Finger monkeys or, to give them their proper name, pygmy marmosets are the smallest monkey on earth, and are native to the Amazon rain forests of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Columbia. They’re also known as “pocket monkeys”, and there are no prizes for guessing why. The finger monkey is one of the very few primates which may be kept as a house pet – but only in some countries and states, and with some quite strict licensing and health restrictions. This immediately tells you that if you wish to be the proud owner of one of these little cuties, you will probably be in for a sizeable dent in your pocket book.
Before we get into whether you can afford a finger monkey, it’s a good idea to look at your motives for wanting to own one in the first place. If your reason is that you want a “different” pet which you can talk about at cocktail parties and around the office water cooler, then you’re probably buying for the wrong reasons. These animals often end up at the ASPCA or – worse still – being released into the wild where they soon become prey to wild predators. Remember:
So before you commit yourself to taking on that responsibility, make sure that you read up about the species you’re planning to live with, and talk to others who own or have owned these pets. Also make sure that there is a vet in your area who is familiar with the treatment of your exotic pet. Most vets are used to treating cats and dogs and the occasional ferret and hamster: does your vet have any experience of the ailments to which your finger monkey may be prone? Do you?
Some animals just don’t make good pets, or else they require an unusual amount of attention and care. Make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for.
Some Price Guidelines for Finger Monkeys
The cost of buying the little beastie is just the start. We’ll get onto the additional related costs a bit later. On average, though, the cost of buying a finger monkey – irrespective of where you buy it – is in the region of $2,750. Prices may vary, however, anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000 or more. It’s a bit of a puzzle as to why there is such a variation in cost, apart from the usual market forces of supply and demand. But it is probably wise to consider the old truism: you get what you pay for. A higher price is usually as a result of superior breeding practices, evidence of compliance with all legal and health certification, the provision of pre-delivery advice and guidance on feeding and care, all-inclusive “starter packs” of food and caging, and superior service when it comes to shipping and handling. All of these factors may be a consideration when shopping around and comparing prices.
Small as he is, your finger monkey is used to having lots of space in the wild, and the more closely you can mimic his natural habitat, the happier he is likely to be. They’ve been known to jump 15 feet (5 metres) from branch to branch in the forest, but that sort of environment is not possible in your average suburban home – never mind in an apartment. Nevertheless, an environment which includes branches and perches ($10-20 per piece), swings, hanging vines, and toys is what you should be aiming for. A birdcage won’t do. A small aviary might be better. And having a finger monkey companion to play with is first prize. Depending on size and materials – and your imagination – your monkey’s cage could set you back anything from $150 to $400.
Finger Monkey Diet
Here again, costs vary depending on the variety and source of your food supply. In the wild, finger monkeys spend 60-80% of their feeding time gouging small holes in tree bark to tap into the exudates (sap, resin, latex) that they thrive on. They are also insectivores, meaning that most of the rest of their diet comprises insects: locusts, crickets, butterflies, bugs and beetles, ants, moths, and so on.
Since most pet stores do not cater for the exotic pet trade, it is unlikely that these delicacies will be stocked there. Most of these items can be ordered and shipped online. PetSmart sells small live crickets for $0.13 each, and you can get bags of butterflies, mealworms, and all sorts of other exotic snacks your monkey is partial to.
But the finger monkey’s diet is also adaptable to eat many of the foods which you keep in your larder: cooked chicken and turkey, fish, rice and pasta, chopped fresh fruits and vegetables are all good for keeping his hunger at bay – and make sure you do get into a regular feeding routine, otherwise your cute finger monkey has been known to become aggressive and give a nasty bite with those sharp lower incisors.
Make sure, too, that there is plenty of fresh water available (non-fluoride “spring” water), and diluted organic fruit juices (not juice concentrate) for variety. Finger monkeys get plenty of water in their diet in the wild, and dehydration can lead to a number of avoidable ailments.
