Monkeys, also known as non-human primates, are amazing animals. They are highly intellectual with unique social structures.
In the past monkeys have been portrayed in film and media as pets, including in TV shows and with celebrities posing for photos with primates they have owned as pets. Sadly these representations can be damaging for the species, as they make primates appear as desirable pets, despite being wild animals, which in turn can increase their value to poachers working in illegal wildlife trafficking. 

But do monkeys make good pets?

The short answer is no. And I’ll explain why below. 

Many organisations including the RSPCA are campaigning to end the keeping of primates as pets in the UK because:

They are wild animals not domestic 

Monkeys are wild animals. They have not been domesticated over thousands of years as our pet dogs and cats have. This means they have wild instincts, behaviours and needs which need to be fulfilled in order for them to have a good quality of life.

As a result, they are not suited to living inside houses or small enclosures. When kept in captivity they should be kept in high standard regulated zoological facilities with trained staff, which provide large, purpose built enclosures that enable social groups to live together and behave naturally, with an environment that is enriched to be as naturalistic as possible. This includes providing appropriate nutrition for the species and regular monitoring to ensure all welfare needs are continually met.

Inappropriate socialisation leading to poor welfare 

As mentioned above, monkeys are highly sociable animals. Each species has a unique social structure and much of their normal behaviour revolves around interactions with their community. When living as an isolated individual with human company alone, they lose their ability to express normal behaviours and become dependent on human interaction.

This negatively impacts their welfare as their mental state is poor, as the interactions they would normally have which provide different emotional states and connections are not available to them.

Primates as advanced social beings can become depressed, which can lead to them self-mutilating, teeth grinding and hair plucking among other behaviours, which causes pain and physical harm and further reduces their quality of life and welfare. 

Zoonotic disease risk

Non-human primates, as the name suggests, share many similarities with humans. Both are primate species and as a result share many diseases as well. These diseases are known as zoonotic diseases or zoonoses, which means they can be transmitted from animals to people.

Vetster option 01 (Blog)

Examples of zoonoses that can be transmitted from monkeys to humans include viruses, bacteria and protozoa, such as herpes virus, hepatitis viruses, tuberculosis, Campylobacter, entamoeba and many others.

Depending on the severity of the illness and the immune state of the person contracting the disease, some zoonoses can cause severe illness in people and in some instances can be fatal. For this reason it is very important strict hygiene and preventative healthcare measures are taken ,when working and interacting with primates such as vaccination and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. 

If you work or interact with primates and would like to discuss this in more detail please contact your local veterinary surgeon.

Summary:

  • Monkeys do not make good pets
  • Monkeys are wild animals with complex needs
  • Keeping monkeys as pets, especially as solitary animals, often leads to poor welfare
  • Monkeys can carry diseases which can be transmitted to people, known as zoonoses

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