Dr Mark is a veterinarian. He works with small animals, exotics, horses, and livestock.
Can You House Train a Monkey?
Many websites and “experts” will tell you that monkeys cannot be house trained. This might be true for some species. (1) The house training technique I describe here may work on many species but, since I have only worked with capuchin and spider monkeys, I cannot tell you that for sure. (I have worked with marmosets and this technique does not work with them. Some species will learn but will take longer.)
With a lot of effort, and much positive reinforcement, you can house train some monkeys. It is even possilble to train your monkey to urinate on command (2) which means that they are much less likely to have an accident later when running around your house.
Keep in mind that monkeys are intelligent but not as easy to house train as dogs and cats. They are not den animals and do not look for a special area in which to urinate. Monkeys are used to urinating and defecating anywhere they happen to be and do not have a natural inclination to pick a bathroom area.
House Training an Adult Monkey
In order to train your monkey, you need to rely on their intelligence. Build a large cage, something that they will enjoy spending time in, but when they are out running around your house or yard, you need to make sure that you play games with them, give them treats, and make sure they enjoy being outside of the cage.
- Every day, you need to take the monkey out so that they can enjoy your house or yard.
- Allow the monkey to spend several hours outside. As long as the monkey does not urinate you can give treats and praise.
- When the monkey urinates on you, playtime is over. Take them and put them back in the cage and take out all of their loose toys. It is not really punishment, more of a “time out,” so make sure they are in there for at least a half-hour, enough time for them to get bored with those surroundings.
- Take them back out after this period and play with them again. If they urinate on you again, you must put them back in the cage.
- Within a few days, the monkey will figure out that they are not to urinate on you or their playtime will be over.
- Once your monkey is house trained, they will need to have the ability to run off and urinate once in a while. If they jump off you and run up a tree, you will have to let them. After they are finished, they will want to come back to see what you are doing.
- If you are not willing to let your monkey jump down and find an area to use as their bathroom, you will never be able to house train your monkey. Keeping the monkey in a cage all of the time is cruel and, since diapers are not a good option for many animals, you should have a different type of pet.
House Training a Young Monkey
House training a very young monkey is almost impossible.
Like a small child still in diapers, they will need to urinate often, and they have very little control of their bladder and bowels. The best way to deal with a monkey too young to be house trained is to use small diapers made for children. (When young they are very tolerant of diapers. As adults, they are more likely to tear them off.)
A monkey of any age may have an accident, and if you are not able to deal with this, you should consider caring for a different pet. For example, recently, a monkey was resting on my shoulder as he watched the village children playing on the plaza. One of the kids set off fireworks and the monkey, frightened, urinated on my shoulder.
Since I live in the tropics, it was easy enough to take the shirt off and rinse it. If you think this is a terrible thing, and not something you can ever put up with, do not get a monkey.
Are All Monkeys Able to Be House Trained?
Not all monkeys can be house trained, and not all people are going to be able to teach their monkeys.
If you are not able to follow through with this technique every time, your monkey will probably never become house trained. Some people live with this issue, and even their adult monkeys wear diapers when outside of the cage.
Read More From Pethelpful
Monkeys like that usually end up spending most of their lives inside of a cage.
I do not think a monkey in that situation makes a good pet. Unless you have plenty of time to spend with your monkey and are willing to accept some failures, you are better off with a pet that is easier to train.
Shelters are full of good dogs looking for homes.
(1) Rogge, J., Sherenco, K., Malling, R., Thiele, E., Lambeth, S., Schapiro, S., & Williams, L. (2013). A comparison of positive reinforcement training techniques in owl and squirrel monkeys: time required to train to reliability. Journal of applied animal welfare science : JAAWS, 16(3), 211–220. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4652797/
(2) Smith TE, McCallister JM, Gordon SJ, Whittikar M. Quantitative data on training new world primates to urinate. Am J Primatol. 2004 Sep;64(1):83-93. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15356860/
Berger M, Calapai A, Stephan V, Niessing M, Burchardt L, Gail A, Treue S. Standardized automated training of rhesus monkeys for neuroscience research in their housing environment. J Neurophysiol. 2018 Mar 1;119(3):796-807. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29142094/
Gillis, T. E., Janes, A. C., & Kaufman, M. J. (2012). Positive reinforcement training in squirrel monkeys using clicker training. American journal of primatology, 74(8), 712–720. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3412074/
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 17, 2020:
Daddy pig, there are so many variables that no one can answer this. What species, what kind of food are you giving, what size of environment, veterinary care, etc. At the very least, plan on US$1000
Daddy pig on May 17, 2020:
How much is it per year to own a pet monkey for the basic food and home things.
Errol Sperling on November 02, 2019:
I HAD A PET SQUIRREL MONKEY THAT WAS POTTY TRAINED IN THAT HE WOULD RETURN TO HIS CAGE TO RELIEVE HIMSELF. HE NEVER MADE A MISTAKE. HE WAS VERY SMART AND I MUST SAY THAT I MISS HIM.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 29, 2016:
I will probably never have to housetrain a monkey in my life, but I still found this hub interesting! I love your photos. Thanks for sharing the advice. It should be very helpful for a person who has a pet monkey and for the monkey as well.
Bob Bamberg on March 29, 2016:
Well I'll be a monkey's uncle! Should we expect follow-up articles like "The Seven Best Monkeys That Look Like Your In-Laws," "Set An Extra Plate At The Table - Don't Give Your Simian Monkey Chow," and "Cool Old Names For New World Monkeys?"
Interesting article, Doc. Quite a departure from your usual canine stuff. Here in the US most states ban, or require a permit for, monkey ownership; and the permits are usually given only to zoo's, research facilities, etc. I think the states that allow ownership of monkeys draw the line at great apes and baboons. Do you have a monkey or were you just treating one?
Joanna Darling from Jupiter on March 28, 2016: