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Ringtail Lemurs as Pets



  "The Good the Bad & the Ugly "

June, 2001

  by Linda LaFrentz


  A hand raised Ringtail Lemur can be a wonderful pet. BUT the experience can also become a nightmare for you & usually the animal if you are not prepared.

  The biggest mistake you can make is pull the baby for a pet and then say "well if I get tired of it, I can always breed it!" A hand raised lemur, male or female, should be spayed or neutered before sexual maturity. Between the age of 6 to 10 months. The males testicals are not always down at this time. These males are called crypt-archidsThe procedure is through the lower abdoman like the female. The price of the surgery will reflect this. More money $$ . This usually doesn't happen, but it is better to be prepared.

  RL NEUTER OF MALE.jpg (97380 bytes)   A male being neutered, crypt-archid.

If they are not spayed or neutered (at the right time) they will get aggressive and attack you or your friends. Because of handraising and bonding with humans, they lose their fear and respect when they reach sexual maturity. In the lemur troupe there is a pecking order, similar to horses. The female is the most dominant of the sexes. They do know a human male from a female. The female lemur will rub her rear on a man. It's like saying "YOUR MINE".


If you have a pet that is put into a breeder situation, they will breed, reproduce, learn to take care of their young. BUT the females will eat you up when they have a baby. I have 1 female breeder that was hand raised. When she has her baby we have to get out the leather gloves & net. This is a "have to" for our protection. We do this to check the sex and to put iodine on the baby's navel.  You don't have to do this with a "mother raised breeder". The hand raised mom will forget about their love for you at this time. The love of the baby is a stronger bond. Because of hand raising she is NOT afraid of you. 

 Even if they don't have a baby, they are very moody. You don't pet or touch without their permission. If they think you are going to take something away from them are gonna get it!!  If they attack, (jump on you) they usually go for your head...One time I gave the hand raised mom a piece of romaine lettuce. She sat on it. I gave her another one and reached for the one she was sitting on....She shot like a bullet at me. Knocked my glasses off.  WHAP...I GOT IT.... I wasn't thinking. You NEVER take anything away from her. Another time I reached into their food dish to hand a male lemur a grape....I got my hand slapped......FEMALES FIRST........

 I don't have any experience with a male pet as a breeder. I have heard a few horror stories though. One lady said she had a pet male for 3 years and got him a female. At that point, he bonded with the other lemur and started attacking the lady. The female lemur that she got was  mother raised, and never gave the lady any problems. The lady finally "got rid " of them after trying to deal with them for two more years. She hated to let them go, but she was scared of them. They have 2 long teeth on top that can rip and slash the flesh. Now they are somebody else animals, and they may be mistreated at this point.

 Another lady that works with a big wildlife facility called me. She is the keeper of the lemurs. She is called the "Lemur Lady". She loves her lemurs but when they get older and go into breeder situations they turn aggressive and attack her. She was telling me about the females. I don't know if she has any hand raised males or not.

 If you want a breeder----let the mother raise it! If the baby's life is threatened for some reason and you need to hand raise it. plan to spay or neuter it for a pet. In some cases if they are pulled at 4 or 5 weeks of age, they aren't as good a pet, but they are OK as a breeder. They usually don't attack people.

 The mother raised breeders are friendly enough to hand feed. You can't hold them though. I have taken a lawn chair into their pen and sat down with a hand full of grapes. They will climb up on my lap and even reach above my head for a grape. But I can't hold them like a pet. If I pull a baby to hand raise it (at 14 days), the mother will fret, but "not attack" me.


These are such beautiful animals. They do make a wonderful pet. Sissy is a perfect testimony for this. Because she was so very ill for the first few months of her life I decided to spay her. She was the subject of the article,  called "Joint Ill - What's That?" She is such a delight. I just love her. She is 3 1/2 years old now (d.o.b. 5-30-99). She prefers to stay with the other lemurs most of the time. When she decides to stay in the house for the night, she has a big cage and a large pet kennel (her bed) next to my bed with baby blankets and stuffed toys.

