Can you own a monkey in Texas?

own a monkey in Texas

Many animals considered dangerous by the state of Texas require a license to be kept. Bears, coyotes, chimps and other apes, tigers, lions, and other animals are among those on this list. There are currently no laws governing the adoption of monkeys, wolves,  ferrets, capybaras, lemurs, as well as other animals. These laws are evolving, so if you’re thinking about getting a monkey as a pet, check the state laws first.

Purchasing a monkey

Exotic Breeders will always be around, nothing is going to change that! As far back as recorded history goes, man has always lived with pets – even exotic pets.

Since there are breeders and there is nothing that anyone is going to do to stop them, why are we as owners not concentrating more on the actions of breeders and the people who purchase these animals.

  • Do the breeders truly care about the primates they are breeding?
  • Do they place them in homes that are proper for them?
  • Do the breeders tell people the facts about the primates they are placing before they sell to them?
  • Are the breeders interested in the welfare of the animal or is it the money or prestige that matters most?
  • Do the people purchasing the primates know the proper care of the species they are purchasing ?
  • Can they afford the vet care and housing requirements, why are they purchasing this type of animal?

Since people will always purchase primates, these sorts of questions should be very important to owners and potential owners.

The goal I have set for myself is to aide primate owners and to educate potential owners about primate ownership. I try to answer individuals’ questions about all aspects of owning a primate. If I can’t answer the question, I direct them to someone who can answer either out of experience or expertise. I am still a beginner with juvenile primates, but I am willing to share what I have learned and experienced.

Below are some guidelines about deciding whom to purchase your primate from and things that you should do, before you purchase a primate:

1. I have always tried to buy directly from a breeder instead of going through a broker.

In this way you can obtain more information about your primate and learn more about it’s history. In most cases you can find out exactly where it came from. Most brokers don’t give you alot of information that might be useful should the animal ever get sick.

Potential owners: Be aware that you might be told many falsehoods in order to get you to purchase the primate. Know who you are dealing with and ask alot of questions!

2. Is the breeder USDA licensed?

This is a must, it protects you and the primate. It is also the law.

3. If the breeder is willing to ship the primate unescorted before the age of 8 weeks, find another breeder.

I feel that shipping a primate before that age is dangerous to their health and if the primate gets delayed somewhere, no one will feed it! Ask the airline and they will confirm this. If you have to ship, find the fastest way possible.

4. Does the breeder answer all your questions truthfully?

Questions such as the age of the primate, how to care for it and what might happen if it is not cared for properly? Do they mention that it can get aggressive when it matures and that it probably will not ‘bond’ with your human children? Do they mention that primates in pairs normally do better than single pet primates? Do they mention the responsibility, money and time it takes to nurture a primate? If not, find another breeder!

Potential owners: Educate yourself before the fact. Learn about diseases, care and diet of the type of primate you would like to purchase. If possible, spend time at someone’s house that owns a primate and observe their care and needs. Again, ask questions.

5. Is the breeder pushing the sale or do they say that maybe you should go home and think about it a while longer?

Potential owners: If the breeder is pushing the sale, you can assume that they are only concerned about money and not the wellbeing of the primate or you. Take your time in deciding, remember, this is a 35-45 year commitment!

6. Is there any type of guarantees?

If it is a genetic guarantee you have found a good breeder. Not too many offer genetic guarantees anymore. Do they guarantee that the primate is healthy? Do they honestly take it to the vet for a health checkup before you take possession? If it is a guarantee that the primate you might purchase will wait on you and entertain you the rest of your life and could possibly become a movie star – laugh and walk away!

Potential owner: Genetic guarantees are a plus and health certificates should come with the primate. Primates have a mind of their own, some are successful at learning tricks and some are not. Do you have the patience and time to train the primate or do you have the money to have a professional do it?

7. Does the breeder ask you questions?

If a breeder doesn’t ask you about why you want a primate and how you plan to raise it, do you think they honestly care about the welfare of the primate?

