggressive enough to cause injury to you or your pets. Instead, you can release them near your fence, or you can push them with a broom through a doorway. Once you have gotten them out, you can relocate them to a natural habitat.

Opossums have a low risk of rabies. However, you should still take precautions if you think you have a possum. One sign that an opossum may be suffering from rabies is when it is foaming its mouth. Usually, this behavior lasts between two minutes and two hours. Regardless, you should always seek medical help if you believe you are at risk of contracting rabies.

Fortunately, the opossum is a very rare pest. There are other types of pests that are more harmful than opossums. But opossums can help eliminate other types of pests, including ticks, aphids, and mites. Since they are known for carrying germs in their mouths, you should consider keeping them away from your pets.

Getting rid of opossums isn’t easy. You should be careful and follow all local and state laws, and you should check with your wildlife department for more information on removing these animals.

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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