A-z - Animals

9 Monkeys People Keep as Pets

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key point:

  • Monkeys are not good pets.
  • Most people cannot keep monkeys for a number of reasons.
  • Monkeys are great companions, with whom it is possible to share a large part of one's life, but they are terrifying at home.

Monkeys are very diverse, intelligent, and playful creatures, so it's no surprise that people love keeping them as pets. We've seen real and fictional people keep them as pets, like Michael Jackson or Ross from Friends. The antics of these creatures are often hilarious, but that doesn't mean anyone should keep these wild animals as pets.

In fact, most people cannot own monkeys for a number of reasons, including legality and the space and care monkeys require. Still, we wanted to take a look at the nine most popular types of monkeys people keep as pets to show you why certain breeds make the best companions.

Are monkeys good pets?

Monkeys are difficult pets to keep
Monkeys are curious animals with many unique needs, so they can be difficult to keep.

© Gabi Siebenhuehner/Shutterstock.com

Monkeys are not good pets for people to keep.

Before we delve deeper into this question, we must consider what makes an animal a good pet. In general, humans prefer companionship, obedience, and low maintenance as key qualities in pets. That's why people love turtles, cats, dogs, fish and other similar animals.

Monkeys are great companions, with whom it is possible to share a large part of one's life, but they are terrifying at home. They are curious and intelligent animals that need a lot of attention and support.

Like many other animals, they are wild and difficult to tame. A pet monkey may attack its owner, and some species are more dangerous than others, such as chimpanzees.

Monkey owners need to provide them with lots of space and a unique diet that varies by species. Monkeys are not nosy, and it's not enough to just use your backyard like a dog. This means they often need diapers.

Interestingly, monkeys' need for diapers helps us draw a parallel to what kind of creature you're dealing with: monkeys are long-lived young children. They'll get into things they're not supposed to, damage their owners' property, and mess with their bodily fluids. That doesn't make them bad animals; it's just their nature.

All types of monkeys require a lot of work, and if you're not willing to do the work for decades, you shouldn't own one.

How much does a monkey cost?

Chimps can cost over $50,000.
Chimpanzees can cost over $50,000.

© iStock.com/Suthat_Chaitaweesap

Depending on the species, raising a monkey alone can cost between $4,000 and $75,000, and the figure can be much higher. It's a pretty big investment and immediately disqualifies many people from having this pet.

You also have to factor in other costs to this equation. Monkeys need specific habitats. You can't expect your monkey to crawl around your apartment in a busy city. Monkeys could never thrive in that environment. Sorry, Ross. They are loud, very intelligent, and sometimes mischievous, and require specific foods, mild climates, hiding areas, and climbing areas.

Building a habitat for monkeys can cost you several thousand dollars more, especially if you choose some of the larger monkeys. We must never underestimate what an investment of space, time and money these creatures represent for their potential owners.

You'll also need guidelines for special care for the breed, legal paperwork in many cases, and a professional veterinarian who can handle exotic pet inspections.

In short, the total cost of a single monkey can easily run upwards of $20,000, and that number climbs considerably if you go for rare or large breeds. This pet could be an $80,000+ investment.

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The initial cost is high, but so is the maintenance cost. To briefly recap, the cost of keeping a monkey includes:

  • special diet
  • specific temperature range in the enclosure
  • large climbing area
  • Initial and Ongoing Inspections
  • hygiene products
  • Monkey and Master Training

These are non-negotiable. If you plan to own a monkey as a pet, you must be prepared for each of these costs.

Can I legally own a monkey as a pet?

It is illegal to own orangutans.

©Alex East/Shutterstock.com

Keeping monkeys is legal in 31 US states, but some states ban the practice entirely, while others, such as the UK, are moving towards banning owning the animals.

Still, even states that don't outright ban pet monkey ownership may have partial bans. Some limit the kinds of pet monkeys a person can have, while others require potential owners to voluntarily breed monkeys and pass tests in order to own them.

The short answer to this question is that you can have a monkey as a pet in many places, but not all monkeys are legal. Indonesia, for example, has banned the orangutan trade around the world to protect the species. Other species of monkeys are considered too dangerous to own in some places, such as chimpanzees, creatures that easily overwhelm human owners.

