The Top 3 Reasons Monkeys Bite: Scared, Anger/Agitation, Showing Dominance
Has Monkey Ollie Ever Bitten Anyone?
Let us dive right into story time! Ollie is a 4 year old rescued squirrel monkey. We, Luke & I, got Ollie when he was only a few weeks old and he was premature and had a number of health issues. He needed 24/7 care and hourly feedings for the first few months. Ollie had trouble regulating his own body temperature because he was premature. The specialty veterinarian that Ollie saw many times a month during the first six months, said the best way to regulate Ollie’s temperature was to keep Ollie on us so he could absorb our body heat. Luke was able to tend to Ollie throughout the night while I watched Ollie during the daytime.
One night when Ollie was less than a year old, Luke had him out in the man cave (which is heated and cooled) and was just letting Ollie relax on his shoulder. Suddenly with no warning, Pete & MonkeyBoo came into the man cave and frightened Ollie. Startled, Ollie crunched down on Luke’s ear. Ouch! Thankfully, only minimal amounts of blood were drawn and Luke fully recovered. Now there are many lessons here that we learned and fortunately for us Ollie was tiny and didn’t have his adult teeth yet, which would definitely would have had a much different outcome.
The first lesson we learn, lock the door. Seems like a silly thing but possibly having the door locked would’ve allowed Pete the chance to knock before entering and therefore would’ve alerted Ollie. Secondly, we realized because Ollie was premature his hearing wasn’t as developed as we thought. Now that Ollie is much older he hears even the SLIGHTEST sounds. Thirdly, we learned that even while diapered and leashed a monkey, if the circumstances are there, can bite for many reasons other than anger.
We discovered this one early thankfully. There are many things Ollie is scared of but instead of bitting right away, Ollie uses one of his 25 verbal calls to alert us. Each verbal call, or chirp, has a different tone, pitch and intensity based off the situation. Now that he is able to verbally alert us, we are able to mitigate the situation much quicker. If you’ve watch any of Ollie’s YouTube videos, you have heard some of his different sounds. There are a number of things Ollie is afraid of. The first is, the steam mop. I think it’s the noise Ollie doesn’t like, but his level of intensity on the vocal call for the steam mop is probably the highest one we’ve ever heard from him. To say he hates the steam mop is an understatement. I can’t even leave it in the same room unplugged and not running. Another thing he dislikes and is scared of is my kitchen faucet. Weird I know, but it’s only when I take it off the magnet and use it as a hose. Our thoughts, on both the mop and the faucet is the resemblance of a snake. Snakes are only of squirrel monkeys natural predators and I guess if you used your imagination, the steam mop sounds like one hissing and the faucet hose is snake like. Maybe that’s a stretch but that’s how we’ve interpreted it.
Monkey anger and agitation is the most commonly known reason for monkeys bitting. In the wild, mother monkeys will purposely bite their babies as a signal that they are getting agitated with the baby nursing. Another reason monkeys bite out of anger is when they are getting agitated and frustrated with a person or another monkey. A few reasons a monkey could be getting frustrated with a person is the person hasn’t learned the verbal cues of their monkey. Ollie is very good with letting us know verbally if he is agitated with something. Most of the time it is something little to us but for their short attention spans its extremely frustrating. An example is, when we give Ollie something to open we let him try a few times and then he will usually give us a cue that he would like help. We then help him so he doesn’t get frustrated which could then lead him to get our attention with biting.
Pain is a sub category of agitation but could probably be listed as another reason on its own. Many monkey owners let their monkeys roam freely around the house. It would be impossible to keep up with a monkey and know where he/she is at at every second while they are out. That is how accidents happen. Sadly, I know many monkey owners who let their monkeys roam and the monkey goes and bites on an electrical cord and then burns the inside of their mouth. Ouch! The owner can then see the monkey is acting weird but can’t see the problem and doesn’t know what happened. Not being able to eat pain free would certainly cause a monkey to become agitated and possibly bite.
3. Showing Dominance
Monkeys are extremely greedy and bite to show dominance. Squirrel monkeys in the wild live in large troops. The troops can range from 25-500 squirrel monkeys all living together. This means, when one monkey gets food they all tend to chase after that monkey so they can get a piece of it. The monkey at the end of the chase who kept the food then is looked as the alpha in some troops. Finding their place within the troop can be very difficult for younger monkeys. As humans take over the monkeys natural habits their resources become diminished which causes more fighting within the monkey troops.
There are many more reasons monkeys may bite, and as monkey owners it is our responsibility to be sure we are aware of all our surroundings at all times. Be sure to check out the post on Buying A Pet Monkey.