Do Red Pandas Make Good Pets? So Cute but Illegal

Written by Jennifer Haase
Published: March 5, 2022
Image Credit dean bertoncelj/Shutterstock.com
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The red panda (or “lesser panda”) is a furry mammal that looks like a mix between a fox, a raccoon, and a snuggly teddy bear. Unfortunately, red pandas also spray unpleasant scents like a skunk. So do red pandas make good pets? The short answer is no. To start with, red pandas are an endangered species. For this reason, it is illegal to own one. They also don’t make good pets because red pandas prefer to be in trees and use scent-marking to communicate. 

What is scent-marking? And how does it help a red panda send messages to other animals? First, read on to learn more about the interesting behaviors of red pandas in their natural habitat. Then, you’ll understand why helping them live safely in the wild is more important than adopting red pandas as pets.

Do Red Pandas Make Good Pets?

Cutest Animals: Red Panda
A red panda loves to climb trees.

Edwin Butter/Shutterstock.com

Red pandas do not make good pets because they are endangered wild animals. For this reason, it is illegal to own one. Besides, red pandas are much happier lounging in lush trees of their natural habitat in the Himalayan mountains of Asia. They have big paws, long claws, and flexible ankles that help them climb with ease. 

Another reason you don’t want a red panda pet is because of how often they release stinky scents. Scent-marking is when an animal urinates or releases a scent onto a surface. Red pandas have scent glands located near the anus and between the toes. They mark their territory via urine or unpleasant scents to ward off predators like snow leopards

They also scent-mark to share information. For example, a red panda sends other red pandas messages about their age, sex, and breeding readiness through scent-marking.

Their scent spray is not only awful smelling; it’s reddish in color. Red pandas don’t make good pets because they might stain your belongings from their scent-marking. 

Are Red Pandas Related to Panda Bears?

Dumbest Animals in the World: Panda Bear
Panda bears are not related to red pandas.

Red pandas are not in the same animal family as panda bears despite sharing a similar name. The panda bear – also called a giant panda – is in the bear family called Ursidae. Though the red panda is sometimes called a fox bear or red-cat bear, it isn’t a bear. Instead, it has an animal family classification all its own called Ailuridae. 

Even the look of giant pandas vs. red pandas is quite different. The giant panda bear is large with black and white fur. The red panda is red, black, white, and a smaller animal. It would never be mistaken for a panda bear.

What Does A Red Panda Look Like?

Red Animals - Red Panda
The red panda has reddish-brown fur on its back and black fur on its belly and legs.

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Red pandas are medium-sized mammals with a short snout and a tail like a raccoon. They have reddish-brown fur on their head, back, and tail, with white ears, nose, cheeks, and eyebrows. Red pandas also have black fur on their belly, inner legs, and tail tip. 

The contrast of their black belly fur against the reddish coat on their back is striking and unique. So naturally, people want to have red pandas as pets because of their beautiful coloring, along with their charming faces.

You might think their coloring makes red pandas an easy target for predators. However, they blend in quite well with the combination of white lichens and rusty-colored moss hanging from fir trees in their natural habitat.

Full-grown red pandas weigh between 8-18 pounds and stand up to 25 inches tall. Newborn red pandas weigh up to 4 ounces at birth.

What Do Red Pandas Eat? 

red panda chewing on plant
Leaves and bamboo shoots are part of the red panda’s daily diet.

Jose Angel Astor Rocha/Shutterstock.com

Red pandas eat a lot of bamboo shoots, plus acorns, berries, blossoms, leaves, fruit, and roots. Red pandas are mainly herbivorous, but they also eat bird eggs, insects, small lizards, and small mammals like mice.

Can you guess why the red panda’s diet makes them challenging to have as pets in America and Europe? Red pandas don’t make good pets in these countries because it is difficult to find and grow their favorite food – bamboo. Yet, bamboo is abundant in its natural habitat in the Himalayan mountains. So we think that’s another important reason red pandas are best suited for life as wild animals.

Are Red Pandas Cuddly? 

The red panda is so fluffy and cute it’s natural to assume they are cuddly. But wild red pandas are solitary animals that rarely cuddle with each other, much less with people. Red pandas prefer to spend time alone when not trying to mate. 

Their preference for independence is why red pandas scent-mark their territory. If their scent-marking could relay a message to humans, it might be something like, “I know I’m irresistible, but please stay out of my personal space.” 

Are Red Pandas Dangerous? 

Red pandas aren’t aggressive, but you shouldn’t get close to them in the wild. They will defend themselves when frightened by biting, clawing, or spraying a nasty scent to convince you not to come closer. 

Remember, red pandas are not domesticated animals bred to live among people. Therefore, they avoid humans when possible and attack when threatened. 

Why Are Red Pandas Endangered? 

A frontal portrait of a Red Panda
Protect red pandas by conserving the forests where they live.

Abeselom Zerit/Shutterstock.com

Red pandas are endangered because of illegal hunting and the destruction of their natural habitat from deforestation. They are hunted for their coats by poachers to sell or trade on the black market. Logging and agriculture are responsible for most forest shrinkage where red pandas live in the wild. 

Preserving and restoring the red panda’s natural habitat is key to helping this species survive. Instead of adopting red pandas as pets, support conservation efforts through organizations like the Red Panda Network. 

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