ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: I have two 15-year-old cats who are both well toilet trained. Recently, I moved from the city to the country. Since then, I have been getting nightly visits from a possum; she is lovely and I hand feed her my excess veggies (avocados are her favourite). She now also brings her baby with her. The cats and the possums get on fine. However, since the baby has been coming around, there has been an ever increasing smell of what I think is possum urine. Instead of being in the kitchen, where I feed them, the urine smell is in the study. I now find the possums in the study and lounge quite often. Are they trying to establish their territory? What can I do to stop them peeing inside?
Dr. Nichol: It is not rare for possums, notably lacking in bathroom etiquette, to ingratiate themselves into human domiciles. You are likely correct that the odor permeating your home is possum urine. It can only get worse. Because possums are marsupials, their young can remain unnoticed until they start school. With Mom and her reclusive paramour continuing their frolicking and cavorting, you and your cats could soon become vastly outnumbered, not to mention, exposed to infectious diseases, like tularemia, and parasites.
Despite your bond with these wild animals, your hospitality has yielded unintended consequences. I advise contacting a professional to trap and relocate your odoriferous guests. Going forward, you’ll want to avoid more riffraff taking up residence. Just close your windows and doors. Forget about setting up an outside feeding station; these freeloaders have already learned to game your system.
Attempts to fool Mother Nature never end well. Feeding wildlife interferes with their ability to survive in their natural habitat. A healthy fear of humans is a good thing because it requires a wild species to survive in the diverse ecosystem where they belong. Consider what happened to the bears of Yellowstone, now dangerous marauders. Recent generations no longer understand how to forage, hence the warning, “A fed bear is a dead bear.”
Your domestic cats make far better pets.
Each week, Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.