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Possums are actually more well known for “playing
dead” than they are fighting and being vicious,
but that’s not to say they won’t be vicious if
provoked. They have some seriously sharp teeth, 50
of them to be exact, made up of 12 premolars, 16
molars, 4 canines, and 18 incisors. They’re very
much like our teeth - the molars and premolars are
flat and blunt, the canines being sharp and
pointed, just as you would expect. The incisors of
the possum are also sharp and pointed also. A
small bite from this little creature would inflict
quite a bit of damage - you are being bitten by 50
The claws are no better either. A possum has five
toes, and each toe has a claw. As you can probably
imagine, an attack from one of these creatures
could be quite painful. Now imagine it were your
cat or dog up against this creature.
The good news is that possums would much rather
play dead than have a full-on fight with your pet.
It’s a great trick too, designed to confuse the
predator enough so that they let go, enabling the
possum to spring back to life and scamper away, as
fast as his little paws will carry him. Their
whole body goes limp, literally like it has died.
It’s a very clever defense mechanism, and one that
usually works well enough that the possum doesn’t
have to fight at all. Those teeth it has - all 50
of them - they are mostly for show. And for
eating, of course. They bare their teeth and growl
when another animal gets too close, and that can
be enough of a warning.
There are times when the playing dead technique
might not work, however, and this can often be the
case with small children and inquisitive pets.
Cats are well known to play with their prey, and
if they try to play with the possum even after it
has played dead, there’s a good chance it would
get attacked by those sharp claws and 50 teeth.
The same can be said for dogs, and plenty of other
animals also, wild or otherwise.
There is generally not a threat of rabies when a
possum attacks a cat, dog or human, and it is
actually quite rare for diseases to be passed on
to humans. Despite this, you’re still not going to
want to get too close. The feces and urine they
leave behind can transmit disease even if their
bodies are not. They have been credited with
helping the spread of Lyme disease, however. They
have quite a low body temperature, and this means
that any diseases passed on to them do not survive
on their host. Ticks are well known to carry
disease, but they often die when they jump and
feed on possums. One less Lyme disease-carrying
tick in the world is definitely a good thing. Just
imagine how many these possums are killing off for
For more information, you may want
to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
much does opossum removal cost?
- get the
lowdown on prices.
to get rid of opossums
- my main opossum
removal info guide.
opossum trapping photographs
- learn from great examples of
opossum jobs I've done.