Simple Guide: From Acquiring To Caring For Short-Tailed Opossums

A short-tailed opossum is not a rodent as many of you may assume. It is actually a marsupial that lacks a pouch. STOs (Short-tailed opossums) come from South America, south of the Amazon river, Brazil mostly. They can grow to about 4″ to 6″. Males are usually bigger than the females. STOs are very clean, curious, and make friendly pets. The color of their fur is grayish brown and they have a lighter tone underneath. They have a prehensile tail used to carry nesting material and also to hold onto branches.

Short-Tailed Opossum Lifespan

Short-Tailed Opossums will live for 4-6 years WITH PROPER CARE!!!!

Where do I get a Short-Tailed Opossum?
Where Can I Get A Short-tailed Opossum?
  1. From A Trusted/ Reputable Pet Store.
  2. Reputable Short-tailed Opossum breeders.
  3. Reliable Adoption Agencies/ Rescues.

It is up to you, but Breeders are recommended. Why?

The recommended age to acquire a young STO is 3-5 months old. You can also get an older STO if you want.

Short-Tailed Opossums Are Suitable for What Age?

This will depend on how your child handles things. 10+ years is recommended.

Can a Short-Tailed Opossum Live Alone Or Does He or She Require A Companion?
 Is It Okay to Get One or Do I Need More Than One Short-tailed Opossum?

It is okay to get one. In fact, STOs are solitary animals and live alone.

If you must have two, get separate cages.

Is A Short-Tailed Opossum Nocturnal?

Yes, they are nocturnal

Handling Short-Tailed Opossum

Majority of individuals have found Bonding Pouches working for them. Place your STO in it and she/ he will love it.

If your short-tailed opossum is snarling and showing his or her teeth it means leave them alone.

DO NOT pick them up by their tail. You can always scoop them and let them walk on your arm.

Short-Tailed Opossum Housing

Height and Length of the cage is important as (STOs) short-tailed opossums love climbing, need space to forage and need space for the exercise wheel. A solid bottom is also important.

Minimum cage dimensions are 12 w x 24 l x 18 h inches. Bigger the better.

Here are some recommendations:

#1. Midwest Critter Nation Single Unit with Stand with bar spacing of 0.5” or less as STOs are escape artists.

#2. Midwest Critter Nation Double Unit with Stand

#3. Savic Suite Royale Navy Blue Small Animal Cage 95 x 63 x 159 cm 

#4. Savic Rat & Ferret Cage Royal Suite 95

#5.  Zeno 3 Savic Empire

#6. Savic Small Pet Cage Zeno 2

#7. Zilla Fresh Air Screen Habitat for Reptiles 30” W by 18” L by 30” H. If you choose this type of cage, you may find it extremely easy to maintain. DO NOT put dusty bedding in this cage. Also, be creative and find a way to place or hang a nest, whichever you find convenient for your cage (small perforated plastic basket/ hammock hanging bed/ double fleece hang-n-tent/ triangular hanging hammock or fleece pouch). This has more ventilation than the Exo Terra.

See video at  #8.

#8. Exo Terra All Glass Terrarium, minimum size 24 by 18 by 12-Inch. Or
Exo Terra Rainforest Habitat Kit, Medium size 18 x 18 x 24 inches.

If you choose this type of cage, you may find it extremely easy to maintain. Whether you want a tall one or a short long one it’s up to you. DO NOT put dusty bedding in this cage. Also, be creative and find a way to place or hang a nest, whichever you find convenient for your cage (small perforated plastic basket/ hammock hanging bed/ double fleece hang-n-tent/ triangular hanging hammock) near the top of the cage as that’s where there is more ventilation.

See video on this type of cage:

Short Tailed Opossum cage






#9. 20+ gallon long Aquariums for these type of housing, you will need long ones, not tall, so that it can be easy for you to reach in them. Get a mesh lid for the aquarium. You can DIY or get the Zilla Fresh Air Screen Cover (make sure the measurements of this cover match your aquarium measurements). Also, be creative and find a way to place or hang a nest whichever you find convenient for your cage (small perforated plastic basket/ hammock hanging bed/ double fleece hang-n-tent/ triangular hanging hammock) near the top of the cage as that’s where there is more ventilation.

See image on this tank:


Their optimum environment temperature is between 75-85° F that is 24-30° C and 50% humidity.

#10. DIY cages- Creativity will be needed here and you have to maintain the minimum dimensions. Mainly you can use wood and mesh and make sure the cage fits all the accessories required by your STO.