Potential owners: A responsible breeder cares!

8. Does the breeder mention cage requirements and talk to you about psychological well being?

Potential owners: If you cannot meet these needs, you will not have a healthy happy monkey no matter what anyone tells you! Primates need space, enrichment and alot of your time.

9. Try to deal with a breeder that you have heard good things about from previous buyers.

However be very careful! It’s sad but there are alot of scams going on out there! Be weary of breeders that want all the money upfront.

10. Always try to buy in person so you can see exactly what it is that you are buying.

If you can’t do that, try to have the breeder escort the animal to you. It will cost you more, but it is well worth it. If they are willing to do that, they care about the primate and where it is going. Upon delivery you can refuse it if something is wrong (age, health, etc) You will be out the airfare, but you will not be stuck with a primate that was misrepresented to you.

As for the potential owners, here are a few things you should do:

  • Educate yourself about the type of primate you want, before looking for your primate.
  • Have all of your primate’s need available before it’s arrival. (food, cages, etc.)
  • Ask everyone questions…breeders, vets, experts and reputable foundations.
  • Find a vet that treats primates before you purchase one. This is a key point!
  • Find people in your area that own primates and ask if you can visit a couple of times.
  • Take your time about deciding to buy a primate, considering all the pros and cons.
  • Check out all the information you get from anyone. Any false information could lead to disaster for you and your primate!
  • Read everything you can get your hands on about primates!
  • Don’t purchase a primate for a companion for a child or as a substitute child.
  • And last but not least, continue to educate yourself after you get your primate, the Internet is a great place to start!

I hope this helps potential owners in their search for a primate. If you do decide to get one I wish you luck and many years of happiness together. I can’t stress enough how important it is to educate yourself before you get your primate and for the sake of both of you, continue that education for the life of your primate.

Should you buy a monkey?

Many people are enchanted by their human characteristics, and indeed they have many such. They can be lovable, affectionate, dependent, energetic, enthusiastic and entertaining. However, they can also be despondent, morose, aggressive and down right dangerous. They often have quick tempers, can sulk and pout and hold grudges, be independent, insolent, indifferent to training and occasionally vindictive. Yes, they are very much like humans!

Present Federal Legislation makes the importation of Simians for the pet trade illegal, and the sale of simians in pet-shops without a federal permit also illegal. Only for research, zoos and breeding colonies will their importation and sale be sanctioned. Many States also have legislation passed and pending requiring permits, some costing $100.00 a year, to keep a monkey that you already own. These laws apply to many other exotic pets as well. So far private owners have not been forbidden to sell or put up for adoption a pet they presently own though it may come to that. Gibbons can not be transferred to new owners in some States now.

If you still can acquire a monkey somewhere legally be sure that you understand what you are getting into. Monkeys most available today are the:

  • Macaques: Rhesus, Stumptail, Pig-tail and Java.
  • Guenons: Mona and Vervet.
  • Spiders: Black, Variegated, Golden and Brown.
  • Capuchins: White-faced, White-fronted, Cinnamon, Weeper and Tufted or Black-capped.
  • Squirrel Monkeys: All sub-species similar, though size varies.
  • Marmosets: Common.

An occasional Mangaby or patas monkey might be up for sale or adoption. The males of these two species, as also the Stump-tail, Pig-tail and Rhesus macaques, can grow to weigh from Forty to Seventy pounds. This is a lot of monkey to keep as a pet! Most large monkeys must be kept behind bars when fully adult which is especially true of the males, who, because of hormones and the inborn need to establish dominance and to protect their territory companions, become aggressive, regardless of how much tender loving care they received when they were young. A monkey is and will always be a wild animal, and just because ne has been brought into your home, he cannot negate the millions of years of evolution that have conditioned him.

You must be firm with a monkey always; don’t let it ever think that you are afraid of it, but don’t try whipping it as you might a dog. Don’t play rough with it when it is young, as when it matures that play can turn into an attack Don’t fight with each other seriously as in play or talk very loud close to it. It makes it nervous, defensive and may turn it against one of the family for life. Don’t look it directly in the eye and hold it. In monkey language especially in the larger species this is a threat and you can’t expect him to know you don’t mean it as such.

