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8 Monkey Breeds That Are Kept As Pets (with Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove

June 24, 2021

It’s hard to deny the allure of keeping a monkey as a pet. In television shows and movies, it always looks so cool! But the reality of keeping a primate as a pet is in stark contrast to the way you probably imagine it. These creatures require outrageous amounts of care and space and many species can become aggressive or violent, even after years of peaceful cohabitation.

Still, many people keep monkeys and other primates as pets. In fact, in the US alone, it’s estimated that there are approximately 15,000 primates currently being kept as pets. Of course, with more than 330 different monkey species to pick from, there are bound to be some that make better pets than others. If you won’t be talked out of a pet primate, then these eight breeds are the ones that you should be considering.

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Do Monkeys Make Good Pets?

When it comes to keeping pets, certain animals reign supreme. Dogs, cats, birds, and goldfish tend to be the most common pets for a variety of reasons. These animals are easy to care for, generally docile, and have been domesticated for long enough to present traits that make them good companion pets.

Monkeys, on the other hand, display none of these traits. To start, they’re incredibly difficult to care for. Compared to other pets, monkeys need an incredible amount of space, and that’s not to even mention the absurd amount of attention that a monkey requires. Even the neediest dogs pale in comparison to the amount of interaction your monkey will require.

You also have to consider a primate’s behavior. There have been primates that were kept as pets for many years without incident who suddenly had a change of heart and became violent. One woman even had her face and hands ripped off by a chimp that had long been kept as a pet by her close friend.

Even feeding a monkey can be a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. Primates need diverse diets full of nutrients, so if you keep a monkey as a pet, expect to spend a lot of time preparing food for it. And if you think you’ll get to cuddle your monkey after a long day, think again. These aren’t cuddly creatures, even if they look like it. If you want a pet you can cuddle up with, you’ll be far better off sticking to dogs and cats.

tamarin inside cage
Image Credit: Pixabay

How Much Do Monkeys Cost?

Another deterrent to keeping a monkey as a pet is the outrageous cost associated with purchasing and keeping a primate. Some monkeys aren’t too pricey, such as capuchins, which can be purchased for less than $10,000. Not cheap by any means, but some show-quality canines can cost as much. Start looking at bigger primates though and the price climbs exponentially. A chimpanzee, for example, will set you back about $70,000, which is a pretty hefty investment for a pet.

Don’t forget about the cost of housing and upkeep. Your monkey will need a massive enclosure with high ceilings and things to climb. That’s going to cost a pretty penny to put together. Once it’s complete, you’ll also have to pay for all the food your pet needs, which will be about the same amount of food as you eat each day.

Additionally, you’ll need to pay for veterinary care, which can be quite expensive for an exotic pet. And with a monkey’s massive attention requirements, you’ll need to take a lot of time off from work, so don’t count on having a full-time income if you want to keep a pet primate.

Is it Legal to Keep a Monkey as a Pet?

On top of all the care and cost requirements of monkeys, you’ll also have to consider the legality of owning a pet primate where you’re located. Many laws govern the captivity, transport, and sale of exotic creatures such as monkeys. Many states have outright banned such exotic pets, though some states do allow them. Even these states have strict rules regarding the keeping of monkeys as pets, so make sure you do some thorough research before deciding to purchase a pet primate. Currently, at least 15 states will allow some types of primates to be kept as pets, though the specific laws surrounding such actions vary in each state.

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8 Monkey Breeds Kept as Pets

Now that you understand a little of what goes into keeping a monkey as a pet, let’s talk about different types of primates that are candidates for pethood. No primate makes a good pet, but some are downright awful. The following eight primates, however, are the best of the bunch when it comes to domestication. If you’re dead-set on keeping a monkey as a pet, you’ll want to pick one of these eight breeds.

