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Common Ringtail Possum

Common Possum, Ringtail Possum

Family: Pseudocheiridae PIcture of "Monkey Boy" a Common Ringtail Possum"Monkey Boy"Pseudocheirus peregrinusPhoto Animal-World: Courtesy Rose
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Just so you know, it is ILLEGAL to keep a ringtail possum as a pet in Australia!! It is in fact ILLEGAL to keep any Australian wildlife as a pet without a permit,... (more)  Aimie Cribbin

   The Ringtail Possum, often called just the 'Ringtail', got its name from its curled tail.

   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.

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Geographic Distribution
Pseudocheirus peregrinus
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  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Diprotodontia
  • Family: Pseudocheiridae
  • Genus: Pseudocheirus
  • Species: peregrinus
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Scientific name: Pseudocheirus peregrinus

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?
Pseudocheirus peregrinus
means "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.

Environment:    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.

Social Behaviors:    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.

Breeding/Reproduction:    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.

Ailments/Treatments:    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.

Availability:    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?"

"Monkey Boy" a Common Ringtail Possum

"Monkey Boy" is imitating 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

Lastest Animal Stories on Common Ringtail Possum

Aimie Cribbin - 2013-03-10
Just so you know, it is ILLEGAL to keep a ringtail possum as a pet in Australia!! It is in fact ILLEGAL to keep any Australian wildlife as a pet without a permit, and a ringtail possum is CERTAINLY included in this. If you have a possum, you MUST have a carers permit for it issued by the government

Jacqui - 2009-01-23
As an Australian native animal carer, here are some corrections. Ringtails should ONLY BE kept in family groups or pairs as they are extremely social. They like more than one nest for the family and the male will sometimes sleep separately but he lives with the group still.
They require protein and love insects in the form of small moths and green grasshoppers being their favorites. They only eat the first run of fecal pellets which they pass in their nest usually during the day and eat again straight away. The fecal pellets passed the second time on the ground ARE WASTE. Do not feed them ANYTHING other than native vegetation, leaf tips from some introduced plants and native flowers and some introduced flowers, e.g. plumbago, crepe myrtle and roses are OK. They cannot tolerate lactose, nuts or most fruit for long. An occasional grape or piece of apple or carrot is OK as a treat only but they should't have much of this at all. YOGHURT IS A BIG NO NO - they are lactose intolerant. The diet described on this page is suitable for brushtail possums and some gliders rather than Ringtail Possums, their stomachs are completely different and they require different care. You must forage daily for leaves, flowers and native fruit. Also, in Australia it is illegal to keep these animals without a rehabilitation permit and even then, you can only raise orphans or rehabilitate injured possums and then they must be released back to the wild.

  • graham - 2010-06-03
    Hi I have been told you can not release a ringie back into the wild if it has been hand reared from young they will die.
Julian Rogers - 2012-05-17
Hi All. Ringtails and Brushtails can live together, SHOCKED YOU MIGHT THINK. All types of Possums need not only the right food to eat, i.e. leaves, flowers, shoots, etc. They also need the right trees to nest in, in the right area plentful with native gums and varied flowing trees. Both types can and do live quite close, this does not mean they get on. All this means is there are enough trees of differant types and plants in abundance for both to live. This is rare because we are invading on their environment, not the other way. And because of that they then invade our space, which WE HAVE TAKEN FROM THEM. As far as I'm concerned, not enough study has been done in Ringtails, especially as they first vary in colour. So on that basis there is a diffence. Now what you might find is that you have grey ringtails and if you tried to release a ginger Possum (thats my name for them ) into that envioroment. then that's when possibly you will get problems. Anyway, I could go on and on. If you need help then please email me. I have hand reared Possums of around 30 grammes and upwards, and know them and their needs, and THEY ARE NOT PETS.

  • candy - 2012-11-20
    Hi. I found a possum on the neighbours step. They came and got me to grab it. I've looked after baby possums before. I've looked on the net on for what to feed it, it looked about 7 months. I think its mum lives in their roof and it fell off her back. I rang wire and they said to let it go up a tree at night. We kept it the first night and feed it up. Last nght put it outside in a cage so the mum could can to it, then I'll let it go. The baby is suppose to be on mums back learning until the 10th month. I don't won't to let it go if mum won't take it, and it ends up on someone else lawn.and dies. Please help. I'll ring you if better, but please email me asap. I won't to let it go but is it best to keep for abit.
jessica - 2006-04-10
Hey Guys, Im jess and im in year 6. i had to do a recount on a ringtail possum. No questions asked .. BEST WEBSITE EVER, hehe. THANX GUYS. GREAT INfo

  • tracey - 2010-12-25
    Hi, I have possums that live in the trees. They're active during the day at the moment. Should I be concerned over this? Is there anything I can do for them?
Julian Rogers - 2012-05-17
If you find a small ringtail possum small i mean around 2 to 2 and a half inches long and weighing around 30 grammes,firstly and most important keep it warm dont just wrap it up get a hot water bottle or something that gives of constant heat over time and im sure i dont need to say not to hot.Books give out all sort of exact temperatures and so on but when it comes down to it you have to use your common sense and make sure that the joey cant get in direct contact with the heat source and at the same time it has to give the heat the joey needs,i tend to wrap the bottle at least twice in a blanket.Also get to know your eating habits of your Possum as they all eat diferently,you need Di vetelact powder 60 grammes of warm water and one scoop of powder,i have had sucess with goats milk but please do not try this as it is not 100% tested but i have had good results.No other types of milk should be given to very young Possums,i only did the goats milk as a last resort and whether it was the milk of the pure determination to live that worked, but the extremley young joey came through and was later

  • steve carey - 2012-06-08
    Hi Brendan, My wife is a wildlife career but she is a bit new to looking after ringtails. We are particularly interested in specific foods to feed them. Meggie is just over 500g and she will be released in a few months when it warms up here in SE Qld. The other two are about 250g each. Tanya is feeding with the Divetelac stuff not worries. Although the younger ones can be a fit finiky at times. She's only had them for about 1 month and goes out and gets the red shoots off Lily Pillies as well as some bottle brush flowers. However, we are finding these harder to get now. We want to know what else we can give. Eg, can we give them any eucalyptus leaves? or does it have to be specific types. Also, Tanya says that there is conflicting info regarding feeding them fruit. She says that Australia Zoo say no to fruit, and other groups say ok to some fruit if they're over 500g. Can you advise please. Thanks, Steve C
Erica-Belize - 2009-04-02
Hello,this is urgent! I am looking for professional opinions

I am from Belize in Central America, I am hoping someone can help me...this is my situation: My dog killed a possum and she had three babies in her pouch/sac one was still attached with a string to the mother so I could not save it but I save 2 babies who were already crawling out of the mother. My question is: will they survive? What should I feed them? Where should I keep them? they are the size of my thumb...yes very they have a chance of surviving? They seem active and ready to drink milk...I give them warm cow milk, is that ok?

  • Sherry - 2011-01-03
    I found a dead opossum with very little babies so I took it to our wildlife rehab center and they put them all to sleep. They told me at that young age there is very little chance of survival.
    Who knows if that's true or not.
  • Caitlin - 2012-07-20
    Well, as they are so small. They will either have to be dependant on you (and proably not released), handed over to a wildlife care or put down. If you choose to keep them. First get a permit so it is legal for you to keep them. Second, Babies that small will need to be with you at all times. So make a pouch put it down your top and let them rest in there. This will replace the pouch and give them enough body heat to survive. Thirdly, Do not feed them cow's milk. They need possums milk, but in emergency's goat milk is better than cows. Goats milk is risky and it depends on the possums will to survive, but some cases have been sucessful. If they survive this, later on you can start to introduce fruit to them, but make sure it is very small. Only do this when you think they might be able to manage it. When they are older, and becoming very active and independant it's time for a new home for them. Get a rabbit/ guinea pig hutch. ( the bigger the better) that is off ground and has a closed in protected area ( like a possum box) You may have to switch between the top and hutch to get them used to it. Never dump them in it and leave them there. Slowly introduce them to it. Once they are fully sized you will need to get them a bigger cage with logs/ branches and leave fruit in odd places to keep them occupied and become more independant. If possible, exept baby months in the pouch avoid as much contact with them. There is a very slim chance of them being returned to the wild but if they get to comfortable around you. There is no hope. Talk to a local wildlife carer to discuss whether they are competant enough to be released, and where you can. If you have and worries of if they become ill, seek advice from a carer immediatly.

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