Do you remember pet store monkeys?

Remember the days when people kept leopards and cheetahs and other exotic animals as pets?

Neither do I.

All my knowledge of big cats as pets comes from movies like Bringing Up Baby.

(If you have never seen it, you should.  Not only did Bringing Up Baby star Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant and a leopard, but it also stars Asta, the best canine actor ever.)

I am, however, old enough to remember monkeys being sold in suburban pet stores.  Nobody I knew had one, but I did have an memorable encounter with a pet store monkey once.

I was quite small, and we were there choosing replacement fish for our tank.  I’m not certain, but I think my brother and I were on our own in the shop while my mother was buying groceries next door at the A&P.  That might not be true; I suspect my various memories of that pet shop have merged into one, but in any case, I know my brother and I were in the pet store, choosing fish.

I am certain I chose an angel fish, because I never chose anything but angel fish.   Free of decision making, I could roam the store looking at the puppies, kittens, and monkeys.  That was the best part of the pet shop, the puppies and kittens.  The monkeys were a novelty, but I didn’t want one the way I wanted a kitten, which were forbidden due to my brother’s allergies.

The monkey cage was front and center in the shop, with the cash register between it and the door.  I was standing by the cage, simultaneously waiting for my brother to choose a fish and watching the door for my mom.  So my back was to the monkeys.

One of the little imps reached out and grabbed my hair!  He yanked his arm back in the cage, slamming my head against it.  Monkeys are strong and tenacious!  He was not going to let go.

I did what any little girl in that situation would do:  I screamed as if that monkey were about to eat my brains!  The pet shop man ran over and pried my hair out of the monkey’s grasp, while the monkey and I both continued to shriek in horror.

Never again did I stand near a monkey’s cage.

Also, I decided to stick with dogs and cats….or, maybe, a cheetah or a jaguar or a herd of baby elephants, like the lady in Hatari.

What about you?  If you could have an exotic animal as a pet, would you?  Which would you choose?

(Since this is make believe, pretend it is not cruel keeping wild animals as pets, and pretend nothing is in danger of going extinct.  However, do not pretend that tigers are herbivores or that monkeys won’t pull your hair or anything crazy like that.)

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8 thoughts on “Do you remember pet store monkeys?

  1. No *way* am I ever getting an exotic pet. Especially not a monkey. About 15 years ago I was visiting family in Africa that operated a Eco-tourism/safari company. Their shower was open to the wilderness but had a wall blocking you from sight at the camp. So I’m standing there shampooing my hair, reveling in my exotic showering experience when these monkeys scamper in and steal my earrings, my conditioner, and my travel shower bag. I can’t run after them because then I’d flash the camp. After the fact my relatives were like, “oh, yeah. Monkeys are thieving little bastards. Watch out for them!” Ever since then I have not been a fan of monkeys…

    • You have either totally destroyed my safari fantasy or given me the foreknowledge I will need to shower safely in Africa one day. Thank you so much for sharing! Monkeys really are terrors.

  2. What a scary story. When we were kids my sister asked my mom if she could have a pet Elephant. Instead of saying no, my mom said, “Well, elephants are expensive and we can’t afford to buy one, but if someone ever gives you one as a gift I’ll let you keep it.” My sister was quite happy waiting for the day when an elephant would be delivered as a birthday present. I always wanted a monkey, but my dad said they were strong and dangerous. After reading your story I can only assume he was right!

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