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?
- From A Trusted/ Reputable Pet Store.
- Reputable Short-tailed Opossum breeders.
- 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
BEST SHORT-TAILED OPOSSUM CAGE
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.
#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.
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:
#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:
- Yesterday’s News Unscented Recycled Paper Pellet Cat Litter or
- Disposable puppy/pee pads
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:
#2. Hemp Floor for Small Pets or Kerbl Hemp Rodent Mat, 40 x 100 x 1 cm – STOs 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.
- Whatever bedding you choose for the entire floor, choose a different one for the litter pan.
- 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:
#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:
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:
- Living World Lock and Crock Dish, 6-Ounce
- MidWwest Homes for Pets Snap’y Fit
- Marshall Snap ‘N Fit Small Animal Food Bowl 2 cups
- Living World Ergonomic Dish
- Petzilla Cat Ceramic Bowl for Food, Heavy Base Feeding Dish, Prevent Tipping or Spill Over
- Kaytee Paw-Print PetWare Bowl, Colors Vary
- STAYbowl® Tip-Proof Ergonomic Pet Bowl for Guinea Pig and Other Small Pets; 1/4-Cup Size; Sky Blue
Preferred to a bowl. Water Bowls can be messy. Good recommendations are:
Strips of Plain paper roll and fleece strips– STOs love these for nesting material
Small Perforated plastic storage baskets that you can hang with shower c-links or zip ties.
- YUYUSO 100 Piece Plastic C-clips Hooks Chain Links C-links Rat Parrot Bird Toy Cage
- Hyamass 200pcs Rainbow Link C-clips Hooks Chain Links C-links Children’s Learning Toy Small Short-Tailed Opossum Parrot Bird Toy
Make sure to place this under the exercise wheel, another one in a corner or a dark corner. Recommendations include:
- There is a litter pan that comes with the Carolina Storm Wheel. Leave that one under the wheel.
In a corner or dark corner:
- Hamster Potty corner Litter Tray for Mice Hamster Gerbil Cage House
- Harrison’s Small Animal Corner Litter Tray 16cm Ideal for (Gerbills, Hamster and Mice)
- ROSEWOOD Corner Rabbit Litter Tray, Medium
- Trixie 6255 Corner Toilet F³r Small Cage
- Clean ‘N’ Tidy Corner Litter Tray – Medium Fun Colours
- Kicode TOPmountain Pet Corner Toilet Litter Pee Tray Box
Different climbing materials–
Rope ladder, wooden ladder, branches. You can add levels if you want.
- Exo Terra Forest Branch
- Prevue Hendryx 62801 Naturals Coco Hideaway with Ladder Bird Toy
- Bird Perch, Rope Bungee Bird Toy
- Penn Plax (PEN-005 Rope Perch – Small Bird – 21″ x 5/8″ Diameter
- Prevue Hendryx 62806 Naturals Rope Ladder Bird Toy
- Paradise Parrot Ladder Pet Toy
- Niteangel Small Animal Activity Toy, Rat and Ferret Cotton Rope Nets
- JW Comfy Perch for Birds
- Trixie Wooden Ladder Budgie for Birds Cage Toys 5 Sizes 8 Rungs/36 Cm 5815
Fleece hammocks and igloos, Cubes and tents (soft), Lightweight “tent”, fleece bonding pouch. Good examples are:
- Sugar Glider Plain Color Bonding Pouch
- WINOMO Pet Hammock Hamster Hanging Toy Snuggle Hut for Squirrel, Chinchilla, Guinea, Pig, Rat, Mice, Small
- Coco*store Pet Small Cat Cage Hammock Bed Cover Dot Small Pet Cage Hammock Black and White
- Hanging Hamster Tunnel Bed House Nest Cage for Rat Hamster Squirrel Small Animals Bed Plush Hammock Toy
- Sannysis Hamster Winter Warm Hammock Bed, Eleventen Rat Squirrel Pets Cage House Hanging Nest Toys
- Custom Fleece 8 Piece Rat Cage Set-Rat Cage Accessories-Rat Hammock Set-Short-Tailed Opossum Cage Set
- Cube Seamless Hammock – rat hammock, rat cage accessories, pocket hammock, Double hammock, Cube hammock
- CUSTOM MADE rat hammock any colour double decker honeycomb sugar glider fleece pepper
