Handling and Training


Handling can cause distress to marmosets. Capture should only be carried out if there is no alternative, e.g. for essential veterinary procedures.

To avoid direct handling marmosets can be trained to co-operate with husbandry procedures using a technique called ‘Positive Reinforcement Training’. Training can also lead to other benefits, including reduced levels of stress and boredom for the marmosets, and an improved relationship between carer and marmosets.


Disadvantages of Direct Handling

Handling can cause fear and distress to marmosets.

  • Stress and upset may last for some time after handling has ended
  • Anticipation of being handled can also cause agitation and anxiety
  • Capture in nets or gloves can lead to injuries in the marmosets
  • Marmosets can get tangled in nets, or hurt while being chased
  • Marmosets tightly gripping mesh can damage their clawlike nails if forcibly removed
  • Capturing marmosets in their nest-box should be avoided: it is very important that marmosets have a place inside which they can always feel safe and secure

Recommended Handling Procedure

  • It is possible for marmosets to get used to being handling with nitrile/vinyl gloves if a lot of patience and time is spent gradually desensitising them using small treat foods
  • Hold the part of the tail nearest the body with the other hand around the shoulders, supporting their weight and keeping them upright
  • Be firm but gentle, lower your voice and move slowly and calmly, without sudden movements
  • Place marmosets back in their enclosure/cage as soon after handling as possible


What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

  • Animals are given positive rewards (positive reinforcement) in response to the performance of a certain desired behaviour
  • Particular behaviours that are consistently paired with receiving a small food reward are more likely to be performed again
  • Initially, behaviours approaching the one you want can be rewarded

Offering Food

  • Is the first step of any training program
  • Initial approaches can be reinforced with rewards
  • Suitably tiny portions of rewards can be directed using a bamboo skewer (e.g. small bits of grape, raisin, marshmallow, banana chip or gum arabic)

Time and Training

  • Training does take some initial time investment, but surprisingly little
  • Marmosets take different amounts of time to learn
  • However, if marmosets are willing to accept food from your hand, they will take less time to train
  • Once trained to do something, marmosets will remember for long periods of time

Advantages of Training

  • Helps to create good relationships /improve the relationship between marmosets and their caregivers
  • Reduces the stress of the close presence of humans
  • Provides an enriching challenge to marmosets

Cooperation with Procedures

Some examples of husbandry procedures that marmosets can be trained to cooperate with:


A marmoset holding plastic spoon through bars of its cage
  • Marmosets can be trained to hold different targets so that several marmosets housed together can be weighed separately, with no need for removal from their cage or handling home-cage weighing (as shown in the video above)

Moving Marmosets Between Cages and Enclosures

  • To move marmosets between cages marmosets can be trained to enter a transparent or mesh ‘carry-box’
  • The carry-box is attached to the cage and marmosets receive rewards for entering it (description of procedure)

Collar Cleaning

  • Marmosets can be trained to hold a target for some seconds for a food reward whilst they hold the target
  • They remain in one place, close to you, allowing their collar to be quickly cleaned

Return to Their Enclosure After Any Escapes

  • Trained marmosets can be enticed back with food rewards

Important: training done badly is even worse than when no training is done at all. It is essential to learn the correct techniques, ideally by going on a course.