Are Possums Dangerous to Humans & Pets?

are possums dangerous
Possums are generally not dangerous to humans and pets. Opossums are not naturally aggressive creatures. They may attack if they feel threatened, but this is rare. The most significant danger of possums is the diseases they carry.  

Are opossums dangerous to humans?

Opossums are not typically dangerous to people because they are afraid of humans. Note that opossums are sometimes colloquially called possums—although this may refer to various different species of the group known as Marsupials.

When possums encounter a human or animal, they often play dead. Possums only attack when cornered, trapped, provoked, or threatened. Opossums can be dangerous to humans because of the diseases they carry.

Some diseases they transmit have mild symptoms, while others can be fatal. Opossums can transmit salmonella to humans through interaction with opossum feces. Salmonella can cause hospitalization and death in humans.

Leptospirosis is another disease that humans can catch from possums. This disease is transmitted through the bodily fluids of a wild animal. Other diseases you can catch from possums include Tularemia, Tuberculosis, Spotted Fever, and Chagas disease. 

Do Possums Carry Rabies?

Possums generally do not carry the rabies virus, but it is possible . Possums have too low of a body temperature to host the virus. Rabies is transmitted through either a bite or a scratch from a wild animal.

Chances of getting rabies from an opossum are extremely low since they don’t attack humans often, and it is actually quite rare for them to have the virus.

It is also rare for possums to have Lyme disease. This is because possums are excellent self-groomers. Humans should not attempt to hand feed or pet opossums. This can result in catching a disease or being attacked. 

Are Opossums Dangerous to Pets?

Possums are omnivores, but they don’t attack pets to eat them. Possums eat smaller mammals such as birds, dead animals, and rodents.  A possum may attack if threatened or cornered by a pet.

However, it is more likely that the possum will hiss or play dead rather than attack. Just as with humans, possum diseases are dangerous to pets, too. It is more common for pets to catch a disease by coming into contact with possum droppings than by coming into direct contact with the animal itself.

Pets can catch leptospirosis, coccidiosis, and salmonella from possums. Possums are hosts to fleas, ticks, and mites. These parasites have the possibility of causing fatal infections. Fleas can carry spotted fever which can then be transmitted to your pet. 

You can help keep your beloved pet safe from possum and other critter diseases by keeping them up to date on their vaccinations. Another way to keep pets safe from possums is to keep them inside at night.

Possums are nocturnal, so letting your pet out at night increases the chances of a possum interaction. If your pet has stumbled on or come into contact with possum droppings or has experienced a possum attack, take them to see a veterinarian. 

opossum on a diagonal tree branch in fall

Will Opossums bite you?

Just like other wild animals, possums may bite in self-defense. Possums will not bite for no reason. Possums are timid creatures that avoid confrontation. Instead, they will usually resort to other escape strategies, such as playing dead or running away.

When they play dead, they release a foul scent from their anal glands. They use this additional tactic as a defense mechanism rather than biting.

Possums hiss and show their teeth to ward off humans and animals. They have fifty sharp teeth, which may appear intimidating, but opossum attacks are very unlikely.

If a possum bites you, wash it with soap and water. Seek medical attention immediately. 

What to do if you see an opossum?

If you see an opossum, leave it alone. Do not interact with the possum to avoid disease and injury. If you are close to the possum, ensure it has a clear path to escape.

When a wild animal has a way to escape, it is less likely to attack. Possums can be found in rural and urban areas. They have, over time, adapted to living in close proximity to humans.

Below are some ways to repel possums:

  • Secure trash cans to eliminate trash as a food source. 
  • Clean up fallen fruits and nuts in your yard.
  • Repair any access points into your home.
  • Live trap and relocate the possum.
  • Create a spray with garlic and water.
  • Install motion-activated sprinklers, alarms, and lights.
  • Spread predator urine on your property. 
  • Contact pest control.
opossum walking across a wood fence beam

Even though they are nocturnal, they may be seen moving in the daylight. If the opossum is on your property, you should take action to remove it from your property humanely.

Removal is crucial to avoid catching diseases, especially if you have pets. Possums seek shelter in homes, which is another reason to get them off your property.


Whitney is a graduate of Georgetown College and a current graduate student at the University of the Cumberlands. She resides in the beautiful state of Kentucky, which she has always appreciated and endeavors to maintain the land's well-being. A lover of animals and the earth, Whitney strives to communicate accurate information that will help readers learn new information, ideas, and become informed stewards of the natural world.

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