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Why Monkeys Do Not Make Good Pets

Updated on February 29, 2016
Marmoset
Marmoset

I am writing this after a lot of years of watching a UK television series called Monkey Life, all about the largest primate rescue centre on the planet (a place I have visited in person).

This article is intended to stop anyone thinking that having a monkey as a pet would be a good idea. Monkeys of any shape or size do not make good pets, and by taking them on as pets you are dooming them to a life that is far from ideal for them, and one which will most likely result in a great deal of mental anguish for them, if not permanent mental (and quite possibly physical) damage.

When I first began watching Monkey Life (then called Monkey Business) I must have been about 12 years old. I was instantly hooked on this amazing program that told the story of how husband-and-wife team Jim and Alison Cronin realised there was a need for a rescue centre, and a campaign to stop beach photographers abroad using chimpanzees as props for tourists. They made it their life's mission to stamp out the trade in endangered primates, shame countries that were not enforcing their own laws on these matters into action, offer homes to rescued primates that could not be reintroduced to the wild, and take on former "pet" primates that the owners had realised they could no longer cope with.

Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee

Jim and Alison Cronin achieved things that had never been achieved before. They managed to integrate rescued pet chimpanzees into social groups, even though many experts had said this would be impossible, and they encouraged natural behaviours by offering spacious enclosures with plenty of stimulation to keep the various primates from getting bored. Monkey World quickly became famous worldwide, a place many countries turned to for advice, or for help when they needed homes for their former laboratory primates or rescued primates, or for assistance in setting up their own rescue centres.

But I digress; for more information on Monkey World you need to visit my article on the subject and see and read what they do for yourselves.

I followed the series Monkey Business and then Monkey Life for many years; I am now 46, and like I said, I have been watching since I was about 12. What came across again and again was just how many private individuals took on primates as pets. It rarely, if ever, works out as fair for the monkey in question. Most of the time the owners see the cute little baby chimp, capuchin monkey, or marmoset and think what a great pet it would make. They are seldom prepared for the destructive abilities of these primates as they grow up. The would-be pet owner has no clue how dangerous these animals can become, especially in the case of chimps, who have over ten times the strength of an adult male human. All of these primates can inflict very nasty bites, and frequently do, and are more than capable of seriously hurting—or in some cases even killing—your children, other pets and visiting friends.

Most of the people who take on these primates as pets end up confining them to cramped and unsuitable conditions, often without adequate heating or a balanced diet. Stimulation is minimal and the monkey lives a lonely, isolated and miserable existence.

Capuchin Monkey
Capuchin Monkey

Tonight the episode I saw of Animal Hospital reminded me again why it is such a bad idea to take on a monkey of any kind as a domestic pet. A woman who I would politely describe as "a few sandwiches short of a picnic" had some years earlier been given the opportunity to buy two six-week-old marmoset monkeys as pets for £1200. The very first mistake she made was to decide to only buy one of them! This meant a very sociable creature would be kept alone in a big cage. She freely admitted she had hoped to ultimately put clothes on it and go out with her dogs walking, with the marmoset sitting on her shoulder. She explained how the people she bought it from had not advised her of what kind of cage to provide it with, and how she did not really handle the monkey unless it was to pull it off her other pets when it attacked them! The monkey had not only been taken from its parent at the ridiculously young age of six weeks, but it had been separated from the one remaining companion it had, then stuck in an unsuitable cage in this woman's living room. It was tragic, and so very wrong.

Luckily this lady had realised (like most ultimately do) that having a monkey as a pet was not a good idea, and that primates do not make good pets. She had called in the R.S.P.C.A to re-home the marmoset in a more suitable location, and luckily they found a place where this little monkey could live out the rest of her days with plenty of space to run around in, branches to climb, live food such as crickets to chase, and best of all, a companion and ultimately companions to interact with.

Some people make the mistake of having small primates like marmosets and capuchins as pets, but others make the mistake of choosing larger primates such as chimpanzees and orangutangs. They see only the "cute" factor and not the bigger picture. They don't see how unfair and selfish they are taking these primates on as pets instead of ensuring these apes get the lifestyle nature intended—or at least as close to that lifestyle as possible, when their natural habitat is not an option for whatever reason.

Orangutan
Orangutan

All I can add is that I would urge anyone thinking of buying a monkey as a pet not to do so, for the animal's sake. You cannot possibly provide it with the space, companionship, stimulation, and other things it needs, and you will end up doing that animal a great injustice. Primates are among the most intelligent species on the planet, and they deserve to live a natural life, not the miserable life that they will most likely end up living as someone's novelty pet.

Sadly Monkey World's Jim Cronin died in March 2007, aged 56, having dedicated much of his life to saving primates and educating people as to why primates need protection and do not make good pets. Please help make sure he did not do this in vain, and spread the word that buying any monkey as a pet is a very bad choice to make.

Monkey World continues operating to this day, run by Jim Cronin's widow Alison Cronin. Their excellent work is still unsurpassed, with many successful international breeding programs for endangered primate species, and first successes at hand-rearing infants of primates of numerous species. They continue to accept former laboratory, pet and confiscated primates from Britain and abroad.

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    • profile image

      Lisa Wood 2 months ago

      I believe it's possible that the baby primates' faces, especially when eating and taking the bottle, triggers some women's maternal instincts. I won't get one because I know it's not fair. Also I have enough chickens and dogs. But looking at a baby's face sure makes me wish it could work out.

      But then the rescue part of my brain would also help adults who need help.

    • profile image

      Monkey Man 5 years ago

      I love monkeys!!!!!!!!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks for commenting Melissa, I totally agree with you and I also think selling hem in pet stores should be totally illegal.