It is important to consider your way of life before deciding to adopt a simian. It has been said only one person in 10,000 should have a monkey for a pet. If you can’t stand to have your hair mussed, your magazines torn, dishes broken, ashtrays upset, lamps knocked over and draperies ripped, don’t get a simian for a pet. If you have children think twice, because most monkeys become nervous over sudden noises and quick movements and may be frightened into biting a child. Some children who “have a way” with animals can win their confidence, and all will be well. Most monkeys can get along with dogs and cats if they are properly introduced. They are afraid of large birds but will often kill small ones, so consider your other pets before getting a monkey. Adopting a simian is a long range obligation for they require a great deal of care and companionship if they are to thrive. They may live up to 25 years (even to 40) although this is rare. On the other hand it is wonderful to have an enchanting Pet. which you love, live that long.


Do not bring a monkey home without a cage to put him in. A monk brought into new surroundings will usually be very frightened and will need the sense of security that his own cage can give him. Practically no monkey should be given complete freedom. When out of his cage he should be watched, because even a little squirrel can open a kitchen cabinet and empty packages. of flour, sugar, coffee, etc., into piles on the floor or poison himself on bleaches, disinfectants, nutmegs or pills. Also such house plants as colius, poinsettias or crown-of-thorns, and such decorations as holly and mistletoe can kill him.

His cage should be large enough so that he can climb and swing and play, and therefore you must consider his size and how much he will grow. If you so not have the room for a large cage be sure you get a small monkey. NO bird cage is suitable for a monkey no matter how small, and capuchins and the larger species need very strong cages made with heavy turkey wire or chain link. He should have shelves, a heavy rope or length of hose to swing on (never use chain or a thin rope which can strangle him) and a sleeping box or hammock. The latter should be made of some heavy material as anything which can ravel out or tear can also get wrapped around a hand or foot stopping circulation. Or around his neck causing his death. Capuchins especially wrap things around their necks and have strangled on Venetian blind cords, neckties, raveled pieces of old towels etc.

Some states are now setting minimum cage sizes, for the larger you can make it the better. However, keep in mind that you must clean it daily and disinfect it at least weekly. Make sure that the cage is so placed that it is not in a draft nor too close to a radiator or register that may deliver too much heat. See to it that there is enough humidity. Too dry a heat in winter can kill it. Do not subject it to sudden drops in temperature, which can cause a cold that may develop into pneumonia. On the other hand if you live in the warm states, don’t take it from an air-conditioned house into a hot day, they get heat stroke. If put outside be sure he has water that he can not spill, and shade. A monk can die of sun-stroke in a half hour.

Don’t leave him at any place where he hasn’t something to climb up to get away from strange dogs or “strange people” who sometimes have been known to harm monkeys left out alone. Be very careful of what sort of leash you use if you fasten him out, that he can not get it twisted around his neck. A waist collar or cat harness is preferable to a neck collar for safety reasons, and the leash should be connected to a swivelling ring so that he won’t just wrap it around and round the post. The best place for him outside is in a large cage or pen. Don’t let a monkey wonder at will outside. They can eat twigs and leaves of cherry or elderberry, rhododendron or laurel, oleander, wisteria and yew, all of which can kill them. In a vegetable garden the foliage of rhubarb, tomato and potato plants are also poisonous. Monkeys can climb up a power pole and be electrocuted. They can run out into traffic and get struck by a car. They can stray into some neighboring property and be shot as a dangerous animal, or killed by a dog. All these things have happened to pet monkeys.

If he should escape, don’t run after him or let other people try to help by chasing him. Have someone watch where he goes and quickly get some favorite food, a paper bag and a mirror or some shiny object. Sit where he can see you looking in the bag and taking out food, flash the mirror or tin can around and usually his curiosity will bring him down to you.