You should budget anything between $100 and $300 per month for a varied diet to keep your pet interested. Online shopping and shipping costs may be extra.
- Veterinary care: like all other animals (and humans!), finger monkeys need medical or veterinary care from time to time. The average cost of a visit to the vet is around $200 per visit – depending on what’s wrong and whether medication is dispensed. You could double the cost for a surgical procedure. Taking out a medical insurance policy for your pet is a good option.
- UV lamp or heating lamp: your finger monkey is a tropical animal and is used to a tropical climate. Make sure – if possible – that the monkey’s cage is positioned with access to as much direct sunlight as possible. In addition, it is advisable that you purchase a heating lamp for the cage. You need to keep your monkey warm, otherwise they are susceptible to the common cold.
- Leash: Just like trained domestic dogs, you can also train your finger monkey and put a leash around its neck. You can purchase a common reptile leash for only $10.
- Toys: You should provide your pocket monkey with swings and toys so that it has something to play with. Any plastic toy that is safe for humans can be given to your pet monkey.
- Food treats, kennel boarding (for when you’re on vacation), vitamins, and grooming may all be semi-optional extras which will add to your budget.
Where to Purchase Finger Monkeys?
Not all pet stores sell primates, so you will need to be on the lookout for special stores in particular states which deal in exotic pets. One store that sells exotic pets is Pic-a-Pal Pet-store in Granite Falls, N.C., although at the time of writing they have posted a notice on their website, “WE ARE NO LONGER SELLING MONKEY’S” (sic).
Poggi’s Animal House in Davie, Florida, has finger monkeys for sale all year round. Hand-reared and socialised, they are usually sold at 5-8 weeks so that they are fully weaned and still trainable. The price? $3900, including a starter kit of food and training. They also arrange shipping throughout the country, and will advise you on getting the necessary permits for the area that you live in.
Owning and taking care of a finger monkey can cost a lot. As an exotic animal, they start out expensive, and you don’t want to skimp on providing the proper diet and accommodation which will ensure a happy and healthy pet for years to come. Although finger monkeys are reasonably adaptable to new surroundings, they are known to suffer from depression if not properly weaned, socialised and stimulated in their new environment. If the depression is not recognised and attended to, the tiny creature may simply die of loneliness.
After careful consideration of the responsibility which you are taking on, if you still decide to purchase a finger monkey, make sure you have the necessary financial resources to keep it healthy and stimulated without compromising other priority expenses you have at home, such as your own food and rent, clothing and school fees.
It is advisable to buy your finger monkey from a local pet store or breeder, rather than getting it from its wild habitat. A local source will ensure that the animal has been given the required inoculations, and that it has been socialised around people, reducing the chances of an aggressive outburst. The natural aggressiveness of a wild animal may result in harm to you or your family.
A few do’s
- Do remember that a finger monkey can be demanding of your time and effort to care and feed, especially at first, before the two of you have developed a relationship and a routine of trust. Remember also that you’re in this relationship for the long term, and that your monkey may provide fun and companionship for the next fifteen to twenty years.
- Do be aware of the legal requirements for purchasing and keeping a finger monkey in your state or country. Work through a reputable dealer who will smooth this process over for you.
- Do secure an experienced veterinarian in your area, preferably specialised on primates, in case your pet gets sick or requires emergency treatment.
- Do investigate – and experiment with – the range of foods which your finger monkey prefers in his diet. The nutrients that they thrive on in their natural habitat include lots of calcium, carbohydrates and protein, and they need to eat foods that have similar content when in your home. Some of these foods were mentioned above, but read up as much as you can about their diet, talk to knowledgeable pet stores and other owners, and pay attention to which foods your finger monkey likes and dislikes.
What is very fulfilling with the purchase of your finger monkey is the experience of having a different kind of companion. If you want to become more engaged and “expert” in your dealings with your pet, you can take classes specific to training monkeys. You will not only have more fun with your pet, but you will also learn a lot about its life, and about this precious species.