Buying a Pet Monkey: What You Should Know

Updated April 20, 2022
marmosets monkey

If you're interested in buying a pet monkey, you're not alone. Small monkeys seem cute and cuddly and are attention-getters, but they are also intelligent and, at times, even human-like. However, you should carefully consider all factors involved before you bring home a new simian friend.

Where You Can Buy a Monkey

Buying a pet monkey isn't as easy as strolling into your local pet store or contacting one of the many breeders for the type of dog or cat breed you want. Before even considering a purchase, you must make sure owning a pet monkey is legal in your local jurisdiction and in your state, and that you have the ability, knowledge, and resources to care for a pet monkey.

Understand that these jungle animals haven't been fully domesticated, and even those that come from experienced breeders can be difficult to deal with. It is advised that you see pictures of the monkeys first and go pick up the monkey from the current owner. Here are a few websites to browse through to find the monkey for you, close to your home.

  • Primate Store - You can find monkey listings to include pictures, prices, contact information, and more. In addition, if you check the sidebar, you can find information about their diet and housing. You will also find a shopping section designed to help you find the food, treats, and toys your monkey will want.
  • Pets4You - This site occasionally has monkey and primate breeders listed with contact information so that you can find one that lives close to you. You'll also see classified ads with pictures featuring the monkeys they have for sale.
  • Poggi's Animal House - This site sells marmosets and capuchin monkeys. They also sell cages and have information on care on the website.

Types of Monkeys to Buy

Some types of monkeys are more popular as pets than others. Monkeys most frequently purchased as pets include:

  • Marmosets are also known as finger monkeys or pocket monkeys. They are the smallest monkeys and are only about 5 ounces when fully grown.
  • Tamarins are another tiny monkey that is about 1 pound when fully grown. While they are striking in appearance, they also can be aggressive.
  • Spider monkeys hail from South America and are very social, requiring you to either be home with them all the time or get them a monkey companion. They are cute, small monkeys that are difficult to keep in a home due to a host of behavioral issues.
  • Capuchins are originally from Central and South America, and are nocturnal. They are highly intelligent, but can be aggressive toward people.
  • Squirrel monkeys are a handful, as they love climbing and swinging as part of their natural behaviors. You will also need to keep diapers on them permanently to keep your house clean.

For statistics on these types of monkeys as well as a few others, visit the Primate Store's Choosing a Primate Guide.

The Best Monkeys to Have As Pets

In general, regardless of species, monkeys do not make good pets. They require a great deal of specialized care and constant attention because of their intelligence. If not given a proper environment to live in and mental and physical enrichment, they can quickly become aggressive and destructive. They also are difficult to house train and will need to wear diapers for their entire lifetime. Monkeys, even the smallest ones, need large cages or habitats in order to thrive, and many need to live with other monkeys or they will suffer from behavior problems due to lack of social interaction.

Be Cautious When Purchasing a Pet Monkey

Monkeys may look cute, cuddly, and like the perfect pet, but beware! Baby monkeys can be exceptionally cute, but never forget that the baby will grow up. Adult monkeys may not be the companion you were hoping for, as they can be strong-willed and intelligent enough to get into trouble. Adult monkeys can also be aggressive and destructive, especially if you are not prepared to meet their needs. That's a far cry from the furry little baby monkey that made you want to scoop it up and take it home.

When juvenile monkeys enter puberty -- yes, monkeys go through puberty, just like humans -- around the time they turn 3 years old, their behavior is likely to change drastically. It is around this time that unprepared owners discover they cannot care for their simian pet, and are forced to relinquish it to a rescue or other organization.

Realistically, only trained professionals who have experience working with simians in controlled environments -- such as zoo keepers and professional animal trainers -- have a chance of successfully maintaining a monkey in captivity. Most members of the general public should not keep monkeys as pets. While it may be legal to own a pet monkey where you live, ask yourself if you're really ready to care for a monkey for its entire lifespan, and that you have the resources and knowledge base to give your pet the quality of life it deserves.

Challenges of Owning a Small Pet Monkey

Purchasing a pet monkey is very expensive, and maintaining any simian in captivity is very expensive. Also, keep in mind that purchasing a pet monkey means taking on a much longer commitment than other pets -- and sometimes even a longer commitment than raising and feeding your own human babies. You could be responsible for the monkey for up to 40 years. There are many potential problems with owning a pet monkey.

