September 24, 2004 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Dona nobis possum. What do I do now?

If you'll kindly direct your gaze here (or here if you like 'em big) you'll see the critter who sometimes comes by for a late-night snack. I don't mind the possum so much because it's not really bothering me. The bigger issue is my upstairs neighbors, who insist on leaving their cat's food and water bowls outside the kitchen door of my apartment instead of outside theirs. They're not difficult to get along with, but for whatever reason they don't make their mostly outdoor cat work very hard for his food. And thus the visitor.

I've printed out a copy of that picture and left it by the food and water bowls as a passive-aggressive first step (which made perfect sense to me at 3:30 this morning, as did opening my door and taking pictures of a wild animal about a foot away from me). If the bowls don't suddenly move upstairs, what should I do next? Should I just handle the possum problem myself and call the game warden or something?
posted by emelenjr to Pets & Animals (21 answers total)
If you call the game warden he or she will probably have something to say to the neighbor about leaving the pet food outside to begin with. I don't know about possums, but raccoons also like to raid food bowls, and they carry rabies. I live in a neighborhood near our downtown yet our neighborhood is filled with raccoons and possums-we just had a rabid raccoon picked up just a month or so ago...
posted by konolia at 11:17 AM on September 24, 2004

Your neighbors leave their cat's food bowls outside of your apartment? Forget the passive - concentrate on the aggressive - pick up the bowls, and move them.
posted by iconomy at 11:24 AM on September 24, 2004

I'm reminded of the time when my grandparents were under siege by hungry, angry, greedy ducks. The ducks would come up from the lake and steal whatever food was left out for the squirrels (my grandparents encouraged feeding the squirrels over the ducks because the squirrels would share the cookie/bread peacefully while the ducks would attack each other and anyone/thing else that came near). My grandfather eventually set out traps to cage the ducks, then he drove them to the county line and released them. It certainly solved the problem. If you go with the do-it-yourself catch-and-release idea just remember not to get near the possum because of rabies and other health issues.

And incidentially, "dona nobis possum" is brilliant and that giant possum picture is my new desktop wallpaper.
posted by Servo5678 at 11:26 AM on September 24, 2004

You could trap the opossum and release it somewhere else -- shouldn't be too hard given that it eats out a cat bowl anyway. You might be able to borrow a suitable trap from the humane society or from your local feral-cat society if there is one. Of course, you might accidentally trap your neighbor's cat...

If it isn't really bothering you, maybe you can just ignore it? You might check out this page for a little possum info.
posted by Mark Doner at 11:34 AM on September 24, 2004

Too bad you can’t tell the neighbor that opossums eat cats.

The bowls at your front door - Place them at the owners door in a position for them to be stepped on. Seriously, that will send a message that they have invaded your space.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:14 PM on September 24, 2004

i'm not your upstairs neighbor, but if i were, neither the photo nor the passive-aggressive approach would induce me to move my cat bowls. however, a politely (or at least neutrally) delivered "hey, please don't leave your cat bowls on my doorstep." would (rightfully) embarass the hell out of me and prompt me to move them. if they continue to leave them there, removing them is not at all out of line, in my opinion.

(we've had no luck getting rid of our possums. but they don't cause much trouble, so we haven't really tried very hard)
posted by crush-onastick at 12:22 PM on September 24, 2004

It is illegal in most places in the US to relocate wildlife.

I had neighbor when I lived in California who would leave food out for their dogs. The food attracted rats. Reasonable and polite requests to the neighbors to stop were rebuffed. I called the Health Dept. for the town, which made somewhat less polite requests to the neighbors. Problem solved except the neighbors then hated me. I found I could live with the enmity of rat-feeding neighbors much better than I could live with rats.
posted by TimeFactor at 12:24 PM on September 24, 2004

Contrary to the mean-n-nasty stereotype possums have, they mostly just wander about at night nearsightedly grousing for food. One of my cats got out one night back when my backyard wildlife population had exploded and not yet declined as the young'uns grew older and moved on to seek their own territory.

I watched nervously for hours as my cat caroused amongst two adult and three baby raccoons, two adult and four baby skunks, and a possum who kept his distance from all of them, grubbing about in the soil for good munchies.

My cat was smart enough to slink around the other animals, who are not alarmed by anything but loud noise or fast movements (I know this from my own forays in close proximity around the skunks), and the possum especially couldn't be bothered to give a flyin' one about anything but the juicy earthworms (or whatever) he was digging up.

