“a sluggish, smelly, disreputable critter"
July 4, 2023 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Indeed, opossums are odd, a creature an exhausted God might have thrown together with parts leftover from a busy week of creation. Whatever He had lying around the shop (grippy hands, snaky tail, crippling anxiety), He chucked into the opossum and sent it down to the Garden of Eden to tip over Adam’s garbage cans and eat the cat food off Eve’s back porch.
posted by spamandkimchi (50 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Opossums are animals that are very popular in the furry fandom as animals, but not so popular as an anthro-animal character to be. It's an interesting dichotomy.
posted by hippybear at 12:03 PM on July 4, 2023 [4 favorites]

Meant to include the link: previously on MeFi!
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:04 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

What a delightful appreciation of opossums this is. They've become one of my favorites, also.
posted by Francolin at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2023 [5 favorites]

eat the cat food off Eve’s back porch.

A euphemism, right? And meaning, what exactly...?
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 12:18 PM on July 4, 2023 [8 favorites]

It's possible that Insert Clever Name Here is about to discover they're the only person who read it that way.
posted by hippybear at 12:20 PM on July 4, 2023 [22 favorites]

I had severe insomnia a few months ago and thus got to meet Ooch, the opossum who lives in my front yard and ravages my garbage bags during the night. They were skittish the first few times but then just started ignoring me and doing their thing. Since their thing includes eating cockroaches and ticks I'm willing to put up with a little pillaging.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:22 PM on July 4, 2023 [15 favorites]

Props to the author for the sly use of "proper opossum". IYKYK
posted by scruss at 12:29 PM on July 4, 2023 [2 favorites]

So we discovered a newborn joey in our yard a few years ago. At first we thought it was a squirrel but we texted a photo to the local wildlife center and they quickly corrected us: Virginia Opossum. And, no, they couldn't take it in because newborns need 24 hour care. But they sent us a list of people that could take it in.

So we raced across town with a shoebox and delivered the baby to this woman who was also rehabilitating a few squirrels, a raccoon, a handful of dogs and a half dozen rescue cats. All in her single family home. She was certified by the state DNR, who were we to argue?

At first we were just happy to have saved a little critter's life. The mother doesn't notice, and therefore doesn't come back, if a joey falls out of her pouch. It would have been a goner within an hour or two of us noticing. The lady stayed up all night the first few days to feed and care for the litle peanut.

Then the lady started sending us photos. It was a female. She named it Posey. And began to spoil the hell out her. Did you know opossums love Cool Whip? Posey also became very friendly with the pack of cats, who seemed very confused. Most pictures we received had a cat in the background looking seriously annoyed. Posey also seemed to be gaining a pound or two every month. We sent some money along to cover costs and spoil the critter, who was definitely never leaving that house again. Her caretaker had built a little house for Posey and was never letting her go. Posey started showing up in costumes for the holidays.

We all fell in love with Posey over the next 12-18 months or so and were completely heartbroken when the lady, for other circumstances I won't get into, had to release all her rehab animals into the local forest preserve. We don't think Posey had the skills to survive, but we'll never know for certain.

In any case whenever we see one now we give a little smile and a wave and think this might be one of Posey's siblings or relatives. And they just keep truckin' along.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:53 PM on July 4, 2023 [40 favorites]

I do understand hand-raised opossums are really good pets. I'm glad to hear about Posey and am rooting for her to be still out there, opossuming.
posted by hippybear at 1:03 PM on July 4, 2023 [4 favorites]

Misread the sentence as "a creature exhausted with God," and, well, big mood.
posted by Scattercat at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2023 [20 favorites]

I have been a big fan of opossums for many years and hope to meet one someday. This is a wonderful article.
posted by Scout405 at 1:07 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

I go Pogo!
posted by chavenet at 1:20 PM on July 4, 2023 [10 favorites]

One of the biggest scares of my high school life happened while walking home one summer night in Salina Kansas. All of a sudden behind me I heard the rake of claws on the concrete. And their pace was accelerating. That was my most hair raisingest moment ever -- I jumped up, twirled around and scared the hell out of the opossum behind me. Which made two of us. The memory of the sudden sound of those gnarly long toenails on the concrete street makes my heart beat a little bit faster to this day. Despite how anticlimactic being terrified by a small marsupial with a permanent bad hair day turned out to be.
posted by y2karl at 1:21 PM on July 4, 2023 [7 favorites]

