Are Finger Monkeys Legal in the U.S.?

  • Author: Carl
  • Time to read: 6 min.
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Finger monkeys are adorable and are naturally attractive to a lot of people looking for a pet, but since they are considered exotic animals, they are a bit controversial as well.

The federal government places no restrictions on owning a wild animal as a pet, which is why nearly half the states in the U.S. allow you to keep finger monkeys as pets.

That being said, if you’re going to own a finger monkey, it’s wise to do your due diligence and find out as much about them as possible.

And if you’re wondering, are finger monkeys legal in the U.S., the answer is that they are only legal in some states. In fact, in more than half of the states and the District of Columbia, it is illegal to own any type of monkey as a pet without some type of permit or license. As of this writing, a total of 17 states have no restrictions when it comes to keeping monkeys as pets. This means in the majority of states, it is either illegal to do so or it comes with certain requirements.

What Is a Finger Monkey?

First of all, let’s talk about the states where there are no restrictions on keeping a finger monkey as a pet.

What Is a Finger Monkey?
Little Finger monkeys

They are:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Washington State
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

If you live in one of these states and you’re interested in owning a finger monkey, you should still check with the authorities in your county because you may still need some type of permit or license for that area of the state.

Finger monkeys are native to countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, and Peru, and they get their name because they are small enough to wrap around your finger.

The official name of the finger monkey is the pygmy marmoset, and they grow to no more than around six inches in length.

This does not include their tail, which can grow to around nine inches long in some cases. The females weigh more than the males in most cases, but even they don’t get to more than around four ounces or so.

Some people call these monkeys pocket monkeys or thumb monkeys, and because of the fur that surrounds their face like a mane, some people call them little lions.

One of the traits you have to keep in mind about finger monkeys is they are very social creatures, even when found in the wild.

They live in groups that usually consist of an adult male, an adult female, and many offspring. The groups can be as small as two or as large as ten individuals.

This is why, if you’re going to keep finger monkeys as pets, it’s best to buy them at least two at a time. Even if you provide excellent companionship, finger monkeys need companionship from other monkeys, especially same-sex monkeys.

They like to have a lot of friends, in other words!

This is only one of the reasons that having finger monkeys as pets is so costly, not only in time, energy, and effort, but also in money.


What to Expect: Getting started with a finger monkey can cost you anywhere from $1500 to $8000.


The Nature and Life of Finger Monkeys

Finger monkeys live from 12 to 16 years, but when they’re in captivity, they’ll last from 15 to 22 years.

In reality, only about one-fourth of all finger monkey babies make it to adulthood. Females give birth twice a year and usually birth twins each time, even though single or triple births can also occur.

Keeping Finger monkey pet
Finger monkey pet

Finger monkeys have long sharp nails that look more like claws than regular nails, and they do occasionally bite. Even though the bites are not considered dangerous, they can be very painful, especially to children.

If you decide to keep a finger monkey as a pet, just know that they are very active during the day.

They tend to wake up right after dawn and spend most of the time:

  • feeding
  • grooming
  • playing
  • and foraging

The thing is that finger monkeys can also be aggressive, especially if they’re males about to reach maturity.

They even throw their feces at people when they get angry just like other monkeys do.

What this means in practical terms is this: you’ll have to have some energy yourself in order to keep up with your finger monkeys!

Here is what monkeys need:

  • When it comes to the first few years of their lives, finger monkeys need a lot of nurturing and training. This is because both good and bad habits, which will stay with them for the rest of their lives, are being developed during this timeframe.
  • It also means you have to devote a lot of time with them to train them properly. It’s best to start with trying to replicate their natural habitat after you get them home. Try putting them in a large cage that has trees and vines, swings, and lots of water.
  • If you can put the cage in direct sunlight, the monkeys will thrive, but if this isn’t possible, try attaching a heat lamp to the cage instead. Since you’ll likely be buying your finger monkeys from a breeder, he/she might have a starter cage that you can purchase to make things easier for you.
  • Make sure that you feed them lots of fruits, vegetables, and insects, and remember that babies have to be fed every two hours. A healthy diet is also important because like humans, finger monkeys can get diseases such as chicken pox, HIV, and even the common cold.

The monkeys’ health brings us to another important suggestion, and that is to try to get some type of guarantee that the monkeys you buy from the breeder are healthy.

It’s also a good idea to check to see if there’s a vet in your area who specializes in primates, which is something that you should do before you make the decision to own one of these animals.


Potential Problem: The truth is that most general vets know little about these animals and therefore won’t be able to help you if the animals get sick.


The Downside of Owning Finger Monkeys

Owning finger monkey
Owning finger monkey downside

Before you decide you want to own a few finger monkeys, you should consider the disadvantages of doing so:

  • First of all, they are expensive to purchase and since you should always buy at least two at a time, they can be very expensive for the average person.
  • In addition, regardless of how well you treat your finger monkeys, they are still undomesticated animals, which means that they tend to be depressed and even anxious when kept in someone’s home.
  • They can also get many human diseases and can be costly to take care of.

In Summary

Finger monkeys are some of the cutest and smallest animals on the planet and can be a lot of fun to own, but they are not easy to own in any way.

They are relatively high-maintenance animals that take a lot of time, energy, and money to have in your home. They are also illegal to own in most states, making this the first thing you should check into if you’re considering owning an adorable finger monkey.

In other words, if you’re considering having a finger monkey, make sure that you know what you’re getting into by doing your due diligence first.

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