The red panda, Ailurus fulgens also known as the lesser panda, bear cat or fire fox, is a mostly herbivorous mammal. It is slightly larger than a domestic cat 21.65 in (55 cm) long. The red panda has semi-retractile claws and, like the giant panda, has a “false thumb” which is really an extension of the wrist bone. Thick fur on the soles of the feet offers protection from cold and hides scent glands. For many decades the taxonomic classification of both the red panda and giant panda has been under debate as both share characteristics of both bears and raccoons. Most opinions would now suggest that the similarity in their common names is not justified by a close genetic relationship.
The red panda, despite having a digestive system more suited to a carnivorous diet, subsists primarily on bamboo. Like the giant panda, it cannot digest cellulose. It must consume a large volume of bamboo to survive. Its diet also includes fruit, roots, acorns, lichen, grasses, and berries. Red pandas are known to supplement their diet with young birds, eggs, small rodents, and insects on occasion. Captive red pandas readily eat meat. Red pandas are excellent climbers and forage largely in trees. The red panda does little more than eat and sleep due to its low-calorie diet.