Before acquiring a monkey to live as your pet, you must know local and international laws.

9 Monkeys People Keep as Pets

barrel or monkey troop
Most people who own monkeys have one of these nine species.

© Leo_nik/Shutterstock.com

In general, there are nine species of monkeys that people keep as pets. To be clear, the legality of owning these monkeys in some cases is questionable due to international rules governing the trade and ownership of exotic pets.

For example, some monkeys are traded illegally, but they may be circumventing the regulations because they were kept in captivity by a pair before the law came into force. Needless to say, owning an illegal pet is asking for trouble and contributing to the continued loss of these animals around the world.

Here are nine monkey breeds that people keep as pets around the world.

1. Tarsier

Animals with Big Eyes - Horsfield's Tarsier
Tarsiers are small primates with larger eyes than brains.

©Ryan M. Bolton/Shutterstock.com

The tarsier is a very small primate weighing only 6 ounces and standing only about 7 inches tall. They are iconic monkeys because of their large, curious eyes, and their appearance of hugging tree branches rather than hanging from them.

While some people keep the endangered monkeys as pets, it is now illegal to trade them. The reasons for this ban are many but simple. For one thing, these monkeys require a special diet that most humans cannot provide. Also, they are nocturnal animals, so they have very little daytime activity, which makes people discard them as pets because they are not "fun".

Tarsiers are very cute animals, but they are highly dependent on humans as pets, so having one is a bad idea. Tarsiers live up to 20 years, which means they are also a significant time investment.

2. Marmoset

Marmosets are known to be cleaner than normal monkeys
Marmosets are known to be cleaner than normal monkeys.

© David Havel/Shutterstock.com

Marmosets are much larger than tarsiers, weighing up to 32 ounces and reaching 12 inches in length. They are a very popular choice for pets as they are clean animals and do not use the entire enclosure as a bathroom, preferring to use a corner instead.

They are very intelligent creatures that don't have as many unique dietary needs, making them better pets than many of the other animals on this list. They're not strong enough to harm humans, but they're loud and often destructive when bored.

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It's important to remember that these are social animals, so keeping a monkey as a pet takes away their basic drive to interact with others. Marmosets can live up to 15 years, so they have the same lifespan as long-lived dog breeds.

3. Chimps

Aggressive Animals: Chimpanzees
A chimpanzee may be cute when young, but it is a dangerous, aggressive animal.

© Afandi Teguh Afriyanto/Shutterstock.com

Chimpanzees are not monkeys; they are apes. However, they are creatures that people often wish to keep as pets. They are probably the most dangerous primates that people can keep as pets. Chimpanzees typically weigh more than 150 pounds, stand more than 5 feet tall, and are very powerful compared to humans.

They are very territorial and will take some somewhat normal human behavior as an insult. Several chimpanzee attacks have been documented over the years, some from pet chimpanzees. They would savagely attack those they believed had wronged them, and humans were powerless to stop aggressive chimpanzees.

As we mentioned earlier, Michael Jackson owned a chimpanzee named Bubbles, whom he treated a bit like a child. This is an extraordinary case, far removed from the reality of owning chimpanzees.

Aside from the immediate dangers of owning one of these pets, we must also consider that they have a lifespan similar to humans at 50-60 years. You need someone to agree to care for the pet as it will most likely outlive you!

Chimpanzees are probably the worst pets you can have, even if you somehow manage to get permission to own one.

4. Squirrel Monkey

squirrel monkey
The squirrel monkey is one of the smallest and most curious monkey species.

©Ludmila Ruzickova/Shutterstock.com

Less dangerous than chimpanzees, squirrel monkeys can grow up to 14 inches tall and weigh as little as 2 pounds or slightly more as adults. Like most other primates, they require a lot of attention and care if you want to keep them healthy.

These creatures are highly intelligent, require a varied diet, and need constant stimulation and entertainment from their owners. If you can't provide them with any of these, the experience of having them will be miserable.

They squeal loudly when they need attention, and they have a habit of throwing their poop when upset. There is also the troublesome behavior of them spilling urine on their hands and feet to leave a scent trail, which can be a strong smell in your home. As tempting as it may be to keep one of these monkey breeds as a pet, they are very messy.

