Frequently Asked Questions by people who want a primate as pet

Why did you choose an exotic monkey for a pet?

Since I was a little girl, they always fascinated me. I LOVE the challenge of raising them. They require me to think and keep my mind active. I am constantly researching better handling, behavior, and nutrional techniques. Some people are dog people, some cat people. I am a crazy monkey person. Exotics really. The bond shared and trust gained with these animals is one one the greatest feelings. One can not understand how rewarding the relationship is with a primate until they have experienced it for themselves, under the right circumstances of course. Many people think I am crazy for devoting so much time to monkeys, and actually doing all the work required. But those who are close to me know that these magnificent animals are my passion and the light of my life. I know that for the rest of my life I will have a primate companion.

How long to squirrel monkeys live?
They live 15-20 years, although some have lived to 25. Most people I have spoken with say their squirrel monkey past away at age 19.

Do you dye them that color? (Yes people ask this!)
Absolutely not. I have not altered their appearance whatsoever. The orangy greenish color you see on squirrel monkeys is their natural color. I don’t paint their nails either!

Where did you buy monkeys for sale?
I got Joey from a breeder in south Miami, FL on September 2006.
I got sofie from her previous owner who didn’t have as much time to dedicate to her anymore because of a change in work schedules. She thought it was best for Sofie to go to a home where there was another monkey she could have 24 hour companionship from, and be well cared for.
I got Kenya from herprevious owner who was moving to the Dominican Republic. The Dominican republic approved Kenya’s entry into the country, but a few weeks before leaving she was told by US customs she would need a permit to get her out of the country, and it could only be to take her to a sanctuary or zoo not a private home, even though she was always her pet. The owner had no choice but to leave her with me. She had met me several times in the past, and asked that I keep her as she knew she would be well cared for for life. Kenya was almost 2 years old when I got her. She was born June 20, 2007.

How much do squirrel monkeys cost?
Squirrel monkeys in the US usually run between $6,000 and $7,500 for babies. Adults cost anywhere from $1,000-$4,000 depending on their age, ability to reproduce, and behavior.

What veterinarian do you use, and how often do you have to go?
Since Joey and Sofie are exotic animals, they require an exotic animal vet. There are a few here in Miami that see exotics. I go to one in south Miami. The vet is a great veterinarian, concerned with their care, friendly and most importantly knowledgeable on the care of primates and other exotics.
Joey and Sofie visit the vet once a year, or year and a half depending on their vaccination schedule. Each visit cost $350 per monkey. If only doing a physical/fecal sample it would be less.

Where do squirrel monkeys come from?
Squirrel monkeys occur naturally in South American countries such as Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, and Peru. Joey and Sofie were born in the USA in a breeding facility. (There are laws prohibiting their capture in the wild, and the US does not allow the import of primates for the pet sector.)

What do they eat?
Technically, they will eat enything they see. I feed them a combination of Monkey Chow (similar to dog food), fruits and veggies. Mainly grapes, oranges, apples, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, pears, mixed nuts, grilled chicken or shrimp, and cooked eggs. I only give them water, because juices have a lot of sugar.

I also purchase treats specially for monkeys that supply them with Vitamin D3 and other necessary nutrients. Occasionally, I will give them peanut butter and jelly, or whole wheat cereal as treats. I very seldomly give them people food. Sofie does love bread, so I will give her small pieces on occasion.

I buy the 20lb bags of monkey chow for $25.00 at a mom and pop pet shop that special order them for me. The bag generally lasts me about 6 months.

Can a monkey be potty trained?
Yes, but I hear it is never 100% (more like 80%) and it takes the skill of a professional trainer to do it. It is very time consuming, and requires a lot of patience. To give an idea, you have to follow the monkey around. When it gets closer to the litter, you give a treat, when it gets a little closer, treat. When it puts its foot inside, treat. When it is sitting inside, treat. Finally, when it uses the litter, Big Treat. And then treat every time he goes in there until you see him using it without a treat. The process can take weeks or months. Also the monkey can’t be starving or else it will only think of getting food and not pay attention. If it is full, it won’t want another treat. Treats have to be small (half a raisin for smaller species), because if you give larger size treats they get full too fast. Training sessions should be 30 minutes to an hour or so. Longer than that and they get bored/loose interest. Can you begin to see the difficulty?

An easier alternative one owner used was learning the schedule his monkey used the bathroom. He said his was very regular, so during those times of the day he would put him back in his cage, and wait until he went to take him out. I assume though for this to work the monkey would have to have a very regular feeding schedule as well. Just a thought.

Where do you buy their diapers?
Walmart, Target, Walgreens…pretty much anywhere that sells preemie baby diapers. I usually buy Huggies or Pampers brand in newborn or preemie size.

