Most people use possum vs opossum when referring to the animal best known for its ugly, scary looking appearance. The opossum is a marsupial that is found in North and South America. It has a grayish-white body, a white face, coarse fur, and black ears and feet. They have sharp teeth, but the main distinguishing feature of an opossum is its bare, rat-like tail.
The possum actually lives in Australia and the surrounding islands, though it is also a marsupial. Their coloring can be silver-gray, brown, black, or gold. They look a little like a chinchilla and have a bushy, fur covered tail. Some people think these characteristics make possums look cuter than opossums.
Possum vs Opossum Differences
- Opossums have smaller ears than opossums
- Possums have softer fur than opossums
- Possums have bushy tails while opossums’ tails are thin and furless
Possum vs Opossum Similarities
- Both are marsupials, meaning the adult females have pouches, though they open towards the tail – not upward like a kangaroo pouch
- Their noses, feet, and eyes are similar
- They are both omnivores and eat meat (including insects and birds’ eggs), leaves, flowers, and fruit
Opossums use a defensive mechanism when they feel threatened where they play dead or pretend to be asleep. When people are thought to be acting in a similarly deceptive way, it is said they are playing possum.
Most people don’t like opossums because they often scavenge in trash cans looking for food. They can be mistaken for rats, which is another factor that worries people. The opossum population in Arizona is confined mostly to the southern part of the state near Tucson towards the Mexican border, so you shouldn’t have a problem with them in the Phoenix metro area.