Can Pandas Be Pets? Everything You Need to Know

Tinyphant is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Someday, perhaps, you were just pointlessly streaming through channels, and then you saw those big beady eyes, the black and white fur, and it spiked your interest, making you go – “That is so adorable!”. Yes, you got that right! We’re talking about those ‘cute’-looking, cuddly Panda bears. 

But, are pandas really as cute, clumsy, and adorable as they look on those Instagram handles that are so obsessed with Panda bears that all you could ever see in the feed is a Panda doing something like- fall off a tree branch or munch on bamboo leaves? Well, yes. They are. And you will know WHY below in the article. However, that’s not why you’re here, right? 

You are so adoring Pandas that it makes you wonder, “Can Pandas be pets?”. We shall answer this beforehand and in all brevity with a big, fat NO! Why? Because Pandas are a vulnerable species that quite recently crossed the ‘endangered mark’. Due to deforestation and excessive poaching, the number of pandas in the world has alarmingly decreased.

You also can’t pet a panda because of their feeding habits. Pandas subsist ONLY on bamboos, and their inefficient digestion means they have to make up for it by consuming 26 to 84 pounds of bamboo per day (and they chew on it for at least 10 to 16 hours in a day).

This means you’d either have to relocate to somewhere that’s much nearer to a bamboo forest or grow a bamboo field in your lawn yourself. But, both of them sound like gibberish options to pursue, right? Lastly, pandas can’t be pets because they are too expensive and China, which has the largest giant panda population in the world, leases each Panda to a zoo for at least 1.5 million dollars. 

Now that you have your answer and want to keep going, know that your perception of Panda bears is going to change completely by the time you get to the end of this article.

Let’s delve a little deeper and find why Pandas aren’t the ideal pets (even if you were permitted to have one) and so much more that goes beyond just a panda’s adorable looks.

 

Why don’t Pandas make an ideal pet?

There is so much misconception about pandas that they are painted in all the wrong colors- they are harmless, soft, love humans, bad at sex, keep sneezing, and picky about food. Let’s just start with forgetting everything that you think you know about pandas and get to the facts. We have possibly covered every reason why you couldn’t and shouldn’t (if you could manage to buy and pet one legally) pet pandas.

Pandas are strong and dangerous

Pandas are dangerous creatures. There, we said it! They are not the typical cuddly creatures you can smile with and tickle in the belly or pat on the back. You’ve mistaken pandas mainly because you find them ridiculously cute, but that’s not how it goes in real life. Pandas are bears, and we all know how petting a bear can turn out.

The inclination to infantilize Pandas is natural (keep reading to know why) but they are potentially dangerous animals with twice the strength. They might look gentle with propitious character, but giant pandas have been reported to harm humans in several instances, although they are usually docile.

Panda bite injuries are savagely excruciating, and this is mainly contributory to their eating habits that have led to the evolution of their physical features and teeth. The large molar teeth and musculature of the jaw is designed to crush bamboo.

They have sharp canines that can deliver the highest bite forces you will possibly encounter from any carnivore, thus be doubly aware before confronting a panda and trying to cuddly with it. Are we still counting how torturous a nasty bite from a panda could be?

Even in captivity, cooing over a panda can be potentially dangerous, mainly because of their strength and the chunky skull and Mohican-like sagittal crest. They might seem fluffy and cuddly, but they are bears after all and are built to be aggressive, so think twice before you go ‘aww let me hug you’ with a panda. 

Panda Eating Bamboo

Pandas mostly eat bamboo (and a lot of it)

Pandas are very picky about their food, and they mostly sustain on bamboo. You may think that the wild and captive pandas have different nutritional charts. Well, only slightly. Where the wild Panda’s diet consists of 99% bamboo, the captive Panda eats 75% bamboo in its diet along with protein-rich fruits and food. 

This picky behavior of pandas generally goes back to its predecessors that adapted to a vegetarian diet when they started going extinct due to scarcity of food. Pandas were initially carnivores that preyed on animals, but over some time, they turned omnivorous to favor their survival instincts, and gradually pandas saw physical evolution like the pseudo-thumb to aid in eating bamboo.

They lost their appetite to meat due to genetic changes, and now, all they eat is bamboo with diversions like small rodents, fish, or eggs, occasionally. Now, you must be wondering: why bamboo, only? Because bamboo is a plentiful food resource that is present everywhere in their natural habitat (Asia). 

Okay, bamboo, but why so much of it? This has basically everything to do with their strategic evolution. Pandas may look like extreme herbivores, but they have a carnivore’s digestive system with a simple stomach and a small intestine.

