Primate Care Manual
The Ultimate Resource for
Quality Care and Understanding of Primates
in Private Captive Situations
You Think You Want a Monkey?"
Animated, intelligent, eerily "human",
monkeys are among the most fascinating animals on our planet.
That's why monkeys would seem to make delightful pets. But unlike
dogs or cats, primates (all monkeys and apes) have not evolved
over thousands of years to live compatibly with humans. Monkeys
are not domestic pets. They are wild animals; ill equipped to
adapt to the alien world of their human cousins. Keeping primates
happy and healthy in captivity is difficult, expensive and time-consuming.
As you think about bringing a monkey into your home,
please consider the following:
Q. Are you prepared to
live with a wild animal?
Never forget that a monkey is a wild animal. Like
raccoons, their infant friendliness fades as they reach adulthood,
when they can become aggressive and may attack with the slightest
provocation. Most monkeys you see on television or out in public
are very young; adults are rarely seen outside of a cage. Even
hand rearing an infant primate does not stop this natural change
in behavior. In fact, depriving a baby monkey of a normal relationship
with its mother and family group can result in a lifetime of neurotic
Q. Can you deal with the
All monkey homes share something in common: broken
lamps and house-wares, shredded curtains, unearthed houseplants
- not to mention the unmistakable odor. You must watch your monkey
every second it's free. Even the smallest squirrel monkey can
open a cupboard and spill containers of flour, sugar, and liquid
in minutes. Larger monkeys can open refrigerators, turn on faucets,
rip through window screens, unlock outside doors, and turn over
chairs, tables, stereos and televisions. Toxic substances and
medicines must be kept locked.
If you can't stand cleaning up urine, feces, and
occasional diarrhea, don't get a monkey. Remember that means cleaning
and disinfecting every day (at least), 365 days a year! Monkeys
are very excitable animals. They will immediately relieve themselves
whenever and wherever they are upset. And monkeys cannot be easily
housebroken. Though you may be somewhat successful diapering or
toilet- training a young monkey, once the monkey reaches maturity,
training is usually forgotten or ignored.
Q. Is it legal in your
area to keep a monkey?
Contact the appropriate regulatory agencies in your
area (e.g. fish and game, animal control, health department) to
learn of restrictions concerning individuals keeping non-human
primates. Some cities and states prohibit the keeping of some
or all primates, while others require special permits. Don't wait
until you have a monkey to learn it's against the law in your
city or state.
Q. What will happen when
your monkey grows up?
Young monkeys, like all baby animals, are sweet
natured and devoted. But be prepared for a complete change of
personality when your monkey reaches sexual maturity. All monkeys
become temperamental as they grow older. Keepers must be extremely
sensitive to their moods, for primates will attack even their
primary caretakers -- often with no warning. Like humans, each
monkey has a distinct personality: some don't trust strangers
or children, while others will suddenly change their devotion
from one family member to another.
Dressing infant monkeys up like dolls can seem irresistible.
But as they grow older, most primates refuse to allow themselves
to be dressed. Those purchased as surrogate children are quickly
dumped when they don't live up to expectations.
And if you'd like to train a monkey to do tricks,
forget it ... unless you are a professional animal trainer. Even
then, trainers replace their primates once they reach sexual maturity
and become dangerous (most are mature by the age of four).
Finally, don't forget that monkeys are uninhibited
creatures who engage in natural activities that may embarrass
you, including genitalia displays, masturbation, copulation and
Q. Can you cope with aggression
-- and sharp teeth?
No matter what you may be told, ALL MONKEYS BITE.
Biting is a primate's expression of anger and nothing you do will
change that. Punishment is usually taken as a threat and can have
serious consequences. And contrary to popular belief, spaying
or neutering your monkey will have little or no effect on curbing
aggression. And teeth removal is not only harmful and cruel, it
doesn't remove the danger: a toothless monkey can still cause
For the protection of both the monkey and people,
you must keep your primate from contact with any and all strangers
-- that includes friends of your children, neighbors and relatives.
In many states, health departments will destroy a monkey that
has bitten to test it for rabies. You should also invest in liability
insurance -- people who are bitten can sue. And make sure you
have some type of comprehensive health insurance for you and your
family. A bite on the hand from an adult monkey can put you out
of commission for weeks.
Q. Can you guarantee a
good home for the next 20 to 40 years?
Those are the average life spans of well-tended
captive primates. Monkeys don't adapt well to new situations --
especially the addition of a new spouse or children. If you are
a young person, ask yourself what will happen to your monkey when
you grow up. Who will take care of the monkey if you go away to
college, get a job in another area, or join the military? It's
never easy finding a new home for an adult monkey, for they have
no resale value once they outgrow their infant charm. Remember,
your responsibility to the monkey will not disappear as you mature
or change your life-style.
Q. Do you have enough space?
The right space?
If you don't have room for a LARGE cage, don't get
a monkey. The minimum cage size for the smallest monkey is 4'X
6'X 6'. Monkeys require ample room (indoors and outdoors) for
vigorous exercise, together with a small, enclosed area for sleeping.
Many simian keepers have given over entire rooms to their monkeys!
Primates become depressed, even insane, if they don't get enough
mental and physical stimulation. Tire swings, climbing ropes and
toys must be replaced constantly as the monkey grows bored.
A monkey's environment must also be warm, dry and
free from drafts. Monkeys like to sunbathe for short periods and
need the vitamin D from the sun, so they must be provided with
both indoor and outdoor caging with shade. If this is impossible,
vitamin D must be provided orally or through the use of special
Q. Can you afford the cost
of feeding and caring for a monkey?
If you can't afford $25.00 (and more) per week per
monkey, don't get one. Monkeys cannot live on peanuts and bananas
alone. Some species have peculiar dietary needs, but all primates
require a well-balanced diet. This can include a foundation of
commercial primate biscuits supplemented by lots of fresh vegetables,
fruits, vitamins and live insects.
Q. Who will care for your
monkey when you're away?
If you like to take vacations, don't get a monkey.
Monkeys like routine and familiar surroundings; they are not good
traveling companions. Finding someone to monkey-sit (that means
feeding, cleaning and providing hours of companionship) can be
If a monkey is left alone each day, even for just
a few hours, it can suffer psychologically and may develop aberrant
behavior. To keep it company, you must consider adding another
of its species or perhaps keeping a small troupe of monkeys to
nurture and communicate with one another.
Q. Is there a vet in your
area willing to care for a primate?
Many vets know very little about primates. Some
won't accept primates as patients. You may have to drive hundreds
of miles to obtain the most routine medical care. Before you bring
a monkey home, be sure to have a qualified vet give it a complete
physical. Monkeys can be permanent carriers of serious illness
such as tuberculosis, herpes and Ebola.
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