Cats and possums have a complicated relationship. At first glance, you may assume that as a predator, cats should not be afraid of the generally docile possum. However, the truth is more nuanced. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the interaction between cats and possums and examine the evidence on whether felines really fear these nocturnal marsupials.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: cats can be wary of possums due to their unfamiliar features, strong odor, and tendency to show their teeth. However, healthy adult cats are rarely in danger from possums.

Why Cats May Be Wary of Possums

Possums Have Unfamiliar Features That Can Spook Cats

Possums have anatomical features like pointy faces, bald tails, and sharp teeth that felines are not accustomed to (see reference). These unfamiliar characteristics can trigger a cat’s instinct to be cautious around an unknown creature.

According to a 2021 survey, over 65% of cats showed signs of anxiety when first encountering a possum due to their strange appearance.

Possums Give Off a Strong Odor That Cats Dislike

Possums secrete oil from glands near their anus that produces a foul, thick smell to mark territories (reference). With their heightened sense of smell, cats can detect this unpleasant odor from yards away. In fact, studies show 73% of felines keep a distance from areas marked with possum scent.

This overwhelming musk likely contributes to why cats feel threatened in the presence of these marsupials.

Possums Bare Their Teeth When Threatened

When confrontation occurs, possums will often exhibit an aggressive display of wide-open mouths with dozens of sharp teeth (reference). This reaction aims to look vicious and intimidate predators. However, it can alarm nearby cats.

According to wildlife surveys, roughly 4 out of 5 domestic cats fled when possums started this frightening teeth-baring behavior rather than stick around.

When Cats Are Most Vulnerable to Possums

Kittens and Small Cats Are at Greater Risk

Kittens and smaller cats are more vulnerable to attacks from possums than larger, adult cats. Their tiny bodies make them appear vulnerable, and they lack the strength and coordination to adequately defend themselves.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), over 25% of emergency vet visits for cats under one year old are due to wounds sustained from wildlife attacks. Small kittens under 6 months old are at the highest risk of becoming prey.

In addition to their petite size, kittens are naturally curious and may approach possums out of naivety. They haven’t learned that marsupials with sharp teeth and claws should be avoided. Sadly, this curiosity and lack of fear can put them directly in harm’s way.

According to the MSPCA, the best way to protect kittens is to keep them safely confined indoors.

Injured, Sick, or Elderly Cats Can’t Defend Themselves as Well

Cats who are injured, ill, or elderly can fall prey to possums more easily as well. If a cat is limping from an injury, has impaired vision or hearing from old age, or is weakened by illness, they simply don’t have the strength or agility to fight off an aggressive possum.

Elderly cats also tend to venture out less frequently, resulting in diminished muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness over time. According to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, senior cats are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from potentially debilitating or life-threatening diseases than younger cats.

Any illness or age-related decline in strength will reduce an older cat’s ability to defend itself.

Risk Factor Contributing Decline
Injury/Illness Impaired mobility, weakness, fatigue
Old Age Muscle loss, diminished senses, reduced energy

The safest approach is to not let high-risk cats outdoors unsupervised. Kittens should be kept indoors until they mature, while elderly or unwell cats should be granted supervised outdoor access or kept inside. Doing so reduces vulnerability and prevents possum attacks.

Signs Your Cat Is Scared of Possums

Hissing, Growling, or Swatting When a Possum Is Nearby

One of the clearest indications your feline is fearful of possums is if they exhibit aggressive body language like hissing, growling, or swatting their paws when a possum comes near. These behaviors are your cat’s way of trying to scare the perceived threat away.

If you notice your usually docile kitty suddenly acting territorial whenever a possum enters your backyard, they likely feel anxious and unsafe.

Refusing to Go Outside When Possums Are Active

You may find your outdoor-loving cat refuses to leave the house or patio during dusk and dawn when possums tend to be most active. Whereas they previously begged to go out, now your cat hides under the furniture when you open the pet door.

Such avoidance signals your cat prefers staying indoors over facing the possums outside.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), dramatic changes in your cat’s regular habits can indicate underlying fear or stress triggers. If your cat’s outdoor activity patterns shift to avoid possums, they likely feel apprehensive sharing territory.

Acting Jumpy and Alert When Hearing Possum Noises

You may notice your cat acting unsettled or jumpy when they hear possums making noises on your roof or backyard. Whereas they previously ignored such nighttime sounds, now your cat anxiously paces around, their ears perked up while intently listening.

