It seems it's not common to see monkeys as pets. I'm not sure of the reason, despite they're supposed to be smarter than any other pets (e.g. dogs).

It is possible to have a monkey as a pet (in the US/UK/EU countries)? Or there are some difficulties with that?

  • 1
    The legality will probably vary with jurisdiction.
    – rumtscho
    Feb 10 '15 at 18:18

It's certainly possible to have almost any animal as a pet. It varies from situation to situation as to how hard it is to make it happen. First, it depends on the area you live in and the local laws. There are some places that ban you even having a Pitbull, so the chances of them banning you from having a giraffe are pretty good. You'll have to contact your local government official to ask what the laws are concerning obtaining an animal of that nature. I'd advise calling the local police (not 911), animal control, fish and game, etc... and find out who could best answer that question. You're much more likely to get a good answer if you give the impression that you not only want to obtain the animal legally, but want to care for it correctly.

Assuming it's legal for you to have it as a pet, you next need to look at availability. You can find dogs and cats everywhere, many pet stores have exotic birds, it's a little harder to find hedgehogs, sugar gliders, etc... It's going to be very hard to find a monkey, zebra, or anything else that's that exotic. You can do online research and find out who to contact, but you need to find out a couple of things. You may have to travel across the country or even have the animal imported to get it. You also need to verify with the authorities what legal paperwork you need to obtain from a seller to prove that they've obtained the animal legally. Something you need to ask this person as well as the authorities is what type of enclosure is required for this animal. You need to put any information you obtain on diet, enclosure, health issues, etc... in a binder for reference.

If you do obtain the animal, you'll need to not only know what it requires, but how you can supply a steady stream of that. You'll need to consult with a vet on the required nutrition and make sure that you're able to find it at all in your area and that you're financially capable of supporting that for the life span of the animal. Even with a monkey, who would be able to eat most of the food at the supermarket, you have to make sure it's a balanced diet. You'll need to provide for the physical and mental needs of the animal by providing it proper shelter, food, and interactive time for it's mind and body. You'll need to know where the closest vet that's willing to treat your animal is at.

After all of that, from what I've heard, monkeys are awful to have. I've hear they're like bad toddlers their entire lives. You have to change diapers, they throw things, they dig around in your pantries and other things, hide things, etc... These are all acceptable monkey behaviors, but not something most people want inside their homes. That's just a small monkey, like a capuchin. If you got something larger, like a chimpanzee, it'd be exponentially worse. They are also stronger than most people, so you could get hurt.


I don't own one but have known several people with them and had a close friend work at a primate rescue sanctuary which I was able to visit on several occasions.

Primates make horrible pets. There's really no other way to put it. They are highly social animals that are extremely intelligent, extremely active, and being outside of a natural group, you the owner have to fulfil all of their requirements including the social ones without messing them up psychologically. They require almost constant interaction, much more than captive parrots, which I would consider one of the most demanding pets as far as daily interaction goes.

Unlike a pet such as a dog, training primates is difficult. They view a person as a conspecific and not a master. This introduces a number of problems in the owner pet relationship, simply because they don't consider themselves a pet. A similar mentality is an animal like a raccoon, which also makes a horrible pet, but similarly as when you try to get one to do something that it doesn't want to do, it's simply not going to happen.

More importantly, meeting the social requirements of a primate is virtually impossible. Primates have complex societal structures and relationship hierarchies. Since a single human or even a family cannot provide a similar social structure, what most people end up with is a very capable, strong, and agile, but mentally handicapped animal, that's going to live from 25 - 50 years. Like humans these animals have emotional states that can be completely overwhelming. They can also suffer from psychological illnesses such as depression and anxiety. These do not usually manifest pleasantly. As stated in another answer it's like a perpetual toddler, except it's a really fast toddler that can jump, throw things (including bodily fluids and excrement), bite and spit, and scream, but with many degrees more intensity than a human all while having the mental stability of a teenager. If you see how the interactions between same species monkeys is not always pleasant, just remember that you are the other monkey when you own one. Something that many don't consider is also that they can share many diseases with humans and finding suitable veterinary care isn't always possible.

As far as selection goes, larger primates are dangerous and completely unsuitable as pets. Chimpanzees especially are very aggressive once mature and many times stronger than even an abnormally fit human. For that matter all apes should be completely outside of consideration as well as large monkeys and anything endangered, which includes a large percentage of all primate species.

If you're still legitimately interested in keeping one as a pet, I would strongly advise to first find a sanctuary or institution where you can get more information and some hands on experience with them. By the time you spend a few months with them, you should have a pretty good idea if you actually want anything to do with keeping one in your house, I suspect you will not. But, you'll have enough of a foundation to make a legitimately informed decision on keeping one.

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