Aggressive Behavior

Woman holding monkey on her bent leg

They may not like the other people in your life, and since they tend to be aggressive as adults, you may run into biting and other unpredictable behaviors. Keeping monkeys from their natural environments, with other monkeys, can also lead to aggression. Keep in mind, monkeys are not domesticated, so their wild instincts are still intact. They can become tame, but dangerous situations may still occur due to natural behaviors. Even a monkey that appears to be calm at all times can have bouts of aggressive tendencies.

Care When You're Away

Leaving a pet monkey is not as simple as kenneling a dog when you want to go on vacation for a while. Plus, when you're away at work just for the day, your monkey will need a companion. If left alone, they can develop severe neurological and behavioral problems. These behavioral issues are likely to worsen as your monkey ages and enters puberty.

Difficult to Train

It's not like in the movies. Monkeys are not easy to train. Although they are quite intelligent, you will find it much more difficult to train them compared to the average dog, which is focused on working with you.

Finding a Veterinarian

Many veterinarians won't treat monkeys. You'll need to find a vet who deals with exotic pets. It's also important to note that many medical issues can be transferred from human to monkey, and vice versa. Locating a veterinarian prior to attempting to bring a monkey home is critical.

Destructive Behavior

Monkeys are messy and destructive no matter how well you train them, especially as adults. This is especially true in cases where you don't keep their cage immensely clean. Monkeys do not like a mess, and will throw out anything they feel should not be within their space.

Size of Enclosure

Monkey in cage

Monkeys need large cages of around 20 to 30 square feet or more. This is true even for tiny marmosets. They need a lot of branches and areas they can climb and swing on in order to engage in natural behaviors. They'll also need a lot of vegetation to approximate their natural habitat. Finding the room for a cage and keeping the items inside clean and in good condition is a huge time commitment. It is also very costly.

Zoonotic Diseases

Monkeys can also pose a risk of transmitting zoonotic diseases to you, such as herpes B, which is found in macaque monkeys. Monkeys can also transmit measles to humans, among other diseases.

Is It Legal to Own a Pet Monkey?

It may be illegal to own a pet monkey in your state or local municipality. Even if your state allows you to own one, your local county or city may have laws requiring permits, or may ban ownership within the city or county limits. You must confirm the legality of owning a pet monkey in your state, county, and city.

Several states do not restrict ownership of primates, though laws are constantly changing, and increasingly, pet ownership of monkeys and primate species is discouraged in the law. Other states and municipalities require permits and special consideration to own a pet monkey. Do not assume it is legal for you to own a pet monkey, and do not consider purchasing or transporting a monkey you plan to keep as a pet until you are 100 percent certain of your potential pet's legal status.

How Much Does It Cost to Own a Monkey?

Monkeys are expensive to buy (usually between $7,000 and $8,000), and they are expensive to keep. The Primates Sanctuary estimates the cost of owning a monkey over the course of its lifetime to be about $50,000 to $60,000 because they need a varied diet and lots of enclosed space to play, both indoors and out.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Pet Monkey

Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary in Florida takes in monkeys that are relinquished as pets from owners who either could not handle their care or had them illegally. The Humane Society has a list of incidents on their website of aggressive behavior of monkeys toward people, including their owners.

Monkeys start out cute as babies. This doesn't last, and many owners find their pet becomes totally unmanageable as it grows up. Rescue organizations are filled with primates that former owners surrendered because they could no longer care for their pet. Do the ethical thing, and make absolutely sure you are ready to dedicate yourself to keeping a pet monkey, if you decide to purchase one.

The Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary strongly urges people thinking of buying a monkey to understand the dangers of owning a monkey, as well as the negative effects of attempted domestication on these wild animals. Think very carefully before you decide to buy a monkey:

  • The cost of buying and keeping monkeys
  • The potential for aggressive and destructive behavior
  • Inability to house train them and the cage requirements

Being a Responsible Monkey Owner

When you're buying a pet monkey, proceed with caution. Make sure it's legal to have one in your state, then prepare your house as if you're having a toddler come and live with you. From there, when you're looking for sellers, make sure you have pictures of the monkeys upfront, then inspect the monkey before you pay for it. A monkey as a pet is an intense responsibility and a large investment financially and emotionally, so you should make sure you are ready to give a monkey everything it needs to thrive, and to care for that monkey for its entire life.

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Buying a Pet Monkey: What You Should Know