What is the Difference between Possum and Raccoon?

What are Raccoons and Possums? How are they Physically Distinct from each other? What are the Similarities between the two?
What is the Difference between Possum and Raccoon

Many times, few species of animals are confused with one another. You must have watched that everyone assumes Doraemon to be a raccoon, but he is actually a cat robot. Due to some identical features and their sizes, few animals are presumed to be another. For a long time, differentiating raccoon vs possum had been a challenging task for people. To understand it better, we will tell you what is the difference between possum and raccoon.

1. What is a Raccoon?

Raccoon or Procyon lotor, most commonly known as the common raccoon, is a medium-sized placental mammal. They have dense underfur, ringed tails, masked faces, and dexterous front paws. They are known as northern raccoons or North American raccoons and belong to the family of Procyonidae.

  • The name of this animal is derived from the native Powhatan term, which means an animal that scratches with its hands.
  • In Latin, this name means before-dog washer. (See Interesting History of Dino Bones)

2. What is a Possum?

Possums are mammals from the Didelphimorphia and are mostly found, in the Americas. They are the largest marsupial mammals in the Western Hemisphere and have over 120 species belonging to the family of Didelphedia. Virginia possum is found only in the United States and Canada, while in North America, they are known as simply, possums.

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3. What are the Differences in Physical Description?

  • Raccoons have a bushy and long-tail with colored patches in the form of rings. Like the one, you have seen in the tails of stray cats. Their face fur is colored in such a way that it looks like they are wearing a mask over their eyes.
  • Possums have tails like rats, which are scaly, and their whole body is covered with grey fur. They can be as small as a rat and as large as a cat. They have protruding eyes and pointed ears.

What is the difference between possum and raccoon? Major distinction includes their tail which acts as the fifth limb and helps them to grasp branches while climbing trees. (See

4. What is the Difference between Possum and Raccoon in Size?

  • Raccoons are as long as 2 feet and up to 3 feet only. And their body length is enhanced by the length of their tails. They can weigh up to 10.43 kilograms (23 pounds).  In comparison to the possums, an adult raccoon has a heavy body set.
  • Possums can be as small as 14 inches and as long as 3 feet. Their weight reaches up to 5.90 kilograms (13 pounds), giving them a body like cats.

5. Where to Find them?

  • Raccoons do not go far from their water source in the wild. They are usually found, throughout many areas of the United States, and in some regions of Southern Canada.
  • Possums can be found in wet areas like swamps. These marsupials are roaming throughout North America and South America.

6. How does their Reproduction Pattern differ?

Raccoons do not have a particular sex-specific social behavior. The males live together in a family of four while females also share such areas. They are rarely seen fighting over their territory. Their gestation period is between 54 days to 70 days, and a litter of two to five is born. Their young ones are called cubs.

Possums make smacking sounds to attract a mate while their gestation period is merely 12 to 14 days therefore, their young ones are very tiny. The litter can consist of up to 20 joeys. But on average only 12-13 babies survive. Baby possums, including their Australian species, are known as Joeys. Females have pouches on their bellies in which they carry their young ones from day 70 till next two months. (See Argentine Lake Duck Overview)

7. How Different is their Diet?

The diet of both raccoons and possums differs from their diets in urban areas as opposed to the wild.

  • Raccoons preferably eat various invertebrates like spiders, snails, lobsters, insects, and worms. They enjoy eating aquatic animals more. But if they have fruits and nuts easily available in their range, then they will prefer them over meat.
  • Possums enjoy eating other small mammals, insects, or snakes. They are immune to most of the snake venom; therefore, they easily prey on them. Although, they happily enjoy seasonal fruits, leaves, barks, and flowers too. (See Emu War Casualties)

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8. What is their Average Life Expectancy?

What is the difference between possum and raccoon lifespan?

  • Raccoons have an average life span of 1.8 years to 3.1 years in their wild habitat, while in captivity, these animals may live up to 20 years. Their life span is highly dependent on local conditions like traffic, hunting, and weather conditions. Their mortality rate has dropped and ranges from 10% to 30%.
  • Possums live up to 1 to 2 years depending upon the presence of large predators in their areas. They are mainly threatened by humans and other predators. Although the main reason behind their short life is the development of diseases at the age of one year. (See Do Lobsters Die of Old Age?)

9. Are they both Carriers of Diseases?

  • A common disease carried by them is an epizootic disease which is the root cause of the natural death of these animals. Fortuntaley, humans are not affected by it. Other diseases affecting raccoons are tetanus, trichinosis (caused by the worm Trichinella), leptospirosis, tularemia, roundworms, trematode Metorchis conjunctions, and listeriosis.
  • However, unlike raccoons, possums are resistant to rabies, and they even kill ticks that feed on them. But as wild animals, they catch diseases, which are harmful to them as well as to others around them. They are carriers of diseases like toxoplasmosis, trichomoniasis, spotted fever, relapsing fever, leptospirosis, coccidiosis, and the Chagas disease.

10. Which Disease can they Transmit to Humans?

So, what is the difference between possum and raccoon regarding the spread of diseases to humans?

  • Raccoons are the carriers of the lethal disease Rabies, commonly known as raccoon rabies. The virus is carried in the saliva of the animals and can be, transmitted through bites.
  • Tularemia, a zoonotic disease, is carried by possums and transmitted to humans from scratch, bite, or while handling the infected animal. (See 11 Health Benefits of Eating Ice Apple Fruit)

11. What are the Similarities Between Raccoons and Possums?

  • Both animals have hands like humans, which help them grasp things.
  • Their whole body is covered with fur.
  • Males in both species are larger and heavier than females. Apart from the weight differences, both of these species have stocky builds.
  • Both of them are omnivores and enjoy a variety of food items.
  • Both of them are mammals and carry their kids with them.
  • Both the species are nocturnal and maintain their distance from humans.
  • They are known as pests in many regions because of their habit of digging garbage cans.

We hope Raccoon vs Possum debate was able to answer your query what is the difference between Possum and Raccoon and their similarities. (Also read Discreetly vs Discretely)

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