 Every day that the weather is pretty enough, she "helps" me feed all of the other critters. I let her run loose in the yard. She loves playing in the trees and on top of the buildings... BY THE WAY ...I live in the country. This might be dangerous in a city situation...Traffic, power lines, dogs,  neighbors...

 She is a little possessive of me. Some times I sit in a glider swing to play and love on her. I raise 
Great Pyrenees dogs. One of the males loves to "protect me." He leans on me or sits on my foot. Sissy doesn't want him this close. She will hop back and forth from the glider swing arm to pop Shadow on the head or shoulder. This doesn't faze the dog of course, he is so big and unconcerned. Just sits there and takes it. Sissy has gotten braver with Shadow. She runs and jumps around shaking her head then grabs the dog's back leg...wrestles it and (play) bites him. He just stands there like nothing is going on.  Since she gets away with this, she thinks....this is fun....lets do it again. Funny. Like a small child....whatever gets attention. Most dogs wouldn't tolerate this. The Great Pyrenees is known as the "gentle giant". These big dogs are for predator control. We have a lot of coyotes in the country.

 I let Sissy go into my "Critterhouse" building. I have several refrigerators, cabinets, sink, TV, aquarium, and phone...also pens and cages of animals. This is where I cut up fruit and veggies and prepare the food for the different animals that I have. She has found out like a small child how to get my attention...especially if I'm on the phone. She has seen me write notes while I'm talking...."pen & paper"... She sees me write special notes on 3" X 5" cards on the animals cages. So...what does she do to get my attention? She grabs pen and papers and runs with them. Or she gets my notes on the cages and proceeds to chew them up. Important notes to me. Naturally I jump and run after her.... Has she got me trained or what?... She will also grab paper, pens or $$ out of a man's shirt pocket and run with it. ...It's Paper... If it's  $$...there is lots of hollering and chasing. She got attention again...this works    :-)

 Sissy also has a pet.....Rambo. He is an unaltered male prairie dog. He lives in the lemur pen. The pen has 2' deep sand for him to dig and burrow. They wrestle and Sissy hops on him. He could really do some damage with his teeth, but, he likes playing with her. He likes for me to scratch him when I go in the pen. He grins at me... so cute. I might add that the pen is completely enclosed with tin siding and wire on sides and bottom. He can't get out.

RL SISSY & RAMBO.jpg (75276 bytes)

"Sometimes"  Sissy is a little aggressive toward other people. Usually this happens when I am close to the lemur pen. Away from the pen, she is better. I learned the hard way NEVER  let anyone into the area of the building where they sleep. My two grandaughters, Ashley 6 and Kaycee 9, spent 2 weeks with me during Christmas break. They played with Sissy in the yard the whole time. TWO WEEKS.  At the end of the two weeks Ashley wanted to help me feed the lemurs. During the winter, I feed  them  inside the shed where they sleep. It is more protected from the weather. When Ashley stepped inside the door----Sissy jumped on her (and not in a playful manner). Sissy's warning is a cluck, cluck, cluck. We didn't hear this soon enough. This scared both of us really bad. It's going to take a while for Ashley to get over this scare. So, even though Sissy is a wonderful pet....they can still be unprdictable.

I no longer let the girls play with Sissy. I don't let her out of the pen if "anyone" is around other than me.

  I hope this article will help everyone to understand what they can expect when they pull that baby to hand raise.

I am not an expert or a veterinarian. These are just some of my personal experiences that I wanted to share. Exotic animals do not always make good pets. In fact they are not good pets for most people. They take special care and understanding that the average person or household is not always prepared to provide. Please look at yourself honestly and critically. Are you truly prepared to take on the responsibility of one of these animals? In captivity they can live 20 or more years. This is a lifetime commitment.