Should you have a baby monkey it should be carried as much as possible. If you must leave it in its cage, give it a stuffed toy or tightly hemmed piece of blanket or terry cloth as a substitute mother. A hammock of man-made sheepskin which is used in hospitals to prevent bed-sores is ideal. It can be bought in the medical supply stores or drug stores that keep such supplies, and while it is expensive it can be washed day after day and look like new, and it cannot be torn or shredded by little “steel fingers”. It can be used to line a hanging basket instead of a hammock which will swing gently and make the little one feel “mother” is alive and real. This “sheepskin” is also excellent for sick monks, for those so immobilized by rickets they can only lie, or for padding cages of epileptic simians.

Many babies under a year old perish during the first few months of captivity, and the younger they are, the less chance they have for survival. It is very important to watch carefully for any sign of illness because a monk is often dangerously sick before it is obvious. Nearly all young monkeys can be diapered and dressed but about 85 percent of these will not permit it when mature, so keep this in mind. Monkeys do not like to have a soiled diaper on, and some learn to wait until they go back to their cages to relieve themselves, and in time can come out without a diaper and go back to their cage when necessary. Complete “housebreaking” is usually impossible.

Diapers can be make with a tai-hole bound with elastic thread or having two or three inches of absorbent material sewn in to form a little sleeve down the tail to prevent leakage. Disposable diapers can be used with tabs in front, taking one corner and crossing it over around the monk so that it fastens to the opposite side of the back. Ditto with the other corner, and you have a pretty leak proof diaper.

If you have to tame a monkey, take advantage of its natural curiosity. He is afraid, but if you hold something shiny or bright colored in your hands and play with it, he usually comes to see and soon plays with your fingers, looks at your rings or watch etc. They even like to check your teeth. Don’t wear glasses or earrings around a new or strange monkey.

Some monkeys can be handled by their tails, though most don’t like it at first. Start by just stroking the tail, then holding it lightly, and finally it will allow you to use the tail as a handle

Find a veterinarian who will treat monkeys and who under- stands their problems or a pediatrician who will cooperate this isn’t always easy. Also if possible find someone willing to care for him if some emergency should arise, or should you want or need to be away for a while. In general monkeys are not good traveling companions.

There is no firm answer to the question “which makes a better pet, male or female?” All simians are individuals, but as a rule the males of larger species become more difficult to handle. It has been said “The only good monkey is a sick monkey.” No two are just alike and dogmatic statements about them just cannot be made.


Colds and Pneumonia

If a monkey catches cold, give it liquid or baby aspirin. Watch for wheezing which will mean the cold has gone into the lungs and may develop into pneumonia. Do not use patent medicines, most human cold remedies are much too strong for a monkey. Do not use antibiotics without consulting a veterinarian or pediatrician. For a simple cold they do no good and for bacterial involvement you should get professional help. Many simians like many humans, have allergic or other dangerous reactions to some antibiotics. Diarrhea Such simple things as excitement, nervousness or fear can cause instant loose stools. Drinking water in a new place or in many monks drinking milk and eating too much fruit can cause it. Watch the diet. If diarrhea continues, something else may be indicated such as intestinal parasites, bacterial infections like Shigella or Salmonella or serious inflammation of the bowel from some other cause. Have laboratory tests of fecal matter made to determine the cause. Untreated both of the above bacterial infections can kill a monkey and can be transmitted to humans. Shigellosis, caught from a simian has been fatal to young children.

Internal Parasites

Never worm a very young monkey that is sick or shows signs of malnutrition. Build it up first with good food and vitamins. Don’t try to use some dog or cat remedy on your own unless you want to kill it. Consult your veterinarian or a doctor concerning what to treat parasites with.


It is possible for a simian to contract T.B. from humans, and the Old World monkeys seem to be more frequently exposed to it by the people who catch and ship them. At least it is found more often in Old World monks and very rarely in those of the New World. TB tests and x-rays can be used as diagnostic aids in determining if your monkey is afflicted. Let your veterinarian or doctor do the tests.