Anyway, please have mercy on the possum. Relocation is cool if you know someone to capably do it, but I'm always suspicious of what wardens (and especially private "pest removal" companies) actually do.

I hope you can find a good solution, hopefully moving the cat food! Cat food isn't even good for most animals besides cats, as it is too high protein for anyone but felines, the most truly carnivorous animals in nature (except for some extreme Atkins Diet Fad followers.)
posted by Shane at 12:40 PM on September 24, 2004

Here's a page on discouraging possums from visiting your yard, but note the first sentence: "Opossums regularly consume insects, snails, worms, rats, mice, and carrion. They can actually help keep your yard free of these pests." More praise follows... but then of course this is from opposum.org.
posted by taz at 1:27 PM on September 24, 2004

Also, from the oppossum society: Do not trap. "Opossums are normally transient animals, staying only 2-3 days in an area before moving on. Removal is neither necessary nor desirable. If opossums were eliminated from an area, the population of roof rats and other pests would proliferate. Opossums serve an important role by controlling the unwanted, harmful pest population around our neighborhoods."
posted by taz at 1:34 PM on September 24, 2004

Response by poster: JRun wouldn't let me in earlier. Thanks all for the input and advice. I'll talk to the neighbors the next time I see them, just to ask about the bowls. The photo I left by the bowls is gone now, so either the neighbors grabbed or the possum did so he could keep it for posterity.

I did not know possums were a good thing, and I also didn't know one could find them in a city setting. It's not totally urban where I am—there are yards and such—but I'm definitely not out in the country. I come to the Green, and I learn something new.
posted by emelenjr at 1:48 PM on September 24, 2004

Totally not helping with the topic at hand, but that giant picture?

so my newest wallpaper.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:00 PM on September 24, 2004

Response by poster: Mine too, heh.

I'm glad it came out. It was 3:30 in the morning and I couldn't see a thing on my camera's screen, so I wasn't sure what I'd get. Then I ended up taking about 10 more once I saw the light was good enough.
posted by emelenjr at 4:13 PM on September 24, 2004

I love its little toeses.
posted by taz at 4:31 PM on September 24, 2004

On the bright side, that looks like a pretty healthy possum. A lot of the ones I've seen that actually get near people look mangy and disease-ridden, which would lead me to recoil in terror.
posted by mikeh at 4:49 PM on September 24, 2004

I had a possum visit me many times while I lived in Australia. He came into the kitchen, and would know exactly where everything was. I'd go to the supermarket, and check my shopping list, and notice some extra items on the list, in an unknown scrawl.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:52 PM on September 24, 2004

Looks like a young possum! Great photo. It's really cool to watch one eat, what with that snout that looks like it's made of putty and streeeetched :-)
posted by Shane at 8:22 PM on September 24, 2004

Doesn't sound like something worth making your neighbors hate you over.

Raccoons may carry rabies, but the madness of neighbor-hatred froths at the mouth for years.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:06 PM on September 24, 2004

pick up the bowls, and move them.

Yup. Don't combat the animal. If you trap/kill/move him, another will just take his place. Move the bowls, and talk to your neighbors. If you don't want to be confrontational, you can cast it as a safety move for their cat's sake. After all, a bowl of food will attact not only possum and - eek - rodents, but other cats as well. It's best for their cat upstairs, a little further out of harm's way.
posted by scarabic at 12:45 AM on September 25, 2004

If I found bowls of food and water outside my door I'd assume they were gifts and take them inside my abode, repeatedly.
posted by page404 at 12:16 PM on September 25, 2004

It's a special animal, really. The opossum is the only marsupial North America has. Its little babies stay in that pouch for ten weeks, and even after that they ride around on mommy's back. Here you go:

When baby opossums are born, each one weighs 1/200 of an ounce, is less than ½ inch long, and lacks fully developed hind limbs. Up to 14 young are born after only 12 to 13 days of gestation. Of these 14 young, only about nine survive. The entire litter could fit into a teaspoon. They climb into the mother's pouch, where they remain for about ten weeks. When they are big enough, they ride around on their mother's back.

I was wrong about the catfood, as it's not as bad for opossums as it is for raccoons. Still, opossums are omnivores, and need a variety of different foods: In captivity they should be fed a varied diet, though cat (not kitten) food is reported to be a good base food.
posted by Shane at 3:43 PM on September 25, 2004

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