By Mary Lynn Campbell

monkeys at fair
Thomas and Marina, my nephew and niece

This posting of “Safety-First” is one of the most controversial subjects between new monkey caregivers and the experienced monkey caregivers. It is my wish to share truth and good information through my own experiences and networking with other monkey caregivers, breeders, rescue facilities, and vets.

I think the best way to address this topic is to start by saying that I totally understanding why you first time monkey caregivers choose to disagree when an experienced monkey caregiver tells you that monkeys are not recommended with children. I honestly understand why you can’t phantom it ever being possible that your precious little monkey could ever become hurtful to their playmates and family members. I also understand that you and your family are raising your special baby together as a family member and that your family members have devoted hours and hours of their time in teaching it manners, word commands and what is off limits.  I understand that you have read books about raising monkeys, become part of monkey owners groups, and even become best friends with other monkey people. I understand that you feel that you are doing everything so perfect that there will never be a problem with your monkey and your children.

Now to you experienced monkey caregivers who feel that you must share with new caregivers about the potential issues that could arise when monkeys are around children. I understand that years ago you were one of those people that bought a monkey when you were still raising your young children. I understand that you have heard stories from others or how you’ve experienced firsthand how monkeys and kids don’t always play well together. Maybe you even had to go so far that you ended up re-homing your monkey because of problems with your monkey and your own children or your grandchildren. I understand that your monkey had to stay in his cage most of the time when children were around since you were concerned somebody could get hurt. I understand about the love that you feel for both your children and your monkey but changes happened and decisions had to be made for your precious monkey.

Now, everyone knows that I am able to see both sides of this issue so let’s discuss this topic a bit further.

Story Time

Several years ago I went to do a local fair with our SunShine MonkeyShines Show. I remember that it was extremely hot at that fair and I was not able to get as many of my shows in as we had planned.

After each show, because of the heat, I would put the monkeys back inside the motor home where they could be cool off and then I made myself available for people to talk to me. After one of the first shows that I did, I remember a young man coming up to me and telling me that he had a black and white Capuchin monkey that he lived with at home. I think he was around 8 or 10 years old.  I said to him, “Really, how old is your monkey?”  He said, “He is almost five years old.” He then began telling me that they played together and watched TV together every day after school and on the weekends.

After a later show that night the young boy brought his mother over to meet me. She and I began talking about her monkey and I blurted out to her some truths that I felt that I needed to say to her about her monkey and her precious little boy. I felt her energy change towards me but I tried to be nice as I was telling her that they do not make good pet with children around and she said, “Well, my monkey, Tommy, just loves my older daughter and my son”. We said our good-byes and then I turned to answer another person’s question about one of my monkeys.

group foto with monkeys
Group photo after our outdoor show.  We always speak with people who may have questions after this photo time.

This past fall I was visiting a huge flea market near where I worked the fair and a young lady came up to me and started talking to me. I listened as she was telling me that she and her family had seen me at a fair several years ago. She continued to talk and soon I learned that she had grown up with a monkey in her house and that it was a black and white Capuchin monkey with the same name of the monkey that the other lady had spoken to me about at the fair. I knew that she was talking about the same Tommy. After listening to her speak about her mother and how she had just received another monkey I choose to ask her if the first monkey’s name was Tommy and she said, “Yes!”

I began telling her how I had always wanted to talk again to her mother and then I just had to ask the question, “How did Tommy do as he went into “Teenage-Hood?” She then began telling me that he started acting more aggressive towards her brother and all of his friends.
The feelings that I had were so mixed with hurt for everyone in that family and of course, the monkey. I told her that I was so sorry that this had happened and that I was so sorry that I had always felt that I had not been very nice to her mother when we had spoken about this potential issue several years ago.

I gave her my card and told her to please tell her mother that I would love to speak with her again and apologize for being unkind to her. The young woman hugged me and said, “Please do not feel bad about that. She now understands that monkeys start to change when they grow up.”
I thanked her for stopping me and speaking to me and we said our good-byes.

This story made me wonder how to address this issue with new monkey caregivers. I do know without a doubt that I never did again, what I had done to that mother at the fair that night. I felt such guilt in the way I had spoken to her right in front of her son. It had been hurtful to her I am sure. The only thing that it might have done is to alert her of possible problems in the future. I was just glad that I had learned a lesson that I would not repeat again.