Short-Tailed Opossum Bedding
Caring For Short-Tailed Opossum (Recommended Short-Tailed Opossum Bedding)

When determining what material to use for bedding various factors are considered:

  • Safety to your pet
  • Characteristics of your pet (does she/he like to burrow)
  • Ease of cleaning (Do you mind regular cleaning? What cleaning works for you?)
  • Your financial situation (what can you afford for your pet)
  • Hygiene of the cage
Best short-tailed opossum bedding materials:

Short-tailed opossums are clean; they tend to choose a corner to urinate or defecate in. It is, therefore, easy to train.

Given below are several options for bedding. It is up to you which one you are comfortable handling.

#1. Anti-Pill Fleece– easier to clean, considered best by most people especially if you are using the critter nation cage. Read more details on using fleece. Very Important!!

If you go with fleece bedding, in the litter pan/ box/ tray use:

Place this Litter Pan/tray below the short-tailed opossum exercise wheel. This is mainly because she/ he will pee or poop around the wheel area.

See video of using fleece and litter pan:

The hedgies & opossum cages & sets






#2. Hemp Floor for Small Pets or Kerbl Hemp Rodent Mat, 40 x 100 x 1 cmSTOs are clean and will not just pee anywhere. They usually pee around the wheel area and corners. Therefore, in this areas you can sprinkle some hemp chips (Dr. Hemp All Natural Pet Bedding) to lengthen the use of these mats. They can even go for a whole month without changing.


If you go the substrate bedding way, that is you do not want to go with fleece or mats and the type of cage you have does not have a place to pour substrate, for example, the critter nation cage, you will need some metal bass pans. These bass pans are made by bass equipment company. You can give them your specifications/ measurements. The bass pans will give your cages a place to pour the substrate. See video of bass pans in critter/ferret nation cage.

Bass equipment critter ferret nation cage






  1. Whatever bedding you choose for the entire floor, choose a different one for the litter pan.
  2. Mixing 2 or more beddings can have beneficial results in terms of your STOs comfort and your financial comfort.


Here are some recommended STO substrate bedding:

#3. FiberCore Eco-Bedding Natural

#4. Dr. Hemp All Natural Pet Bedding

#5. Kaytee Clean & Cozy Small Animal Bedding (White in color) UNSCENTED or

Kaytee Clean & Cozy Natural Small Animal Bedding (Brownish in color) UNSCENTED


#6. Yesterday’s News Unscented Recycled Paper Pellet Cat Litter for the entire cage floors. This will also depend on the type of cage you go for. Your short-tailed opossum will love corners and the wheel area for the bathroom, you can scoop out these areas once you notice they are too soiled. To change the entire substrate can be after 1-2 weeks or when needed (if you notice it has become too messy). STOs are very clean. Mix this bedding with kaytee clean and cozy or throw in some toilet paper for nesting material.

Here is a video showing this substrate use:

Brazilian Short Tail Opossum gathering nesting supplies in her tail







#7. Pillow Wad Eco-Nest

#8. Fitch Paper Pet Bedding for Small Animals

#9. Boxo Comfort Small Animal Bedding

Short-Tailed Opossum Cage Accessories
Ceramic Food dish

It will be heavy and thus prevent it from being moved around. You can also get those bowls that you attach to the cage. Good recommendations are:


Water bottle

Preferred to a bowl. Water Bowls can be messy. Good recommendations are:

Strips of Plain paper roll and fleece stripsSTOs love these for nesting material

Small Perforated plastic storage baskets that you can hang with shower c-links or zip ties.


Litter Pan/tray

Make sure to place this under the exercise wheel, another one in a corner or a dark corner. Recommendations include:

In a corner or dark corner:


Different climbing materials

Rope ladder, wooden ladder, branches. You can add levels if you want.



Fleece hammocks and igloos, Cubes and tents (soft), Lightweight “tent”, fleece bonding pouch. Good examples are:


Toys and Tunnels

You can give plastic ball toys, tunnels ping pong balls, PVC tees. Good examples are:


Short-Tailed Opossum Exercise


Litter tray

Place under or near the wheel and place Yesterday’s News Recycled Paper Pellet Cat Litter or disposable pee/puppy pads in it.

Short-Tailed Opossum Feeding
Caring For Short-Tailed Opossums (What, when and How to feed your Sto)
What can you feed your Short-Tail Opossum?

STOs are Omnivores but more of carnivores. What do they eat?

#1. FRESH WATER– We cannot stress the importance of water to your STO. She or he can become dehydrated quickly. Always ensure there is enough clean water in his or her cage.

#2. High quality dry Cat food for adult STOs and High quality dry Kitten food for young STOs.

  1. Protein content should be 30-40%.
  2. Fat content should be 9-15%.
  3. Ingredients: If there is fish, the poop may smell. Look for duck, chicken or turkey.

Too much Wet CAT FOOD does not go well with STOs.

What age is a young STO? What age is an adult STO?
  • Young STO: -6 months
  • Young adult STO: 6-12 months
  • Adult STO: 12+ months
Young STO Food Recommendations

In most cases you will purchase your STO from 7 months so you will just give/require adult food only.

