Can Giant Pandas Eat Meat or Small Animals? (Explained)

We know of pandas today because they are cute animals that eat bamboo shoots all day long. But that’s not the entire truth. Though we can see and symbolize bamboos as the primary diet source of pandas, in actuality, they have a digestive system similar to that of a wolf or wild boar. 

But did you know if they eat anything else besides bamboo? And can giant pandas really eat meat?

Do Pandas Eat Meat?

Yes, they do! Hopefully, you have now gotten used to the fact that our cuddly and on the verge of extinction bears are not always bamboo and leaf-eating.

BBC reported something very out of the ordinary earlier this decade in 2011. They had reported seeing a wild panda gnaw on the remains of a dead animal.

This animal was gnu, which is a type of wild cow. The scientists from the Wanglong Nature Preserve observed this behavior and recorded these wild pandas found in China’s Sichuan Province. 

More or less, 1 percent of the panda population eats meat. The digestive system of pandas is such that they can easily digest meat.

They resemble the digestive system of those known to eat meat, such as wolves and other carnivores. Yet Pandas possess such a unique digestive track that effectively digest grass and other leafy green substances.

Looking at Pandas and their biology theoretically, pandas should only be able to eat meat. Because even after thousands and millions of years of evolution from carnivores to herbivores, their inner system fundamentally digests meat and proteins. 

In some recent studies, researchers found that pandas were all meat-eating about 2.4 million years ago. Then they had shifted to consuming 24-86 pounds of bamboo a day.

I know, right! That’s a lot! But because these GIANT bears only rely on bamboos to live, it’s completely understandable. 

What Kind of Meat Do Pandas Eat?

 Pandas ate what any other carnivore ate – that is cows, goats, and other animals. Even now, 1 percent of the pandas’ diet allows them to eat small animals in emergency and need times.

Scientists have found that until 5000 years ago, pandas have a very varied diet. They ate meat yet also had a diverse vegetative diet.

Pandas, in short, can eat any meat they want, but that’s it. They do not want to eat meat. 

Why Did Pandas Stop Eating Meat?

In 2010, a party of scientists from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department from the University of Michigan made some discoveries.

This discovery let us know about the reason behind this shift from meat to bamboo shoots. 

While trying to stay away from technical terms, the scientists said that mutation occurred in the pandas’ T1R1 gene into a pseudogene.

This mutation leads to a difference in flavor pickup of pandas. Those bears cannot taste the distinct umami taste of meat and therefore did not prefer to eat them anymore and lost all interest in it. 

Why Are Pandas Considered Carnivores?

In simple terms, the giant panda’s digestive system more closely resembles a carnivore. They could eat small animals as part of their calorie intake – it’s just that they prefer not to.

And though pandas are very similar to carnivorous animals like lions, they have a unique bacterium in their stomach called Clostridium. 

This bacterium has digestive enzymes that break the sugars into simpler sugars.

What usually happens is that when a carnivorous animal eats plants, it cannot digest them properly. That’s why you’ll never see a lion eating leaves or grass.

On the other hand, Plants have cellulose, which gets broken down into energy by the body. This way, plants are digested by Pandas.

When Do pandas Eat Meat?

Rarely, today. But there can be times when you can see pandas getting their hands dirty and munching on some animals.

You will see wild pandas more prone to doing this, but you won’t see those cuddle bears holding their stomachs in pain later, either.  

Being herbivores with a carnivorous digestive system, Pandas still require proteins. Bamboo shoots are a form of protein for Pandas.

But since bamboo shoots provide very little nutrition, pandas eat about 12-38 kg every day. They must do this to get a fulfilling, nutritious meal.

How Many Types of Pandas Are There, and How Many Eat Meat?

As far as humans are aware, we have three types of Pandas. 

  1. The Red Panda 
  2. The Giant Panda
  3. The Regular White and Black Panda 

Do Red Pandas Eat Meat?

Yes, but the latest ones are vegetarians with different diet patterns.

The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a species closely related to raccoons. These bears spend a lot of their time on trees and can be found by people mainly in China, Nepal, and Bhutan.

Red Pandas live in the eastern Himalayas. Though red Pandas mainly eat small insects and vegetation, they also have the same ancestors as other animals eating Pandas.

The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is unfortunately on the verge of extinction and is rarely seen by people anywhere.

They are present in the temperate forests of the high mountains of southwest China. These Giant Pandas are similar to the red pandas and can also eat meat along with bamboos and leaves. These Pandas are the most famous and rare ones. 

The often found red and white pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis) are the most commonly found species of Pandas. They are mainly found in the secluded mountainous regions of central China and the provinces Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu Provinces.

These Pandas, like the other two, are also meat-eating species yet vegetarians. 

Therefore, we can see that all these subspecies had the same ancestors. These ancestors, before the mutation, ate meat and lived on it. After millions of years, now though they can eat meat, they are vegetarians with a varied diet.  

Do baby Pandas eat meat?

No, they don’t. The baby pandas mostly rely on their mother’s milk for food and protection for as long as a period of six months.

Their mothers feed them and take care of them like a normal baby. However, they start eating bamboo, leaves, stems, and shoots to fulfill their fiber requirements.

They do not begin to feed on the meat as long as they are approximately one year old.

How Often Are Pandas Eating Meat?

Not very often. Pandas are somewhat like humans in this regard. Like how vegetarians chose not to eat meat, they intake those proteins from other sources such as tuna, beans, and some particular greens.

Pandas are consummate vegetarians and belong to the Carnivora group of mammals.

They are Carnivora because, like other dogs, cats, weasels, hyenas, mongooses, and other similar animals, Pandas also can eat meat. But since their diet mostly consists of bamboo shoots, roots, and leaves, they are called vegetarians. Or so it seems outwardly to us.

Do Pandas Eat Small Animals?

Yes, they do! We are aware our cute and adorable Pandas can and do eat meat.

We did not know that these Carnivora also eat fish along with small animals such as lizards and insects, etc. Fish also have much nutritional value in them, such as proteins and antioxidants. 

Do Pandas Eat or Attack Humans?

No, they don’t. Pandas, any species of them, are not violent by nature. They are calm and friendly creatures that keep to themselves mostly.

They prefer most of their time in solitude and in mountainous areas where there are many trees. Pandas often spend all their days eating, lazing around, and sleeping. They are not very active and aggressive. 

But despite their preference for solitude and lazing, they are the subject of adoration and study of many people and scientists, respectively.

Because of this, Pandas are always in the eyes of humans. The Panda bears are significantly less in number.

There are only somewhat 2000 or more pandas left in the world. We know that we mainly find them in China, but China has an ever-growing population and industrial sector due to which land is continuously being developed by the Chinese government.

This process is causing significant damage to the habitat of Pandas. They are forced to evacuate and are lessening in number over the years. 

Pandas usually are not aggressive or a danger to humans. That is until you provoke them. You can make a Panda attack you if you irritate them enough.

If they are not provoked or made angry, Pandas won’t do anything out of the ordinary.

So, it would be best if you didn’t irritate a Panda when you see one. Chances are, it’ll attack you. 


Natures, all animals are exceptional and unique in their ways. But Pandas are very special due to their extreme cuteness, adorable behavior, and general appearance.

Pandas are endangered and can go extinct very soon if they keep reducing at the current rate. Pandas’ eating habits are distinguishable from most animals as they have a carnivorous digestive system but digest all cellulose and depend heavily on bamboo.

They had ancestors who ate meat, and evolution made them into vegetarians.

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Can Giant Pandas Eat Meat or Small Animals?