7 Kinds of Primates That Are Kept as Pets

Challenges of Raising a Monkey or Ape

types of monkeys illustration

Illustration: The Spruce / Colleen Tighe

Monkeys look adorable and almost seem relatable since humans share genetic material with these creatures, but the care for these creatures can be challenging. 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. All primates (a chimpanzee is technically not a monkey) have unique needs. Review some quick points about owning capuchins, chimpanzees, and more. And, take a look at some significant considerations before you bring one home.

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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.

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, 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, 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.

Capuchin

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, they never learn to use the toilet and need diapers for their entire life span.

Chimpanzee

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.

Macaque

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.

Tamarin

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.

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.

Marmoset

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.

Guenon

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.