Can You Have a Lemur as a Pet? What You Need to Know

Despite their adorable appearance, lemurs are wild animals and should not be kept as pets. While the idea of owning these unique primates may seem appealing, it’s incredibly detrimental to both the individual lemur and the species as a whole.

Understanding Lemurs: Wild Animals at Heart

Lemurs are native to Madagascar and have evolved over millions of years to thrive in that specific environment. They have complex social structures, specialized diets, and require vast spaces to roam and explore. No matter how well-intentioned, a home environment simply cannot replicate their natural habitat.

The Dangers of the Pet Trade

The exotic pet trade fuels the illegal capture and poaching of lemurs from the wild, devastating already endangered populations. Taking a lemur from its natural home disrupts its social group and puts the entire species at risk.

Specialized Needs, Impossible to Meet

Lemurs need highly specialized diets, consisting of fruits, leaves, insects, and other items difficult to source consistently. They need large enclosures with ample climbing space, diverse vegetation, and strict temperature and humidity controls. Most owners simply don’t have the resources or expertise to provide this level of care.

Unpredictable and Potentially Dangerous

Even hand-raised lemurs retain their wild instincts. They can bite, scratch, and become aggressive, especially as they reach sexual maturity. They may also carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

It’s (Usually) Illegal

In most of the United States and many other countries, it’s illegal to own a lemur as a pet. These laws exist to protect endangered species and promote animal welfare.

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Ethical Alternatives: Appreciating Lemurs Responsibly

Can You Have a Lemur as a Pet
Image Credit: Justin Lo/gettyimages

If you love lemurs, there are far better ways to interact with them:

Support conservation organizations: Donate to reputable organizations working to protect lemur populations in Madagascar (e.g., The Lemur Conservation Foundation, Madagascar Fauna Group).

Visit a sanctuary: Reputable sanctuaries provide a safe haven for rescued lemurs and offer educational programs for visitors. (Include a link to the American Sanctuary Association’s directory for finding a sanctuary near you).

Watch documentaries: Learn about lemurs in their natural habitat through wildlife documentaries by National Geographic or the BBC.

The Heartbreaking Reality of Surrendered Lemurs

While some people might believe they can provide a loving home for a lemur, the reality is far bleaker. Many sanctuaries are already stretched thin, caring for lemurs relinquished by overwhelmed or unprepared owners. These lemurs often suffer from:

  • Psychological trauma: Being removed from their social groups and natural environment takes a toll on lemurs.
  • Improper care: Unsuitable diets, inadequate housing, and lack of specialized veterinary care can lead to health problems.
  • Aggression: Frustrated and confused lemurs may lash out through biting or scratching, making them difficult to place in new homes.

Interview with a Sanctuary Worker

Sarah Jones, a dedicated caregiver at the Lemur Conservation Center, shared her experience: “We see lemurs come in with all sorts of issues – malnutrition, behavioral problems, and even self-harm. It’s heartbreaking because these are all consequences of a situation they never asked for.”

What You Can Do to Help Lemurs

Report suspected illegal pet trade activity: If you see a lemur advertised for sale or encounter someone with a pet lemur, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or your local wildlife agency.

Educate others: Share this article and information about the dangers of the lemur pet trade with your friends and family.

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Support reputable sanctuaries: These organizations rely on donations to care for rescued lemurs.

Myth Busting Common Misconceptions

  • Myth:  Lemurs are just like monkeys and can be easily domesticated.
  • Fact:  While both are primates, lemurs have distinct social structures, dietary needs, and require far more space than monkeys.
  • Myth:  A large cage or enclosure is enough for a pet lemur.
  • Fact:  Lemurs are arboreal creatures who need ample climbing space, diverse vegetation, and the ability to move freely, something a cage simply cannot provide.

Deeper Look: Lemurs in Crisis

Lemurs face immense threats in Madagascar. Rampant deforestation robs them of their homes and food sources. The illegal pet trade tears them from their families, further destabilizing populations. Nearly all lemur species are endangered, making conservation action critical. By saying “no” to pet lemurs, you actively support their survival.


Lemurs are fascinating and beautiful creatures, but they belong in the wild. By choosing not to support the pet trade, you can help ensure the survival of these incredible primates for generations to come.

The photo featured below the post headline is Credit: Emilija Manevska/gettyimages

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Frequently Asked Question

But they look so cute and cuddly. Why can’t I have one?
Lemurs might look cute, but their needs are far too complex for the average owner. They may be injured or become unhealthy and aggressive in captivity.

Are there certain types of lemurs that are better as pets?
No. All types of lemurs are wild animals and are unsuitable for domestic life.

What happens to pet lemurs that are surrendered?
There are limited sanctuaries for rescued lemurs, and they are often full. Surrendered lemurs may face overcrowding, inadequate care, or even euthanasia.

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Do lemurs make good pets?
Absolutely not. Lemurs have evolved for a complex life in the wild, and those needs can never be fully met in captivity. Their potential for aggression, unpredictable behavior, and the ethical concerns of the pet trade make them unsuitable companions.

Is it legal to have a lemur for a pet?
In most jurisdictions, owning a lemur as a pet is prohibited by law. These regulations exist due to their endangered status and to discourage harm to the animal.

How much is a lemur pet?
The initial price of purchasing a lemur can reach thousands of dollars. However, the true cost lies in the long-term, specialized care they require: extensive enclosures, expert veterinary care, and complex diets.

How long do pet lemurs live?
Lemurs have a lifespan of 15-20 years (or even more) in captivity. This represents a serious, decades-long commitment that most people who desire a lemur pet are not equipped to handle.

Are lemurs dangerous or friendly to humans?
Even hand-reared lemurs can be unpredictable and prone to aggression. They have sharp teeth and can inflict injury.

What are the alternatives to owning a pet lemur?
You can support the conservation of wild lemurs, visit reputable sanctuaries, and learn more through documentaries.

Can I volunteer with lemurs?
Some sanctuaries offer volunteer programs for those passionate about lemur welfare. This allows responsible interaction without taking lemurs from their natural habitat.

Why are baby lemurs sold as pets?
Baby lemurs often appear more docile, leading people to mistakenly believe they are tameable. They become much more difficult to handle as they mature.

Can lemurs carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans?
Yes, lemurs can carry diseases of concern that can be passed to humans, posing a health risk.