Please take a moment to read the most popular questions about our application process and life with a monkey helper. If you cannot find your answer here, please check our Organizational FAQs or feel free to contact us directly with your question. You can also download a document of all the Life with a Monkey Helper FAQs and Application Process FAQs.
Apply for a Monkey
Our service monkeys are provided at no cost to our recipients.
Life with a Monkey Helper
No, monkeys do not assist with tasks in public. Monkeys are trained to perform tasks within the home environment only. We believe it’s important to respect our monkey’s hierarchy and acknowledge that service in public would be stressful on both monkeys and their recipients alike.
In a placement home, once a bond has been formed and a recipient is given approval from their staff advisors, monkeys enjoy outdoor time with their recipients when weather allows. Many of our monkey-recipient pairs relish their playtime together in the backyard or on the deck or patio. During these times, monkeys are leashed to keep them safe.
No – having a service monkey is more like having a small child. Monkeys require a lot of time, patience, and problem solving to develop a solid working relationship. This relationship you develop with your monkey is based on trust and respect (much like a child). You need to earn the trust and respect of a monkey before they will start performing tasks. Developing this relationship can take 6-12 months and the Helping Hands staff advisors are there every step of the way to guide you, your family, and your caretakers.
In general terms, hierarchy reflects how each monkey ranks individuals in terms of what role or purpose they have in his/her daily life. A monkey will typically place the recipient (you) then a primary caregiver at the top of the hierarchy, and assign an appropriate rank to other family members, caregivers, friends, visitors, and even household pets. The monkey will also perceive himself/herself as having a particular rank within the hierarchy, with some people above him/her and others below.
By understanding your monkey’s natural behaviors, respecting this point of view, and acting responsibly, you will be able to create a positive living environment for your service monkey. It’s important to understand that hierarchy is natural and not something that can be eliminated through training. We, as human caretakers, must respect the monkey’s hierarchy and change our own actions and interpretations accordingly. The concept of hierarchy can initially be tricky to understand but if you are accepted into the program, this will be explained in great detail to you and your family/caretakers by Helping Hands’ staff advisors.
Please watch the Monkeys in a Minute Episode, What is Hierarchy for more information.
Monkeys make a variety of noises that vary greatly in pitch and volume. You will quickly pick up on monkey sounds when a monkey is placed in your house. Monkeys make a variety of grunting/squeaking sounds that represent different emotions/feelings. Excitement, happiness, anticipation, alarm, and fear are just some of the emotions monkeys express verbally.
Most monkeys that graduate from Helping Hands are “potty trained.” (By potty trained, we mean that they return to their cage to go to the bathroom.) The floor of the cage is wire mesh and all waste falls through to a pan with papers below. Then the cage papers can be changed once or twice daily. Monkeys that are not fully potty trained may wear diapers in a home. A care attendant will most likely have to diaper the monkey if the recipient is unable. It’s important to remember though that any monkey may still have accidents if they are nervous or if something scares them.
A monkey must place his/her recipient as “alpha” or the top of their hierarchy in order for the bond to be made and a working relationship to be formed. Unfortunately, a monkey will never choose a child as alpha, especially in the presence of other adults (Mom/Dad/caregivers). Therefore, the recipient-service monkey relationship between a monkey and a child would never be successful. There are no exceptions to this reality.
In our 35+ years of experience, we have learned that homes with small children are not the best fit for a monkey because kids are often unpredictable and cannot fully grasp the importance of a monkey’s hierarchical structure and the need for a quiet, stable environment.
It’s unfair to expect a small child who is pre-conditioned to thinking of monkeys as zoo animals or funny characters they see in movies and cartoons to respect and understand the complexities of actual monkey behaviors. Kids cannot fully comprehend that a monkey is there for service and not as a playmate. For this reason, we require that all children who are living in the household to be 12 or over prior to an adult family member’s application for our program. Please understand that we cannot make exceptions to this policy.
We place our monkeys with recipients free of charge. All of the costs associated with training and placing the monkeys (about $40,000 per animal) are funded by individual donors and foundation grants. There are however some long term financial commitments such as food, vitamins, shampoo, and a once a year veterinary wellness visit that we hope our recipients can contribute to but it’s not a limiting factor for acceptance if you need some help with these costs. Helping Hands will cover all placement costs and any major medical care if the need arises.
Often times, the initial few months of a placement may be more difficult for caregivers and family members rather than the recipient. Often times the caregiver or family members end up doing the everyday monkey maintenance, but do not get the same affection from the monkey that a recipient receives. (In fact, we typically instruct family members and caregivers to “ignore” the monkey so that the bond with the new recipient is built.)
Initially a monkey placement may be seen as an extra burden for caregivers as they now must take care of the monkey in addition to prior commitments. As a recipient, you may also feel guilty assigning your caregivers additional chores. It is important to identify one primary caregiver who you feel will be responsible for most of the monkey care prior to the placement week. In fact, you should thoroughly discuss the ongoing commitment and responsibility that this family member or caregiver will have prior to applying for a monkey helper. Some chores your caregiver may have to assist with are: monkey bathing (at least once a week), nail filing (once every few weeks or as needed), changing cage papers (daily), changing blankets (daily), and feeding (daily).