After 6 months you can give adult STO food.

When changing a meal or brand you have to do it slowly, a process that takes about 4 weeks as you are checking on your STO’s behavior and health. The recommended plan is:

  • First Week: 75% old food, 25% new food
  • Second Week: 50% old food, 50% new food
  • Third Week: 25% old food, 75% new food
  • Fourth Week: 100% new food
Adult STO Food recommendations

#3. You can also give insects, meal worms, cooked eggs as treats.

  • Freeze dried cricket/grasshoppers, super worms. 1-5 bugs a day is okay.

#4. They also feed on rodents. They like Baby mice pinkies.

#5. Fresh food– meat (fish, chicken breast, ground turkey), hard-boiled egg, scrambled egg, small amounts of fresh fruit (e.g. cantaloupe berries, grapes) and small amounts of fresh vegetables (if your short-tailed opossum fails to eat vegetables, blend it with some fruits-e.g. zucchini with kiwi and banana), yoghurt drops. Remember that fresh food goes bad after time and should not be left in the cage, give in the evening and remove in the morning.

DO NOT give Avocado. It is bad for them.

How frequent should I feed my STO?
  • Late evening 5pm to 12pm when they are about to wake up: 1-1 ½ tablespoon of High quality dry cat food for adults or High quality dry Kitten food for young ones. You can also give treats like insects, meal worms, eggs to supplement the cat food.
  • Fresh water at all times.
Do Short-Tailed Opossum Smell?

They are clean, and do not really smell, however clean their cage at least once a week or when needed.

Females are much tidier than males. They will only use one side of the cage as a restroom.

Males can have a musky smell, but not really noticeable.

Cleaning Short-Tailed Opossum Cage
Caring for short-tailed opossums (cleaning their cage)


Spot Cleaning

You can spot clean daily or when needed, that is tidying up and removing soiled substrate.

Weekly cleaning

This will depend on the cage you will have chosen and the type of bedding.

  • Remove your STO and place him or her in a safe place (usually a large perforated basket that has some fleece strips or Strips of Plain paper roll, STOs travel cage or bonding pouch)
  • Remove accessories and wipe them down with water and white vinegar mixed in a 50/50 ratio.
  • In all cage types, the wheel has to be cleaned, not only weekly but daily or every 2 days. Be on the lookout for a dirty wheel as your STO will definitely pee and poop in the wheel area in most days. You will need to place your litter tray or some bedding below the wheel.
  • For fleece, you can Machine wash and either sun dry or machine dry. DO NOT use scented detergents or any kind of softeners!!! DO NOT use dryer sheets!! You can use unscented free and clear detergent like All Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free & Clean. Also, add in white vinegar. You will need to have several fleece fabrics/liners/pillows to be changing out.
  • In the case of substrate, you can scoop it out, wipe the cage surface with water and white vinegar mixed in a 50/50 ratio and replace with fresh bedding.

Let’s see some cleaning videos:

Cleaning the Zilla Fresh Air Screen Habitat for Reptiles and Exo Terra All Glass Terrarium cages

Short Tailed Opossum cage






Aquarium Cleaning

Cleaning Aquarium 1

Cleaning Aquarium 2

Critter Nation Cage Cleaning

We could not find a video on cleaning a STO’s Critter Nation Cage, but it is very similar to how you clean the pet rat Critter Nation. See video

Cleaning Our CN Rat Cage






See organization after cleaning Critter Nation Cage for STO

Short-tailed Opossum Cage






Cleaning dirtied fleece

How to Wash Fleece Liners and Cozies

Travelling with Your Short-Tailed Opossum

Before thinking of travelling with your STO, think of getting a pet sitter or letting a family member or friend take care of him or her.

If you are moving house or going to the vet, then here is what you need to do:

Get a good STO travel cage minding the spacing of the bars.

For STOs, good recommendations are the:

If you are travelling for a short time and distance


If you are travelling for a longer distance and you will take quite some time:


Inside the carrier
  • Place strips of fleece or Strips of Plain paper roll to act as nesting material. You can also place a bonding pouch.
  • For food, you can put in some freeze dried bugs, baby pinkies or dry cat food.
  • Put in cucumber chops, these will be a source of water (water bottles leak as you move). Remember, STOs need to be hydrated so you can carry a water bottle but only put it up when you stop moving to prevent soaking the travel cage.
  • Remember also that STOs are nocturnal and she or he may sleep throughout the journey.


If you are going on holiday get a friend or family member to look after your STO or hire a pet sitter.


If there is no one or you do not want to leave your STO with anyone or you are going to your relative’s place for a couple of days you will require to have another STO cage where you are going.