Now, how about us trying to look at this through “Safety-First eyes.

Monkeys have for years been looked at and even called the eighteen month pet. The reason that this has been the case is because there can be a big change in your monkey starting around this age. They stop being the little frisky playful baby monkey around this 18 month age and begin to grown into the next phase of emotional and physical growth that I call “Toddler-Hood.
Monkeys are either born into the wild or into captivity. The one thing they are always going to be is that they are monkeys. To be a monkey he is going to have very advanced emotional responses and the need to act out his God given form of monkey consciousness. This does not change because you have a baby monkey that has been born into captivity. They do not change who they were created to be just because they have not lived or been born in the jungle.

There is not any magical training technique that can keep this from becoming part of who they are naturally.

I do believe that the early programming can make a huge difference in their emotional behaviors. Families who believe in being consistent with their programming when they are raising a baby monkey, do have a better chance of being able to be successful with their monkey as they are changing through the emotional and physical stages.

I also believe that as much as you try to do the very best at raising them there is still no guarantees that your monkey will not have problems with children or for that matter with you or your spouse.

One of the important things that make up the consciousness of a growing or fully grown monkey is to try to be alpha over all of the other monkeys. They will often choose to join with the strongest alpha in the family, either man or woman.

As they grow in emotional maturity they need to act out on their God given mind-set. This is the natural thing to happen to them because they are monkeys. They will show early signs of challenging the weaker members of the family. This will usually start with the youngest child, or maybe even your dog. We monkey caregivers will call this “The Pecking Order.”

I do wish to stop for a moment and address the fact that I have never had children or ever had monkeys and children living in my home together. The information that I have passed to others have always been stories that I have heard repeatedly from other monkey caregivers.

From all of these stories that I have been told, the problems seem to come often when a monkey does not wish to be reprimanded by the same child or children that had been taught to do this when the monkey was a baby. This can begin to change anywhere between the age of 18 months to 8 years old for a monkey, when they are usually fully grown in size.

It is so strange how some monkeys will never like children, or men, or it can be that they do not like women as they are growing and changing and many times once this change happens, it will stay this way forever.

It is my belief that a monkey is not emotionally mature until they cross over into full “Adult-Hood time when they are in their mid to late twenties. Yes, they are still going to act like monkeys but the edge of “Teen-Age Hood” is slowing down from the mid to late twenties and they are beginning to start shifting into an emotionally laid back monkey.

Now, let’s return to the issue of a child correcting a monkey. Suddenly, one day out of the blue, the shift happens and the children can begin to get hurt just because they say, “Don’t Do That” or “No Bite” or it may be they are just trying to take something important away from the monkey that they know is off limits. This is a hard thing to see happen to your monkey and of course, your children.

This change with your children and your monkey can shift without much of a warning as they are growing and changing into their physical and emotional maturity.

teeth capuchin
Teeth of a 7 year old Capuchin monkey.

What can be done to keep this from happening with our monkeys and children?

Many experienced monkey caregivers will quickly jump to say, “Monkeys and children do not belong together. Bad things can happen when you put a monkey with children.”

Well, I see it as much more of an issue of people either trying to raise a monkey as a dog or like one of the children. So, with these types of behaviors on the parts of the monkey caregivers who are also parents, I see why many problems develop as they do with monkeys and children.

With this said, we also know that some families are healthy thinking with good parenting skills and some are okay and then there are some families who are just terrible at being parents. So, if you add a monkey into the mix of unhealthy thinking families, the outcome of having a successful experience is going to be all over the place.

Now, I have seen families with a single child with a monkey seem to do really well with the monkey and the child living together. I feel that this is because the dynamics of a family with one child is very different than with more than one child.

I would like to be a little clearer about the age of a one child family. I think the age of your child is very important that it is not a small child but a child that is older who is in the 12 to 14 age range or even older.

It in also my opinion that all young children are very vulnerable to a monkey’s changing behaviors as they grow and mature.

In the book “Living With Monkeys” I spent a lot of time talking about the need to make plans before you ever get a monkey. These plans will be about how you are going to raise your monkey. I call it programming your monkey.

If you are going to have children around your monkey, I can see that the ages of the children should really make a big difference to you in making a decision as to when to get a monkey. I feel that older children such as teens seem to be treated very similar to the adults in the household by the monkey, just as I have seen an one child family do better than families with multiple children.

