Cute, adorable and only as big as your hand, the finger monkey has become one of the most popular exotic pets today.
Owning an exotic pet like the finger monkey might be controversial, but depending on where you live, they are allowed. All you need to do is make sure you know what it takes to care for it, raise it and ensure it lives a healthy life under your care!
What Is a Finger Monkey?
Officially known as a pygmy marmoset, a finger monkey is the smallest primate species in the world. It got its moniker from its size – it’s so tiny it can grasp your finger.
Finger monkeys are curious, playful, and smart creatures. They’ve become a favorite exotic pet for many, not just because of their size but because they’re so unique.
Where Do Finger Monkeys Come From?
These tiny primates are natives of South American countries, like Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. They spend most of their lives living high up in the tree canopy munching on their favorite snack of all time, gum Arabic, resin, or tree sap. They would also prey and eat small insects and butterflies.
While this species is often sold in the market as pets, there are thriving populations found in the wild. They are also referred to as “New World Monkeys,” pocket monkeys, or dwarf monkeys.
New World monkeys (from North and South America) feature distinct traits and characteristics from monkeys coming from the Old World (from Africa, Europe, and Asia.)
Is It Legal to Own a Finger Monkey?
Generally, owning any exotic pet requires requirements and permits, depending on the country you live in or if in America, the state you live in.
Countries like the UK, for instance, do allow people to own pet monkeys provided they have a license. Unfortunately, many of those who own pet monkeys such as Capuchin, finger monkeys, and Marmosets in the country are illegally owned.
Meanwhile, countries like Australia allow for exotic pets to be owned by licensed professionals only. They are not to be sold commercially or kept as pets by private individuals.
In the United States, the laws on owning a finger monkey pet are decided by each state. Just note that if it’s legal to own them in your state, chances are, you still need to get a permit.
States that ban the ownership of a finger monkey as a pet are as follows:
- New York
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New Hampshire
States like Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma will require special permits for you to own a finger monkey as a pet.
Meanwhile, states like North Carolina, Alabama, and Nebraska do not require a special permit or any paperwork if you want to own a pocket monkey or finger monkey.
To be safe, look into your state or municipalities’ exotic or wild pet laws to make sure you are in the clear with the law before you buy a baby finger monkey to keep.
Will a Finger Monkey Make a Good Pet?
This question is a bit complicated to answer. Finger monkeys or pocket monkeys have become as popular as teacup puppies among those who have exotic pets.
However, people who want a finger monkey for a pet should understand they are not like cats or dogs. No matter how sweet they might be, they are still wild animals at heart. And having wild animals in your home requires a unique set of responsibilities when it comes to taking care of them.
Even as they grow older and no matter how long they have lived with you, a wild monkey will never be truly domesticated. They will still have wild behaviors that potential pet owners should be prepared to deal with and handle.
A baby finger monkey might seem like the most angelic and docile creature, but once they reach adulthood, they tend to become aggressive. This is especially true for a male full-grown finger monkey.
Understanding why they go through and learning to handle them properly will go a long way to ensuring you and your pet will live a happy life together.
One more thing, finger monkeys are known to bite. They can do playful biting, and they can also cause severe damage when they turn aggressive. Having a home with younger kids is discouraged when having these monkeys.
What’s more, finger monkeys are social creatures. In the wild, they live in social groups of 6-9 monkeys, so one kept at home would require humans and other monkeys as constant companions. Keeping them away from other monkeys might cause more behavioral issues to surface.
Physical Characteristics of a Finger Monkey
While a finger monkey is known scientifically as a pygmy marmoset, there are two sub-species belonging to this group – the Cebuella pygmaea (Western Pygmy Marmoset) and the Cebuella niveiventris (Eastern Pygmy Marmoset).
Both have different habitats, and they have slight variations in their coloring and marking. Other than that, these two sub-species are similar.
A baby finger monkey features a rounded head with fur colors that range from brownish-gold, black, and gray on its head or back. They have a small, flat nose and large eyes. Often, their faces have flecks of white around their cheeks and sometimes a vertical line running between their eyes.
