Animals / Rodents

The Common Brushtail Possum

Синонимы и названия на других языках


Order: diprotodontia

Family: phalangeridae

Genus: trichosurus

Species: Trichosurus vulpecula


The common brushtail possums are native to Australia and have been introduced to New Zealand. It can be found in the eastern and northern parts of Australia, as well as in Tasmania and other offshore islands. It is an arboreal species, it lives in woodlands, including eucalypt forests and also thrives in cities. 

Внешний вид

People travelling in Australia in the 19th century wrote that they saw monkeys in the tropical forests of North Queensland. In reality those “monkeys” were possums. They got their name due to their resemblance to American opossums.  

The common brushtail possum is around 32–58 cm long and its tail measures 24–40 cm extra.  It weighs 1.2-4.5 kg. Males are generally larger than females. In addition, the coat of the male tends to be reddish at the shoulders. The females have a well-developed pouch. Both males and females have a gland on the chest that emits a reddish secretion they mark their territory with.

The common brushtail possum has large and pointed ears. It has a bushy tail that is adapted to grasping branches.  Its forefeet have sharp claws and the first toe of each hind foot is clawless.  It has a thick and woolly coat that varies in colour: they can be silver-gray, brown, black, red or cream. The belly is normally lighter and the tail is usually brown or black.


Common brushtail possums are arboreal animals, so they can mainly be found in woodlands. They are active at night and at dusk; during the day they sleep in tree hollows and in the nests.

They are solitary animals and keep distance with their specimens, but normally they are not aggressive towards each other. They can make different sounds: clicks, grunts, hisses, coughs etc. 

Содержание и уход

Possums are wild animals and they don’t feel very comfortable in captivity. Still, theya re quite easy to care for.

They need an aviary with a reasonable amount of space and plenty of branches for them to climb over and run along.  They should also be offered a selection of sleeping quarters such as hollow logs or boxes.  It is recommended to keep only one possum, since they tend to fight for the territory. If you keep these animals in an aviary in suburbia some thought should also be given to your neighbours, since possums can be quite loud.


The common brushtail possum mainly eats plants. It prefers eucalyptus leaves but will also eat flowers, shoots, fruits and seeds. It may also consume animal feed: insects, birds’ eggs and rats, mice and roadkill. They are also fond of grain bread, cakes and pastries although it is not a staple menu, just as treats.   

It's extremely difficult to create a captive diet that reflects the diversity of a wild possum’s meals, meets his nutrition requirements and maintains the calcium-phosphorus balance he needs to remain healthy. 


Opossums usually have numerous parasites that can cause disease and death, and females often get genital and urinary tract infections. Captive possums frequently have poor immune systems and are prone to bacterial illnesses. Opossums that live longer than a year often suffer cataracts, become obese and lose coordination, although scientists don’t know why they age this quickly. Many vets don’t have the knowledge and experience to treat their health issues effectively. If you decide to keep a possum, immediately find a vet who's qualified to address his health problems.

Opossums have a very short lifespan, usually three years or less in the wild. In captivity, they can live twice as long if they receive proper nutrition and care from a qualified keeper. However, they also can become ill quickly from the stress of captivity, lack of exercise and a limited diet.

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