Keeping track of a rabbit’s many predators can feel like an exhausting job. Possums are another nocturnal critter that could visit your property after dark.
Just because possums will not necessarily kill and eat your rabbit, it doesn’t make them safe. Possums carry a wide range of contagious diseases. It’s important to keep your rabbit safe. Even flea and tick bites can be fatal if the parasites previously fed on a possum.
What is a Possum?
A possum, also known as an opossum, is a marsupial. The only breed found in the USA is the Virginia possum (aka North American possum.) This animal is roughly the size of a cat.
Possums are often found in urban territories because they are opportunistic animals. A possum is more of a nuisance than a danger. They will often tear open garbage bags, looking for food.
Possums are nocturnal, preferring to seek food under the cover of darkness. This means that your rabbit may encounter a possum if her hutch is located outdoors. Ordinarily, this will not place your rabbit in any danger.
Possums rarely tangle with live animals. In fact, they could be described as fainthearted. The term, “playing possum” relates to how this animal plays dead when confronted.
Are Possums Carnivorous?
Technically, possums are carnivorous. These animals have sharp teeth, capable of tearing flesh from bone. An angry possum can be a frightening sight if you have never seen one before.
Some possums will make use of these teeth. Australian Geographic explains how the bushtail possum ambushes and eats small birds. Thankfully, this breed is not native to America.
Most possums sustain themselves on an omnivorous diet. This is why they rummage through garbage. They will happily eat spoiled food from human trash. They’ll also seek sustenance elsewhere from other, non-living sources.
A possum will rarely hunt and attack a pet rabbit. This is not the style of this animal. Possums prefer to bide their time and scavenge. They are not interested in any altercation.
What is the Diet of a Possum?
Possums are often described as a nuisance due to their diet. Rummaging through trash and making a mess is noisy and annoying. Despite this, a possum’s diet can also be beneficial to humans.
Possums keep the pest population under control. These animals will eat insects, slugs, and vermin. Having a possum in your vicinity is akin to having the free exterminator service. Believe it or not, possums even eat deadly rattlesnakes.
Possums also eat plants. They won’t ruin your carefully laid flowerbed. Possums prefer to eat rotting, wilting weeds. Again, this could save you a job in the backyard.
Possums will sometimes eat other animals. They do not hunt and kill though, so your rabbit need not panic. Possums prefer to scavenge. They’ll look for roadkill under the cover of darkness.
Be aware that possums also love pet food. If you leave a meal for your pet outdoors, a possum may eat this. The hay and pellets that sustain rabbits are less appealing.
Do Possums and Rabbits Get Along?
Rabbits and possums are not natural antagonists. There is no reason for a rabbit to fear a possum. All the same, your rabbit must be kept secure at night. If a possum can interact with your rabbit, so could another predator.
Thankfully, rabbits and possums will rarely cross paths. Possums are strictly nocturnal. Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. In theory, your rabbit will be safely asleep when a possum awakens.
All the same, discourage any potential friendship between rabbits and possums. While possums usually live alone, they are marsupials. A possum will carry young in her pouch for around four months. That’s plenty of time for both animals to establish your property as a source of food.
In addition, possums often carry disease. Eating from garbage cans will have that impact. Your rabbit could infect your rabbit with any number of infectious illnesses.
Consider the fact that possums can be carnivorous too. If a possum gets hungry enough, a rabbit could be attacked. Even if your rabbit is not hurt, she will get the fright of her life.
It’s also possible that your rabbit will be the aggressor. If she suspects that a possum means her harm, she may attack. This will leave the possum playing dead as a defense mechanism. This is undesirable.
The possum could attract other, deadlier predators to your yard. They may consider a dead possum to be easy pickings. Possums also release a foul stench from the anus while playing dead.
Do Possums Kill Rabbits?
Possums will rarely actively hunt and kill a rabbit. Possums will consider this more trouble than it’s worth. Rabbits are not a natural food source for possums. This means they’re likely to be left alone.
One exception to this could be if your rabbit lives with chickens. It’s rare, but some possums will attempt to access a henhouse. Your rabbit could become collateral damage in the ensuing carnage.
Even if a possum does not attack your rabbit, the interaction could still be deadly. Possums are known carriers of a range of diseases. As these animals are not domesticated pets, these infections are never treated.
Fleas and ticks can do enough damage. Parasites that feed on possums could then transfer to a rabbit. If they carry infected blood, your rabbit will rapidly become sick.
As the University of California explains, possums can carry deadly maladies. These include:
- Tularemia (aka Rabbit Fever)
- Leptospirosis (aka Rat Fever)
- Chagas disease
If you know that possums enter your yard, take the necessary precautions for your rabbit. Consider adding a Perspex cover to her hutch for additional protection. It’s unlikely that a possum will bother her, but why take a chance?
Will Possums Eat Dead Rabbits?
Dead rabbits are a delicacy for possums. As born scavengers, possums will put their sharp teeth to use if necessary. A possum will pick the meat from skeletal remains.
Possums will not look for dead rabbits in hutches, though. Neither would a possum attempt to end a rabbit’s life. They will seize a corpse if they find one, but will usually look elsewhere.
Sadly, possums find the bodies of wild rabbits with comparative ease. Many wild rabbits lose their lives crossing roads. Some predators hunt rabbits for sport. Owls and other birds of prey just eat a rabbit’s head, leaving the body behind. A possum will claim these remains.
Be careful if you know that possums live in your area. They may take their meal back to their den to eat in safety. This will usually be an abandoned fox den. You will not want this near your property.
The more dead animals are located near your yard, the more predators will be attracted. This places your rabbit in danger. Try to discourage possums from setting up home too close to you.
How Do I Keep Possums Away from My Property?
An occasional visit from a possum to your yard can be helpful. These animals will keep the population of other unwelcome pests under control.
The National Opossum Society offers advice on how to deter possums without resorting to cruelty:
- Cover up any food sources. That means no loose garbage bags. Place your trash inside a heavy can that will mask any smells. Do not leave cat or dog food out.
- Invest in a motion-sensitive security light. As nocturnal animals, possums dislike bright lights. If they are ‘exposed’ every time they visit, the possum will look elsewhere.
- Do not give the possum anywhere to hide. Trim your bushes and shrubs. Possums like to remain undercover wherever possible.
- Possums loathe the scent of ammonia. Place some ammonia-soaked rags inside a container and dot these at entry points.
- If a possum has set up home in your yard, make noise during the day. Nobody enjoys having their sleep interrupted. The possum will soon move on.
These techniques will keep your rabbit safe from potential infection. There are considerably more frightening animals to a rabbit than possums. These animals are best described as gentle. A less kindly adjective would be cowardly. Most possums have no interest in your rabbit.
Just remember that these critters can carry disease. Possums can be helpful visitors, but they can also be dangerous. Approach their presence with the appropriate level of caution.