The Monkey Challenge


A baby monkey is as cute as any newborn human with its own characteristics and personality.  They are so human like with little hands and the cutest little faces you have ever seen. They have these small little noises they make in communication, so hard to resist because there just isn’t anything much cuter in life.  Everything about them reels you in and makes you want one.  They have these little hands to hold on to you with, and they will cuddle right up into you like an infant baby.  Therefore, you then find yourself wanting a monkey.  You haven’t done your homework to see the kind of care they will need, how long they will live, what kind of caging is proper, or what they will need to enrich their lives. You know nothing, other than you want a monkey.


After a short time with this small creature, you decide to invest a good sum of money to have this cute little creature in your home. You do not realize the nature of your decision at this point or the costs ahead of you.  You do not realize all the growing pains you will have to go through with your little monkey, and surely do not realize that if you have just adopted a male you will have many more growing pains than with a female; good old testosterone!   You literally have not thought this through, your “awe it’s so cute” now has you into a 15-30 year commitment depending on the breed of monkey. 


Within hours of having your new family member you will realize they have a full set-of teeth and can use them.  Whether your new baby was just saying no to you, or it was afraid of its new surroundings, you have found out it can bite.  How do you handle this, like a dog biting? Actually, with no education on what you now have in your home that may be the route you take.  Hitting your monkey can make for a bad relationship right off, and lead to many bites that are more aggressive later on.  Monkeys have good and long memories and will NOT forget you hitting them.  You have just made your first mistake with your new baby; there will be many more to come since you did not find out the needs of your new family member. It’s like with children, you get no manual on the care and this infant can jump, bite, and climb like a…MONKEY.  


 After your first few hours with your new baby, you will discover that holding them is all they want and you have things to do. Now what? 


You now realize you will need a cage for your new baby, at least if your smart you will, to keep it from getting into things that could be  harmful to your new baby.  By now, you’re realizing this is not at all like a puppy or kitten, this baby wants your full attention and to be held constantly.  You did not do your homework and did not realize that adult mother monkeys carry their infants for the first year of life, almost consistently.  The only time a baby monkey leaves its mother’s body is to play a bit and explore, but never more than a leap away from mom’s body.  I found wearing a big pocket apron helped so I could carry my baby monkey and do my household things.  We just passed the apron to other family members, monkey and all, when we had to do things outside the house.  We never left our monkeys alone as babies and as adults rarely ever alone unless it was for very short periods.


You are now realizing you need some answers and help on taking care of this new family member and start searching the internet for answers, as well as products such as caging, toys, and other products to enrich your new baby’s life.  This is the first of many searches you will conduct for answers for this family member; you are now doing your homework! 


In doing your homework you will find they need rather large caging to be happy, a number of toys for enrichment, and many primate sites will suggest a second monkey for companionship, yeah, another monkey!  Of course, this is up to you, but the little monkey you have taken in cannot just be caged and forgotten about.  You cannot expect it to be something for your amusement when you have time for it, and to be happy with just toys.  No, just as with human babies, you must interact with it constantly or you will have a monkey that you cannot handle.  You must bond with this animal like another monkey, or as you do with a child. 


This animal needs the same amount of stimulation as a human baby and the same amount of contact.  What have you got yourself into?


This is just the beginning of your journey with this “awe it’s so cute” baby.  You will find out along the way that monkeys have built in instincts that will always be there and you CANNOT change them.  One major instinct is to live in anarchy, like in the wild, with one dominant Alpha.  That alpha has to be you. If your monkey becomes the alpha, kiss your days of holding it and interacting with it good-bye unless it’s from the outside of a cage.  


Being the alpha and maintaining that status is an ongoing battle throughout the monkeys’ life. You will also find out that monkeys and small children do NOT mix well, if at all.  Dominance is the approach a monkey will use in trying for that alpha status, and one bite to a child usually gains that alpha status; leaving the child open for repeat attacks. 


You will find that your monkey will even challenge full-grown people in the family and gain alpha over them with a bite.  All family members not able to overpower the monkeys’ aggression will soon become people who will never be able to handle the monkey again, as it gets older.  This becomes a MAJOR challenge within the family because the people in the family that cannot overpower the monkey and remain alpha over the monkey, are now people who no longer can play with what was once their pet too.  It takes a very strong personality to keep up with the growing pains that come from this alpha complex the monkey has instinctively.  This alpha complex cost many monkeys their lifetime homes. All because nobody did their homework, they just wanted the “awe it’s so cute” monkey. 