This means that pandas are unable to digest the plant matter they consume efficiently, causing them to chomp on a lot of it, and also bamboo has a very low nutritional value. In order to make up for the low nutritional content of bamboo, pandas eat almost half of their body weight over a day, the consumption being anywhere between 26 to 80 pounds.

One suggested explanation by scientists is that bamboo might be the reward food to pandas like sugary and fatty foods are to humans thus fitting in all the pieces of the puzzle as to why pandas are picky about bamboo. It is suggested that bamboo might produce a kind of reward response in the Panda’s brain, causing a dopamine bump that is usually associated with happiness. 

Thus, if you think you want to pet a panda, think again. Even if you can arrange a meal of bamboo for your Panda, you will have to have a huge supply of bamboo loading a complete trunk of a minivan, and this doesn’t just sound insane but actually is if you are serious about this pursuit.

Pandas are not friendly to humans

Either you are in tears, getting to know this or utterly shocked- either way, the fact doesn’t change. Panda is a solitary animal that does not like the company of others, let alone a creature from a whole other species trying to pull its cheeks and pat its chunky head. 

Many panda keepers feel that pandas don’t reciprocate the love and care that they give to them. Panda keepers have adapted to the social behavior of pandas, and none of them share the illusion that they will ever get the same kind of affection from those cuddly looking bears that are so un-cuddly in real life. Whatever connections pandas form with their caretakers lasts for an ephemeral period since they are more drawn to what’s closer to food and sleep. 

Steering to the wild pandas, they don’t even have a meaningful and lasting relationship with their mates and cubs. Most giant pandas separate from each other after weaning, and it is possibly the only time that they spend time with the likes other than when they are babies. Panda families don’t live together, unlike most other mammals where male pandas separate immediately after copulation and female pandas raise the cubs alone.

This uncommunicative and eccentric temperament of Pandas makes them give humans little to no attention. Pandas are freedom-loving animals that like to be left alone, especially when they are eating, which is almost half the day, so beware when you interrupt a panda while it relishes its dinnertime. Humans are never on the priority list of pandas even if you bleed your heart for them, quite literally.

Pandas may not be able to adapt to your climate

Unless you’re thinking of moving to the mountains of China rich with bamboo, you might have to reconsider if you can pet a panda. Isolating a panda from its natural habitat can cause a severe impact on the creature, including its eating and reproducing habits. Pandas have a long generation time and low reproductive rate limiting their capacity to adapt to changing climates and weather.

The warm tropical and subtropical areas of China favors the existence and survival of Pandas, and they can resist up to -10 degrees of temperatures. However, it will cause a serious change in its eating patterns unless you are planning to starve your pet panda. 

The prime reason why Pandas can’t adapt to your country’s or region’s climate is the availability of bamboo. Bamboo makes for the largest portion of their diet, and it is itself quite vulnerable to climatic changes. It is a subject to synchronous flowering and die-off with certain abrupt changes in the climate and usually thrives in warmer regions with a subtropical climate. Since you already know pandas are picky about their food, the unavailability of bamboo in your region might deeply impact its health.

Pandas cost a fortune

The statement above is no exaggeration and in fact, might still be an understatement. Although you can’t buy or sell pandas, we have covered the estimates according to the price China charges for leasing a panda to zoos in a country. The Chinese government offers countries the opportunity to ‘rent’ a giant panda, but this comes with a hefty tag that can be anywhere from 1.5 – 2.0 million dollars. Yes, you did hear that, right!

In addition to the charge of renting a panda, the Chinese government also charges a fee of about $500,000 to $600,000 if a panda cub is born in the zoo of a foreign country. To these add the cost of maintaining the enormous infrastructure of the zoo, bear’s enclosure, medical care, and mountains of bamboo to feed the pandas.

Now, that you are starting to get an idea of the hefty price tag that comes with pandas and the cost of petting them, why don’t we consider some creature that is more budget-friendly and can actually reciprocate the love we give them? 

We’re not blaming pandas here; they are wired that way and just believe in an exaggerated definition of self-time.

China doesn’t permit the buying/selling of Pandas

If you’re wondering why we dropped this on you at the very last, that’s mainly because of two reasons: one, we didn’t want ‘this’ to be about why you couldn’t pet pandas but most importantly why you shouldn’t pet pandas. Secondly, we didn’t want you to be despondent and take this as the only possible factor that is impeding you from petting a panda.