So, now back to what would make things better for an existing family with a monkey that also have children. I believe if you are taking the raising of your children and monkey very seriously, and you have very open relationships with your family members and your spouse, then you can begin to discuss all training phases of your monkey with them.

Take time every day to ask your family if they are noticing any changes with the monkey’s behaviors. Ask good questions such as: “Have you noticed the monkey showing signs of being jealous of anyone when they come into the room?” Another questions might be: “Does the monkey ever get mad at you when you take something away from him?”

You may decide to have “Family Monkey Meeting” about the monkey. This is definitely one thing that I would do to make sure everyone is following your decided upon programming plans that were made when you first obtained your monkey.

I highly recommend that if you are a monkey caregiver, you do not discipline your children in anyway, in front of your monkey and for that matter another monkey either.

This would be too much negative energy for your monkey to be surrounded in or be in the middle of. The energy needs to be as calm as possible around your monkey. So, refrain from yelling, spanking, pushing or pulling your children while the monkey is out. That is never a good thing to do. Homes with monkeys in them need to be filled with well-balanced family members who are sharing equally in the raising of your monkey. This is hard to do when you still have small children in your home.

What do you do if one of your family members tells you something different is happening with your monkey when you are having one of your “Family Monkey Meetings?”

The first thing that you need to say is to let them know that you appreciate them telling you this and continue to tell them that you are sorry that the monkey has shown this type of behavior. The next thing that I would do is instruct what needs to be done if the monkey starts to do that same behavior again. They should tell you immediately and bring the monkey to you or if they can, put the monkey into its special place. The best thing to be a Safety-First monkey caregiver is to begin to not allow your children or other family members to have alone time with your monkey when these changes occur.

There are all types of warning signs that things are about to change with your monkey as it is aging and emotionally maturing.

Teach your family members, at the same time that you are learning, how to be a good energy readers of your monkey. A monkey’s behavior can and will change in a flash but remember that there are indicators that change is coming before that flash usually happens. I can tell many times when it is not a good day for one of my monkeys. Usually, they will awaken in a bad mood or show certain behaviors that are indicators that they are not to be trusted out with people or sometimes with other monkeys. This is what I call being a good energy reader of your monkey.

Monkeys have the same type of free will as we do. No, they do not have a highly developed mind about right and wrong, but believe me they know what is going to happen to them if they choose to do something that they have learned is not allowed. This will occur if you have been consistent with your monkey, and also consistent with their discipline.

If you are going to have a monkey out with children please have your children be responsible with the monkey and insist that the rules of programming will be followed.

This is a very serious choice that you are making to leave a monkey with children that are not supervised. If you are doing this with them please reconsider what you are doing. We here at Primate Care Site wish for you to become a “Safety-First” monkey and child caregiver!

Safety List

  • Teach the family members to understand about reading the monkeys quick changing energy.
  • Teach the family members that if they do not follow the rules that you have made that, they will lose their ability to have time with the monkey.
  • Teach them the “Safety-First” rules of leashes and tethers.
  • Teach them the proper way to see the monkey through “Safety-First” eyes and that the monkey has teeth that can hurt them, fingers that can scratch and pinch them, and windows and doors that the monkey can get out of, if they do not follow the rules.
  • Manners of a monkey needs to be taught by everyone in the house and this also pertains to friends that are frequent visitors in your homes too.

Please realize that the above list is just a guide and following these rules won’t guarantee that nothing bad will happen between your monkey and your kids. This list is just intended for parents who are choosing to take the responsibility of being a monkey caregiver and parents of children at the same time.

If you already have children with your monkeys please consider making big changes now before the monkey gets to be 18 months or older. Remember, when a bite occurs, not only does this affect your children, but it could mean big trouble for your precious monkey as well since hospitals have to report these bites. Very often a rabies test will be required which can only be done by euthanizing your monkey.

If you are a new person that is thinking seriously about becoming a new monkey caregiver, please purchase my book,”Living With Monkeys” or the “Monkey Matter Guides” also advertised on the Primate Care site.

Read and study about becoming a monkey caregiver and listen for guidance to help you make the right decision for you, especially if you have children. I hate to think that one day your child will come to you and say, “The monkey still lives here and it hurting me every time it comes out of the cage. Do you all love the monkey more than you love me?” This can and does happen not only with children, but with spouses too.