My opossum encounter was while dismantling a hippie-made, built-in tiled tub in an old cabin. It was very solidly made, and removing it required many seriously heavy blows with a large sledgehammer. One side was knocked out, then the end of the tub, very noisily; finally we could lift the tub's floor, and there, looking only slightly surprised, was a small family of approximately half-size young opossums. For whatever opossum reason, they'd obviously decided to endure the row we made in the hope of keeping their home.
posted by anadem at 1:26 PM on July 4, 2023 [3 favorites]

little tlacuache--
the scourge of propriety--
is a gentle cur.
posted by splifingate at 1:33 PM on July 4, 2023 [6 favorites]

I had a pet possum named Maynard when I was a kid. His tummy fur was very soft- I knew this because he liked to sleep on his back. One day he got out of his cage and reappeared in it two nights later. The next time he got out he probably realized lady possums existed and did not return. He was not smelly or stinky and his bignes was very impressive. I think he weighed about ten pounds when he left for the final time.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:35 PM on July 4, 2023 [8 favorites]

We had cats and a cat door so we had possums. The cats gave them wide berth; the possums would ignore them en route to the kitty kibble. When the raccoons and then the armadillo began to show up, though, the cat door was closed. The possums did occasionally raid the garbage but the raccoons were the usual culprits. I’ve seen possums sniffing around our trash cans get chased away by raccoons more than once. No loss though; they never appear anything but fat and well fed.

We have a thief and carrion-eater for a national symbol now, but I prefer Franklin’s choice. I think the raccoon or possum would be a fine choice as well.
posted by sudogeek at 1:43 PM on July 4, 2023 [9 favorites]

"A euphemism, right? And meaning, what exactly...?"

Surely, it was not Adam--himself--who partook of her porch, lest he be posthumously stricken by 44,000 volts of 'oh, god'.

Let us now pray at the alter of Laura Jackson Roberts's wit (and humour) ;)
posted by splifingate at 1:50 PM on July 4, 2023

My amusing possum story
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:38 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

Is that a possum or an opossum? Who knows?

'Opossum,' O Lovely 'Possum'

Possum vs. Opossum?
Depends on where you're at, maybe?
Or is it really a phalanger?

Possums have nasty poops, but do they poot when they play dead?

Tell Me No Lies: Do (op)possums really eat ticks?
According to Science, It's Complicated
posted by BlueHorse at 2:57 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

Possums are cool. I rarely see them when I'm out on the bike early, but I don't seem to bother them when we meet.
posted by scruss at 3:22 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

Is that a possum or an opossum? Who knows?

Yeah, as the link suggests, I was always told the best way to distinguish them is to run through a short checklist:

1. What continent am I on at this moment?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:44 PM on July 4, 2023 [4 favorites]

My brother worked at a nature center years ago and I dropped by to see it. While standing there, one of the rangers came out of a back room with a full grown possum. He walked up to me, said Here take it. I put out my arms and he put the possum there and as I enclosed my arms around it and pulled it towards my chest, it slowly grabbed on to me and just cuddled there. It was heavy and warm. Luckily, my brother appeared and he took it. He said it was about to go to sleep and didn’t think I wanted to hold it until it woke back up. Possums or opossums are nice.
posted by njohnson23 at 4:05 PM on July 4, 2023 [12 favorites]

A college roommate’s wife once encountered one at night. She screamed, A GIANT RAT!!!!! Her husband set her straight.
posted by njohnson23 at 4:07 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

TIL you can hand someone a sleepy possum and they will be trapped by it falling asleep.
posted by hippybear at 4:10 PM on July 4, 2023 [6 favorites]

Ah, I love possums too. I rarely see them (alive) but it's a treat when I do. I do have two stories of possom shenanigans...

!) Some years ago, a family member had a cookie delivery route, and gave us several containers of cookies. Surprisingly, we didn't like them, so my fiance tossed them in the trash can. The next night, coming in the house, I glanced down into the can....and lo and behold was a very overstuffed possum...and four empty cookie containers. He ate himself into a food coma. I very gently and slowly tipped the can over (he was curled up in the bottom and could not get out). After some minutes, a very full possum slowly waddled his way out of the can, and into the darkness.

