Can You Own A Pet Panda?

Can you own a pet panda bear? The answer is simple: No you can’t! It’s not only that pandas are a species with high demands regarding care. Of course, they are very cute and I can understand everyone who wants to have a tiny panda baby. But the barriers are so high that it’s just not possible for anyone.

Giant panda eating bamboo

Before we jump right into the actual topic, we have to define which species we actually talk about. Most people think about these cute black and white fur balls when they hear the word panda. Actually, the animal they mean is a giant panda.

But there are two different panda species that both live in China. The giant panda, who is a member of the bear family and the red panda. The latter was thought to be related to raccoons. But currently, there is no other animal that belongs to their family.

This article is all about the giant panda.

Is It Legal To Keep A Pet Panda?

No, keeping a panda as a pet is illegal in all countries. This is because every panda on earth is owned by China. Even pandas that live in zoos in Europe or the US. [1]

So how did they get there? The answer is simple, they are rented. Yes, zoos and everyone who wants to have a pet panda have to rent them from the Chinese government.

It’s highly illegal to catch a wild panda bear, nor are you allowed to send one out of China without a permit. You can compare this to the situation with quokkas in Australia. But the fines in China are much higher and you can even end up in jail for just trying to get a pet panda bear.

Additionally, other countries like Canada and the USA, have laws to protect threatened animals. So even without the strict laws in China, there would be many hurdles.

Watch the video below to see funny and cute baby pandas.

Pandas Aren’t Domesticated

Pandas are wild animals and aren’t domesticated. What seems obvious is really a huge disadvantage when you want to keep the species as a house pet.

A panda bear will always behave like he is in his natural habitat. His instincts can take overhand at any time, no matter how tame he might be. 

Another important thing is that you would have to deal with urine. Wild animals use it to mark their territory and it can be very smelly for sure. Spraying is the reason many big cats like pet ocelots or pet servals get abandoned.

You might understand, that living in your house with a panda is not possible. Outdoor enclosures aren’t easy to set up either, but more on that later on.

Pandas Can Be Dangerous

This goes hand in hand with domestication. Their behavior is not like the one from Po, the panda from the movie Kung Fu Panda. Wild instincts that kick in, can turn playing into dangerous situations quickly. Giant pandas aren’t just friendly all the time and weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.

If this jumbo uses its weight against you, good luck! But it’s only about the weight, pandas have sharp claws which they use to cut bamboo into smaller pieces.

If the animal gets angry these claws can turn into fatal weapons. Even though a panda isn’t a monster that kills humans just for fun, you’d better be careful.

Pandas Only Eat Bamboo

Pandas only eat bamboo and they need a lot of it to become full. An adult panda eats between 26 and 84 pounds of fresh plant parts a day depending on its size and activity level. [2]

You would need a whole bamboo forest to come up with enough food. Buying that much bamboo is expensive and zoos spend between $50,000 and $100,000 a year for feeding just one individual. The zoo of Toronto even exceeds this amount. [3]

Panda Bears Like To Live Alone

Young panda sleeping on tree

Pandas aren’t social animals. They don’t like to be together with their own kind and spend most of their life roaming through bamboo forests alone.

Panda mothers who care for their babies during the first 18 months of their life are the only exception.

Think about it from a different angle. Why should an animal that doesn’t want to hang out with some animal friends like the company of humans?

You would have a pet that doesn’t want to be petted or play. And that is what most people want and why dogs and cats are so successful. 

Pet Pandas Need A Large Habitat

Pandas playing in natural habitat

Pandas need much space to roam around. In their natural habitat, the territory of an adult panda bear can make up to over 40 square miles. I bet you don’t have that much space in your backyard.

You can’t just keep them in an enclosure or in your house all the time. Pandas need to be outside and of course, your climate zone would have to match the ones from pandas.

Panda Bears Are Endangered

Only under 2000 pandas are left in the world and roam through Chinese bamboo forests. [4] This number shows how endangered this species really is.

It would be highly unethical to keep one as a pet that should be living in the wild. Every individual is important for the survival of the species.

How Much Is A Pet Panda?

There is no pet panda for sale for a good reason. So if you want to walk into your local pet shop or to a breeder to buy a cute panda puppy that isn’t possible. Perhaps you can find someone at the black market who is willing to smuggle a panda bear.

But looking at the high penalties it’s unlikely that you will find a trader. However, most people couldn’t keep up with the immense costs that would come up with a pet panda.

Renting one from the Chinese government costs $1,000,000 annually. If that wasn’t enough you would need to spend $75,000 a year on bamboo so that your pet has something to eat. Additional costs occur for veterinary care and enclosure.

As a private person, it’s impossible to spend so much money on a pet unless you are very rich. And now you know, why so few zoos outside of China keep pandas.

What To Do Instead

So, keeping a panda as a pet is not possible. You might wonder, what you can do instead. 

Where Can You Meet A Panda?

You can visit a zoo in China and meet a panda. It’s possible to hold and pet one. You can even play with a cute tiny baby panda. For many people, this a once in a lifetime event and they take on a long journey for it.

If you want to learn more about it you can visit this website.

Adopt A Panda Bear In A Sanctuary

For a small amount of money, you can adopt a panda in a sanctuary. Your donation is used to buy food and care for a panda that needs help.

For many people, this is a good alternative as they do something good without spending too much.

You can visit the website of the WWF to inform yourself about the possibilities they offer.

Get A Dog That Looks Like A Panda

No joke, it’s a real trend. Mostly in Asian countries, people dye their dogs to look like real panda bears.

Surprisingly this works very well and especially the chow chow dog breed is the spitting image. There is even a panda cafe in Sichuan where it looks as if the guests spend their time with pet pandas.

In the video below you can see a family with dogs that look exactly like pandas.

However, animal rights activists aren’t amused by this and I would say it’s not a practice you should demand from your dog.