Generally speaking, there are nine common monkey breeds that people keep as pets. To be clear, the legality of owning these monkeys is dubious in some cases because of international rules on exotic pet trading and ownership.
For example, some monkeys are illegal to trade, but they may skirt the rules because they were bred in captivity by a pair of mates before the laws went into effect. Needless to say, owning an illegal pet is asking for trouble and contributes to the ongoing loss of these animals throughout the world.
Here are the nine monkey breeds that people keep as pets around the world.
The tarsier is a very small primate that weighs as little as 6 ounces and grows just about 7 inches tall. They are iconic monkeys because of their large, curious-looking eyes, and the appearance that they are hugging branches rather than hanging from them.
Although some people have kept this endangered monkey as a pet, it’s illegal to trade them these days. The reasons for this ban are numerous yet simple. For one thing, these monkeys require a special diet that most people cannot provide. Moreover, they are nocturnal creatures, so they do very little during the day, and that makes people discard them as pets because they’re not “interesting.”
Tarsiers are very cute animals, but they’re highly dependent upon humans when kept as pets, so it’s a bad idea to keep one. Tarsiers live for up to 20 years, meaning they are a serious time investment, too.
Tamarins are a good deal larger than the tarsier, reaching weights of 32 ounces and lengths up to 12 inches. They are a very popular choice for pets because they are clean animals that will not use their entire enclosure as a bathroom, preferring to use a single corner.
They are highly intelligent creatures that do not have as many unique dietary demands, so they make for better pets than a lot of the others on this list. They’re not strong enough to harm a human being, but they are noisy and tend to be destructive when bored.
It’s important to remember that these are social creatures, so keeping a single monkey as a pet would be depriving them of their basic drive to interact with others. Tamarins can live up to 15 years of age, so they’ll stick around for the same amount of time as a long-lived dog breed.
Chimpanzees are not monkeys; they are great apes. Yet, they are creatures that people often wish to keep as pets. They are probably the most dangerous primate that someone could keep as a pet. Chimpanzees regularly weigh over 150 pounds, stand over 5 feet tall, and are incredibly powerful compared to human beings.
They are highly territorial and take some somewhat normal human behaviors as insults. Several cases of chimpanzee attacks have been recorded over the years, with a few of them coming from pet chimps. They will savagely attack those that they feel have wronged them, and humans are powerless to stop an aggressive chimp.
As we mentioned before, Michael Jackson owned a chimpanzee named Bubbles that he treated somewhat like a child. That was an extraordinary case and far from the reality that would come with owning a chimpanzee.
Aside from the outright danger of owning one of these pets, we must also consider that they have a human-like lifespan of 50-60 years. You’d need someone to agree to take care of the pet because it’s likely to outlive you!
Chimpanzees are probably the worst pet that you could own, even if you managed to somehow get permission to own one.
4. Squirrel Monkey
Squirrel monkeys are not nearly as dangerous as chimpanzees, growing up to 14 inches tall and weighing just 2 pounds or slightly more as an adult. Like most other primates, they require a lot of attention and care if you want to keep them healthy.
These creatures are very intelligent, require a diverse diet, and need constant stimulation and entertainment from their owners. If you fail to provide any of that for them, the experience of owning them will turn miserable.
They will screech loudly when they need attention, and they have a habit of throwing their feces when upset. There is also the troublesome behavior where they spread urine on their hands and feet to leave a scent trail, and that can be a potent smell in your home. Although it may be tempting to keep one of these monkey breeds as pet, they’re very messy.
Another interesting monkey that is often kept as a pet is the macaque. They are fascinating creatures with faces that somewhat resemble human beings. The expressiveness of the monkey combined with its hearty nature makes it very popular as a pet.
Macaques can reach weights of over 30 pounds and grow over 3 feet tall. Needless to say, these monkeys require a lot of space as pets. They often live in large groups with other members of their species, and that can be a problem for a pet owner; they lack social interactions.
Another problem with owning macaques is that they are carriers for some rather severe ailments that humans can catch from them. Herpes B is just one transmissible disease that humans can catch from them, and many other potential infections are still being studied.
The capuchin is a highly desired pet monkey, combining a high level of intelligence with a relatively small size and more accessible diet than others. Their high weight-to-strength ratio also makes them more powerful than their 9 pounds of weight and 18 inches of height suggest.
Capuchins are the best monkey pets that people can have, and that is supported by their use as support animals for people that have suffered debilitating injuries. Capuchins have been used as service animals, helping people with spinal injuries live a more normal and independent life. They’re smart enough to help with opening drawers and retrieving items while also being strong enough to move human limbs!
That does not mean they’re without challenges as pets, though. They require just as much attention as other monkeys, and capuchins are expensive. Also, they live between 30 and 50 years in captivity, so they need a care continuance plan in place.