There are many things that can be done to turn this situation around, such as removal of the K-9’s. 


That way if a bite happens, they cannot rip the skin.  Having the monkey fixed so that it’s hormones are not raging helps also, especially in the males.  Giving them calming teas and St John’s Wart helps too.  Lastly, there is always removing the front teeth so that biting is much harder.  This is a last resort in maintaining a relationship with your monkey so it does not have to be given away to someone who will not love it, as you have. It sounds cruel, but as long as it has its back teeth for chewing it still can enjoy its favorite foods.  Cruel would be sending it to a sanctuary or having to cage it with no interaction outside the cage anymore, or even worse, putting it down.  The taking of the front teeth levels the playing ground with the primary caregiver, or alpha person the monkey has accepted as such.  Now instead of straight on bites, the caregiver/alpha person has only hands to control versus a mouth coming at them too.  I had to do this with my male Java/Rhesus, but not until he was 13-years old. 


You have to understand; that as they get older, they no longer are interested in toys as they use to be when younger. Monkeys that are still interested in toys are hard to buy for since now their jaw can break so many toys with one good bite.  With this in mind, they become more bored as they get older and more frustrated, and this leads to more aggression sometimes.  I know that to be the case with my male, things he use to like, no longer interest him.  Just like us, they change in their likes and dislikes throughout their life.  


Another thing that can bring on aggression is new situations, surroundings, and people.  This brings to mind the story of Travis the Chimp, mind you this is an Ape, not a monkey, but applies to his situation.  That monkey was constantly put into situations in its life with strangers approaching him when the owner took him with her in the car and into public places.  It was a horrible accident waiting to happen.  Monkeys are very protective of their owners and see them as family members. 


That woman constantly put that monkey into a situation of dealing with people it did not know, this brings stress, stress brings aggression in most cases.  Monkeys bite out of fear, out of protection, and many times out of gaining alpha status.  Travis could be alive and well today had she treated him with the respect he deserved.  That respect being he was as strong as any three full-grown men together, and knowing he could kill a person with little effort was something she needed to respect.  Keeping him in a safe familiar surrounding and unable to do harm to others was her responsibility.  If you love your monkey, you are keeping them safe, as well as others, caging them so accidents do not happen. Even the sweetest monkeys can have an aggressive act, so taking precautions is necessary for their safety, as well as others.     


My point being, aggression is brought on by stress in so many cases and noticing the stress in your monkey can turn a bad situation into a good one by redirecting the stress and anger it brings.  Keeping your monkey caged around non-family members is a good idea for the monkey and your guest.  That way your monkey cannot hurt someone, and in turn, your monkey will not have to pay for putting it into a bad situation with its life.


There are so many challenges in raising a monkey, as with a child.  Getting through the challenge gives you a wonderful relationship with your primate, but nobody said it was going to be easy or without injury in most cases. I’ve been lucky and up until my 13th year with my male, never had any injuries.  As for my female, she is 12 and I have had no injuries with her, as of yet. 


Your biggest challenge with a monkey as a pet and family member is the actual challenging.  If you can get through those aggressive moments and turn the aggressiveness around, you can have one of the best relationships in life with your monkey.  There are many other challenges with owning a monkey with the expenses of caging, enrichment, vet care, and adjusting to the family situation with a monkey as a family member.   


Then there is figuring out as the monkey gets older who will still be able to be a part of the monkey’s life, and which members will not be able to handle the monkey anymore.  This is very hard on the family, as well as the main caregiver, but if a family member cannot overpower the monkey on an aggressive act, it then becomes a person who cannot handle the monkey any longer.  


So are you up to the “awe it’s so cute” monkey ownership challenge? Think long and hard about all the challenges you will face with a primate in your family, not to mention the cost to care for it. The commit to ownership of a monkey is HUGE, and all those vacations the family may never take anymore because babysitters are hard to come by for a primate.


Are you up to the Monkey Challenge?  If you are, you are in for a life altering experience that can be awesome with commitment.    

Written By:  Sherri Chambers 


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