Found A Baby?
Found a baby opossum? Now what???
Baby Opossum Care Tips: Getting baby prepped for a rehabber.
These steps are relevant for most baby mammals with some exceptions. Notes are provided when a change is needed for other species.
- Look around for the momma opossum. If nearby or other babies are together, place back with momma/littermates.
- Opossums CAN leave their young near their nest to find food/hunt. This is somewhat common when babies are already able to eat on their on some.
- Other species also leave their babies to hunt and gather. Most other species DO come back for their young. Opossums do not.
- If no momma is around or has been found deceased:
- Look the baby over for wounds, fleas, limb/eye movement
- If the baby is able to function on its own (open eyes/mouth/move limbs) and is not severely injured, rehab steps will begin (below)
- If the baby is NOT able to function on its own (open eyes/mouth/move limbs) or IS severely injured, contact your closest parks and wildlife for option.
- If a deceased momma opossum is found WITH joeys in pouch, they will need to be removed OR bring the entire animal to a rehabber.
- The nipples are thin, flat and elongated. The joey latches on and the nipple lengthens to nearly reach the stomach.
- The joey will need to be pulled off the nipple SLOWLY.
- Pulling fast or expecting the nipple to be short can severely injure the joey
- If you are transporting the babies to a rehabber immediately, you can bring the entire animal with joeys attached.
- Address minor injuries
- Iodine or Puracyin (preferred) are great options for disinfecting a minor wound
- Avoid peroxide, alcohol and honey products at this stage
- Keep area clean and dry
- Do not feed the baby at this point for ANY reason!
- Warm up the baby!
- If the baby is cold to the touch, the body has shut down.
- Put the baby in a box lined with towels and provide a heat source such as a water bottle/bag or heating pad
- The baby MUST not be unattended on the heat source
- Babies can be bathed in any type of dish soap or baby shampoo. Original blue Dawn (not super concentrate or foam) is most widely used.
- Do not get the soap in eye or mouth
- Bathe babies until no fleas or dirt are present
- Fleas may need to be picked off, but should be dead due to the soap
- Baby opossums will eliminate in water
- This is very common as they are being stimulated with the bath and prefer to “poop” in water naturally
- Do not feed the baby yet!
- The baby needs to be rehydrated or assessed for anemia
- Check the babies lips/gums/tip of nose – should be a pink color
- If the nose is NOT pink, the fleas or blood loss from injury may be the culprit
- It is critical that animals be hydrated before consuming any food
- If dehydrated, the animal will not be able to digest the food
- Severe injury and extremely painful bloating can be caused and take effect immediately
- Pedialyte is a great way to hydrate an animal
- Apple Juice mixed with water is also acceptable
- 1 part juice to 5 parts clean water
- Do not use sugar free, the sugar and salts are the critical ingredients
- If Pedialyte (or generic version) or apple juice are not available, make an ORS solution (recipe below)
- Do NOT use distilled water with baby animals
- Distilled water has no minerals, bacteria, pathogens. The “empty water” will attach to the animals’ electrolytes and minerals and be passed – THIS IS DANGEROUS
- Use a small dish OR syringe (no needle) to provide the hydration option
- Stimulate the baby to help eliminate urine before AND after hydration attempts
- They won’t eat or drink if they have not been able to properly “potty”
- Depending on the condition of the babies, give hydrating fluids for 12-24 hours
- After hydration, then commence with feeding (steps below)
- 1 part juice to 5 parts clean water
ORS Solution (Oral Rehydration Salts):
- 1 teaspoons of sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- Dissolved in 1 cup of clean water
Pay careful attention to the ingredients. Too much sugar will cause/worsen diarrhea. To much salt can cause harmful side effects.
In a pinch, you can use Gatorade until you are able to get Pedialyte or other solution.