5. Macaque

Macaques have human-like faces
Macaques have human-like faces, which make them expressive and playful.

© Brian… / Flickr

Another interesting type of monkey that is often kept as a pet is the macaque. They are fascinating creatures with faces somewhat resembling humans. The monkey's expressiveness combined with its cheerful nature make it a very popular pet.

Macaques can weigh more than 30 pounds and be more than 3 feet tall. Needless to say, these monkeys need a lot of space as pets. They often live in large groups with others of their kind, which can be a problem for pet owners; they lack social interaction.

Another problem with owning macaques is that they are carriers of some pretty serious diseases that humans can catch from them. Herpes B is just one contagious disease that humans can catch from, and many other potential infections are still being researched.

6. Capuchins

Capuchins are very popular pet monkeys
Capuchin monkeys are very intelligent pets and may be helpful for people with disabilities.

© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

The capuchin monkey is a very popular pet monkey due to its high intelligence, relatively small size and easier access to a diet than other monkeys. Their high weight-to-strength ratio also makes them stronger than their 9-pound weight and 18-inch height would suggest.

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Capuchin monkeys are the best monkey pets one can have, and their use as support animals for people who have suffered serious injuries is backed up. Capuchin monkeys have been used as service animals to help people with spinal injuries lead more normal and independent lives. They're smart enough to help open drawers and retrieve items, yet strong enough to move human limbs!

But that doesn't mean they don't have challenges as pets. They need as much attention as any other monkey, and capuchins are expensive. Additionally, their lifespan in captivity is between 30 and 50 years, so they require proper continuation of care planning.

7. Marmoset

Animals with big eyes - pygmy marmosets
Marmosets are another small species with large, expressive eyes.


A marmoset is a small monkey, and the common version of the animal is only 7 inches long and weighs about 9 ounces. They are very cute creatures, but the downside is that they can be very rowdy when their needs aren't being met.

While you can catch up on what their calls mean in time, you may not be able to satisfy them as they may be calling out to other monkeys who are not around to respond to them.

Marmosets need a strong, large enclosure with lots of water and features for climbing. With proper care, they can live to 20 years or more, but that's harder than it sounds.

8. Spider Monkey

Spider monkeys are small, agile creatures
Spider monkeys are small, agile creatures.

© Nick Fox/Shutterstock.com

Although their name sounds tiny, spider monkeys can weigh nearly 30 pounds and grow to over 2 feet in length! If you keep them as pets, they need a huge enclosure to live in.

At least, their diet isn't hard to provide. They prefer fleshy fruits. Still, their behavior is disturbing. Spider monkeys may appear docile when young, but become more aggressive in the future. Although they are small, they can injure people with their sharp teeth and claws.

They are also highly social animals and can live up to 40 years in captivity. However, they are one of the most popular pet monkey breeds.

9. Ganon

Jinong Monkey
Guenon monkeys are called many things, including red-tailed monkeys and Mona's monkeys.

©iStock.com/DejaVu Designs

Due to their ability to be tamed, vervet monkeys are common in zoos around the world. They can weigh up to 15 pounds and stand up to 22 inches tall, so they are large creatures that can cause harm to humans if they become aggressive.

They are very noisy creatures and will often call out to others throughout the day, so they are likely to make a lot of noise. Additionally, they can live beyond the age of 16, becoming more aggressive in the years after sexual maturity.

Should I keep any monkey breeds as pets?

Most Monkey Breeds Are Not Good Pets
Most monkey breeds kept as pets are not good pets.

©David Evison/Shutterstock.com

Monkeys are not good pets in the vast majority of cases. As we show here, monkeys can transmit disease to humans or brutally attack humans. They are wild animals with diverse needs that are difficult to meet.

Even if we ignore the scat and the downright dangerous, we have to consider the intelligence of these creatures. Is it right to take such a smart thing as a captive? This is an ethical dilemma that humans explore more frequently today.

Of course, some tame monkeys are not only pets, but also caretakers. These animals can improve the quality of life of injured humans. In this case, it may be reasonable to keep monkeys as pets. Otherwise, leave these animals in the wild.


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