monkey · Pets

What Do Pet Monkeys Eat? How To Balance Your Primate’s Diet

Balancing a monkey’s diet is up to you if they are in captivity. Do not only give the monkey its favorite foods because just like a child, if you only give them pizza, they will only eat pizza. Variety is key to balancing their Nutritional needs. Be sure to give them adequate amounts of food to forge from and do keep in mind they are EXTREMELY wasteful. You will think you are over feeding, but the natural instinct of monkeys is to casually graze all day which is something we don’t think about. Once you form a bond with your monkey it is also important to include them while you and your family eat. If you eat in front of them, they become extremely jealous and will become vocal.  You can find our guide on “What Do Pet Monkey’s Eat”~ Here.

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Do All Primates Eat The Same Diet?

In the wild, most monkeys are omnivores which means they eat a selection of both plants and meat. Different species of monkeys may have slight differences in their diet based on their location and what’s available to them, however, in general all species eat the same food groups. Typical foods for monkeys are fruits, leaves, seeds, nuts, flowers, vegetables, and insects. I try to replicate what Ollie would eat in the wild as best I can for him. When Ollie was a newborn, he was eating an infant based formula with extra iron and would be given that every 2-4 hours around the clock. As he grew older and developed more, I began to incorporate baby purees like peas, green beans, and carrots. I tried to avoid anything super sugary or processed. Around 6-8 months of age I added in little bits of whole plant-based foods such as carrots, apples, zucchini, and some nuts and seeds. Once Ollie was 2 years of age, he was completely weaned off formula and began getting all his nutrients through food. A typical feeding schedule for him now is 3 bowls a day which include a mixture of lettuce or other leafy green, nuts and seeds such as unsalted cashews or sunflower seeds, carrot slices, snap peas, mini sweet peppers, small amounts of fruit such as blackberries, blueberries, or raspberry, and eggs. Ollie also gets items scattered throughout his main enclosure that he can forge from via toys, enrichment activities, or by hand.   

When To Feed

Typically, anytime I am snacking or eating a meal I grab something for ollie to snack on as well which can be an egg or some nuts and seeds. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything big just as long as they feel like they are included in the meal.  I also do NOT recommend ever taking food from your monkey. Monkeys are very greedy and will take it as a threat if you try to take a food item away from them. This is also why it’s very important to keep dangerous foods locked up and put away so they don’t accidentally get ahold of something they shouldn’t eat.  Every monkey will have a different schedule for what times they need the next food bowl refill, as this depends on the monkeys age. We feed Ollie, who is a 4 year old rescued squirrel monkey, 3 times a day plus scatter nuts and seeds for him to forage. Two of his bowls are bigger and the middle one is a smaller bowl. His feeding schedule as of right now is 2 PM, 6 PM, and 9 PM.

What Works For You

Now some of you probably just read 2 PM and freaked out for Ollie! lol Please don’t. This is Ollie’s schedule and what works for him. Let me explain why. When Ollie was an infant he was premature and needed feed every 2-3 hours round the clock! Talk about a ton of work, but we did it. Ollie thrived after about 6 months and the vet said we could start spacing out his feedings. As he got older we noticed he really didn’t eat in the morning and wanted to snack vs eat a full meal. As a person who also hates breakfast, I totally understood him. Ollie does get stuff from 9 AM-2 PM but it’s bits and pieces of things. Typically he will get a small handful of nuts and seeds, some scrambled eggs, and some form of lean protein like ground turkey or chicken. This is something really important. Ollie is not just associating us with placing food in his enclosure but the hand interactions as well. We basically “hand feed” him until 2 PM if that makes sense.


Just like humans, monkeys need water! No juice, no soda, no added flavors…. just pure H2O. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say that but seriously I do. When Ollie was an infant, we did not offer him water just his formula. At about 6 months of age, we added a typical gravity feed water bottle that you can attach to the main enclosure. As the monkey ages they will consume more water. Ollie will drink approximately 4-5 oz of water a day depending on how much watery vegetables he was fed. I have seen primate owners who do not attach water bottles to the enclosure and hand water their monkey. This is not something I recommend and just like any other animal should have clean water available all day every day. If you are someone who has hard well water or water with heavy chemicals, you may have to buy filtered or distilled water from the grocery store.  

Ollie The Monkey Drinking Some H2O

What To Avoid

I avoid giving Ollie anything with salt and msg as both can cause serious health issues. Too much salt can lead to diabetes just like it does for humans and msg for monkeys because they are so small is fatal. It’s important to be extremely careful when having a primate out loose because the first thing they want to do is search for food and if the trash doesn’t have a lid that’s typically where they will run first. It is also extremely important to supplement natural sunlight if the monkey is not directly by a big window. During winter months we use a supplemental lighting to help Ollie get his daily amount of needed D3. Should someone fail to keep track, monkeys can develop a disease called Rickets, which is a horribly painful disease that is fatal and once it begins it is rarely able to be reversed. 

In Closing

I hope you enjoyed todays post! Be sure to check out some of this weeks other post

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