Should a Monkey Be Kept as a Pet? (2024)

Primates have unique needs and require a substantial amount of care and attention. It can be very challenging to care for one in a household. There are more than 350 species of primates hailing from habitats in Asia, Africa, and the New World. Of those primates, only seven are usually kept as pets. Review some quick points about owning capuchins, chimpanzees, and more. And, take a look at some significant considerations before you bring one home.


What's Not So Great About a Pet Monkey

Major Considerations Before Getting a Primate

If you are thinking about adopting or buying a pet primate, there are a few things you need to know before you finalize your decision. Overall, primates do not make good pets, and larger ones like chimpanzees are one of the worst household pets.

Many primates are are illegal to own in certain states and jurisdictions. Some require permits to own primates and there are fines and other repercussions for those who don't comply. Be sure to research your area's laws before considering owning a primate.

You also must consider who will care for your pet when you must leave home as not all people are qualified to look after primates. Plus, only specific veterinarians will see them due to the risk of zoonotic diseases primates carry. So check you have a veterinarian around you in cases you need medical attention for your pet prior to getting a primate.

The cost of a primate, whether it is a smaller monkey like a capuchin ($7,000) or a great ape like a chimpanzee ($70,000), is expensive. But, mounting costs like a lifetime supply of food, environmental upkeep, diapers, and veterinarian bills can be astronomical.

All primates are a potential risk to you and your family. Even if you raise the animal from birth, it is still a wild creature that can lose control at any minute and harm you. Smaller monkeys may become aggressive, bite you, or become destructive in your home or their enclosure. Larger monkeys and chimps have a potential for greater damage, personal injury, or even death. While there are some cases where a monkey is well-trained and lives out its entire life without causing harm, the risk is too high in most cases.

Most primates are long-lived creatures, and despite looking huggable, they are not cuddly creatures. They require a substantial amount of your time every day and need large enclosures. In terms of space requirements, even some zoos with large naturalistic enclosures are under fire for not providing ample space. Though some of the animals can live in enclosures that are 30 square feet or more, some never acclimate well to life in an enclosure.

Monkeys or apes need a varied, fresh diet, plenty of sunshine (for vitamin D and bone health), and several hours of daily enrichment and interaction with you. If these needs are not addressed appropriately, the animal will become lonely or depressed and can get aggressive.


The capuchin is a New World monkey that often appears in television or movies as the hat-and-vest-wearing monkey that collects money from street performances. These long-lived monkeys (average life span is 40 years) are highly intelligent, mischievous, and territorial. Smart as they are, most never learn to use the toilet and need diapers for their entire life span.


Although people have kept chimpanzees as pets, it is not recommended; they can be aggressive. Chimps are not monkeys. Technically, they are great apes native to the forests and savanna of Africa. Humans do share the most DNA in common with this species; however, chimps are large, strong, and can overpower humans when it comes to brute strength. Chimps have mauled and even killed humans. This species also lives long—about 60 years in captivity—and requires diapers if it is outside of its enclosure.


Macaques are smaller monkeys that hail from Asia. They can get up to 40 pounds and can live up to 30 years. They also need to wear diapers throughout their lifetime. They need a large, secure cage so they don't get lost in your house or run outside and climb up electric poles. Even though these are smaller primates, they require massive enclosures that are at least 30 square feet.


Tamarins are tiny New World monkeys that weigh less than a pound but will live about 15 years in captivity. Despite their small mouths, they can still give nasty bites. They need a very secure cage with small bar spacing; if not, they will escape or get stuck in the bars. For an indoor cage, you can house one in a 7-feet square enclosure. But, they will need access to a larger outdoor enclosed space for highly needed vitamin D for their growth and development, as all species of monkey do.

What is a Pocket Monkey?

Monkeys like Tamarins and Marmosets are sometimes called pocket monkeys, because they're small enough to fit in your pocket.

Squirrel Monkey

Squirrel monkeys are acrobats. They live up to 25 years, use their tails to hang on branches, and need a lot of space and hanging branches for clinging and moving around. They will also wear diapers for their entire life. They have extensive dietary requirements and require a wide variety of foods.


Similar to tamarins in size and housing requirements, marmosets are squirrel-like monkeys from South America. Their natural diet is insects, fruit, tree sap, and other small animals. They are quick, scampering creatures that are not suited to handling. These are generally not suited as pets for their particular diet and UV light needs.


These 10-pound monkeys hail from the forests of sub-Saharan Africa and can live up to 25 years in captivity. Guenons are also high maintenance. There are almost two dozen species of guenons; the green monkey, vervet, and grivet are the most popular species kept as pets. They thrive in large groups. To keep this animal as a pet, you would need to keep a troop of them.

