The Capuchin monkey lives naturally in Central and South America. Capuchins spend their time in groups of 10 to over 30 Capuchins, made up of males, females, and young monkeys, tree surfing and looking for food.
Capuchins are diurnal, arboreal, intelligent, and territorial. They spend most of their day searching for food in the wild, hang out in trees, are said to be the smartest of the New World monkeys, and will mark their territory by urinating on it.
In the wild, Capuchins swing from tree to tree, something that most home enclosures don't permit. The lack of a natural habitat in a home setting is one of the biggest reasons why there is such controversy regarding these monkeys being kept as exotic pets.
Capuchins As Pets
Many people across the country own and breed Capuchin monkeys legally and illegally. States vary in their laws for keeping primates as pets, but the concerns are the same everywhere, even among monkey owners.
Capuchins, like other primates, can transmit diseases to humans. Hepatitis is the most feared, next to rabies. Capuchins can also be infected with more common ailments quite easily from humans since their immune system is not as strong as ours.
Most Capuchin owners use diapers for the life of their monkey and keep them on leashes in and outside of the house. Capuchins are commonly dressed up, bottle fed, and treated as furry human babies for the 35-40 years that they live in captivity. They can grow to weigh up to 4 lbs.
Capuchin breeders take the babies from their mothers at an extremely young age to form a tight bond between the monkey owner and the monkey. Some people say this causes permanent emotional and psychological damage to both the mother and the baby monkey since in the wild Capuchins stay with their mother for the first few years. This is another controversial reason why more laws have been passed regarding owning and breeding primates.
Babies will form a tight bond with their human mother or father, be bottle fed for some time (if not forever), and are trained, or dominated, to be a part of the family. Special monkey trainers exist to aid in the training of Capuchins although each one has their own controversial training methods.
Some trainers recommend removing all four canine teeth (large, pointy teeth) to prevent serious bite injuries down the road. Trainers say bites are inevitable, therefore unnaturally removing the teeth is the best thing for the owner's safety. This is of course yet another controversial issue and few veterinarians will perform the procedure.
Monkeys in the wild will eat bugs, fruit, small birds, nuts, flowers and more. Mimicking their natural diet in captivity is difficult and many pet Capuchins become diabetics due to improper nutrition.
Capuchins kept as pets are fed a variety of foods including table food, baby food, and monkey chow.