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Monkey Business: Is A Monkey The Right Pet For You?
As a teenager living on the West Coast of Florida I was like a fish out of water. I moved from New York with my parents. There are a lot of things that use some and I’m not a fan of heat or bugs. Whoever invented air conditioning has my eternal gratitude! Then there are things that help me cope with any negatives. Casual lifestyle and dress, beaches and fishing to name a few. One of the things I love most about Florida is that it doesn’t have many of the rules and restrictions that East Coasters are and still are today. Even in the early 1970s you couldn’t walk into a NYC or Long Island pet store and buy a monkey. However, you can do that in Florida.
Before the government decides that they will make all the decisions for us, there is a time when you can decide many things for yourself. That includes what kind of pet you may want to buy or adopt. Sadly, there are people who spoil that for true, honest and thoughtful pet owners… People who leave their dog forever tied to a tree, who keep an alligator in the pool, are tiger in their apartment or use their house as an animal rescue center that takes care of hundreds of cats that don’t have food in an unacceptable environment… Now I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be laws against keeping cats such animals or large animals as pets. What I want to point out is if the government is banning people from owning animals because they are in danger or because they think that some “experts” can be psychologically damaged by living with people… Then they are barking at trees that is wrong.
As a 14-year-old, I walked into a Florida pet store and saw a monkey crying in a small cage. This is not a case of negligence or abuse. This type of thing is often done by pet stores as a hook to get you to buy one of the more expensive or hard to sell options. So said my father and he was right. Another week passed and the monkey was still there when I returned. At $25 there is no tax and that price means the store wants you to go. It is a time when there are few tourists in town and it makes it difficult to sell. Most locals are elderly and don’t want the hassle of keeping a primate as a pet. Besides, monkey is not good at self promotion. He had just been weaned when someone took him from his mother, who gave him a few shots and sold him to a pet store for recycling. As a result the animal is shy, skiddish and afraid.
I went to the local library and did some research on squirrel monkeys before I finally bought 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 with dogs, birds and guinea pigs. The dog died before we could live. Other pets are taken to neighbors who already know and love them because it is not possible to bring them. I told my monkey Sam and brought him home in a large cage that we kept in a Florida room with a shuttered window on the side of our house. He faces a lot of unused land that is too old and forest-like. That room can be cut off from the A/C if necessary, but it is warm for a while if our area experiences cold weather.
Squirrel monkeys are easy to feed, not too expensive to keep and not difficult to train if you teach them to do things they enjoy doing. However, they require a lot of coordination and mental stimulation. Fortunately, Sam likes me. He tried to bite me at first so I gave him some time until he learned not to be angry. This is only possible because I have you. I also put him in his cage when he made a mistake. The idea is to use reinforcement and repetitive discipline as tools to get the animal to behave. I am the leader of this first group, not him. I am the provider of food, water and shelter. Once you check all this you learn fast. At first I used a leash. After a few months it doesn’t matter. He is allowed to roam free under our supervision, and even plays outside when we have beer or go into our pool. He used the empty lot next to the store as a yard exercise climbing trees and chasing birds and squirrels. He also used it as a potty so I guess you could say it was potty training 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 on having a monkey of this type you avoid having other pets. Most monkeys that are not properly trained or cared for will likely become aggressive or depressed as they get older. Monkeys in the house will often laugh at you or throw dirt at you. They can also attack you or destroy things they find important to you if given the chance.
As a rule Monkeys are smart. They learn quickly and are great escape actors. That’s why training is important. I always leave Sam’s cage door open once he’s trained. I have closed the doors to that room. He learns to close or open his cage door as it suits him. After a while you learn how to open and close all the doors that lead to the back yard so you can go outside to play or do your business. But he will not go without one of us giving him permission. The doors to his room were padlocked when we went out without him.
Having a squirrel monkey is easy and hard…satisfying and frustrating…fun and annoying…but is it moral? Did you hurt the animal? You will have to decide for yourself unless your city or state has already done that for you. The truth is that people are going from the monkey body regardless. In China it is illegal, but thousands of Kannada own “Pocket Monkeys” which are often bought as Pygmy Mamosets, Capuchins or Rhesus Monkeys. They don’t take good care of them. They hold their arms so they will learn to practice walking in pairs instead of all fours which is painful and awkward for them. They shaved their hair and clothed them. You get the picture. These animals are a status symbol in China where many authorities look the other way and ignore the rich and important people who own them. However, if they or responsible pet owners do not buy their monkeys they will be sold to research facilities and condemned to a life spent subjecting them to physically or mentally damaging experiments. emotional while living in a small cage with no love or companionship.
Each year thousands of monkeys are sent to research centers worldwide and many orders for more from the same torture centers go unfilled. Given that fact it’s hard to worry about the morality of having a monkey as a pet compared to the same animal ending up as a lab rat. Many people I know who have a monkey do not abuse it, or scratch it, or beat it or put it in an inappropriate environment. Again, if you have the legal right to have one, you have to decide if it’s something you should do or not. Before you do anything, do a lot of research and buy from a reputable breeder if you decide that a monkey is the right pet for you. No more $25 fees. You will spend $3000-$6000 depending on the type of monkey you choose. Most people like the Capuchins for their ability to learn tricks and habits. If you’re thinking small, Pygmy Marmosets are the size of a finger as babies and the size of a hand as adults. Squirrels and Spider Monkeys require more time and effort than most people care to invest in a pet.
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