Capuchins usually have cream-colored fur around the shoulders, neck and face, and the rest of their hair is dark brown. A capuchin has a tail as long as his body, between 12 and 22 inches. His face is pink or white, and he has dark hands with long fingers. Moreover, according to genetic studies led by Lynch Alfaro in 2011, the gracile and robust capuchins diverged approximately 6.2 million years ago. Lynch Alfaro suspects that the divergence was triggered by the creation of the Amazon River, which separated the monkeys in the Amazon north of the Amazon River, who then evolved into the gracile capuchins. Those in the Atlantic Forest south of the river evolved into the robust capuchins. Gracile capuchins have longer limbs relative to their body size than robust capuchins, and have rounder skulls, whereas robust capuchins have jaws better adapted for opening hard nuts. Robust capuchins have crests and the males have beards.
Before bringing home your capuchin home, find out whether it’s legal to keep a monkey as a pet in your state. Many states ban pet primates, and others require permits. If you keep a monkey in a state that doesn’t allow them, or if you fail to obtain a permit, not only are you breaking the law but you could run into major problems when your pet requires veterinary care. State-licensed veterinarians can’t treat illegal monkeys, and they might be required to report you.
Your monkey’s personality changes once he reaches sexual maturity, about age 5. He might have been charming and easy to care for, but no longer. You can diaper young monkeys, but adolescent capuchins won’t keep diapers on. When bored or annoyed, they might start throwing feces, to name just one inappropriate behavior. They require a lot more time and attention than conventional pets do.
Feeding Your Monkey
It’s important to feed your monkey just the right amount of food — not too little, and certainly not too much. Monkeys waste food if they’re given too much, according to the University of Wisconsin’s National Primate Research. It recommends feeding commercial canned and dry diets designed for monkeys, along with fruits and vegetables cut into pieces small enough for capuchin hands. For example, several times a week you might give your pet two small slices or banana, 1/8 of an apple or several peanuts. You can give your monkey cooked meats, but not more than one teaspoon as a treat. Avoid feeding monkeys any dairy products, candy or other sweets. Don’t give your pet any iron-enriched products, such as certain human cereals.
No matter how much your love your monkey and how domestic he appears, always remembers he’s a wild animal. Aggressive behavior in capuchins occurs fairly often, even in older monkeys who had never displayed such tendencies. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that monkeys are natural hosts of herpes B, which can cause fatal encephalomyelitis in people. Monkeys also commonly develop latent, lifelong infections that can be transmitted to people via scratches and bites.
Although wild capuchins live 15 to 25 years, captive monkeys can reach 45 or older. Depending on your age when you acquire your pet, that means a young monkey might outlive you or your ability to care for it. Have a plan in place for someone to care for your monkey if you die before your capuchin. You might want to consult your attorney when preparing your will and making estate plans.
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HOW TO HOUSE TRAIN A BABY CAPUCHIN MONKEY
Even under the best circumstances, capuchin monkeys can be temperamental, unpredictable creatures. Giving your monkey a proper upbringing involves a great deal of time, effort and commitment. The effort is necessary, though, to ensure your monkey will adapt comfortably into your home environment and become an enjoyable pet. Before adopting a baby monkey, make sure the laws in your area permit monkeys as pets.
Diapering Your Baby
Capuchin monkeys will mark their territory by urinating on it, so most owners of capuchin monkeys prefer to diaper train them. If your baby capuchin isn’t already wearing diapers, training should begin as soon as you bring him home. All diapers should be applied to the monkey backwards, since monkeys are quite adept at removing them if they can reach the diaper tabs or pins. You can use regular baby diapers for your baby capuchin if they’ll fit, cutting a hole for the tail. If your monkey is too small to wear infant diapers, you can use a 5-inch by 5-inch baby towel or washcloth and a panty liner as a diaper, pinning it together in back with a diaper pin. If your monkey has a favorite stuffed toy he likes to cling to, diaper him face-down on his stuffed animal. This will reduce the amount of stress he experiences during diapering.
Vaccinating Against Childhood Diseases
Capuchin monkeys are susceptible to many of the same diseases humans contract. You will need to find an exotic animal veterinarian familiar with treating and vaccinating monkeys to ensure your baby monkey remains in good health. Common vaccines for baby capuchin monkeys include the M-M-R II vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, the polio vaccine and a tetanus shot. Monkeys are very susceptible to tuberculosis and herpes simplex, and should never come into contact with humans who are carriers of either of these diseases.
Feeding Your Baby
Abrupt changes in diet can cause stomach upset and diarrhea and should be avoided. Baby capuchin monkeys can be fed human baby formula from a bottle. As they get older, the consistency can be thickened with human baby rice and ground monkey biscuits. Once your baby is ready for solid foods he can eat pieces of monkey biscuits and chopped fruits and vegetables. Baby monkeys love to feed from the bottle and can be difficult to wean. Never bottle feed a baby capuchin monkey lying back and cradled like a baby. Instead, keep your baby monkey upright and leaning slightly forward, and support his chest and tummy or let him lean on a stuffed toy. This will prevent any choking hazards while he nurses. To ensure maximum health, discuss your baby monkey’s diet with your breeder or veterinarian.
In the wild, baby capuchin monkeys remain with their mothers for years. As a pet, you will need to act as your monkey’s mother, providing the constant attention and affection he requires. Even if you plan to transition your monkey into a large cage, while he is a baby you should have a place for him to sleep in your bedroom. You can usually accomplish this by placing a dog kennel near the bed, complete with a blanket and his favorite stuffed animal. As he matures, you can transition him to his permanent nighttime enclosure.