19 Unique Things About Red Pandas (#14 is My Favorite!)

All animals have unique characteristics that make them different from other animals. 

For example, the trunk of an elephant, the neck of a giraffe, the marks of a tiger, the scales of fishes, or the color of a peacock.

Similarly, red pandas too have many things that make them unique. 

In this article, I have listed 19 interesting and unique things about red pandas that every panda lover should know. 

Table of Contents

1. Red Pandas Are The Original Pandas

Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) The Original Pandas

Red pandas were first spotted in the year 1825 by a French zoologist named Fredric Cuvier. He thought pandas were the cutest animals he had ever seen. 

On the other hand, giant pandas were discovered almost 50 years after this. This means that red pandas got their name before giant pandas!

2. Red Pandas Share Similarities with Cats and Bears

Red pandas share similarities with both cats and bears. This is the reason they also have the nickname red-cat-bear.

The relationship seen between a mother and baby red panda is very similar to that seen in cats. Even the sounds made by the red panda are identical to the ones cats make. 

Just like cats, the mother red panda uses her tongue to clean their babies. What’s more, when it comes to size, red pandas are not much different than house cats. 

Also, like bears, red panda babies are called cubs. And similar to bear cubs, red panda cubs use high-pitched sounds when hungry.

3. Red Pandas Collect Piles of Poop

Funny enough, red pandas indeed have a personal collection of old poop kept in piles. As gross as it may sound, the poop piles have a purpose. 

The smell of the poop notifies other red pandas about the owner of the nest. Hilarious right?

Red Panda and Giant Panda - Similar But not Related

If you think red pandas and giant pandas are the same, you are wrong! Despite their name, similar habitats, diet, and false thumbs, they are distant relatives. 

Instead, red pandas are closely related to raccoons, wolverines, otters, and weasels. It is only through evolution both red pandas and giant pandas developed similar traits. 

5. Red Pandas Love to Eat and Sleep

Red Panda Sleeping Carefree

Red pandas love eating and sleeping. Almost 98% of the red pandas’ food is bamboo. They can eat almost 30% of their body weight of bamboo.

That is equivalent to a person of 220 lbs (100 kg) eating 66 lbs (30 kg) of bamboo! What’s even more interesting is that they eat almost twenty thousand leaves per day.

And they spend more than 11 hours feeding on these leaves only. This food choice is well supported by the abundant bamboo growth in the red pandas’ habitat.

Apart from munching on bamboo leaves, red pandas also love sleeping, particularly on trees. On average, red pandas can sleep for almost 17 hours a day.

6. The Bushy Tails of the Red Pandas are Also Their Blanket

Red Panda in Snowy Habitat Wrapping itself With Its Long Tail

Red pandas have long bushy tails. Their tail length is almost three times that of the body. Red pandas use their long tails to wrap themselves up when it gets cold outside.

They’re bushy enough to act as the perfect cover or blanket for red pandas’ small bodies. This way, their tails protect them from the chilly winds of the bamboo forests.

7. Almost Luminescent White Patches

 A Cute Red Panda's Beautiful Facial Pattern

The patches on the face of red pandas are almost luminescent. That’s right! You can see their patches glowing in a dimly lit area.

The presence of white patches of fur between red and black colors also gives them a unique pattern. These patches also allow the baby pandas to locate their mothers in near darkness. 

So, when the mother panda is hunting with its baby in the forest, the moonlight reflects on the faces and shines back. 

8. Red is a Good Camouflage Color for Red Pandas

The color of the red panda coat essentially hides them from predators. Its color is an excellent result of evolution to stay safe. 

This is an important evolutionary advantage since the red color can blend well with different vegetation. 

For example, red-colored moss, orange-red-yellow leaves, and white lichen are widely present in their habitat. 

However, baby pandas are not born with this color and it develops only a few months later. During this time the babies are at risk of being spotted easily.