The Republic of China owns nearly all the giant pandas on Earth, most of which are concentrated in the southern slopes and mountains of China. Poaching is a serious offense in the Republic of China, and even the rented pandas aren’t allowed to be mistreated or passed over to another country’s zoo without the consent of the Chinese government.

They are treasured as fortunes and are highly protected and respected in China, which is why you know that they just won’t allow anyone to buy or sell them. It impacts their integrity and values since they believe pandas are an intrinsic part of Chinese culture and of great value to the ecosystem, which makes them priceless. 

If not a Giant Panda, can I pet a Red Panda?

Okay, just because red pandas are smaller in size and look the size of a cat, doesn’t really make them an ideal pet- they are still built for life outdoors. There are several reasons why you can’t pet a red panda just as much as you can’t pet a giant panda. Here’s why:

Buying a Red Panda is illegal

Yes, buying a red panda is illegal too, and red pandas are protected by the law that prohibits the killing, poaching, buying, and selling of this creature. Unlike Giant Pandas that have successfully acquired the status of vulnerable species, red pandas’ survival and existence still remain a threat.

They are an endangered species, and many researchers believe that their population has demolished and degraded by 40% over the last 20 years. This is the prime reason why India, Bhutan, China, Nepal, and Myanmar provide legal protection to red pandas and allow the transfer of red pandas to zoos for breeding.

Thus, if you truly love animals and pandas in general, abolish the thought of petting a red panda too because they are critically endangered, and petting them properly isn’t an easy task.

 

Red Pandas are wild and dangerous

Red pandas are wild animals. Their resemblance to raccoon goes just beyond the appearance- just like raccoons, red pandas don’t make good pets, unless, of course, you want them wreaking havoc in your home. 

They may look cute, fluffy, and endearing, but their physical features are built for their survival in the wild such as the incredibly sharp teeth or the sharp claws. Their non-retracting claws will only contribute to scratches on your expensive wooden flooring and furniture.

These carnivores aren’t your regular giant pandas that are usually docile if observed from a distance. Red pandas with their forceful jaw and claws that don’t contract unlike cats are dangerous, and before you know, you shall be bleeding if they feel threatened by your closeness. These adaptations favor their climbing of trees or chewing on bamboo but are potential arsenal for defense if red pandas feel threatened.

Red Pandas eat only bamboo

You must be going “No! No again!”, but red Panda’s diet consists mainly of bamboo leaves- wait let us rephrase “Red panda’s diet consists of about 200,000 bamboo leaves EVERY SINGLE DAY”. Due to their specialized diet, red pandas make miserable pets and would starve without bamboo. 

Also, if you could feed a red panda that much bamboo (which is obviously impossible), you’d have to understand that bamboo is rich in fiber so, good luck cleaning all that poop around and inside your house.

They aren’t a big fan of humans

They are pandas after all! Do you really think just because they are a different color, the social attributes would be any different? Like giant pandas, red pandas would never reciprocate to the love you give them- think of this as a snooty, snarky, condescending cat who hates it when you pet her and would not let any chance to make your life worse go (but they are still cats and we love them at the end of the day). 

Red pandas are solitary creatures, best left alone with all their freedom and in their much-beloved isolation. They like to be by themselves and let’s just say they aren’t going to have those big beady eyes with a sparkle in them to show you they care for you and love you. In fact, for a red panda, you don’t even exist in the metaphorical sense. It sucks but this is how it works, pal.

Why do we adore Pandas so much?

While this might sound like an absurd question, it really isn’t. Why we find pandas ridiculously cute is much to do with neuroscience and human behaviour analysis. However, if you find pandas ugly, there’s something seriously wrong with you! Anyway getting back to cuteness associated with pandas, it is a behavioral instinct to infantilize pandas majorly because of their physical attributes.

It melts our heart to see pandas waddle and walk or topple in the snow, rolling through the slopes with that large head and a chubby body. Edgar E. Coons, a behavioral neuroscientist is of the suggestion that pandas set off ‘hedonic mechanisms’ in us with their features.

Pandas are a constant reminder of human babies with the big black patches around their eyes making them look really big, round and flat faces, snub little, button noses and really massive heads (humans tend to find creatures with a large head and tiny body more compelling to look at rather than creatures that have a small head and a large body). 

Their toddling gaits, clumsiness, and soft features excite circuitry in our brains that are usually related to interaction with human infants and the urge to protect them (the reason why we want to pat and hug pandas). All these factors are considerable evidence and innate releasers to our parenting instincts to protect the pandas from the world, so it’s quite natural to adore and love them.