    • Melissa A Smith profile image

      Melissa A Smith 5 years ago from New York

      There are so many misconceptions about primates and their care and that's why they end up with the wrong owners. People look at them and see pint-sized infants and they appear to be the perfect pet. Unfortunately, some pet stores sell them and that is an awful combination. I would one day like to own a bush baby and I'm not too interested in monkeys; they are messy, incredibly social and demanding.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks for commenting Zabbella, I just wish people put themselves in the monkey's position before they took it on. I mean if they asked themselves key questions like:

      Would I like to be locked in a small room for the rest of my life?

      Would I like to be fed inappropriate foods without any choice?

      Would I like to be deprived of the company of my own kind and therefore the ability to reproduce or interact?

      etc etc

      would those people not understand that a primate can never be truly happy and fulfilled in a private house, isolated and confined in a totally unnatural way?

    • Zabbella profile image

      Zabbella 6 years ago from NJ-USA

      Great Hub! It was very informative. Yes, the animals are cute, but it's better to leave them in more natural surroundings. A cage in a living room just will not be right.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks for commenting here Green Lotus, and it is nice to see you feel the same way I do about this subject. I am pleased that so many zoos now are doing away with their cages, and this is one of the things I love about the huge enclosures at Monkey World, it allows the primates so much space, grass, and even actual trees in many of the enclosures. It is obvious these monkeys are contented because they breed, play and exhibit natural behaviours.

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for reminding people why monkeys should not be kept as pets. Pet owners who do choose to own primates will soon discover that monkeys, cute as they seem, are smart enough and dexterous enough to throw all sorts of nasty stuff at you :O

      Your hub also offers many good reasons why ALL exotic pets should not be "domesticated". Modern zoos today are doing away with cages for the same good reasons.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks lyla1, they are definitely not good pets that is for sure.

    • lyla1 profile image

      lyla1 6 years ago

      I Agree with you, i love monkeys, but there are not my favorite, and they don't make the best pets either, thank you for sharing that with us

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Steve, that is really nice of you, I totally appreciate it :)

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Brilliant hub, Cindy! Voted up, labelled as awesome and shared on Facebook and Twitter!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks for sharing your experience sheila b. It is stories like this that should convince anyone considering a monkey as a pet that it a cruel life for an intelligent creature to be forced to endure.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 6 years ago

      Until I was about 10, I thought having a monkey would be super. Then a new girl moved to town and invited me to visit her home and her monkeys. Of course I was really excited to meet some monkeys up close and personal - until it actually happened. As you described, they were housed in cages and not happy. Rather than being friendly and glad to come out to be held, they bit! It was easy to see they were not happy with their lives and not thankful for living in a house, etc. Ever since, I have discouraged anyone who suggests they would like a monkey as a pet.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi RealHousewife, I hope you will get your kids to read this as well based on what you have said. I too love Jane Goodall, and she has a strong relationship with Monkey World and Alison Cronin even though they don't actually keep Gorillas there.

      Thanks for your feedback too :)

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Nice hub - my kids have begged me for a monkey and I told them under no circumstances should a family try to make a monkey their pet or play thing. They are not meant to be domesticated. I am a fan of Jane Goodall and if you've never seen Gorillas in the Mist it was a fantastic movie. Thanks!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi misspeachesx, yes, it is shocking how certain animals are so easy to buy when they are totally unsuitable as pets and few people can cater to their specialist needs. The scary thing is an intelligent person knows this and doesn't buy such an animal as a pet, which means the people who are buying them as pets are not all that intelligent themselves, and therefore even less likely to care for the animal properly.

    • misspeachesx profile image

      misspeachesx 6 years ago from Northeast, Washington

      I absolutely agree with your article! So many people will see a baby monkey and think "awww, wouldn't that be a cute pet?". Its really troubling to see the poor monkeys locked in bird cages and fed inappropriate diets. It takes a VERY special and dedicated person to properly care for a monkey. Luckily here in the US it is very hard to purchase a monkey, and it is now illegal in many states. Even those states that do allow them, I believe that they should require permits and an enclosure/diet/care inspection.

      When I was looking into falconry I was quite surprised how hard it can be to get a falcon in the first place! Numerous permit, inspections, etc. Though falcons require a lot of care, it's strange that other animals which require far more advanced mental and physical stimulation, space and husbandry can be bought and kept so easily.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Bob, wonderful to see you here. As you say they make terrible pets in a domestic environment, in fact in any environment, they are simply not pet material. I too feel very strongly that using them for vivisection is despicable, and it should be completely illegal.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Lorainevn, I totally agree with every word of your comment. Thanks for posting it :)

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Spryte, it has been so long since I sat down and actually wrote a hub like this, but I have to say it is nice to just let my thoughts and feelings on a subject close to my heart just flow on to the screen via my keyboard again

      Hugs back, so great to see you here too.

    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Most primates would make terrible pets in a domestic environment: dirty, often bad tempered and unhappy without the forest to play in. The exceptions are too large or too small. We are really giving chimps a bad time with this criminal vivisection...Bob

    • Lorainevn profile image

      Lorainevn 6 years ago

      Amazing hub. Agreed, they should not be kept as pets. Only in very crucial circumstances should they be held captive, if releasing them into the wild is not a viable option. And when being held in captivity, conditions should be as close to their natural habitat as possible.

    • spryte profile image

      spryte 6 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Nicely written piece, Misty...good information and advice delivered from the heart. *big hugs sent your way too*

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks for commenting so quickly AliciaC, I am glad you too agree Primates need to live natural lives, not the life of a pet that the owner cannot possibly provide adequately for.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This hub contains a very important message. Primates are intelligent animals and should live natural lives. It's horrible what some of them have to suffer as pets. Thanks for sharing the information.