Short-Tailed Opossum Health and Vet
Perform health checks (once or twice a week)

What to look out for when getting or caring for a Short-tailed opossum

STO’s are pretty hardy. The only things they are affected by are dehydration, cold weather and they can have some respiratory problems so be wary of the bedding you use.


  • Eyes, ears and nose– look for discharge, crusty eyes and running nose or eyes. Look inside their ears to make sure they are clean and no fleas or parasites are in there. Eyes should be clear and bright.
  • Fur- They should not have hair loss, no bald patches.
  • Respiratory health– Check how they are breathing. You should not see any wheezing or heaving. A healthy short-tailed opossum will breath lightly, barely noticeable.
  • Mouth– You should not see any drooling. Gums should be pink and there should be no odor from the mouth. Swollen mouth is a problem and so is difficulty in eating.
  • Teeth– Check if there are broken or missing teeth. Teeth should be well aligned.
  • Behaviors– Inactivity/lethargy is a problem (they should be active and explorative). Loss of appetite and weight is also a problem. Limps are also not good. Tilting of the head is also a problem, so is paralysis, agitation, seizures, jerking and circling.
  • Weight– Check your STO’s weight weekly to make sure it is not dropping rapidly.
  • Body- Check for lumps and cysts as well.
  • Tail– It should be long, cylindrical and thick at the base tapering to a point.
  • Feet-You should look out for inflammation and sores
  • Anal and genital area- should not be bloody, should not have any discharge, should not have faeces stuck to the fur. Check for abnormal droppings in the cage.

Try and get a short-tailed opossum savvy vet not just a random one. (See a vet once or twice a year or when you notice something wrong with your STO)

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  1. Natasha says:

    Hey I’m thinking of getting a short tailed pygmy opossum. I live in the UK and it’s quite cold, should I get a small heat mat for the corner of the cage? so it can warm itself up if it gets too cold. I’m worried that it won’t get the correct temperature and get sick.

    1. Victor J. says:

      Try this first before getting a heat map
      1. fleece pouches/pockets/bags,
      2. old warm-looking and clean pieces of clothing,
      3. warm nesting materials

      Put them in your STO’s cage so that he or she can burrow under them for warmth

  2. Amy says:

    Hi! I just got a short tailed opossum about a week ago. He seems to have patchy spots on his back legs. Are their back legs just not as fur covered as their back? Is this a sign of mites or not enough protein from before I got him? He seems very Peppy and eats a lot now! I will bring him to a vet but with this Coronavirus it’s tough plus I’m not sure how a vet would be able to pick him up to examine him. He doesn’t like to be picked up yet unless in a pouch! Any advice?

    1. Victor J. says:

      Hello Amy,

      Kindly upload a photo. It might be nothing, but when it comes to health concerns, we like leaving the diagnosis to a professional (STO Vet).

      Where did you get your STO? We usually recommend getting him or her from a breeder to ensure you get a healthy STO see these articles and

      Because of Coronavirus, kindly call your VET and ask whether you can video chat with him or her to avoid leaving the house. You can also send him or her a pic to help with the diagnosis. The VET will give you professional feedback.

      On a positive note: Seeing your STO active and eating is a good sign; it is an indication that he or she is healthy.

  3. Amy says:

    Hi! Its hard to get a good picture but the bald patches are only on his back outer thighs and i swear I think they are filling in.

  4. Amy says:

    Also i DID get him from a pet store as right now I dont think breeders can ship with the corona virus and the only one near me had no litters. This guy had been at a store with his brother in the same cage for a few months. They were recently separated due to fighting (even I know you cant keep them together!) Maybe the hair loss could be from that fighting/stress too?

    Another quick question- because it is near impossible to find info on these guys- he was not handled alot in the store so he is a little nervous. He does voluntarily go into a bonding pouch maybe 1-2x a day but he doesnt want us to pick him up. I can pet him briefly on occasion. We have only had him less than 2 weeks. Will he warm up if we give him alot of attention and listen when he opens his mouth at us to leave him alone?

    Thank you for your help!


    1. Victor J. says:

      He will definitely warm up to you…continue to give him treats and listen to him as will notice some improvement over time..

  5. Amy says:

    Picture of his new home! we keep him in a large bathroom so the heat and humidity are good. 70-80 degrees and 40-50% humidity. We even have a hygrometer/thermometer to check.

  6. Amy Tebaldi says:

    Do STOs purr or make a happy chirp when being pet? Our little guy likes to snuggle in a pouch at night and have us pet him. When we do you can feel a repetitive vibration that stops when you stop petting him. You can’t hear it but you can feel it. Is this what they do when happy?

  7. Amy Tebaldi says:

    Do STOs make noise when happy? Our seems to make a noise when we pet him in his bonding pouch- you can feel a vibration coming from his throat area but you can’t hear it. Have you experienced this?


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