Stimulating (aka potty):
- Baby opossums depend on their momma to stimulate and clean them when eliminating or going potty
- Other species also need to be stimulated
- Babies must be stimulated until they are able to go on their own
- One way which may be useful when the baby has NOT gone, use warm water and allow it to run on the hind end (from the front). Gently rub the gentile area.
- Urine and stool are eliminated from the same place – this is also the same as their sex organs. All one spot.
- Stimulating can be done with a warm/wet cloth, cotton ball or pad, paper towel or tissue
- Whatever is used, be gentle!
- Be careful not to rub the area hard or raw
- Allow the baby to fully eliminate and then begin to clean up
- They may go again
If you are unable to get the baby animal to a rehabber by this next point, you must be sure to follow the best practices below. The life of the animal depends on properly following procedure.
Preparing For Feeding:
- Begin feeding formula or food – depending on age/size
- Eyes closed/slightly open – formula
- Fully furred/active - food
- Always have at least 2 dishes of fresh water available
- Yes two. Opossums use water to potty in, so they need one to drink
- Formula for puppies or small mammals
- Esbilac (Puppy Milk Replacer) or Fox Valley
- KMR or Kitten Milk Replacer in a pinch, but revert to puppy or mammal as soon as possible
- KMR or Kitten Milk Replacer is best for raccoons.
- Low Fat yogurt (not Greek)
- Chicken/Tuna (with bones, in water)
- Kitten or puppy dry food
- Note – fruit should never be more than 10% of the diet
- Meal worms, snails, beetles, worms
- Baby Animal Formula (recipe below)
- Scrambled eggs (with the shells crushed in)
- Baby cereal (oatmeal/HiPro/rice) can be used to thicken formulas
- Cow milk (THIS WILL KILL BABY ANIMALS OF ALL SPECIES)
- Greek yogurt
- Soy products
Favorite Foods: (this will be different for each baby and they DO change their favorite foods quickly and often – do not worry as long as they are eating)
- Cottage Cheese
- Strawberry Yogurt
- Quail Eggs
- Baby Food (veggie and oatmeal mixes)
- Baby opossums DO NOT suckle
- Other species will suckle
- Syringes or shallow dishes (lids) will need to be used
- Mix the formula (or used premade) and warm up
- Test as you would an infant formula on your wrist
- Use the syringe/dropper to introduce near the baby’s mouth gently and slowly. They will lap, they will not suck
- If using a dish or lid, place the baby near and use your finger to introduce to the formula
- They take to both in their own way – one may like the syringe or hate it so switch to the dish/lid. Trial and error.
- Babies will begin trying to “eat” quickly
- Eyes fully open, full fur, and walking around
- Begin introducing yogurt, baby food (for fruits/veggies), small amounts of finely chopped fruits/veggies
- As they take to one food, introduce another
- Calcium is extremely important for a baby opossum
- Without calcium, a painful bone disorder will set in quickly
- Add calcium to calcium deficient foods
- CARFULLY add – tiny amounts of powdered calcium dusted on food
- Calcium from eggshells, snail shells and bone is best
- This can be purchased in power as well
- It is important the baby can be kept warm until it can regulate its own body temperature
- When it begins to pull away from the heat source, it can be removed
- Bedding should be soft and able to allow the animal to hide
- Washable is best
- Babies are very skilled at escaping or wandering off!
- Keep in a pet carrier or crate, boxes with tall sides or large storage container
- Keep pets AWAY FROM THE BABY
- You may think they can bond, but opossums are still prey at this size, bond later
- Even tiny babies WILL climb, so if the sides are able to be held on to – they will try it
- Use newspaper or potty pads to line the housing
- Babies as young as 10 weeks will use a litter box or latrine (shallow dish of water aka “poo pond”
- A lot of what they will sleep in/on is trial and error
- Fleece/flannel pouches
- House slippers
- Whisky bottle pouches (Crown Royal)
- Towels or shirts
- Play with options, my go to are fleece pouches made by my mom
The goal is to get the animal to a rehabber. The steps above are not for raising a wild animal as a pet.