Red Pandas And Lemurs: 13 Key Differences & Similarities

Lemurs and red pandas share a few striking things in common. And because of these similarities, many might think they are related. But, is this true? 

No, red pandas are not related to lemurs. They both don’t share the same mammalian family.

Red pandas are the sole living members of the Ailuridae family. Lemurs are primates and are linked to monkeys and even humans.

In addition, these animals are native to different parts of the world. They equally sound and behave differently.

To better understand this, let’s see why both animals are so different to be relatives to one another.

Keep reading below… 

Table of Contents

The table below provides a summary of the differences between a red panda and a lemur, which we’ll be discussing in detail afterward. 

Red PandaLemurs
Family Ailuridae Lemuridae
DietHerbivorous Omnivorous
Appearance Reddish-brown fur with beautiful facial patternsGray fur, long limbs, black noses, and eye patches
Native HomeAsiaAfrica 
SoundGrowls, grunts, barks, twitters, huff quacks, etc. Wails, howls, moans, chirps, etc. 
DigitsFive true digits with an extra thumb-like digit (pseudo-thumb)Only five long, grasping digits on each hand and foot
Social Behavior Solitary lifeLives in Groups called Troops


Red pandas and raccoons belong to two different families of animals. This is the main reason why they aren’t related. Red pandas belong to the “Ailuridae” family. 

This family includes only red pandas, as there are no other living members. For this reason, red pandas matter a lot! 

On the other hand, lemurs are members of the mammalian family, “Lemuridae“. 

Some members of this family include:

  • Ring-tailed lemurs
  • Red lemurs
  • Black lemurs
  • Eastern lesser bamboo lemurs
  • Crowned lemurs
  • Brown lemurs, etc.

See the classification of both animals in the table below:

Classification Red PandaLemur
KingdomAnimalia Animalia
Phylum Chordata Chordata
OrderCarnivora Primates
Sub-order: Strepsirrhini
Family Ailuridae Lemuridae 
SpeciesAilurus fulgensLemur catta

Native Home

When it comes to their native home, red pandas & lemurs aren’t neighbors at all! 

Lemurs are native to the island of Madagascar and partly the nearby Comoro Islands in Africa. 

This is where they live naturally. Red pandas, on the other hand, aren’t creatures of Africa. They naturally live in the Himalayas in some parts of Asia.


Red Panda on a Tree

Red pandas and lemurs don’t look alike. A red panda has a beautiful reddish-brown coat. In addition, their tummy and legs appear black or dark brown. 

These creatures are also known to have beautiful markings on their faces. Their entire appearance looks like that of a domestic cat. But they are in no way related to cats.

A Lemur on a Tree

A lemur, particularly a ring-tailed lemur, appears in shades of gray fur. And unlike red pandas, they have long limbs. 

Additionally, their limbs are gray but their heads and necks are darker. They have white faces with black noses and black eye patches. 


On both the fore and hind limbs of a lemur, you’ll find just five true fingers. They have long, grasping hands and feet like many primates.

Lemurs also have grooming nails on each finger instead of claws. Red pandas, on the other hand, have paws with semi-retractable claws, not nails. 

And there’s a total of six digits on each paw. This consists of five true fingers with a false thumb. What’s more, red pandas do not have paw pads. Their paws are covered with fur instead.


Red Panda Eating Bamboo

Red pandas are primarily herbivores and have been living that way for many years now. They are well-known bamboo eaters and can survive without any other food. 

But aside from bamboo, they can occasionally eat fruits, vegetables, and cooked foods. In addition, these creatures are carnivores (meat-eaters) by nature, so they sometimes hunt and eat meat. 

A lemur Eating Fruits

Lemurs have a broad diet since they are omnivores! They are more of the fruit-eating type of mammals, but also eat leaves, other parts of plants, and meat.


Sound/ Verbal Communication

Red pandas do not sound like lemurs. A red panda makes different sounds including growls, twitters, huff quacks, grunts, barks, etc.

Lemurs also make many noises such as wails, howls, moans, chirps, and purrs. A red panda wouldn’t have a clue of what a lemur is saying and vice versa.

Social Behaviors

A Troop of Lemurs

Red pandas are loners. They eat and survive without one another. Mating times are exceptions to this.

It appears that during these times, male and female red pandas stay together but for a very while.

On the other hand, Lemurs are very social animals and tend to live together. 

They live in large groups called Troops. And this group can range from 3 to 25 individuals. In addition to this, a troop consists of many males and females. 

Similarities Between Red Pandas and Lemurs

We’ve seen how red pandas and lemurs are different from each other. Now, here’s why some people think they related in the first place:

  • Red pandas and lemurs have long, ringed tails
  • Both red pandas and lemurs are excellent climbers and spend time on trees
  • They are both mammals and share many mammalian characteristics. 
  • Sadly, red pandas and lemurs are both endangered species due to habitat loss and poaching.
  • They have both evolved unique physical adaptations to help them live in their respective ecosystems. 

Who is the Closest Relative of Red Pandas?

A Raccoon - Close Relative of the Red Panda

Red pandas do not have any true relatives but are closely related to raccoons, skunks, and weasels. A theory is supported by the fact that red pandas share many physical characteristics with these animals. 

This includes their beautiful fur, long tails, and round bodies. Furthermore, scientists believe red pandas, skunks, weasels, and raccoons share a common ancestor many years ago. So these animals are just distant cousins of the red pandas.

Who is the Closest Relative of Lemurs?

Bushbaby - Close Relative of a Lemur

Lemurs are more closely related to primates. Their closest relatives in the primate family tree are bush babies and lorises. 

Lemurs share a common ancestor with these other primates, which lived around 65 million years ago.


To sum up, red pandas and lemurs are not related. They are different animals with different lifestyles:


  • Red pandas belong to the Ailuridae family while lemurs are part of the Lemuridae family
  • Red pandas prefer to live alone while lemurs live in large groups 
  • Lemurs are omnivores while red pandas are herbivores
  • A red panda appears reddish-brown and lemurs have gray fur

Despite all these differences, they’re both mammal and ring-tailed creatures.

Interestingly, raccoons also happen to be ring-tailed animals. But they share more similarities with red pandas than lemurs do.

Currently, they are now considered distant cousins of the red panda. But how true is this? 

Find out all the answers and more in our article — Are Red pandas and Raccoons Related?