Virus Diseases

Simians are not known to be immune to any of the virus diseases known to man, many of which may prove fatal to them. The book “Diseases of Laboratory Primates” states that injection of the hepatitis virus into simians caused no symptoms of the disease, but some became carriers. The Chimpanzees are the ones best known for transmitting it to man. The African Green monkey and the Rhesus have been known to transmit the B virus which is fatal to man. The squirrel monkey may carry another B virus which will kill Marmosets, Douroucoulies, and possibly titis and sakis but which does not appear to affect man. Basically, a monkey has the same medical problems as man and should be treated in much the same way. They develop ulcers, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart, liver, and kidney disease.

First Aid

Do what you can first to save a life. Then always check with a veterinarian or doctor and take the animal to him as soon as possible. If the monkey is found collapsed in the sun – get it into the shade immediately and bathe it in cool, not cold water until it responds. When it is conscious and can swallow put a drop or two of honey, karo syrup or a pinch of sugar on its tongue. Heatstroke is same as above.

Electric Shock

Using a piece of newspaper or a paper bag, broomstick or any dry stick remove animal from electric wire or outlet. If breathing has stopped, start artificial respiration at once, mouth-to-mouth if you know how, Schaefer method if you don’t but with careful, light pressure or you’ll break the little ribs or back. At least 20 breaths a minute. When breathing becomes regular wash the burns with cold water and call the veterinarian or doctor. If possible have someone call while you are giving respiration.


Fire, Acid, Chemical Same as for electric burn. Float with cold water until you can get medical help.


As a result of accident, insect sting etc. Keep him warm and quiet and give a few drops of honey, karo syrup, heavy syrup from any canned fruit, or a little sugar whenever you are sure he can swallow.


Unless bleeding is profuse enough to be from an artery, let the monk take care of it. Get professional advise as to suturing.


Give as much water or milk as possible. Except in the case of Lye, gasoline or kerosene or any product that tells you not to on the container, induce vomiting. Get medical help at once and try to know the type of poisons, as it may be vital if an antidote is needed.

Lead Poisoning

Usually from chewing lead-based paint. Symptoms are Abdominal pain, listlessness, muscular weakness, personality change, may come slowly. Get medical help.


Restrain very lightly, holding tightly can break bones. If monk is known to be epileptic, keep floor of cage padded. Have veterinarian supervise proper medication.


Malnutrition is the No.1 killer of pet monkeys and is caused largely by their being held in captivity without receiving the foods necessary for their health. Often the first sign of this dangerous and common ailment that is noticed is the inability to walk on all fours. It is not natural for a monkey to “scoot” (that is to shuffle along in a sitting position) or to crawl on its knees and elbows.

However, there are other danger signals that indicate the condition: eyes that protrude more than normal, a mouth that doesn’t close completely, a tongue that protrudes a bit, too many or too few teeth. There may be bowed, stiff or too short arms and legs, a slight hump-back, inability to open and close fingers or toes, bony knobs on wrists, and sometimes tics (involuntary jerking movements) or seizures that seem a type of epilepsy. This condition develops in young newly imported monkeys who are suffering from the shock of captures, infections picked up from others crammed into the same crate or cage and parasites that might do it no harm in the wild state but now can prove serious.

Infant monkeys who would still be nursing cannot properly digest the sort of food thrown to them, and so arrive half starved and dehydrated; and older ones, who they stand a better chance, are on the verge of this disease which is basically rickets. They must have good nourishing food at once, and most important they must have Vitamin D and a calcium supplement. The purpose of Vitamin D is to aid in the absorption of Calcium and their lack causes rickets. The amount of D should be increased at least three times the regular dosage if rickets is present, but be careful that you check the product you are using to see that you do not give too much Vitamin A. It might be safer to use a supplement containing D alone and calcium separately if the monk is badly crippled. If D3 in powder form is used, do it only under supervision of a veterinarian or doctor and do not over do it, as it can permanently damage the kidneys or cause death. In addition to the D and calcium, a good multiple vitamin should be used as all are needed- but never overdose.