 

What can you do to save Pandas?

Fortunately, giant pandas have seen an increase in their population in the last few years; however, they are still open to extinction, if not now then soon. You can help save Pandas from vanishing into thin air with little contributions to wildlife organizations working to promote the population of pandas.

With your help, certain organizations can ensure a future for pandas that is better without the knife of threat dangling on the heads of these lovable creatures. 

Donate whatever amount you can to WWF. WWF with your donation will work towards conservation projects on the ground in China, including a variety of initiatives like nature reserve protection, community development, and research and monitoring work. 

Opt for ecotourism when you venture to a region that is the natural habitat of a panda and create awareness among other people about the worth of the Panda and its importance in the natural ecosystem.

 

Five Interesting Facts about Pandas

  • Panda bears do not hibernate like brown or polar bears. Pandas work throughout their day to collect and eat bamboo. In winters they opt for small rodents, fishes and they do not hibernate.
  • Pandas have six fingers. Pandas have six fingers that are a part of their evolution strategy. The extra finger or the pseudo thumb is used to get a good grip on the bamboo stalk.
  • Pandas don’t just eat bamboo. However, bamboo is crucial to a panda’s diet, and pandas require at least two types of bamboo in their meal, they eat other things too that are eggs, small animals, carrion, pumpkins, kidney beans, wheat, and domestic pig food.
  • Pandas poop a lot. Due to the high fiber content in their diet, pandas poop about 40 times a day.
  • Pandas can make 11 different sounds. This might come to you as a surprise, but pandas can make 11 different types of noises. Another fun fact is that they often climb a tree with their hind feet to leave their scent up higher either to mark their territory or to make them potential mates to female pandas.

 

Five Myths about Pandas

Myth: Pandas are rubbish at sex.

Debunked: Pandas have an intense sex drive for a certain period and are good at copulation and weaning when left in their natural habitat. A panda can mate over 50 times in a few hours in its natural habitat.

Myth: Pandas are harmless and cuddly.

Debunked: While a panda is relatively docile, it isn’t cuddly at all. It can potentially harm you, savaging your flesh beyond recognition if you get all chummy with it.

Myth: Pandas are friendly to humans.

Debunked: Pandas aren’t friendly to humans (at all!). They like to be left alone at their peace and are not a big fan of humans as much as we are of them.

Myth: Pandas are lazy.

Debunked: While they may be slow, tumbling, and frolicking in slow and eating all day, Pandas aren’t lazy. They collect their food and have great endurance. Unlike other bears, they do not hibernate in winters.

Myth: Pandas love each other.

Debunked: We aren’t saying that pandas hate each other, but they don’t exactly love their fellow mates either. These solitary animals only interact the most when weaning and even after copulation the male panda leaves, and the female Panda raises the cubs before they too separate from each other.

 

FAQs

Q. Can I pet a Panda in India, UK, and Canada?

Whether you stay in India, UK, USA, or Canada or any country for that matter, you aren’t allowed to buy, sell or keep pandas captive as laid down by the Republic of China, which means a panda as your pet is impossible (at least for now).

Q. Which celebrities have pet pandas?

Jackie Chan is the only celebrity in the world to have adopted two Panda bears upon consent by the Chengdu Research Centre to spread awareness about pandas in the world. Jackie Chan had to pay about $150,000 to adopt a female and a male panda named Long Long and Cheng Cheng in 2009. Jackie Chan became the Chengdu Panda Ambassador upon the adoption of the baby pandas.

Q. Why does China own nearly all giant pandas?

China owns nearly all giant pandas on Earth mainly because of its Panda rental diplomacy in which way the pandas are still the properties of the Republic of China even though they are in a foreign zoom. The panda cubs born in captivity in the zoos of other countries belong to China too.

Q. How long is a panda pregnant?

The gestation period of the female Panda is 95-160 days.

Q. Which pets look similar to pandas?

  • Panda Cat
  • Panda Dogs
  • Panda Bunny
  • Panda Sheep

Mastiff and other dogs were primped to look like Pandas. This may be funny to some, but it really isn’t. Use Photoshop when doing for fun, leave your pet alone.

 

Sources
  1. Henry Nicholls, The truth about giant panda, BBC.
  2. No panda pets, Red Panda Network.
Read More
  1. Can Komodo Dragons be Pets
  2. Can Koalas Be Pets
  3. Ravens & Crows as Pets
  4. Do Beavers Make Good Pets?

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here