How to Care for a Squirrel Monkey

Updated July 20, 2017

Squirrel monkeys are native to Costa Rica and South America, where they live in the tops of rainforest canopies. Wild squirrel monkeys eat invertebrates, tender leaves, fruits, flowers, insects and eggs; however, the diet of a captive squirrel monkey is quite different. Squirrel monkeys are inquisitive and can make engaging, entertaining pets. Caring for one requires patience and dedication, but captive squirrel monkeys can live up to 25 years with proper diet and care.

Feed infant squirrel monkeys with a baby bottle and baby formula. Begin feeding baby cereal, food and rice around five months. Squirrel monkeys should be weaned off infant formula by 12 months. For monkeys over a year old, include vegetables, fruits and leafy greens in the diet. Give treats, such as ice cream or a bite-sized piece of candy, on occasion; treats should be no bigger than the palm of the monkey's hand.

Use diapers. Squirrel monkeys have roughly the understanding of a two-year-old, and are similarly difficult to potty train; a diaper will help you avoid messes. Cut a small slit or hole in the back of the diaper to allow the monkey's tail to fit. You can use a baby washcloth to make a diaper, as well. Just fold in the sides, then pin the sides together on the backside of the monkey. Using the last two sides, place the tail in the centre and pin the last two flaps to the first two.

Provide a large dog kennel or enclosure for the monkey. Never leave a monkey unattended. Monkeys are inquisitive and become bored quickly. Put the monkey in the cage or enclosure anytime it will be alone. Letting a monkey roam free and unsupervised is a recipe for disaster and destruction.

Make sure your squirrel monkey gets proper veterinary care. Vaccinate, deworm, and make annual visits to the veterinarian. Find a veterinarian that specialises in exotic pets. Yearly vaccinations and check-ups are vital to the health and safety of both pet and owner.

Provide a leash and collar with an ID tag attached. Lock the collar on the monkey with a small key lock, like one found on a diary. Locking the collar on the monkey will prevent him from removing the collar. Ask your veterinarian about having a microchip implanted in the monkey to make it easier to find if it gets lost.


Bites from a monkey can be as bad as a dog or cat bite. Any bite that punctures the skin should be cleaned immediately with soap and water. Medical attention should be sought and a tetanus shot given. If the monkey bites someone other than yourself, you may need to report it to animal control or local law enforcement.

Things You'll Need

  • Cage
  • Diapers
  • Leash
  • Bottle
  • Baby formula
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