- Fleece 8 Custom Piece Rat Cage Set-Rat Cage Accessories-Rat Hammocks- Set-Short-Tailed Opossum Cage Set
- Custom Fleece 7 Piece Rat Cage Set-Rat Cage Accessories-Rat Hammocks-Set-Short-Tailed Opossum Cage Set
- Rat hammock 5 piece set – rat bed, rat cage set, pet hammock, rat accessories, Short-Tailed Opossum, small pet bed, fleece hammock, cheap rat hammock
- Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Kasey Hammock for Mouse, Chinchilla, Rat, Gerbil and Dwarf Hamster
- Twin Critters Handcrafted Ferret Cave Bed – Tunnel for Ferrets
- Niteangel Tunnel Hamster Hammock for Small Animals, Tunnel Tube Rat Ferret Toy
- Ferret Hammock – Cotton Sleeping Nest for Small Animals – Pet Cage Swinging Bed & Nap Sack – Warm Cashmere Inner Lining for Winter – Durable Canvas Mat – With Rings & Spring Hooks – Machine Washable
- Marshall Pet Products Hanging Monkey Hammock For Ferrets
- Niteangel Luxury Unilateral Closed Ferret Hammock, Hanging Soft Bed Sleepy Comfortable Pad for Small Animals
- Sheppard & Greene Ferret Cage Bed Camp Tent
- Lixit Critter Space Pod 2 Large
- Kaytee Woodland Get-A-Way Large Guinea Pig House
Toys and Tunnels–
You can give plastic ball toys, tunnels ping pong balls, PVC tees. Good examples are:
- Ware Manufacturing Fun Tunnels Play Tube for Small Pets
- 4 in. PVC DWV Hub x Hub x Hub Sanitary Tee
- 4 in. PVC DWV 90-Degree Hub x Hub Elbow
- Assortmart 144 Washable Plastic Beer Pong Balls 1 Gross
- KEVENZ 50-Pack 40mm Beer Ping-Pong Multipul Color Balls,Washable Plastic Glow In The Dark, Plastic Table Tennis Ball
Short-Tailed Opossum Exercise
- Carolina storm bucket wheel (CSBW). Get the one with the litter tray.
- 15″ Chin Spin – Chinchilla Wheel – Handmade in USA
- 15″ Chin Spin – Small Animal Exercise Wheel
- Exotic Nutrition 15″ Chin-Sprint : All-Metal Chinchilla Wheel
- Rodent – Semi-Enclosed Exercise Wodent Wheel ‘Wobust’ 12″ Lavender, wodent, wheel, rodent, exercise
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.
- Protein content should be 30-40%.
- Fat content should be 9-15%.
- 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.
- Simply Nourish™ SOURCE Kitten Food – Natural, Grain Free, High Protein, Chicken & Turkey
- BLUE Wilderness® Grain Free Kitten Food
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
- Simply Nourish™ Indoor Cat Food – Natural, Turkey & Oatmeal
- Indoor Cat Food Simply Nourish™– Natural, Duck & Oatmeal
- Simply Nourish™ SOURCE Adult Cat Food – Natural, Grain Free, Chicken & Turkey
- SOURCE Adult Cat Food Simply Nourish™ – Natural, Grain Free, Rabbit & Chicken
- Simply Nourish™ SOURCE Indoor Adult Cat Food – Natural, Grain Free, Chicken
- Solid Gold Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food; Winged Tiger Grain Free, Real Quail & Pumpkin
- Solid Gold Senior Cat Dry Food; Furrever Young Grain Free with Real Turkey
- BLUE Wilderness® Grain Free Weight Control Adult Cat Food
- BLUE Wilderness® Grain Free Chicken Mature Adult Cat Food
#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)
You can spot clean daily or when needed, that is tidying up and removing soiled substrate.
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
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
See organization after cleaning Critter Nation Cage for STO
Cleaning dirtied fleece
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
- IRIS Animal Carrier
- IRIS Small Animal Carrier
- Catit Design Cabrio Multi-Functional Carrier System (Amazon.com)
- Catit Design Cat Cabrio Carrier Warm Flight and Airline Approved (Amazon UK)
If you are travelling for a longer distance and you will take quite some time:
- Hagen Zoozone Indoor Guinea Pig / Rabbit Cage
- Zoozone Habitat, Medium, Blue
- Zoozone Habitat, Medium, Pink
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)