How to Look After Capuchin Monkeys

Written by madeline masters
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How to Look After Capuchin Monkeys
Capuchins are also called "ring tails" because they habitually curl their tails. (Anup Shah/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Capuchin monkeys are the type seen in many popular Hollywood films, such as "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Night at the Museum." Keeping capuchin monkeys as pets, however, is not as easy as a trip to the movies. Caring for primates takes a great deal of work, time and dedication. With the proper knowledge of the monkey's needs and behaviour, a capuchin can live happily in captivity for up to 45 years.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Large cage or enclosure
  • Branches
  • Lining for cage floor, such as peat moss, untreated wood chips or dry leaves
  • Climbing objects, such as swings, tires, platforms and ladders
  • Wooden nest box
  • Water bowl
  • Toys, such as coconut shells, mirrors and baby toys
  • Diapers
  • Orange peels or grass clippings
  • Food, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and insects

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    Provide Adequate Housing

  1. 1

    Set up a cage for your capuchin either in your home or outside. The bigger the enclosure, the better, but it should be at absolute minimum of 6 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 4 feet deep. Keep in mind that capuchins can damage your home significantly if they escape their cage, but must be kept indoors if your climate is subject to extreme warm or cold temperatures. Capuchins are ideally kept at tropical temperatures.

    How to Look After Capuchin Monkeys
    A capuchin's cage can never be too secure. Plan against escape. (Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Include plenty of play and climbing features in the monkey's habitat. Capuchins spend most of their time in trees and only come to the ground to find water, so having ample branches, swings, logs and other objects to climb will keep your capuchin feeling safe and occupied. Line the bottom of the enclosure with natural materials such as wood chips, dry leaves or dried peat moss. When adding plants, make sure they are nontoxic to your capuchin.

  3. 3

    Your capuchin will need a nest box where it can go to hide or sleep. Wood is the best material for this feature, which should be lined with the same materials used for the cage floor. The nest box should be mostly enclosed with at least two entry or exit points, and should be big enough for the full-grown monkey to fit in comfortably. Make sure to clean the nest box regularly.

  4. 4

    Include toys for your capuchin to keep its mind busy and engage its senses. Baby toys are generally safe and entertaining for monkeys, although there are specialised monkey toys available from some pet suppliers. Monkeys like to stare into mirrors just as much as humans do, so providing one will help keep it engaged.

    How to Look After Capuchin Monkeys
    If it's safe enough for a baby, it should be safe for your capuchin. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)
  5. 5

    Keep your capuchin safe and clean by cleaning its cage once a week. Fecal matter and discarded food should be removed daily. Clean the cage with mild disinfectant and rinse all cleaned objects thoroughly to avoid your monkey ingesting the cleaning solution. If you choose to use diapers on your monkey, change the diaper every two hours or as needed.

  6. 6

    Provide your monkey with strong but pleasant smelling substances with which it can rub itself. Capuchins do this to cover up their natural scent, reducing their detectability to prey and predators. Orange peels and grass trimmings work well for this.

    How to Look After Capuchin Monkeys
    Save the peels from oranges and leave them in the cage. (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

    Provide Food and Water

  1. 1

    Feed your capuchin with the right kind of food. In the wild, capuchins eat fruit, plants, insects and small animals. You should provide your capuchin with a mix of fresh fruits, such as mangoes, pineapple, bananas and grapes, fresh or steamed-and-cooled vegetables, sweet potatoes, nuts and seeds (raw and unsalted), whole wheat bread (in small amounts), hard boiled eggs and insects, such as crickets and meal worms, which can be found at pet stores.

    How to Look After Capuchin Monkeys
    Capuchins need more than just fruit to eat. (Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images)
  2. 2

    Provide your monkey with vitamin supplements designed for primates. Capuchins depend on sun exposure to develop Vitamin D, so if your capuchin is kept indoors it is especially important to provide this vitamin in supplement form.

  3. 3

    Change your monkey's water bowl regularly, at least every other day, but preferably every day. Water can quickly become contaminated with faeces, urine and food indoors. If your monkey is kept outdoors, it is ideal for it to have a small pond to drink from.

  4. 4

    Keep your monkey's diet varied and make sure to include food from all the food groups. Capuchins are omnivores, meaning they eat both animal and plant matter.

    Provide Time and Social Interaction

  1. 1

    Make sure your capuchin gets plenty of play time. Capuchins, like all monkeys, are social creatures. In the wild they are never alone, so it's best to have a pet monkey only if one member of the family is home at all times. The more time spent playing and interacting with your capuchin, the better.

    How to Look After Capuchin Monkeys
    Capuchins hate to be alone, so interact whenever you can. (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  2. 2

    Introduce your capuchin to everyone in your close social circle as soon as you bring it home. Capuchins, after bonding with their master, may become defensive of that relationship and can attack any threats to it, such as from their owner's children, spouse or close friends. If the monkey is socialised with these other loved ones right away, it will better accept them as part of the owner's social group.

    How to Look After Capuchin Monkeys
    Capuchins can bite and cause injury when they become aggressive. (Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    If you have the space, time and resources, own more than one capuchin. This will solve the problem of loneliness for your monkey. Acquire the monkeys at the same time, preferably from the same source. Newly introduced capuchins should never be left alone until they are completely acclimated to one another, as they can attack and kill each other. Sexually mature capuchins can become aggressive towards others if they feel their territory is being threatened.

    How to Look After Capuchin Monkeys
    Two capuchins raised together will bond quickly. (Anup Shah/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Tips and warnings

  • Capuchins vary in size from 1.81 to 6.8kg.
  • Capuchins come in many varieties, such as the black-capped, white-faced or yellow-breasted capuchin.
  • Capuchin monkeys become sexually mature at age 4 to 5 years old.
  • Capuchins can live 35 to 45 years when cared for properly.
  • Capuchins can be easily trained and have been taught to assist individuals who are physically disabled.
  • Check your state and local laws on pet ownership before acquiring a capuchin -- some states and regions outlaw the keeping of primates as pets.
  • Capuchins tend to become more aggressive after reaching sexual maturity.
  • When capuchin females are separated from their mothers in infancy to be sold as pets, they will not adequately care for their own offspring later in life.
  • Capuchins can live long, healthy lives, so never commit to a pet if you cannot keep it for the duration of its life.
  • Capuchins can attack humans or other animals that they see as a threat to their relationship with their master.

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