This little creature is a very social animal with people. With the destruction of much of its natural habitat, the Common Ringtail Possum along with the Common Brushtail Possum has adapted to living close to people and is a very common site to people in Australia. They inhabit the roofs of peoples homes and will live in the walls of houses too. They are often seen in the evenings in gardens and running along power lines.
The Common Ringtail Possum can make quite a good pet if treated well and given lots of attention. They are a delightful little creature and are distinguished by their white tipped prehensile tail, which they curl up into a tight ball when they are sleeping.
A nocturnal animal with very good night vision, the Common Ringtail Possum gets active at night and sleeps during the day. Most of their activity is from dusk until midnight. This is great for people who have the evening hours to interact with their pet.
As you can see, the Common Ringtail Possum is very agile and likes to hang out in trees or other high places. They are arboreal (tree-dwelling) marsupials, and use their long white tipped prehensile tail for griping branches when climbing. They can also use their tail for carrying nesting materials. They have a soft, high pitched twittering call.
Most Possums are very solitary, but this little fellow is a bit more social and can be kept in pairs. But they do have a habit of marking there territory and this can be a bit overwhelming if kept in doors. If you try to clean up after them, they tend to scent mark again even more. For this reason you may wish to keep them in an outdoor type aviary.
The Common Ringtail Possum belongs to the order marsupialia. There are a variety of marsupials including such creatures as kangaroos, Sugar Gliders, Wombats, Short Tailed Opossums, and Tasmanian Devils.
Sub-species: Pseudocheirus p. peregrinus Pseudocheirus p. cooki Pseudocheirus p. convolutor Pseudocheirus p. pulcher
Background: The Common Ringtail Possum is from Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea where there are over 20 different types of possums. The Ringtail Possum is the most widely distributed of the 13 ringtail species, fairly common, and are not considered threatened.
They live in a variety of habitats, as long as there is scrubby cover in the area, including rainforests, forests and woodlands, and even coastal dunes. They also live quite happily in close proximity to people and can be seen in gardens, roofs of homes, and even in the walls of houses.
Note: Possums are NOT the same thing as opossums. "Opossums" range from North America to southern Argentina and contain 15 genera with over 60 species. "Possums" are found in Australia with over 20 species. They are both marsupials, but are actually only distantly related within the same subclass.
What's in the name?
"false-hand from foreign parts"
Description: A mature Common Ringtail Possum is about the size of a house cat, its body will reach a length of about 12" - 14" (30 - 35 cm) with a tail about the same length, and it will weight between 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 lbs (700 - 1100 g). The smallest of the ringtails, the Common Ringtail Possum's wooly fur is a grey-brown to red-brown and paler underneath. They have short rounded ears often with a patch of white behind them, brown bulging eyes, long sensitive whiskers, and a fairly good sense of smell. They have 5 clawed toes on their hands, the first two being opposed. The hind feet also have five toes, but the only the first is opposable and it has no claw. The long tapering prehensile tail is friction padded, great for grabbing branches and nesting materials, and about a third of it is white. To move about they mostly use their strong hind feet and their tail. A ringtail possum will live up to 10 or 12 years in captivity, if well taken care of with the inclusion of native plants in their diet.
The Common Ringtail Possums will mark their territory which can be rather pungent in a closely confined area. They are best kept in a outdoors aviary, but out of a draft. A good size for the aviary would be about 12' (3.7 m) long 8' (2.4 m) high and 4' (1.2 m) wide. As they are tree dwelling animals, height with plenty of room to climb and move around is most important. They will need branches and thick pieces of bark for climbing on and for gnawing. Change the branches around and provide new ones regularly.
In the wild the Ringtail Possum will sleep during the day in hollow trees or in round nests called 'dreys' made out of leaves, stringy bark, and twigs. Provide them with a number of nesting logs or boxes in the aviary. Though sometimes they will share a nest, it is best to give them with more nests than the number of possums to prevent fighting.
Care and feeding:
The Common Ringtail Possum is an herbivore, or plant eater, they eat at night, and they don't eat insects. Provide a feeding platform high above the ground to put their food on. You can also hanging plants around their climbing branches for them to munch on.
In the wild their diet varies somewhat according to the range of each animal, but they mostly eat blossoms, fruits and leaves in the treetops at night, primarily eucalyptus and acacia. From living in close proximity to people, they have extended their foods to include introduced plants, flower, and fruits as well. This adaptation has not endeared them to gardeners! They will also eat their own fecal pellets and this allows them to digest their food twice, extracting the maximum amount of nutrients from the food.