Which sex is better, male or female?
I don’t think that there is a “better” sex. Each species and individual monkey has its own personality like people do. I think it depends more on owners and the care, and time they dedicated to the monkey, especially in the beginning years. Also the amount of socialization the monkey has had. I have seen some VERY sweet males, and some females that are a little more difficult. Owners need to learn each monkey’s likes/dislikes/rules, and compromise. Personlities vary even among the same species. Joey’s personality is totally different from Sofie’s. Joey is more playful and Sofie is calmer. They both have their moments and I know a their vocalizations and body language, so I can turn a “bad” situation into a good one without incident. Joey does get in heat, but I can tell he is moody and I just don’t handle him until it has passed. Other than those times I can do anything to him and he doesn’t mind. Sofie hasn’t had any mood swings, but she does not like me to grab her unless she is playful. I just keep the tether on her and we are all happy.

Have they attacked you, or are the aggressive?
Monkeys have their moments like people do where they just don’t want to be bothered. Joey loves to play all the time for the most part. I know their rules and what they like an dislike. I can tell when they are playful and when they want to be left alone.

Joey doesn’t like food or other objects taken from him, so if he has something he can’t have I distract him with something else he can have, take the forbidden item, and problem solved. Joey always warns me by a distinctive chirp when I am doing something that bothers him so I know to stop. The only time he gets moody is when he is in heat. He grabs my arm, starts chirping and shaking (Not like convulsions or anything) because he wants to “hump.” He does not bite, but I can feel him frustrated so I just put him back in his cage, and he calms down. Those are really the only times he gets “upset.” They say the mood swings will pass after he reaches maturity. He is in “puberty” right now. Supposedly the time when they begin to “test” you. But I have not really had a problem in that sense. I established myself as Alpha from day one.

Sofie is a sweetheart, but she is not as playful. She is content just sitting on my shoulder, purring and licking my neck. She won’t let me grab her unless she wants to play. If I try to grab her while she is on my shoulder she will either push my hand away, or jump on top of it so I can’t grab her. She is a smart little thing. After the initial “break in” period I gained her trust, and she has not had any aggression towards me. She loves my attention. The only thing Sofie does not like is being diapered, so I just wait until she wants to play and I can grab her. This way she does not mind the diapering.

Neither of them have ever attacked me out of nowhere for no reason. I believe it has to do with training them while young and letting them know that YOU are the dominant one. They will learn what is acceptable and what is not. You have to be consistant, and never show fear. Also, more importantly you have to provide them with companionship and love. NEVER hit a monkey.

Now, if someone buys a monkey, leaves it alone for the greater part of the day, hits it, or doesn’t heed their warnings they are going to run into problems. Just as any other animal, such as dogs, that require affection, so do monkeys. If the monkey is not handled by people often it won’t allow itself to be handled ever, because they feel threatened. Monkeys in general have a flight response. If they bite it is for a reason, although the reason may not be totally apparent to you.

How much time is “A LOT” of time?
One of the most common questions I get is “How long can I leave them in the cage for?” The truth is it depends on each individual monkey and its character. They are all social animals and require companionship as people do. The most important time for them I would say is in the first two years of its life. During this time is when you are laying the foundation for the monkey for the rest of its life. Remember, if left with their monkey parents they will cling to them for the first 6-18 months of life depending on the species of monkey. This is VERY important as it is when you form the strongest bond with it. I took Joey to work with me EVERY DAY until he was 5-6 months old. After that, I left him home with my housekeeper who he loves. He was not alone more than 4 hours, and even that was rare. I believe in the entire year that I had him before getting Sofie I left him alone for a full work day maybe 3 times. And it was when he was older than 8 months. When he was one year old I got Sofie. After getting her they do stay in their cage from 9:30am-7pm. But they are not alone, they have each other. My housekeeper also takes them treats and food throughout the day.

All the primate owners I know who have a hands on relationship with their adult monkey did the same thing as me. They kept them with all day everyday during their infancy until weaned. Other owners either took them to work, worked from home, or didn’t work. As they got older they either left them in the company of other monkeys mates, or continued to be with them 24/7.

Basically, the first 2-3 years you need to live and breath your monkey. After that, they require less time, IF they have another companion. A monkey will never like to be left alone every day for all 8 hours. I hope that gives a better idea time wise.

Will monkeys get along with other pets?
If properly socialized with other animals from a young age, YES, monkeys will get along with other pets. Sofies previous owner had four small dogs, and Sofie would play with them. Even ride them! Joey used to instigate my cat to play with him. He would hold on to her tail as if it was a long teddy bear. My mother-in-law’s capuchin, Dasha, grooms and plays with their dogs as well. What also must be considered is will the OTHER animals get along with the monkey. They may be scared or to playful etc.

Do they masturbate
YES, they do. If this is a problem, DON’T get a monkey. He just grabs it with his hands as if he is scratching it. Not as you would see in a human man, but he does grab at it occassionally. When ever he sees someone new come in he becomes excited, gets erect, and pees. This is natural behavior for squirrel monkeys. It is how they establish themselves as dominant or greet each other in the wild. It is their instict and is something you will have to live with always. I believe the females masturbate too. I haven’t seen mine do it. The masturbating thing does not bother me at all. Its their natural behavior. I think its kind of funny actually.

