What are the risks in owning a monkey as a pet?

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Answered by: Cale, An Expert in the Exotic Pets - General Category
In order to understand the risks of owning a monkey as a pet, you have to first understand a monkey's needs. Monkeys are primates just like humans, and so they require a lot of social interaction. Any primate that is deprived of social interaction will develop psychological and medical problems.

A pet monkey is almost like a child--they have to be supervised and nurtured. If you want to know what will happen if you don't provide your pet monkey with sufficient attention, take a look at a preschool class for children with behavior problems--that's how your pet monkey will act.

Secondly you have to understand that your pet monkey has opposable thumbs, and is actually very intelligent for an animal. Almost anything that you can get into, your pet monkey can as well, including your refrigerator, your medicine cabinet, and your medicine bottles. Monkeys also learn by mimicking behavior, so all these things that you regularly do will probably be attempted by your pet monkey.

Thirdly, you have to understand the medical and dietary requirements your pet monkey will have. In the wild, a monkey's diet consist primarily of fruit, with some protein (bugs, lizards, eggs). But your pet monkey will try to eat anything that you eat, including spicy foods, salty foods, and fatty foods, which they are not adapted to. Primates only require a small amount of fat and sodium in their diets for brain health, and the effects of high fat and high sodium diets are obvious. But a poor diet won't make your pet monkey obese, it will make it stressed, sick, or possible kill it.

As well, many monkeys are very vulnerable to diseases that humans can host, most notably the Herpes virus. Herpes Simplex I (commonly known as chickenpox or shingles) is a disease that a human will carry dormant for life once infected. It is also a disease that is absolutely fatal to monkeys. So if you have every had the chickenpox and the virus becomes active, you could possibly transmit it to your pet monkey.

Lastly, you must understand that your pet monkey is still an animal, no matter how human it can act. Frightened animals can be very dangerous. Monkeys have very large and sharp canine teeth, which they use to bite, gnash and cut when they feel threatened. Monkeys also will pull hair, and target eyes. Many people are also worried about their monkey throwing its feces when it is frightened. Throwing feces is actually an obvious defense strategy, and monkeys instinctively know that it works. However, many animals and even humans throw feces or defecate when frightened.

Humans and monkeys both can be trained to avoid this behavior. If you consider it, human infants and children are actually trained by their parents to avoid handling or throwing their feces, because of the negative reinforcement that usually follows that kind of behavior. Remember, your pet monkey is just like a child, and it can learn. Be careful though, because physical reinforcement or aggression towards your monkey may only frighten it more, or physically harm it, because it is still a small and fragile animal. Positive reinforcement is always better. Watch out for things that could frighten your pet monkey, such as: loud public places, lots of strangers in your home, and arguments or confrontations (your pet monkey might feel like you are threatened).

So while there are real risks in owning a monkey as a pet, if you truly understand its needs, a monkey can be a great addition to your family. So once again here are the things to remember in order to minimize problems:

1) You are the most important person in the world to your pet monkey, and so it needs lots of attention from you.

2) Your monkey can get into and open almost anything that you can

3) Your monkey has specific dietary and medical needs to watch out for

4) Your monkey can still be dangerous, no matter how cute it is

If you keep these risks in mind and give your pet monkey all the love it deserves, it will make a wonderful addition to your household

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