There is something irresistible about an infant monkey. Baby monkeys, such as capuchins, appear so sweet and helpless and seem so much like human infants. However, those sweet babies grow up into difficult adult monkeys and do not make good pets.
Challenges of Raising a Monkey
Taking on a pet monkey is not like caring for most other pets. A well-cared-for monkey can live to be anywhere from 20 to 40 years old and needs your full commitment throughout their lives. A pet monkey cannot do without your attention when life gets busy or circumstances change. They do not grow up and mature like human children do. They are, in essence, permanent toddlers.
Monkeys may not take well to new people in your life (including spouses and children) and make it hard to get away for vacations. Finding a new home for a pet monkey is extremely difficult to do and psychologically and emotionally hard on the monkey which has bonded to its first owner.
Monkeys are expensive to house (you need a secure enclosure, proper permits, and sometimes additional insurance on your homeowner's policy) and feed; some even require specialized diets that can be time-consuming to prepare. A significant time commitment is also needed just for routine care and clean-up after a pet monkey.
Most importantly, a monkey needs a large amount of social interaction and attention. A pet monkey deprived of your time and attention will develop not only severe behavior problems such as screaming and biting but also psychological issues that can be difficult if not impossible to remedy.
Legal Issues With Pet Monkeys
Primates including monkeys may be illegal to keep as pets where you live. If a monkey is legal to own where you live, permits may be required. Sometimes permit holders are subject to home inspections to ensure proper facilities and care are being provided. Homeowner policies may require additional liability coverage or insurance companies might cancel your policy altogether if they find out you have a monkey. However, not having insurance puts you at risk if your monkey bites someone.
Medical Issues With Monkeys
A wide range of diseases can be passed from monkeys and other primates to humans and vice versa (these are called zoonotic diseases and can be quite serious). Finding a vet near you who is able and willing to treat a primate may also be challenging. Diabetes is common in pet monkeys due to the poor diets many owners feed them and this is just one disease that requires constant monitoring by you and your vet.
Monkeys Can Be Aggressive
The sweet, dependent baby monkey will eventually grow up and become the wild animal it was meant to be. Unfortunately, raising a monkey around humans doesn't change its wild nature. In fact, depriving a pet monkey of normal social relationships with other monkeys can create behavior problems and neuroses. Monkeys are not domesticated no matter how many of them you put in your home.
Pet monkeys also have a tendency to bite (and they have 32 teeth that deliver these nasty bites). While some monkeys are gentle, some are very aggressive. Even the gentlest monkey, however, is unpredictable and may turn aggressive on anyone including the person to whom they are the closest, especially during and after puberty.
Monkeys are not clean and tidy. They can't really be effectively toilet trained; many younger monkeys can be diapered or at least partly toilet trained but that ability is often lost at maturity. They may engage in distasteful activities involving their feces and urine (such as throwing it and painting with it). Aside from the toileting messes, pet monkeys can be extremely mischievous and destructive, especially if bored.
Housing Pet Monkeys
Monkeys need a large, secure enclosure and should spend time outdoors too if possible. They must be provided with a wide variety of ever-changing toys and exercise equipment to keep them challenged and stimulated or they will suffer from boredom. Some states require certain types of enclosures to fulfill permit regulations, but you should always have a place to secure your monkey to keep it and the public safe when you aren't with them.
The Bottom Line
Overall, monkeys are not good pets. Yes, some can be quite sweet for a time, but the reality is that 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). In short, non-human primates and human beings make poor housemates.