Known as the smallest monkey on Earth, the finger monkey – otherwise and more correctly known as the pygmy marmoset (did you know that?) – is one of the few exotic animals that one may keep as a house pet. However, not all countries or states permit the sale of these tiny creatures. Although the finger monkey is classified as of “least concern” on the CITES chart (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), the pet trade is still seen as a threat in reducing the population of these little creatures in the wild.
So how much does a finger monkey cost, and does its “exotic” status contribute to a higher price for this pet?
When anyone asks the question, “How much does something cost?”, it’s always tempting to answer: How long is a piece of string? In other words, it depends. It’s the same with calculating the cost of buying and keeping a finger monkey. It depends on all sorts of things.
Let’s start with, for example, where you buy it and whether it requires shipping. Also, what sort of caged environment you are prepared to build for your new pet, and how much do you want to spend on creating a realistic and stimulating habitat in that cage? What are you prepared to spend on your pet’s food and nutrition, and what veterinary bills are you likely to encounter along the way? Oh, and last but not least, did you know that your cute little friend is likely to get quite depressed – and probably aggressive (or dead!) as a result – if he doesn’t have enough stimulation in his environment? The reason is that finger monkeys are highly gregarious beasts, and are in need of someone to play with, pretty much 24/7. Did you know that?
Buying a Finger Monkey
So let’s start at the beginning: how much is your finger monkey going to set you back? For the bragging rights to own a specimen of the world’s smallest monkey, be prepared to hand over anything between $1500 and &4000. According to Cost Helper Pets & Pet Care, the average cost of a finger monkey is around $2,750. Some wealthy people in China have boasted that their specimen cost as much as $5000, but we weren’t able to verify that figure. It could well be that some people are as careless about what they spend on something that they want, as they probably are on how long their new acquisition will enjoy their undivided attention. But that’s another story.
So you have your monkey. But wait! Not so fast. Before handing over a sizeable chunk of petty cash, do make sure that you’re allowed to keep such a pet in captivity, in that particular corner of the globe where you live. Keeping exotic animals as pets, like tigers and bears and suchlike, comes with some pretty demanding permissions in most countries. So before writing out the cheque, do check to see whether your country and state shares your enthusiasm for keeping a finger monkey or two. Many countries have an outright ban on such animals
. Others require stringent quarantine and permit arrangements. Only a few states allow unrestricted transit and custody as pets. Granted that this is not a cute little lion cub that will inevitably grow into a hulking great 180kg (400lb) man-eater. Your fully-grown finger monkey will top the scales at about 120 grams (4oz.). But that’s hardly the point. You usually have to have permission to keep one, anyway.
Where do you buy a finger monkey? Your local pet store might have them, or may be able to source one if they deal in exotic pets. Otherwise, you might have to source your pet online from elsewhere. Shipping even such a small creature is expensive, and requires permits and insurance, of course, so be prepared.
And that is only the cost of the animal itself. As we hinted at above, there are other necessities that you have to acquire to ensure that your finger monkey stays healthy and happy. Two of the most important items are its cage, and its daily or monthly food consumption.
Finger Monkey Cage
Your monkey will need a home, of course. This is not only to prevent mess inside your home, but also to provide your pet with an environment where it can enjoy playing. A cage, which is constructed especially for this primate may cost between $150 to $400. The cost naturally varies according to the size of the enclosure, the materials used in the construction and the intricacy of the cage’s design.
Make sure that your pet’s environment is prepared before their arrival. The cage should be big enough to allow the monkey plenty of room to jump and swing and play; this is what they do in the wild, and this is what they’ll expect in their new home, failing which – see above regarding “depression”. Finger monkeys can leap up to five metres (fifteen feet) from branch to branch in the wild, and while this scale may not be possible in your New York apartment (actually, nothing regarding finger monkeys is possible in a New York apartment – they’re prohibited in the state), you should still be prepared to construct something along the lines of a small aviary. A birdcage will not do. Be as creative as you can: think swings and branches and hanging vines and toys and mirrors. The San Diego Zoo noted that even moving stuff around occasionally in their “marmosetery” created a fresh interest for the monkeys who, by all accounts, fit a diagnosis of ADHD in human terms. Some pet stores may include a cage and a “starter kit” of supplies in their selling price.
It is important, too, that the finger monkey’s cage is located where there is plenty of exposure to direct sunlight. If this is not possible, you must incur another “finger monkey cost” by purchasing an ultra-violet or heat lamp to install in their environment. Your little monkeys come from a tropical environment where the mean average temperature is above 250C all year round, and their own average body temperature is only 40C. You have to keep them warm.
Finger Monkey Food and Diet
Food and nutrition for your finger monkey need not be a great expense – anything from $35 to $300 per month has been suggested – but what the monkey lacks in volume of food he makes up for in variety. In the wild their diet is largely tree sap and small insects and bugs, supplemented with fruit. Finger monkeys love to eat butterflies and crickets. Butterflies can be bought in a good pet store for about $35 per dozen. If you are tight on budget, a bag of 250 live crickets would cost around $17 to $25.
Any good pet store will advise you and supply what is needed. Finger monkeys like a varied diet and will eat anything from crickets and mealworms, to whatever you have in the house including “human” food such as cooked chicken and turkey, fresh fruit and vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, rice and pasta. Special “monkey biscuits” are also available at specialised pet stores. The diet should avoid processed foods and include plenty of hydration: natural spring water (without fluoride), organic fruit juice, almond milk or goat’s milk. Dehydration can lead to significant health issues for your finger monkey.
Be aware that raising an infant finger monkey is almost as demanding on your time and skill as raising a human infant. Two-hourly feeds with baby formula, ensuring that the baby is fed while lying on its stomach (otherwise it may easily choke), is what is expected.
So, if you add up the cost of buying and shipping your monkey, the cost of the cage and food consumption, you a get a total of around $6,600. However, there are still additional optional expenses you need to consider like branches for the cage ($20), a leash ($20) and the veterinary visits (about $200 a pop), increasing the cost to around $7,000. And perhaps $500 a month on food and care.
Veterinary expenses are a largely unknown finger monkey cost, but you do need to ensure that you have access to a vet who is experienced in primate health and care, and that you monitor your pet for signs of illness: they are prone to such illnesses as the common cold, HIV, and even chicken pox. Taking out a pet medical insurance cover might be a safe bet.
Are finger monkeys costly? Generally, yes, they are expensive to buy and to keep, both in terms of actual cost and time invested in caring for and playing with the little creature. A thoughtful finger monkey owner will invest in two monkeys, who will be companions and playmates for each other.
But real costs actually depend on you. This article has provided you with an estimated cost breakdown. If you find the prices too high, then don’t spend your money on buying a finger monkey. But if you have the financial – and time – resources, then go ahead and buy this cute creature and enjoy it for as long as you commit to taking care of it.
It may not be cheap. But there again, how long is a piece of string?
(Article updated 14th June 2018)