After dogs and cats have dominated social media newsfeeds with their unrivaled charm, it is time for them to step aside.
For there is a new furry in town that the internet is currently obsessed with.
Meet Hank, the opossum.
Not to be confused with possums – which are indigenous to Australia although people frequently call oppossums possums in the USA – the opossum is a marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia that is native to the Americas, and this one is stealing hearts. .
Redditor "Damndirtycracker" posted a picture of the wayward critter snuggled up inside a cardboard box stuffed with blankets provided for by the OP's aunt.
Pull up a chair and gather 'round for the tale of how Hank found his new home.
"Hank showed up a couple of years ago and hung around a bit for cat food. He's not tame but also never hissed or seemed afraid. As he's gotten older, he stayed around longer until he just decided he was going to take up residency in the garage."
"She has this massive garage and has an out of the way space for him. The garage is detached from the house so she leaves the side door open for when he wants to go out."
Readers were charmed by the docile creature, and the thread inspired an enlightening discussion about the typically semi-arboreal omnivores.
"Congratulations to Hank on being a new home owner." – StaredAtEclipseAMA
"He's not your usual aww but I freaking love Hank." – DramaLlamaHolic
The OP commented about how his first impressions about Hank changed.
"When she told me about Hank, my first thought was definitely not 'aww' but then I saw him and realized I'd die for him."
"He got a lot of 'awww' and 'who's a good boy? Hank's a good boy.'"
This reader welcomed a family of a different species into their garage, but it turns out the furry bunch was not so friendly.
"Yep pretty much, that's how we ended up with a family of hedgehogs. Since we leave a bowl of cat food in the garage."
"Every autumn/winter they take residence in a large cardbox filled with paper shreds in our garage. They are definitely not tame tho, every time you enter the garage in the early winter."
"The box will start making angry snarling/hissing noises."
"We just let them be, we only enter the garage if we really need to during the colder months." – oxide-NL
Hank's resourcefulness paid off.
"He is a smart possum that came up with a great retirement plan." – KiZarohh
"Well congrats to Hank on his first official bed in his manor house." – outamyhead
According to "bencapo," Hank is an extraordinary opossum with a contradictory life span.
The cat-sized mammal has a minimal life cycle of one to two years in the wild but can extend to four or more years in captivity.
"If this is true this is incredible, opossums live to about 2 years old. The oldest known ever made it to 3 years old but Hank would be pretty close to record-setting if he was an adult on arrival." – benpaco
While many might have misgivings about inviting opossums into the fold, they are not as harmful as their many sharp teeth might make you think.
Plus, they are known to feed on annoying pests like spiders, slugs, cockroaches, rats and even snakes and ticks.
"Possums aren't tame, but they are very mellow and very non aggressive." – fodder69
"They also eat 1000s of ticks. Good for keeping Lyme disease at bay." – ipsum629
Worried about catching rabies?
While many mammals are prone to getting rabies, an opossum's low body temperature ranging from 94-97º F makes it extremely rare for them to contract the viral disease.
"Their body temperatures are also too low to incubate rabies and thus they're immune to rabies naturally." – i_am_the_ginger
Because they are nocturnal – meaning they sleep by day and come out at night – opossums are less likely to bite children playing in the backyard.
Even if kids go outside after sundown, they are more likely to get bitten by a spider or a snake.
"Your Aunt is a good, kind person! Possums are our friends & are harmless and beneficial to our gardens & landscape."
"They love snails and grubs."
"And kibble!" – Wwwweeeeeeee
Aren't you now infatuated with Hank? Unfortunately, possessing a wild animal as a pet is highly discouraged and considered illegal in some states without a proper permit.
According to the Opossum Society of the United States, opossums belong in the wild.
If you spot one in your garage, the organization recommends you contact your local animal control office to determine if an officer will be able to assist you.
But if you see one wandering into your backyard, just enjoy your private view of wild life.
The organization also mentions the misconception surrounding frequent sightings of the same critter on your property.
"They do keep a consistent foraging route and may be seen at the same time each night lending to the misconception they are living in your yard."
"Both males and females will create elaborate nests for their 2-3 day stay to conceal themselves from predators."
At this point given his life expectancy, it seems auntie's garage is likely to be Hank's final resting place.
May Hank live out his retirement in peace.
He's Oliver, not Hank, but you can get your own furry opossum friend here.