They can also rotate their heads a full 180 degrees, which is essential for them to see their surroundings when in their natural habitat.
Because of their natural diet of tree sap or gum resin, their teeth come with sharp incisors which allows them to bite into tree bark and gouge out chunks to get to the tree sap.
A finger monkey is an arboreal creature and known to spend most of its life on treetops.
They walk on all fours and have sharp claw-like nails that help provide a firm grip when they are jumping from one tree branch to the next. They’re also among the monkey species that don’t have opposable thumbs.
Finger monkeys also have a long tail, usually with black rings, that help them balance. Their tails are not prehensile.
Finger monkeys are known to be the smallest true monkey with a head-body length between 4.6 to 6 inches excluding the tail. The tail alone can be as long or even longer than the monkey’s body, at around 6.8 to 9 inches long.
A full-grown finger monkey can fit neatly on an adult humans’ hands and weigh just a few grams, approximately 85 to 140 grams.
The most common photos of a finger monkey usually show them hugging a finger like a tree branch. Pictures like this are done for scale and show just how small these primates are!
Watch this YouTube compilation video of the cutest and tiniest monkeys you will ever see.
Common Health Concerns of a Finger Monkey
Like most animals, finger monkeys too are susceptible to certain health issues. What’s important to understand is that humans can easily spread diseases to them because they are still monkeys.
For example, they can easily get a cold. They can also be infected with measles, Rubella, Tuberculosis, Salmonella, and other viruses and bacteria. So it’s essential to take extra precautions or avoid handling them when you are sick or if someone in your family is sick.
Finger Monkey Lifespan
Finger monkeys live longer in captivity as opposed to in the wild. Kept as pets or held in captivity and properly taken cared for, they can live anywhere from 15 to 20 years. Their lifespan is shorter in the wild because they are known to fall off trees and get injured or die.
Caring for Your Finger Monkey
For a finger monkey to thrive in captivity, owners need to understand the amount of care this special animal needs.
It’s not just an investment in money you would need but also a lot of patience, time as well as a willingness to ensure your pet has the best life possible under your care.
What’s it like owning a finger monkey for the first time? And what is the commitment involved in raising a finger monkey? Watch this video to find out.
Cage or Enclosure
Your pet’s enclosure needs to mimic its natural habitat as much as possible. You can have a large chamber that allows your finger monkey to remain above the human head height since this will mimic their life in the wild.
Create an enclosure with complex architecture, so they can leap from one area to the next, engaging their locomotor skills.
Have enough vertical space, wide flat perches, swings, a nest box for them to hide in and natural floor covering. If you have space and capacity, also give them access to an outdoor enclosure.
Keeping them in small cages can cause them to suffer severe stress and could result in aggressive behavior towards you or any family member.
Another important thing is to make sure their home remains around 23-28 degrees Celsius. Finger monkeys are tropical monkeys and prefer warmth. They mustn’t be allowed to go outside if it’s too cold since they can get frostbite at around 5 degrees Celsius.
Please remember that finger monkeys tend to scent mark their territory as well as take their feces and paint walls. When cleaning their enclosure, make sure not to completely remove their scent because this will confuse them.
Your finger monkey diet should consist of nutritious meals that mimic the meals they could get in the wild. Dry pellets with the necessary nutritional components can make for suitable food for these monkeys.
Make sure to supplement this with dried and fresh fruits, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and proteins like mealworms, small insects, hard-boiled eggs, or chicken.
It’s also important they have access to a good amount of water. You can place food at different points of their enclosure so everyone can have access to meals. Place the meal dishes at least a meter above the ground, so they feel safer.
These little critters do require cleaning, especially since they’re not known for being clean. Some owners opt to bathe them by hand and just use a toothbrush to gently massage the monkey’s fur and skin.
Check out the video below to see how to use a toothbrush when grooming your tiny finger monkey.
It’s important to always check your finger monkey by eye, at least twice a day. Make sure they’re still active, and there are no changes in their behavior as well as any visible injury on the animal.
Just like you would treat any other animal, it’s essential to have your finger monkey visit the vet twice a year. Make sure you already have a vet in the area that can treat your exotic pet, especially during emergencies, so you know where to take them if the need arises.
