Causes of Opossum Odor & How to Remove It

Everyone is aware that skunks stink. Their reputation certainly precedes them! But you may not be aware of the fact that an opossum, a cat-sized marsupial with the ghostly white face, can also emit a strong odor. 

Cause: Playing Dead

Opossums, commonly called possums, are probably most famous for their unusual defense mechanism.

When an opossum feels threatened or is harmed, its body will automatically shut down. This is an autonomic function, not done consciously by the animal. It will simply play dead and stay that way until the perceived threat has vanished. We can all conjure up images of how this would look – closed eyes, lolling tongue, stiff body.

However, the possum goes one step further. It secretes a green, smelly mucus from its anal glands, which mimics the scent of a decomposing animal, hoping to discourage the predator who is threatening it. The possum can stay in this state for up to four hours. This is an Academy Award-winning effort in acting, but can have dire consequences if you, or, more likely, your dog, is the supposed predator it’s trying to escape.


Getting rid of the smell can be difficult, but it is certainly not impossible. Baking soda is very helpful in removing most strong odors, and can be used here as well. Try soaking your pet in a mixture of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, and a teaspoon liquid dish soap. You may have to repeat this until your pet is odor-free.

Cause: Urine

Opossums like to shelter in dark places. This may lead them to lodge in your home, and, as with virtually any wild animal, there will be some odor involved, mostly from droppings and urine.

Possum urine, like most mammal urine, is yellow in color, but by the time it has soaked into or through your drywall, you will see darkish brown stains. If you notice such signs on your ceiling, it’s time to check the attic for a possum infestation.


After you have removed the animals, and secured any access for them to return, it’s time to clean up. The urine can be quite strong, so you may want to consider calling in an expert. But if you choose to do the work yourself, here’s what you should do:

  1. Remove or vacuum up any droppings.
  2. Dispose of any stained attic insulation or any other soft, absorbent material.
  3. Fog the attic thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner designed to remove animal smells.
  4. Replace the contaminated insulation or any drywall which may have been affected.

Cause: Death

If opossums have invaded your home, you may be faced with the unpleasant experience of having a dead animal under your home.


  1. Remove the animal. The smell of a decomposing corpse can last for months; you may want to call an animal removal service to do this.
  2. Tackle the lingering odor of death. Baking soda has proven to be a very effective odor remover. Sprinkle it liberally.

If you are simply experiencing a smell, but don’t know its precise origin, make a spray by dissolving baking soda in water and spraying the general area. Repeat as necessary.

As you can see, while not quite as smelly as their skunky forest neighbors, opossums can be quite odiferous as well. And remember, if you should run across a dead possum, leave it to play!