Sometimes when malnutrition is obviously present, hyperparathyroidism has already developed. This simply means the parathyroid glands keep pulling calcium from the bones to keep the calcium in the blood in a ratio of 2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus. Once they start, the parathyroids don’t stop stealing calcium from the bones so that supplements must be continued or osteoporosis (adult rickets) results. Also calcium deposits may occur in vital organs as a result of this condition interfering with their function and causing early death. Some supplements available are: Cod Liver Oil Concentrate (White Laboratories) which is Vit. D in tablet form 400 Int. units per tablet. This has too much A if given in markedly increased dosage for rickets. Drisdol (Winthrop) containing no Vit. A but only 200 units per drop so dosage must be double that of products containing 400 units. Multi-vitamins; Avitron (Lambert-Kay), Vi Daylin (Abbot), Unicap (Upjohn), Poly-Vi-Sol (Meade-Johnson, drops or chewable tablets).


An infant should be offered nourishing foods and encouraged to eat every two hours. Foods should include fortified baby formula marketed for humans. Never give a newly imported monkey any type of cow’s milk. Wait until he is older and has gained strength, and it can be determined whether he can digest it. Some can and some never will be able to. Feed baby foods and dry baby cereals mixed with formula or fruit juice. Boiled chicken is one of the best foods you can offer. Give only distilled water at first because any change of water may cause diarrhea.

Don’t try to handle a baby monkey if he is afraid. Let him have his substitute “mother” in his cage, and allow him to come to you when he is ready. Sometimes he will attach himself to you and refuse to let go. If this happens, how lucky you are! A monkey has adopted you, which works out much better than your adopting a monkey who is afraid of you. Let him cling and don’t let him feel abandoned. Remember in the jungle a deserted baby would soon be dead, and his instinct seem to tell him so. However, if he is timid at first, talking to him softly and offering food or little things to play with should soon win him over. Put a mirror just outside his so that he will see the monkey in the glass and feel less alone.


A balanced diet is as important to a simian as to a human and should contain daily some foods from the four basic nutritional groups:

  • 1. Meat-only lean meat-poultry, fish, eggs, and insects. (Do not feed ham, pork or spiced meat.)
  • 2. Fruits and vegetables
  • 3. Milk, cheese,yogurt
  • 4. Breads, cereals, grains, seeds and nuts.

Many species of monkeys relish insects and the New World monkeys especially should have mealworms or crickets. They are a better source of animal protein to simians than most meats. Commercial bird seeds, especially sunflower seeds are usually enjoyed; and several commercial monkey chows are available: Purina, Wayne, Hallwood and Science Diet. (Riviana Foods, Hills Division) can be bought from feed companies.

Monkeys, like children prefer, goodies to food that is good for them so make sure that you feed the things they should have when they are hungry. That they all like bananas and peanuts is not true, but they will eat too much fruit if they have the chance. Much of what you eat is fine for them, but if you eat a lot of pizza, spaghetti and meat balls, spicy food, potato chips, fried food and soft drinks, don’t share too often with your simian. Maybe your digestion can handle it. His can’t!!! Don’t forget some cannot digest cow’s milk and make sure yours can.

A monkey should not be fat, which can damage his heart and liver. He should, if his weight appears right, eat 4 percent of his weight a day. Don’t forget also that he needs vitamin supplements. Fresh water should always be available, small loaf pans can be fastened in a cage with butterfly nuts or clamps. Hamster bottles for small monks and quart size water bottles can be fastened to the outside of the cage, if the mesh or bars are not such that he can reach out and dismantle it. Food trays, too, should be fastened or they will be spilled. Box type wire holders can be made. It’s up to your ingenuity to find the best way for your monkey, but it isn’t easy. In fact nothing is easy in sharing your life with a simian or with several, but it can be a wonderful experience.

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