2) My cats were very interested in my kitchen cabinets one night, and when we looked under the sink, we were shocked to see a small possum looking back at us! He scurried into some weird space where the cabinet ended and the dishwasher is. We got a small Hav-A-Heart live trap. We tried dog food. Nope. Cat food. Nope. Peanut butter. Nope. You know what he loved? Those little packets of Duck Sauce from the Chinese food restaurant. We found them flattened in the "junk drawer" - not torn, but tons of tiny teeth marks - like it was squeezed out in miniscule holes.

We took our little adventurer down the block to the protected woods and bog area, opened the trap, and he shot out of it like a cannonball.

I love these critters.
posted by annieb at 4:17 PM on July 4, 2023 [7 favorites]

A college roommate’s wife once encountered one at night. She screamed, A GIANT RAT!!!!!

I also survived an encounter like this, the creature ran across the street, illuminated by my approaching headlights. That rat was so big! Took me a while to recover.
posted by Rash at 4:28 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

opossum who lives in my front yard and ravages my garbage bags during the night.

Opossums look lovely, and I'd happily swap them for the foxes that regularly ravage the garbage round my part of south London. The racket they make during mating season isn't much fun, either.

Fox pee and crap smell awful, too. I managed to step in some crap on my driveway, and it took some effort to get rid of the smell from my shoes and from where I'd managed to track it into the house.

I'll take opossums, please.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 5:09 PM on July 4, 2023 [2 favorites]

A college roommate’s wife once encountered one at night. She screamed, A GIANT RAT!!!!!

A story for which the world is not yet prepared.
posted by zamboni at 5:43 PM on July 4, 2023 [3 favorites]

Oh, almost forgot. Here's a public service announcement:

PossumEveryHour is available on Mastodon for all of your Possum/Opossum needs. It's exactly what it says on the tin. I wish I had thought of it first.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:53 PM on July 4, 2023 [4 favorites]

Relevant Mountain Goats song.
posted by Grandysaur at 6:50 PM on July 4, 2023

The night the possum came in the cat door was the night the cat door got closed for good.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:07 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

They just want to be friends!
posted by hippybear at 8:17 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

Fucking possums around here are too dumb to avoid a household with three dogs. If they're lucky, I rescue it in time to show it the door. Unfortunately, what usually happens, the dogs rip it to shreds, leaving an awful mess to be cleaned up. I'd just as soon they stayed away.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:33 PM on July 4, 2023 [2 favorites]

We moved when my kids were seven and nine, and the first few nights they told us they had seen "a ghost cat" out of a bedroom window. "There's no such thing," we assured them confidently. The adults didn't see the opposum for weeks. A lesson for everyone about communication and trust.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 8:55 PM on July 4, 2023 [13 favorites]

A college roommate’s wife once encountered one at night. She screamed, A GIANT RAT!!!!!

The classic.
posted by rhizome at 10:00 PM on July 4, 2023 [3 favorites]

My dad was telling me once about the time they tried to get one of their feral rescue cats back when she ran away by putting a trap out in the back yard. When he went out to check it, he was upset to find a dead possum in it. I hate hearing about animal suffering or death, but I raised my hand up and was ready to point something important out to him when he continued "I opened up the trap and dropped the body out, and was just about to pick it up to dispose of it when it suddenly leapt to its feet and trundled off." He said he thought he was having heart failure--he'd completely forgotten about "playing possum" and he couldn't stop laughing about it.

I fucking hate this holiday and am glad that my own back yard is a safe haven for animals while the effing war of 1812 is going on all night. I've gone out sometimes when fireworks are blasting to find some poor scared lil possum hissing at me, and I just back away slowly and let them have the field.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 10:05 PM on July 4, 2023 [6 favorites]

When I was about 10 I went out to Papa and Granny's barn for something, opened the door, and stepped into the barn, and surprised a possum. When I shone my flashlight on it, it hissed and I was very scared. Decades later I am still coming to terms with it.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:25 PM on July 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

Once was a possum that lived under our house. Got in through a loose vent. Our landlord sent the handyman, Ottismo, to remove it. Done. Next day it was back. Handyman dutifully recaptures and removes possum. Next day it is BACK. I say "Otto, pray tell, where did you release yon possum?" He points up the hill behind my house. The possum could LITERALLY gaze longingly at my house 30 yards away from his release point. Sometimes the possum is not the problem.
posted by jcworth at 10:55 PM on July 4, 2023 [3 favorites]