1. Chimpanzee

chimpanzee
Image Credit: Pixabay

Chimpanzees are primates, but they’re not monkeys, they’re actually apes. Chimps can stand nearly 5 feet tall and weigh over 150 pounds. By the age of 5, a chimp is already stronger than a grown man. If you’ve never seen a shaved chimp, then check out this video so you get an understanding of just how insanely muscled these primates are.

In captivity, chimps can live for up to 60 years, so if you get a pet chimp, you’ll have it for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, these primates are incredibly dangerous and have maimed and killed people in the past. Most chimps that are kept as pets are fated to wind up in a research lab.


2. Capuchin

capuchin monkey
Image Credit: Pixabay

Capuchin monkeys are much smaller than chimps, making them easier to care for and far less dangerous. Standing less than 2 feet in height and weighing under 10 pounds, these monkeys aren’t big enough to rip off your face like a chimp could. Capuchins have an average lifespan of 25 years, so you’ll still have it for a long time, but it’s not the six-decade investment you’ll be putting into a chimpanzee.


3. Squirrel Monkey

squirrel monkey
Image Credit: Pixabay

Squirrel monkeys are on the smaller side of the spectrum, generally reaching lengths of just 10-14 inches without the tail. They usually weigh just 1-3 pounds, but they’re incredibly active and acrobatic creatures that need a lot of space. They love to hang by their tails and swing across tree branches, so you’ll need a massive enclosure with lots of trees to satisfy a squirrel monkey. They’re known to be picky eaters though, so even though a squirrel monkey doesn’t eat as much as a chimp, you’re still likely to experience dietary difficulties.


4. Spider Monkey

spider monkey
Image Credit: Pixabay

Spider monkeys are one of the few types of monkeys that most people can name. Unfortunately, even though they’re kept as pets, they’re incredibly messy! While most monkeys can be kept in diapers, spider monkeys commonly rip their diapers off and throw them around. Furthermore, spider monkeys are extremely social and need even more attention and interaction than most of the other monkey breeds. Without ample attention, spider monkeys are likely to become aggressive.


5. Marmoset

marmoset
Image Credit: Pixabay

Monkeys are never quiet pets, but marmosets might be the loudest of them. When a marmoset feels neglected, it will yell and scream, ensuring that you don’t miss its displeasure. These primates have a shorter lifespan than many, topping out at about 20 years. There are several types of marmosets, and on average, they’re just 8 inches long, making them one of the more manageably-sized monkeys on this list.


6. Guenon

guenon feeding baby monkey
Image Credit: Pixabay

Guenons are medium-sized monkeys that are about 16-22 inches tall and weigh 5-15 pounds on average. They’re beautiful monkeys that display a wide range of colors, including red, green, and yellow. Interestingly, guenons have hairs that are each two colors. There are more than 20 different types of guenons, with the vervet, grivet, and green monkey being the most popular pets.


7. Tamarin

tamarin monkey
Image Credit: Pixabay

Tamarins are some of the smallest monkeys that you might keep as pets. They weigh less than a pound and live for about 15 years. You’ll only need about 7 square feet of living space for a tamarin, though they still require ample investments of time and energy.


8. Macaque

macaque monkey
Image Credit: Pixabay

Macaques are moderately-sized primates that can weigh up to 40 pounds at the largest, though the smallest female macaques can weigh as little as 5 pounds. They require huge enclosures of 30 square feet or larger for a single monkey and will need to wear diapers for their entire lives.

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Conclusion

While the idea of keeping a pet monkey might seem like a novel one, it’s probably not a great idea. You’ll need to have ample resources and time to devote to your pet monkey, and with lifespans that often reach 30 or 40 years, it’s an investment that you’ll be continuing to make for most of your life.

Before purchasing a monkey, make sure you understand what you’re getting into. It’s a difficult path to walk, though it could be rewarding for the right type of person. Should you decide that monkey ownership is right for you, the eight breeds we’ve discussed on this list are the ones that you should be considering.

SEE ALSO: How to Take Care of a Sugar Glider (Care Sheet & Guide)


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.