You can provide them with a diet of greens, fruits, nuts, oats, flowers, flower petals, and native vegetation. Be sure any plants you offer are not toxic, such as oleander. Making a good portion of their diet native vegetation will help to ensure a healthy long lived pet. Some native vegetation includes eucalyptus, acacia, gum, tea trees, she-oak, bottle brushes, grevillia, and wattles. For a treat you can offer some fruit flavored yogurt. If you are having a problem getting them to eat, you can try putting a little honey on their food to encourage them. The other big thing is water - even though many of the fruits and vegetables contain much water, it is still mandatory to make sure Ringtail Possums have access to water at all times. Put water in a heavy dish attached to the side of the cage. Water also should be kept up high in the cage.
Most possums are very solitary, but this little fellow will live in a small family group for a period of time. Usually a temporary group will consist of one male and one or two females, and the family they are raising. The young don't leave the group until they become adults at about eighteen months of age, and then they will leave to form their own families.
Though generally not overly aggressive, they are territorial and usually solitary except for these family groups. Occasionally some animals will become extremely aggressive and attack any intruder within their territory. Use caution when entering the aviary to avoid any injuries.
Activities - Exercise and Play:
During the day, the Common Ringtail Possum sleeps in its nest. They become active in the evening, and will want to eat, climb, and play during the night.
In the wild the Ringtail Possum may build as many as five or even more nests or 'dreys' within its home range. They are shaped like a round ball and are built in tree hollows or in dense vegetation. Both The male and female will build them together and they will readily move from one to another, taking their young with them.
Common Ringtails Possums are sexually mature at about 13 to 18 months of age. They breed from April to November having usually one or two litters per year. The gestation period is about four months and the litter size is usually two although one to four babies have been recorded. After birth the new born babies crawl into the mothers pouch and attach to a nipple for about 42 to 49 days, and then will stay in the pouch for about another four months. After leaving the pouch, they stay in the nest or cling to the mother's back until they are weaned at about six months. Often both parents often care for the young, with the father carrying them about while the mother is feeding.
Short Tail Opossums are very hardy little creatures. However, if not taken care of properly they can become ill. Most ailments are preventable simply from taking proper care of the animal.
Common Ringtail Possums are found and kept as pets in Australia. One thing to take into consideration before you decide to acquire a Ringtail Possum is does your veterinarian treat exotic pets? Not all vets do, so you might want to check and make sure that there is a vet in your area that will treat your pet in case he gets sick.
Dr. Jungle says..."Monkey Boy,...are you really sure you're not a monkey?"
Dr. Jungle shares what Rose has to say about Monkey Boy...
"I hand raised "Monkey Boy" from a bub, and he never stops moving for the camera!
" Ringtail Possums have adjusted to living amongst people very well. They are so good at getting used to routine that if you have them in your yard and start feeding them they will come down at the same time each night. If you forget to put food out once they are used to you, they will come and bang on your windows!
"As pets they need the proper native plants and flowers like bottlebrush, grevillia, certain species of gum shoots etc... as part of an appropriate diet. Also if they are to be kept as pets they require a large aviary type enclosure, preferably with large flowering appropriate plants (some plants are highly toxic to possums) and small trees growing inside. (I am currently designing one for my boy).
"My possum, Monkey Boy, should really be released back into the wild now that he is fully grown, but I am not sure how his survival rate will be. He's a bit spoilt. They are very territorial and will fight amongst themselves, but their biggest predator is the cat and the human! ...Rose
Michelle Curtain - 2016-04-13 Possums are protected in australia under the wildlife act of 1975. They are not to be kept as pets. This website needs to correct this grossly inaccurate information. Registered wildlife carers can keep and care for these animlas until such time as they can be released back into the wild. Possums are not pets
Clarice Brough - 2016-04-17 Yes, let me add a quick correction. The Common Ringtail Possum was included under the Wildlife Act 1975 as a 'basic animal' after being assessed in June of 2008, as Least Concern (LC) by IUCN. Currently, in some states such as Victoria, trapped possums may be taken to registered veterinarians for euthanasia. In South Australia, however, they are fully protected and the appropriate permit or license is required for trapping possums in human residences or for 'keeping or rescuing' sick or injured wild possums and other native animals.
Bev Landy - 2013-02-07 I am very upset that your site infers that Ringtail Possums are pets in Australia. I am Australian, and I am sure that only animal rescue people can keep one in captivity, and then only until it is well enough to return to the wild. They are a protected species in Australia, not a pet.
Anonymous - 2013-02-08 Thanks for sharing your concern. This article was actually mostly written by an Australian who's profession is a Vet Nurse. She sent the pictures as well. And lucky for us... she's advised us on a number of other small animals as well.
Just the same, I've looked into this. Although they are can be found in some protected wildlife areas, and in someplaces they are protected from being hunted or poisoned, I could find absolutely no indication that they are a protected species.
Also, on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, they are listed as Least Concern (LC), with the following quote, 'Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, occurrence in a number of protected areas, lack of major threats, and because its population is not in decline.'
I truly believe the very compassionate people who accept the immense responsibility for these fine animals, are equally competent, and diligent in abiding by any requirements pertaining to these animals.
Eve Kelly - 2015-03-15 As a registered wildlife carer in Australia, I know for a fact that ringtail possums are not allowed to be kept as pets. You need a permit from DEPI to keep one in rehabilitation, this includes babies. Once the orphan has been raised it MUST be released back into the wild where it was found. I'm sorry but your 'vet nurse source' may be well intentioned but she doesn't have a clue about the regulations. Ringtails need constant care. As babies they need to be kept at a particular temperature, which mimics the mothers pouch and fed on specific formula, not goats milk. They are better kept in a group with other babies. Not being informed about their husbandry and medical care will result in a malnourished, humanised possum, which is not on!
Katie Rantall - 2016-04-13 As a wildlife carer and a vet nurse I know for a fact that our Australian Wildlife are protected by our laws and it is against the law to keep a Ringtail as a pet in all of our states. If somebody wants to care for a ringtail then they must be trained by another professional and mentored before caring for injured or abandoned wildlife. You must also obtain a permit from DEPI if you want to keep a wild animal as a pet. I would like to know the name of this 'vet nurse' that is featured in your story. The one that believes her 'Monkey Boy' is too spoilt to be released. She is breaking the law and needs to be educated on our rules and regulations with our precious wildlife.
Clarice Brough - 2016-04-17 To add some perspective here, there's a couple of things I'd like to share. The Common Ringtail Possum was assessed as Least Concern (LC) only as recently as June of 2008 by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Also, these animals have a lifespan of about 10 to 12 years. Once this speces was included on the IUCN list, it was then included under the Wildlife Act 1975 as a 'basic animal.' In South Australia, they are fully protected and the appropriate permit or license is required for... 'trapping' possums in human residences or for 'keeping or rescuing' sick or injured wild possums and other native animals.
When the Vet Nurse provided the pictures and information in this article, it was a few years before the animal was even assessed for inclusion on the IUCN list. As a responsible professional, I'm sure she is very knowledgeable and continues to be very dedicated to working within the requirements of all animal regulations. Also, due to the lifespan of this species, I'm guessing 'Rocky Boy' is no longer with her, but we can still enjoy what she shared about him.
Michele Phillips - 2016-04-13 It is cruel and irresponsible having ringtail possums as pets, they are wild animals and should be treated as such. They are a social animal and need other possums with them. If you genuinely care about possums let them live free as they were born to do
Louise - 2011-12-23 Ringtail Possums are not pets. They are wild animals and should be left to flourish in the wild. If you find a sick or injured possum please get it to a registered wildlife carer or vet asap as these animals need special care with an aim to release all animals. Please do the right thing by these animals and don't keep them confined in a cage, they should be free
Lola - 2012-12-10 Ringtail possums are protected species in Australia, and it's illegal to interfere with them in any way whatsoever ie. no trapping, and no keeping, despite the fact they can be pests in your garden. They easily destroy any roses you keep, and have a strategy of destroying (and ultimately killing) one tree at a time. Like all marsupials, they have very small brains, and while they're good at what they do (climb), they are not intelligent animals like dogs and they can in no way be trained as pets. As for house-training, forget it - they just don't understand and will wee and drop constantly wherever they are (including on you). When picked up, they generally ignore you apart from scratching you with very sharp claws when handled. In summary, they do not make good pets whatsoever. They're like opossums, but a bit more primitive and certainly less intelligent than a rat or mouse. You can get a wildlife permit if you have a very good reason to keep one, but this is expensive and only given if the animal has no alternative - having one as a pet is almost unheard of. In summary, they are protected native animals, and should be left to their natural environments, which if you're lucky, may include your garden. They are social animals and MUST be kept as a family group together, which effectively means you can't have 'one' as a pet. Lastly, anyone from Belize who tells you they've got them is a scammer - this kind of third world possum scam is very common.