A Bunch Of Animals In One Room As Open Cage Monkey Business: Is A Monkey The Right Pet For You?

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Monkey Business: Is A Monkey The Right Pet For You?

Monkey business…

As a young teenager living on the West Coast of Florida, I was like a fish out of water. I moved there from New York with my parents. There was a lot to get used to and I wasn’t a fan of the heat or the bugs. Whoever invented air conditioners has my eternal gratitude! Then there were things that helped me tolerate any negatives. Casual lifestyle and clothing, beaches and fishing to name a few. One of the things I really liked about Florida was that it lacked many of the rules and restrictions that East Coasters were and still are plagued with today. Even in the early 1970s you couldn’t walk into a pet store in NYC or Long Island and buy a monkey. However, you can do this in Florida.

Before the government decided it was going to make all the decisions for us, there was a time when you could decide a lot of things for yourself. This included the type of pet you might want to buy or adopt. Sadly, there were some people who spoiled it for honest, sincere and thoughtful pet owners… People who left their dogs permanently tied to a tree, kept an alligator in the pool, had a tiger in their apartment or used their home as an animal rescue center housing hundreds of malnourished cats in a completely unacceptable environment… Now I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be laws against keeping certain types of wild or exotic animals as pets. What I want to point out is if the government is banning people from owning animals because they are endangered or in the opinion of some “expert” they can be psychologically damaged by living with humans… Then they are barking up the wrong tree.

As a fourteen-year-old boy, I walked into a pet store in Florida and saw a squirrel monkey languishing in a small cage. This was not a case of neglect or abuse. This sort of thing is often done by pet stores as a ploy to get you to buy one of their more expensive or hard-to-sell selections. That’s what my father said and he was right. Another week passed and the monkey was still there when I returned. At $25 it didn’t cost a fortune and that price meant the store wanted it gone. It was a time when few tourists were in town and that made selling more difficult. Most of the locals were older and didn’t want the trouble of keeping a Primate as a pet. Besides, the monkey was not good at self-promotion. She was barely weaned when someone took her from her mother, gave her a few shots and sold her to the pet store for resale. As a result, the animal was shy, slippery and scared.

I went to the local library and did some research on squirrel monkeys before finally purchasing it two weeks after my first visit to the pet store. My parents were fine with my purchase because I have always been a responsible pet owner having a dog, birds and guinea pigs. The dog died before we moved. Other pets were adopted with neighbors who already knew and loved them because it just wasn’t possible to bring them with them. I named my monkey Sam and brought him home in a large cage that we kept in a room in Florida with closed windows on the side of our house. It faced an unused land that was overgrown and looked like a jungle. That room could be disconnected from the air conditioner if needed, but it was heated for the short period of time our area experienced any cold weather.

Squirrel monkeys are easy to feed, not too expensive to keep and not difficult to train if you train them to do things they like to do. However, they require a lot of companionship and mental stimulation. Fortunately, I liked Sam. He tried to bite me at first, so I pinched him a few times until he learned not to be so aggressive. This was only possible because I made it very young. I also put him in the cage when he misbehaved. The idea was to use conditioning and repetitive discipline as tools for animal behavior. I was the leader of this primate group, not him. I was the provider of food, water and shelter. Once he understood all this, he learned faster. At first I used a chain. After a few months it was not necessary. He was allowed to roam free under our supervision and even played outside while we barbequed or went to our pool. He used the empty space in the other shop as an exercise yard climbing trees and chasing birds and squirrels. He also used it as a potty, so I guess you could say he was potty trained for the most part.

Dogs and monkeys are sworn enemies. You can’t have both without stressing one or both pets. In reality monkeys are jealous. I strongly suggest that if you plan to have a monkey of this type, you avoid having other pets. Most monkeys that are not well trained or treated well are likely to become mean or moody as they move into adulthood. Caged monkeys will constantly urinate or defecate on you. They may also attack you or destroy things they see as important to you if given the chance.

Monkeys are usually smart. They learn quickly and are great escape artists. This is why training is important. I always left Sam’s cage door open after he was trained. I closed the doors of that room. He learned to close or open the cage door as he saw fit. After a while he learned how to open and close all the doors leading to the back yard so he could go outside to play or do his business. But he would never go unless one of us gave him our permission. The doors to his room were closed when we left without him.

Having a squirrel monkey is easy and hard… satisfying and frustrating… fun and annoying… but is it ethical? Is it harmful to the animal? You’ll have to decide for yourself if your city or state hasn’t already done this for you. The truth is that people will own monkeys regardless. It is illegal in China, but thousands of Chinese own “Pocket Monkeys” which are usually bought as baby Pygmy Mamosets, Capuchin or Rhesus Monkeys. They don’t treat them well. They tie their arms so they will learn to practice walking on two instead of four, which is painful and unnatural for them. They shave their fur and clothe it. You get the picture. These animals are status symbols in China where most authorities look the other way and ignore the rich and important people who own them. However, if they or responsible pet owners did not buy the monkeys, they would be sold to research laboratories and condemned to a lifetime spent undergoing physically or emotionally harmful experiments while living in a cage of small without love or companionship.

Every year tens of thousands of monkeys are sent to research facilities around the world, and many orders for more of the same torture centers go unfulfilled. Given this fact, it’s hard to worry about the morality of keeping a monkey as a pet versus the same animal ending up as a lab rat. Most people I know who have a monkey didn’t abuse it, shave it, or beat it or keep it in an inappropriate environment. Once again, if you have the legal right to own one, you have to decide if it’s something you should do or not. Before you do anything, do plenty of research and buy from a reputable breeder if you decide a monkey is the right pet for you. No more $25 prices. You’ll spend $3,000-$6,000 depending on the type of monkey you choose. Most people prefer capuchins for their ability to learn tricks and behaviors. If your plan is small, Pygmy Marmosets are the size of a baby’s finger and the size of an adult’s hand. Squirrels and spider monkeys require more time and effort than most people want to invest in a pet.

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