When I was a teenager I worked the opening shift at a bbq shack. Part of the closing shift duties was to set the possum trap. One of my opening duties was to put the occupied trap in the back of my truck and let the possum go somewhere on my way home. One night we caught three possums in one trap. Another night we spray painted a green splotch on one, just to see if it would find its way back (we didn’t see it again.)
posted by Grandysaur at 11:03 PM on July 4, 2023

My junior year of college, we had the front door of our house open for ventilation (no A/C), and a possum walked in the front door and into my room and crawled under my bed and up into the bedsprings for no apparent reason. I was pretty startled because I was studying with my glasses off and barely caught a glimpse of it before it went to cover and thought, "damn, that is one big fucking rat." Some of my roommates wanted to kill it, because young men under the influence of various substances, but cooler minds prevailed and we took it out to the country and set it free. Still wondering what the hell it was thinking.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:34 AM on July 5, 2023

Yeah don’t kill it. Don’t even try.

Back in college the dipshit drunk dudebros renting the house next door to our apartment found a possum nesting in the garage. They rousted it out, hassled it, destroyed its nest, had a good laugh, went to the bar.

A day or two later, we woke up to weird pinging noises. It was the windows in our room expanding due to the heat from next door. Huge fire. The dudebros house? Burned to the goddamn ground. A couple of them were standing there staring in utter shock (I heard one say “dude, Greg’s stuff is still in there” and the other replied “dude, Greg’s stuff is GONE”).

We never knew for sure, but I was always of the opinion that the possum came back and got his revenge. Destroy my home? Put me out on the street in the middle of winter? Eye for an eye, dudebros.

Decades later, we discovered that a kid’s soccer net can double as a possum trap. We found a poor guy all tangled up one morning. Because I am a kind person (and because I remember that burned out house!) I very carefully approached the entangled little guy and used kitchen scissors to snip away the net. We nudged him into a pet carrier and called animal control, who showed up about an hour later and were able to quickly and cleanly remove the last bits of tangled string wrapped around our visitor. Once he was free, he was released back into our yard - took off like a shot. We never saw him again, but our house is still standing, so we are apparently in the clear with the Opossum Mafia.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:57 AM on July 5, 2023 [10 favorites]

My only up-close-and-personal encounter with an opossum came when I was in college, and my roommate and I were walking home from a movie. This enormous fella was about half a block away, but he was walking toward us and we toward him. He strolled right past us as if we weren't even there. Not what one expects in downtown Evanston, IL.
posted by briank at 6:47 AM on July 5, 2023 [1 favorite]

Our fenced-in backyard has often been a refuge for neighborhood wildlife including opossums and stray/feral housecats. Until recently, the opossums always ignored the cats, instead looking for leftover catfood kibble and digging the grubs/worms & eggshells out of our small compost pile. Our neighbor's cat, Maggie, spends most of her time in our yard (ample attention, food, pets & no dogs like at home) and has love/hate relationship with opossums. She tries to lazily play with the smaller ones, very gently bapping them with her claws sheathed. The adult ones she finds terrifying and watches from a perch in fascinated horror. They are never aggressive to the cats or us two-leggers, at most hissing tiredly as we free them from empty garbage cans in the morning.

Opossums are lovely critters. Raccoons, however, are aggressively evil bastards.
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 7:38 AM on July 5, 2023 [1 favorite]

Sunday my friend went for her morning walk a little early because she had to go to a funeral that day. She was startled to see a possum "sleeping" on her little found-brick walkway. It appeared to be breathing and she thought maybe she'd startled it and it was playing possum and would be gone when she got back. Well. It was still there when she got back and now it had some bile coming out of its mouth and flies on its face but she had to go to this funeral and didn't have time to be burying dead possums, so she put on gardening gloves and moved it to the side of the road for a traditional sky burial. Just as she thought she was done with this extra morning task, a little someone poked its head out of the possum's pouch and she realized: babbies!

That's when the calls and texts started. I was trying to get my act together to go get mangoes from the mango man who drives up a couple times a year. I'd already missed the first weekend and now Saturday, so this was my last chance, and now everybody starts calling and texting about an orange laundry basket full of possums and it's all up to me. I did NOT want to do it because of what happens when you encounter baby possums, which is that you want to be their mommy in the worst way. But what if a dog found them? So I had to.

When I got there the sky burial of the possums' mother was well in progress. I lifted the garbage can lid my friend had put over the basket and saw nothing but pink chenille and a bowl of water. Of course the babies had burrowed under the chenille in their endless quest for teats that were no more...