Does neutering curb aggression?
I get mixed feedback on neutering monkeys. Some say it helps with aggressive behavior in males because they no longer get the strong urges to mate, as in dogs. Others say it does nothing. The only reason I would neuter Joey is if his behavior became a problem. As of yet, it isn’t so they are both intact. In regards to the neutering stopping him from masturbating, I don’t think it would. But like I said mine are intact and I have not been around a fixed monkey.

Do they break everything in the house?
Not really, because they are small. They don’t really break any lamps or other large items. The common things they break are glass cups because they try to drink from them, or plates because they accidentally push them.

Do they run away if they don’t have a leash?
As long as I am moving they will stay on my shoulder if they are in a strange place. If I stay standing for too long in one place they begin to venture off, but not to far from me. When I take them outside to play in the porch they stay there. I think they are scared to go out of the porch. When I take them for walks, if I remove Joey’s leash he will run straight under the roof of the first house he sees and stay there. If I am inside somewhere they are familiar with especially my house then they go everywhere.

Do you just leave them loose in your house?
The only room in my house they are allowed to be loose in is my bedroom, which is totally monkey proofed. Even then I don’t leave them in there alone to long. I leave them in the large outdoor cage while I am at work, and bring them inside when I return. At night, they sleep in small cages in my room. Some days I do go outside to the covered porch in my house, and I let them roam freely out there. If it is cold outside I leave them in a Large McCaw cage in my living room.

How much do monkey clothes cost?
I have bought a few shirts and diaper covers for Joey, but honestly I never really use them. They run about $15-20 for the shirt and diaper cover.

Which species of monkey is better?
In my opinion each species has their pros and cons. The individual obtaining a monkey is the one who will know what is right for their situation. Generally, the larger the monkey the stronger and more work it will be. Squirrels are easier to handle than Capuchins and those of similar size, because they are smaller and not as strong. They are more nervous, so tend to be a little less social with strangers than Capuchins. A squirrel monkey bite is not bad, more like a deep scratch, and won’t send you to the hospital for stitches.

Capuchins are more social, and smarter, but if not properly raised could cause some damage. They won’t kill you or anything, but a bad bite may require stitches. Capuchins however are a lot more work than squirrel monkeys, because they can get into mischief very quickly. I wrote my experience below about an afternoon monkey sitting Dasha.

My mother-in-law let me take her 13 yr old capuchin, Dasha, to my house. I brought along my boyfriend’s 16yr old sister, Kelly, because Dasha is comfortable with Kelly controling her and such since the two have been practically raised together. My Boyfriend was also there.

Fisrt, Dasha found the bottle of bleach behind the sink and took the cap off in 2 seconds. I am yelling for Kelly to come take it from her. (She will not let me take anything from her.) After that she is “walking me” around the house and she gets my cell phone. Call Kelly again. Two minutes later she jumps on the refrigerator door and opens the freezer above her and tries to take out what was on the door. I managed to get her out of there. She is on the kitchen counter and sees a water bottle. Again, in 2 seconds she unscrews the top, tips the bottle on the counter so the water comes out, and begins to drink it off the counter. So my boyfriend tells me, “Eileen, put everything away that she can get to!” I start putting all the remotes, phones, my purse and anything else in the house in drawers. OK, now she can’t get anything because there is NOTHING left in this house. Well, there was a mattress in our hallway because we were just moving in and she was on top of it. Literally one minute after I told my boyfriend the house was TOTALLY monkey proofed, she rips the face of the Air conditioning thermostat off of the wall and drops it on the floor!!!! This is what your life will be like if you get a capuchin or other monkey larger than a squirrel. They need to be supervised 24/7 when out of the cage. If I had not been watching her she could have drunk some of the bleach, which would have proved deadly. They can open child proof pill bottles, doors, etc.

The behavior I have discussed above and in other pages of my site is regarding monkeys NOT apes. Apes, which include chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas, require a professional animal trainer to handle them as adults. They should not be kept as pets by persons with no experience. Adult apes are VERY strong, and when they reach maturity can do A LOT of damage, and possibly even kill an untrained handler. A full grown chimpanzee has the strength of SEVEN men. Establishing dominance over an adult chimpanzee is a very difficult task, because if they decide to test your authority you could end up in a hospital. They require extremely strong enclosures to prevent escape. They also require VERY LARGE enclosures because of their size. Chimpanzees can live up to 60 years or more in captivity. Who would care for it after you pass because it will certianly out live you?

I support responsible private ownership of all exotics, including large felines, as long as those private owners have adequate experience, and can provide lasting, enriching, and safe enclosures for the animals in their care. Most omportantly that they are captive bred and not affecting wild populations. So if you always wanted a chimp as a pet, but have limited experience, FORGET IT. visit our pet store to see capuchin monkeys for sale
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