Australia has possums too ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_brushtail_possum
) though if you ask me they're cuter than the American ones.
My mum certainly thinks so, which brings us to why I'm posting on this thread...
First, for background: Mum has Views-with-a-capital-V on keeping native/wild animals as pets, Views that she'll happily go on about whenever it comes up. Those Views are that native animals should not
be kept as pets, because it's cruel and unfair to confine them; humans should just leave them strictly alone and observe them from a distance without interfering with their lives. She has the same Views about keeping birds in cages, so when I had a couple of native birds as pets I got the lecture about how I should release my pets into the wild on a regular basis. (Me: "Mum, they were bred in captivity and have never had to forage for food or avoid predators. Flambe can't even fly properly. They'd last a week if they were un
lucky." Mum: "I still think it would be kinder to let them go!")
When a possum moved into a tree right next to her house, she was delighted. Here was her chance to observe unspoiled nature!
Then she started leaving fruit out for it.
Then she started leaving bread and honey out for it.
Then she started going out and hand-feeding
it bread and honey.
Me: "Mum, it's not a good idea to get it used to the idea that humans are a food source. You're also getting it used to your cats."
Mum: "Oh, it'll be fine, it's just a little bread!"
Me: "Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure white bread and honey are not good for possums."
Mum: "...Yeah... I guess... well, maybe it'll live a slightly shorter life on this diet, but it's okay because it likes it so much! I'm making it happy!"
"Whatever happened to leaving wild animals alone?"
Mum: "Oh it's just a possum. And it's cute."
Me: "My birds were cute."
Mum: "That was different."
I stopped talking to her about her 'pet' possum, and just made "mmm-hmm" noises when she brought it up, which was frequently.
Then one evening, she went out to feed the possum, didn't immediately see it, and was standing under the tree with bread and honey in her hand, making 'pss-pss-pss' noises to call it... and it turned out that the possum was not up the tree. It was down on the ground, behind her, and it grabbed her leg.
Possums, like many other animals that climb trees, have big sharp claws
. If they're panicked - or, purely hypothetically, if they're not scared of you and you're holding a piece of bread and honey - they have been known to climb people, with messy and painful results. Luckily for Mum, her reflex action was to drop the bread, and the possum let go to get its dinner.
Mum: "Wild animals should be left alone! I'm going to keep leaving fruit out on the tree, but bread and honey is bad for possums. Also it would be a bad idea to get it used to humans, so I won't hand-feed it."