...and of course they'd gotten into the water and spilled it everywhere so their bedding was damp and so were they. Five of them, all a good inch shorter than a dollar bill, all nestled together and shivering. That's no good because all I know of possums is that they need to be dollar-length and if they're not, you have to basically become a 24-hour possum baby ICU and devote your entire life to making sure they don't get too cold or too hungry. So I put the laundry basket in the sweltering hot car and went to get the mangoes. The vultures had dragged the mother into the actual road, I noticed. On the way to mangoes, I sang "Down in the valley, the valley so low... Hang your head oooooover... hear the wind blooooooow" in a mournful slow way in honor of the possums' deceased mother and in an attempt to calm them. IDK if the children appreciated it.

At home I transferred the possums to a nice dry shoebox with a soft towel and no water. (Even adult possums shun standing water. They apparently get all their water from their food--or maybe they drink crystal drops of dew falling from leaves at dawn like the yard angels they are.) I had to pick them up to transfer them to their new shoebox home. I found that they were vigorous and alert with strong grips, hanging on tenaciously with all twenty tiny feet and five prehensile tails. They did not seem inclined to die, and of course they were very adorable. I started thinking, like I always do, that if you could just get them through this vulnerable pouch time then they could be the greatest pets ever--they'd just live outside like wild possums but drop by regularly for snacks and cuddles.

I peeled the ripest mango and cut it into very small bites and put it on a saucer and tried to get the possums to take an interest, but no dice. They only got it all over themselves and had to be wiped off. So I put the shoebox in a sunbeam and drove to the boutique petfood store where I picked up a bottle feeder rig and some high-end kitten formula. I was back home attempting to stab the bottle nipples with a hot needle--they come without holes for some reason--when my friend called. Back from the funeral, and just in time! If I'd had to bottlefeed the possums alone it would've been all over for me. Imprint city. I bundled everything into the car, possums in their shoebox, bottle and pesky nipples, pet milk, laundry basket and wet chenille, and drove to my friend's.

When I got there, I was gratified to discover that the buzzards had dragged the children's mother all the way across the road to my friend's most annoying neighbor's yard and were gathered around the buffet disporting themselves in a manner most raucous. My friend had an Exacto knife and made short work of the annoying nipples, and soon we were assembly-line feeding the possums. She held each one on its back in her hand and I squeezed milk into their mouths. We'd take one out of the shoebox, administer a couple of squirts of milk, and then drop it into the laundry basket until we'd done all five. Then the same thing in reverse. We had a whole system, and I was trying to convince my friend that she could do this for the few weeks it would take to get the possums yard-ready and then she'd have a whole crew of new outside pets! Or I could take a couple and we could give a couple to another friend? Or maybe the other friend would want all five! My friend, having recently nursed along some kittens, was decidedly not into it. And she said splitting up the family would be criminal. Probably true. She called a wildlife rescue, and they said they'd be by in an hour or two to pick them up.

And this is the depressing end to the story. Nobody got to be Ellie May Clampett. I drove back home to deal with the mangoes, noting in passing that the vultures had separated the mother's ribcage from the rest of her.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:06 AM on July 5, 2023 [14 favorites]

Possums don't actually eat ticks? I will have to tell my 10,000 Facebook friends.
posted by acrasis at 4:32 PM on July 5, 2023

Tell Me No Lies: Do (op)possums really eat ticks?
According to Science, It's Complicated

Interesting. I look forward to a repetition of the second study as it seems like a pretty good case for possums not eating them. On the other hand neither study tried to give a 100% accounting of what happened to all of the ticks that were introduced, which would be a useful double check on the data.

In truth, my Ooch is also a different species than the ones that have been rumored to eat ticks. They have been shown to eat cockroaches and other larger insects by simple observation but I don’t think any closer study has been done.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:10 PM on July 6, 2023

Once I was returning to the house in the wee hours after spending some time in the garden and I heard an odd sound just ahead and turned on my phone’s flashlight and a surprised possum a couple feet away made a face at me and I said Yikes and accidentally button-summoned Siri who replied I can’t help you with that
posted by salix at 2:43 AM on July 9, 2023 [3 favorites]

I wish I had thought of it first.

If I had a dollar for everytime I said that to myself, EIongate would be long over and I would own Twitter. And muh-wha-wha then!
posted by y2karl at 9:37 AM on July 26, 2023

« Older How hot dog contestants went from eating 10 to 76...   |   It's Independence Day All Down the Line Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments