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Legend of the Lost Cat

Updated on October 4, 2014
VladimirCat profile image

Vladimir is a former champion ratter (retired). His hobbies are bushwalking, birdwatching and nature studies

Be prepared for a shock

I was touched with pity when I first saw this sign about a lost cat. To be factually correct, it's a sign about a found cat that someone has lost.

It's from a telegraph pole in a busy urban shopping centre and posted there by a couple of kind-hearted Japanese students.

Writing is hard to read when it's on a little picture so I've carefully included a much bigger photo for you.

When I magnified the image I discovered something really disturbing!

Close Up

Please pay careful attention

For starters, that is NOT a cat. What you're looking at is Trichosurus vulpecula, the common or garden brushtail possum.

Anyone, overseas student or longtime resident, who mistakes a brushtail possum for a housecat, is in serious need of a trip to the optician. And anyone actually clutching a possum will also be in serious need of a trip to the surgery for extensive repair to damaged arms, face, legs and numerous other parts of the body.

A Possum is NOT a Cat

A possum is not a cat. Look carefully at the image above and it will become clear that there's quite a bit of difference.

Mind you, it's true that there are some similarities. Both of us are essentially nocturnal creatures, but can wander round during the day happily enough. We share a wild and free spirit but will deign to accept care and attention from doting humans. We can both be pretty noisy too.

You can see (and hear) a lot of us around the inner city area, for both cats, and possums, thrive in a wide range of natural and human-modified environments.

While cats like myself are strongly discouraged from taking up residence in parks, gardens or, heaven forbid, the open bushland, possums live comfortably in suburbia. They settle in your roof, your chimneys and any other warm sheltered place.

If a possum decides to move in upstairs this can be a lamentably messy business, so keep your fingers crossed and your ceiling spaces securely sealed.

Claws ....

Our Whiskers may be similar but that's about it.

Possums have lovely long whiskers as well - the only feature they have with any style at all. These whiskers, or vibrissae, are the long, thick, flexible hairs on my face, very handy for judging distances and if you're an intelligent human, for judging my mood. I assume possums use their whiskers for similar purposes.

Our voices can sometimes be mistaken too. In a strange way. Have you ever heard a full, intact tomcat on the prowl? It's been a long time since I've heard of a tomcat but I believe there are still cats in the world who have not had the little nip'n'tuck like myself. An old tomcat can sound like a possum in a quiet mood - possums are probably the noisiest creatures on the whole planet, louder and even more garish than kookaburras.

.. and Paws

You can instantly tell a cat from a possum by the paws. Observe the elegance of the cat paw, a fluid line of velvet with soft rounded pads underneath and a concealed claw ready to be unsheathed in less than half a second. Lethal and magnificent!

On the other hand, or paw, the possum has distinctly creepy claws. Somewhat as you would expect from a monstrosity which has just crawled out of an alien spacecraft and preparing itself to terrify some poor human wearing bib-and-brace overalls.

A chicken foot has more character - and more taste.

Typical Possums on the fence

Sure they look innocent and fuzzy, but hidden beneath that crust of cute is a killer just waiting to deal out deadly daubs of death at a moments notice, the deadly Ring tailed Possums of Australia

A Possum is NOT an Opossum

If I started telling you the jaw-breaking species names you would be be utterly bored. Besides, I can't remember them. Suffice to say that a possum is NOT an opussum.

The confusion all began with Captain Cook who 'discovered' Australia. A lot of other people (with their cats and dogs) had discovered the continent 40,000 years before - but Captain Cook had better press coverage.

Cook made a lot of mistakes in his time but, thinking that the Australian possum was an American opossum, was a big one. Big.

Troubled by Possums?

And here's just what you always wanted to know but never got round to asking.

Scare the off with creepy things hanging in your trees, like this holographic ribbon (it scares me a bit too).

This New South Wales Government website explains how to live in harmony with our native creatures by * Building a Possum House.

Anything to keep the peace - and the possums outside.

A Word of Warning

I hope you have learned something from this ....

At the very least, you now have a working knowledge of the differences between possums and cats.

Please remember your safety first rules and keep well clear of possums at all times but especially at night when they cavort across the rooftops searching for broken tiles and loose chimney pots to play with. If they show a predilection for chewing on your broadband cable, the best way out of this to hang a pair of artificial cats eyes from the aforementioned cable and, indeed, from any other cables you may have attached to your house.

Remember, a cornered possum is dangerous!

© 2009 Vladimir

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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      13 months ago from Central Florida

      Loved that poster. How fun.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      How can anyone mistake a possum for a cat?

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Possum fir could make a warm pair bedsocks

    • rallo-smith profile image


      6 years ago

      That is so funny. thanks for the share

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      I wonder if anyone ever claimed that missing "cat." ;-)

    • fionajean profile image


      7 years ago from South Africa

      I'm on the look out for possums - kitties are soooo much better looking

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image


      7 years ago

      Oh Vladi! Am still laughing. Thank you so much for sharing, you wonderful cat you!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      7 years ago from Canada

      I have not laughed this hard in I do not know how long. Thank you ever so much for relieving my stress today. Absolutely a heart warming story.

    • james g pete profile image

      james g pete 

      7 years ago

      Nice pictures of the cat and possum in question. Liked Captain Cook's press coverage assessment. I also like your appreciation of a bent or just dented style of humor.

    • kismetsc profile image


      7 years ago

      Oh my! I laughed so hard when I saw the picture! Thank you for taking a picture of this. I can't believe someone actually thought a possum was a housecat.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      Thank-you Vladi for pointing out that it is dangerous for humans to try and 'rescue' possums. Squid Angel blessed, and to be featured on Blessed Pets.

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 

      7 years ago from California

      Having just come face to face with an American Opossum which ate my first large, ripe California strawberry I had been anticipating eagerly, I can say these buggers have only one thing common with ours: they just KNOW when your patio produce is about ready for harvest!

      However, the Australian possum is much, much cuter. Your videoographer may have found their bugeyes alarming, but he has never been face to face with a slack-jawed, lizard like creature whose small beady eyes seem like black holes of sentience. Creepy. I play with tarantulas, but I am now traumatized by opossums. I was of course facing off with it to discourage it and Samhain from a confrontation.

      I have always thought Australian possums of various kinds looked extremely cute, though I can imagine rooftop scritching would be annoying.

      Anyway, I do hope those foreign students learned their mistake. I think anime critters like Pokemon have perhaps given some kids a skewed knowledge of animal taxonomy.

      I am also reminded of an Australian friend who staunchly maintained he had seen a giant wombat while driving in Pennsylvania. I am fairly sure that wombats aren't used to predict the length of winter via a quaint pagan ceremony conducted on Feb 2nd.

    • groovyfind profile image

      Samantha Devereux 

      8 years ago from Columbia Mo

      LOL I'm assuming these were not biology students!

    • VladimirCat profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Australia

      @jptanabe: I believe this was Didelphis virginiana an opossum. Not a possum at all. You are to be congratulated on your good fortune

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      9 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Love it! We had a possum in our apartment building once, but we mistook it for a rat not a cat!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I am always amazed by the depth of your knowledge, Vlad. Another great lens

    • VladimirCat profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to ChapelHillFiddler] My Dear Fiddler of Chapel Hill, I am sure you're referring to the American Opossum Perhaps the Didelphis virginiana? Australian possums are but distantly related but if your opossums behave anything like our common or garden possums then I indeed commiserate with you.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hah! Very funny. We had a possum in the bottom of our trash can once. When we dropped a trash bag on top of her (we didn't know she was there) she hissed very indignantly. What ugly animals they are. Not at all like a sleek kitty.

    • andreaberrios lm profile image

      andreaberrios lm 

      9 years ago

      Very nice! Cool lens 5*

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 

      9 years ago

      Superb! Since I love cats and all forms of wildlife, this was especially interesting to me. Great pics!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      The comparison of the two animals alone made for a great way to share information about the two, but the added touch of the "found" poster was the icing on the cake. Someone actually holding a possum and mistaking it for a cat? Yikes. :) Very well written, as always!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I don't see many possums in California where I live, but I at least if I do I now know the difference between them. You're a cool Cat Vladi!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Vladi - you are such a wise cat. Thank you for teaching me the difference between a possum and a cat. I wonder if we have possums running around in our roof - they sound very large. Perhaps we should build them a possum house? But then again, I think being in the UK they are probably mice with hobnailed boots on.

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 

      9 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Loved your lens Vladimir,a bit silly and dangerous not knowing whether this animal was a possum or a cat.5*


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