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Should a Monkey Be Kept as a Pet? (2024)


Should a Monkey Be Kept as a Pet? ›

They will become unpredictable, aggressive, unmanageable, and dangerous, often biting and scratching even their most favored caregiver. No amount of training will tame a wild animal or keep them from asserting their dominance.

Should monkeys be kept as pets? ›

They're potentially dangerous - while they might look cute, they can become aggressive when they mature and have been known to bite and attack their owners. Not suitable house pets - primates need space, companions and mental stimulation - not what you find in someone's living room.

How much care does a monkey need? ›

Fact: These animals require unique care, including a special diet, companionship of other nonhuman primates, and appropriate housing. Their housing alone requires very large enclosures that allow for climbing and swinging—in short, the kind of environment provided by their natural habitat.

How long can you leave a pet monkey alone? ›

Monkeys require attention all day, every day, and unlike cats and dogs, they cannot be left at home for extended periods of time. Once your monkey bonds with you, he will want to follow you wherever you go, and if you try to leave him by himself he will become bored, depressed and aggressive.

Are monkeys helpful? ›

Monkeys play an important role in their native habitats by pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds as they travel. Some monkeys can swim; their webbed toes help them paddle through the water, and they may swim across a stream or river to avoid predators or get to food.

What smell do monkeys hate? ›

Sprinkling vegetables with pepper will deter monkeys from eating them. The chemical Capsaicincontained in chilli is an excellent repellent against monkeys, squirrels, and some other wild animals.

Is it hard taking care of a monkey? ›

All primates, big and small, have complex social, physical and psychological needs that require expert care. Monkeys are social creatures that require constant interaction with their own species as part of a large group. They need space to climb and play, a proper diet, and lots of mental stimulation.

Are monkeys high maintenance? ›

High Maintenance and Specialized Care:

Monkeys are quite demanding in terms of care and attention. They have particular food and environmental requirements, which can be difficult and expensive to satisfy. For their wellbeing, appropriate shelter, enrichment, and mental stimulation are crucial.

Can a monkey be a house pet? ›

Overall, monkeys are not good pets. Yes, some can be quite sweet for a time. But the reality is monkeys are capable of causing too much harm and need too much care and attention to thrive in a human household. These issues are equally as important when it comes to apes (chimpanzees, orangutans, and gibbons).

Can a monkey be potty trained? ›

No. Most monkeys cannot be effectively toilet trained. Sometimes, younger monkeys can be partially potty trained, but they lose that ability as they mature. In addition, as they're attempting to potty train, they tend to throw their poop and play with their pee.

What is the easiest monkey to have as a pet? ›

Capuchin monkeys are one of the more common primates in the pet trade. The black-capped, or tufted, capuchin appears to be the most common species kept.

How often do you bathe a monkey? ›

The frequency of baths for marmoset monkeys varies depending on their lifestyle and individual needs. Generally, a bath every 2-4 weeks is sufficient to maintain cleanliness. However, some marmosets may require more frequent or less frequent baths.

What age do monkeys leave their mother? ›

The babies live closely with their mothers in their nests and learn to eat solid food around five months old. They will learn all the skills needed to live on their own at and around nine months, when they will then set out to live by themselves.

What are the disadvantages of having a pet monkey? ›

Primates are expensive to purchase and care for. They have very specific diet, enrichment, and housing needs that are expensive and will take up most of your time. Many captive primates develop diabetes, which is also difficult and costly to treat, if you can even find a veterinarian who will treat a monkey.

Is having a pet monkey a good idea? ›

Most primatologists and primatological organizations are strongly against keeping primates as pets. The reasons are numerous: Many primates are endangered and it is illegal to keep them as pets or even in captivity. Many primates are taken illegally from their families and habitats in the wild and sold illegally.

Do monkeys recognize humans? ›

Nonhuman primates posses a highly developed capacity for face recognition, which resembles the human capacity both cognitively and neurologically. Face recognition is typically tested by having subjects compare facial images, whereas there has been virtually no attention to how they connect these images to reality.

Can you keep a monkey in your house? ›

The new rules make it illegal to keep monkeys, lemurs, and other primates without a licence from April 2026.

Can monkeys bond with humans? ›

Primates naturally want to be the one in charge in a group, or at least be second in command. This means that generally a primate will bond with one person who they think is in charge, and then perceive everyone else as the enemy.

What kind of monkey is best for a pet? ›

Marmoset monkeys are the most commonly kept and traded species of primate as pets.

Can monkeys be potty trained? ›

No. Most monkeys cannot be effectively toilet trained. Sometimes, younger monkeys can be partially potty trained, but they lose that ability as they mature. In addition, as they're attempting to potty train, they tend to throw their poop and play with their pee.

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