How Much Does a Finger Monkey Cost? Prices & Expenses
Owning an exotic pet can be pricey. This is also true when you have a finger monkey for a pet. A small baby finger monkey can have a starting price of between $3,000 to $4,000. And it’s always advisable to have at least 2 of them because they need companionship and socialization to thrive.
You also have to take into account the specialized enclosure it will need. Plus, the food and medical expenses. Not to mention the amount of time and attention it will require to care for them.
If you get a baby finger monkey, they will require about 90% of your attention since they would need feeding every few hours. What’s more, they are social creatures.
In captivity, they rely on you or other monkeys to keep them busy and entertained. These monkeys can turn aggressive and destructive if they are not getting enough attention.
Overall, you’ll likely spend up to $8,000 for the initial investment and maybe a chunk of change for the upkeep of your pet finger monkey. Before getting one, make sure you are prepared emotionally and financially for the investment.
Where to Find Finger Monkeys for Sale?
If you’re ready to commit to getting a pet finger monkey of your own, you can find them for sale in most exotic pet stores or online.
Of course, I would recommend you first double-check the ownership laws in your state or local municipality. This way, you know if they are banned or if you need to apply for a permit.
Also, in the United States, only licensed USDA breeders can sell them. Hence, it’s crucial to find a breeder/seller that carries the right license and can offer support when you need it.
A few licensed breeders include:
Commonly Asked Questions About the Finger Monkey
How to Feed a Baby Finger Monkey?
A baby finger monkey around 8 to 12 weeks old can be fed formula and solid mashed fruits. During this time, they will need food every 5 hours during daytime and at least one nightly feeding. Use a small 5 cc syringe.
Once they are past 13 weeks old, you can feed them every 6 hours during the daytime and stop the night feeding. Only give them up to 10 cc of formula at a time.
Make sure not to push down too fast on the food because your monkey could choke. Let them find the tip of the syringe and watch their reaction while you’re feeding, so you know when to adjust.
Do Finger Monkeys Bite?
Yes, they can bite. And when it’s not play-biting, it can be pretty painful since they have a full set of teeth and sharp incisors.
In general, finger monkeys do bite during play and when they interact with you. They can nibble on your ears or chew on your fingers. You can train your monkey to know what’s acceptable biting and what isn’t.
It’s important to let them know the difference; otherwise you will have your hands full once they turn into adults.
Can Finger Monkeys Get Aggressive?
When they turn into adults, they can get aggressive and territorial. But again, this can be managed when they are still young and trained at an early age.
As mentioned before, it’s the male finger monkeys that often do this. In the wild, they do this to assert dominance against other monkeys in their group or from another group.
Does The Finger Monkey Require Socialization?
Yes, they do. This is why responsible breeders will recommend they have a companion monkey with them or that you can devote a considerable chunk of attention to them.
They can quickly turn to disruptive behavior when bored or have no one to entertain them. They are also, by nature, cued to seek social dominance. As a result, they will become aggressive as they fight for a higher role in their human family.
Why Is Owning a Finger Monkey Controversial?
Owning a finger monkey often raises a lot of eyebrows, not only because they’re exotic but because there are a lot of people who find owning monkeys unethical.
Unlike dogs and cats, monkeys are not conditioned or bred to become anyone’s pet and thus, are believed to make unsuitable pets.
Having a unique and adorable pet like the finger monkey is truly special. Because of their exotic nature, it’s essential to know what ownership of such a unique species would require of you.
Always find out the laws surrounding ownership of a finger monkey first before you commit to getting one.
Then make sure to only get them from a reliable breeder – someone licensed by the USDA who can give you all the information you need and can provide you with support when raising your own finger monkey.
Then finally, make sure to read up and understand what commitments owning a finger monkey would mean for you.
You should be willing to devote time and attention to making sure your pet receives adequate care, love, and attention. Even more, it’s essential to understand the financial investment involved in having one as well.
Once you understand all this and are committed to them, owning a pet finger monkey could become a gratifying experience.