Monkeys eat several small meals throughout the day. The primary staple of their diet is commercial monkey chow. They eat chow three times a day and it is supplemented with whole oats, vitamins, vegetables, water, and a small amount of apple and nuts. Because of their high metabolisms, between chow meals and snacks, monkeys typically eat about 6 times a day.
It is extraordinarily important to follow our diet guidelines exactly, as monkeys are at risk for developing Type II diabetes if they are fed inappropriately. Monkey chow is purchased through Helping Hands and costs roughly $30 per bag. One bag of chow will last 2-3 months, depending on the monkey.
For more information, please watch the Monkeys in a Minute Episode, Monkey Helper Diet.
No – Helping Hands monkeys are New World monkeys, native to Central and South America. New World monkeys do not carry the zoonotic diseases often associated with Old World monkeys (from Africa) such as Herpes B, Monkey Pox, or Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). Additionally, our monkeys are raised in a closed colony and receive periodic veterinary exams keeping their overall health status high. In fact, our monkeys are more likely to catch the common cold from human germs in your own home.
The application process for becoming a monkey helper recipient is an extensive multi-step process. Our goal is to assure that each placement represents the best environment for the monkey helper and the best match for his/her recipient. After meeting all of our eligibility requirements, the process begins by completing a 10 page paper application, providing medical and personal references, and making a home video.
Helping Hands will typically make a home visit prior to placement. During this visit we continue to assess your readiness for a monkey helper, and talk in person about the placement week, expectations, home modifications, and the roles and responsibilities that you and your family and caretakers will need to perform if you are approved as a recipient.
The amount of time the application process takes depends on how quickly you get all application materials returned to Helping Hands. Once ALL application materials are received, the Placement Team reviews all your information and discusses if we have an appropriate monkey that will meet your needs in training at that time.
The pool of potential monkey helper recipients fluctuates throughout any given time period. As mentioned above, we place an average of 6-8 monkeys/year. However, our waiting list is not, “first come, first served.” Because our monkey matching process is so unique we are really looking for the “right fit” when it comes to matching our monkeys with recipients. An individual may hear immediately after we review their application that they are accepted, while others can wait up to a year for an appropriate monkey to finish training. That being said, we don’t want our applicants to feel discouraged—we want you to assume you may be a perfect fit for a monkey we have in training right now.
We base this decision on several different factors. Our monkeys, much like humans, have a variety of different personalities. Some of our monkeys are very outgoing, some are shy, some like to explore, some like to cuddle, some are reserved while others are confident. Some monkeys prefer men over woman or vice versa, some need a dominant personality in their life while others would prefer someone passive.
We base our “monkey matching” on personality profiles of our candidates and the monkeys that are currently in training. We often say that applying for a monkey is, “half adoption process, half dating-service.” Other factors that we consider are: other individuals in your life, home environment, a candidate’s task needs, and general personality traits required to develop a positive relationship of trust and understanding with a monkey.
Once a candidate is accepted, we will call them and let them know. At that time we will further discuss what it is like to have a helper monkey and details of the placement week. We ask that you further discuss this commitment with your caregivers/family members and often arrange for a call with them to answer their questions. Once we have scheduled the placement week, we begin shipping supplies to your home that we’ll use to outfit you with everything you need to begin life with your new service monkey.
The placement week is when the Helping Hands staff comes to your home to bring the service monkey and to train you and your family and caretakers. This training usually lasts 4-6 days and you can expect to work between 6-8 hours/day with our staff and your new monkey. We try to plan our schedule as much as possible around your daily routine but we do require that recipients clear their schedules that week to give us the maximum amount of time together.
No, during the placement week our staff stays at a hotel nearby. During our pre-placement planning, it is helpful if you can direct us to a hotel near a shopping plaza (Home Depot, Walmart, etc.) so we can purchase supplies as needed.
During the placement week, the Helping Hands staff works on setting up a successful relationship between you and your monkey. This is largely a week where we teach you monkey behaviors, hierarchy, relationship development, etc. During this week, we will set up and adapt equipment you will use in the future to help your monkey learn tasks in your home. We will show you some of the tasks that your monkey will eventually do for you. However, it is important that you understand that you need to build a relationship with your monkey first before you will be able to complete tasks independently without the assistance of our staff trainers. Working successfully with tasks usually begins after a few months, once you develop a strong and trusting relationship with your monkey. Again, your staff advisor will instruct you every step of the way.
Before the Helping Hands staff leaves your home, you will be assigned to a staff member who will provide phone support or internet video using SKYPE. You will continue to have daily support for the next few weeks and months, depending on the ongoing level of support that is needed. Once you develop a strong relationship with your monkey, task training will begin. This is usually the period of time many recipients find most stressful. Your monkey is still getting used to his/her new home and once our staff leaves, the monkey has to restructure his/her hierarchy in the new home.
Moving slowly is very important in the first few months of any new placement. This allows for a successful transition for both the recipient and the monkey. It is extraordinarily important to follow all of the instructions of your staff advisor as our experience helps prevent you from making mistakes during this crucial relationship building period.