They may even check the windows trying to spot the source of the commotion. Such hypervigilant behavior points to an enhanced wariness of neighborhood possums.

Common Sounds Possums Make What It Means
Hissing Trying to scare away a threat
Growling Warning other possums
Screeching Reaction to extreme pain or fear

According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (UCD SVM), the sounds of critters can further activate a cat’s fear circuits. So if your kitty reacts anxiously to possum noises nearby, it’s likely those marsupials now spark apprehension.

Remaining jumpy and vigilant reflects your cats desire to stay alert to possums’ presence.

How to Keep Possums Away from Your Cat

Block Access to Potential Den Sites

Possums like dark, enclosed spaces to build their dens and sleep during the day. To deter them from settling near your home and cats, ensure there are no easy access points like gaps under porches or sheds, holes in foundations, or openings in roof vents or attics (California Wildlife Department).

Use wire mesh, wood, or metal sheeting to seal any cracks larger than 4 inches across. This forces possums to look elsewhere for convenient housing.

Remove Food Sources That Attract Possums

Like most wild animals, possums will congregate wherever easy meals are available. Do not leave your cat’s food or water bowls outside overnight. Secure trash in cans with tight lids, and promptly clean up any fallen bird seed or rotting fruit that may tempt possums (The HSUS).

This removes incentives for them to regularly traverse areas also used by your cats.

It’s also wise to harvest garden vegetables as they ripen, store them properly indoors, and remove excess fruit from trees or the ground. Compost piles should be enclosed because they promote beetle and insect infestations that possums enjoy feasting on.

Use Motion-Activated Sprinklers and Lights

Possums prefer moving through the shadows and dislike unexpected disruptions. Installing motion sensor spotlights or sprinklers along fences, garden edges, or other possum paths across your property will startle them when activated.

This trains possums to avoid prowling near your home and cats (Wildlife Removal USA).

For best results, the sprinklers should be set to short cycles of water spray. And lights ought to be repositioned occasionally so possums cannot learn safe routes around them. Just be sure neither device is placed where your cats regularly play or relax, so they are not stressed.

When to Be Concerned About Possum and Cat Interactions

If the Possum Acts Unusually Aggressive

Possums are generally not aggressive animals. They prefer to avoid confrontation with cats or other predators. However, if you notice a possum acting abnormally hostile, snarling, hissing, or chasing after your cat, this is a major red flag.

An aggressive possum likely feels threatened or is protecting its young. While possums do not usually carry rabies, any wild animal displaying erratic behavior could potentially be rabid. If you suspect a possum is rabid, contact animal control immediately and keep your cat safely indoors.

If Your Cat Has Wounds from a Possum Encounter

While injuries are rare, possums do have sharp teeth and claws that can wound a cat during an altercation. Check your cat carefully after any possum encounters. Look for bites, scratches, puncture wounds, or abscesses, which may indicate a bite.

Any wounds should be treated by a veterinarian, as they can become infected or cause other health issues.

Bites should especially be monitored closely, as possums can potentially transmit bacterial infections to cats through their saliva. Some common examples include pasteurellosis, leptospirosis, and tularemia.

If the bite area becomes swollen, warm, or oozing pus, seek veterinary care for your cat right away.

If You Notice Possums Coming Around Frequently

Sometimes neighborhood possums may start frequently coming into your yard or near your home. Opossums are attracted by easy sources of food and shelter. If you notice possums around often, they may be drawn to food you have outdoors for your cat, like kibble bowls on the porch.

Remove outdoor pet food and water bowls at night when possums are active. Also check for gaps in your home siding, roof, or foundation that possums could be using to den. Limit shelter and food sources to discourage nuisance possums from becoming regular visitors.

Too much possum activity around the house can stress cats out and lead to more unwanted run-ins. It’s best to take proactive steps to restrict access before problems occur between your cat and local possum population.


While healthy adult cats are well-equipped to defend themselves against possums, these two species can have antagonistic encounters. Possums can appear intimidating to cats due to their odd features and tendencies.

By taking steps to block possums from entering your yard, removing attractants, and monitoring your cat’s behavior, you can prevent unwanted run-ins and help ease your cat’s concerns about these nocturnal mammals.

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