9. They are Active at Night

Red Panda Walking Around During Sunset

Red pandas are nocturnal animals, who sleep during the day and go out at night. They usually live alone and become most active during sunrise and sunset. 

In the morning, you might spot a red panda, comfortably sleeping on a branch or cuddled up in its tiny nest inside the hollow of a tree.

10. An Extinct Relative

Several fossilized bones have been found of cougar-sized animals. These bones are very similar to the bones of red pandas. 

Scientists say that these fossils can be of a close relative of the red pandas. However, they have become extinct millions of years ago.

11. A Carnivore Lives Mostly on Bamboo

Red Panda Eating Bamboo

Even though red pandas belong to the group of carnivores, 98% of their diet is composed of bamboo. 

Then why is the red panda even classified as a carnivore? It’s because they also descended from common ancestors who were also carnivores.

12. There is an Internet Browser Named After Them

Firefox Browser Logo - Red Panda (Firefox)

Firefox is a well-known internet browser that was made by Mozilla. The name Firefox essentially refers to the red panda. The fire denoting the red color resembles foxes.

Initially, the owner wanted to name the browser Firebird. However, that name was already in use by some other source. Hence, he decided to go with Firefox instead.

Firefox is another name for the red panda. Interestingly, Mozilla also adopted two baby red pandas in 2010 that had been born at Tennessee’s Knoxville Zoo.

13. Red Pandas are the State Animal of Sikkim

In 1990, the state of Sikkim in India named red pandas as the state animals. This is because the forests in Sikkim had several red panda nests. 

This also helped considerably to conserve the species and protect them from extinction.

14. A Red Panda Stars in a Film

Interestingly, red pandas have even found their way into films. One of the most notable appearances made by a red panda was in an animated film called The Kung Fu Panda. 

If you have seen the film, I’m sure you will identify the similarities between wise kung fu master, Shifu, and red pandas.

Similarly, Turning Red is another awesome animated movie featuring a red panda. If you’ve not watched this movie, find out where to stream it here.

15. A Lot of Panda Babies Die Naturally

Panda babies can get sick due to parasites and infections easily. As a result, they can die before even growing older. 

Studies have shown that almost 3 out of 10 red pandas die within three days. Additionally, 5 out of 10 die under the age of 1 year. This is mainly because they suffer from dangerous diseases. 

This greatly harms the number of red pandas in the wild.

16. Cyanide Poison Has no Effect on Red Pandas

Yes, indeed, red pandas are not affected by the deadly cyanide poison. The red panda is one of the very few species of animals that can digest cyanide.

This ability developed due to their habit of feeding on bamboo that contains compounds of cyanide.

17. They’re Good at Escaping

Red pandas are known to be smart enough to be able to escape from their zoo enclosures. 

For example, Rusty, a red panda that escaped the Smithsonian National Zoo in 2013. Rusty avoided the electric fence of the enclosure using a tree branch.

18. There are Two Different Species of Red Pandas

Chinese Vs. Himalayan Red Pandas - Twi Different Red Panda Species

The two species of red panda are the Chinese red panda and the Himalayan red panda. The Himalayan red pandas have more white spots on their faces. 

While the Chinese red pandas are larger and their furs are darker in color.

19. They are Only Found in the Himalayan Mountains and Parts of China

What makes red pandas truly unique is that they are found only in two places in the entire world. These are the Great Himalayan Range and China.

Red pandas live in bamboo forests at high altitudes. However, the destruction of their habitat, global warming, and illegal poaching have reduced their numbers.

If these beautiful animals are not protected, they might become extinct.

Final Thoughts

Red pandas have several unique things about them that make them different from other animals.

Some of these unique things include false fingers, the ability to digest cyanide, nocturnal life, food habits, and intelligence.

Their uniqueness is shared by only a few animals like the giant panda, even though they are not closely related species.

However, this beautiful animal is now endangered as it is losing its habitat due to global warming.

Read 13 Reasons Why You Should Save Red Pandas to know why there is an urgent need to save red pandas!