Many grown children will also refuse to allow you to have time with your grandchildren due to your having a monkey. These issues are talked about in length in the “Living With Monkeys” book.

Please choose to use good judgment when making your decision about becoming a monkey caregiver. It is very serious business having a monkey in today’s world much more than it has ever been before.

The first time something aggressive happens with your monkey is always the best time to correct the problem with behavioral modification.

That means stop what you are doing and correct the behavior. You should know what your response will be before an incident happens. Please do not let these actions become a habit. I believe in letting your monkey know that you will not tolerate behaviors that are aggressive, especially towards a member of your family.

It is not funny or cute, and it is dangerous to not act on this type of behavior instantly. I believe in taking my monkeys away from everyone including the other monkeys and placing them in the time out box. This is my way but you may choose some other type of punishment or reprimand. Remember to be fair minded and give them a chance to show you they have learned their lesson when they are returned to your family. They must learn that timeout means being totally away from the family, not just put in a box to play in. They totally understand why they are being put in the time out box, crate, or cage, if you move quickly to correct the problem.

No screaming or yelling will ever work as good as a time-out works for a monkey.

If you are a person that does this type of reprimanding with your children then you will probably do this with a monkey. Please think hard about moving forward with getting a monkey. A monkey needs to have different degrees of reprimands, so that they will learn that you are consistent and that you will always follow through with what you have asked them to do or not do.

It take so much time to raise a monkey who will have good manners and good people skills.

Please consider when making a decision about getting a monkey, whether you truly have the patience and time needed for raising children and a monkey at the same time. Remember that it gets tough with both your children and a monkey as they mature.

Final Note

To you experienced monkey caregivers, I have tried to make you aware of how the new monkey owners may be feeling about their new little monkey and their decision to mix a monkey with children. If you were completely honest, I am sure many of you might have felt just the same way when you first started. Try to give them sound advice. Teach them about the warning signs that you experienced with your own monkey or from a story that someone told you.

Remember experienced monkey caregivers, instead of being over-powering with your judgment, please try to offer words of wisdom instead.

They already have the monkeys in their homes and they love them and their children. Please try to be helpful with your knowledge and experience. Your wisdom is important to new monkey caregivers and you can offer many ideas about helping them become better energy readers of their monkeys.

Please try to listen to them talk about their monkey and see where you can be truly helpful, even if you know that you see a potential problem that could happen. See if you can give them help instead of alienating them and never being able to help them at all.

I know it is hard to believe but there are still some new monkey people that do wish to listen. Help make it easy for them to ask you questions. This is important for the sake of the monkey and their children.

Join with me and let us all work around our difficult personalities or others difficult personalities and give helpful advice that will be able to help them to be better monkey caregivers.

To you new monkey caregivers, we all are constantly learning about our monkeys. Everyone of these precious creatures are different but we must all remember monkeys are monkeys and we are human beings and we need others help and encouragement when raising a monkey for the first time, and for that matter even if we have raised several. Monkeys are all different with different needs as you are raising them.
None of us absolutely have all of the answers on how to raise a monkey in captivity.

Please try to listen when more experienced monkey caregivers tell their stories and remember that their stories might happen to you too. By listening you may learn how to avoid certain situations.

Be open to receive just the right and perfect information instead of spending your time fighting with other caregivers who have monkeys. Usually people who are abusing you are doing this because of their own sense of failure or guilt. Know that there is a good chance that they are using you to project their own negative feelings on. This is just a very big call for love from these older monkey caregivers and they need understanding from you.

Remember new monkey caregiver to ask the people that are offering such negative comments to please tell you their stories. Please choose to ask questions about what they may see you are doing that might be leading you to have problems such as they have experienced.

Since we are people who love monkeys, please join with me to remember to always be a good listener and continue to learn more about them. We never know when we will be guided to share with others what we have learned.

Please consider becoming a “Safety First” Monkey Caregiver!

Thank you for visiting us here at Primate Care. We are committed to bringing good information for you to think about and share with your family, friends, and other monkey caregivers. In the next posting on the Primate Care site we will be speaking about another great “Safety First” issue and that will be: “Recognizing The Signs Of Illness.”

Written by Mary Lynn Campbell author of  “Living With Monkeys”


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