Kinkajous aren't the most commonly found type of exotic pet but they definitely draw some attention. Celebrities such as Paris Hilton have been known to have a kinkajou as a pet but the rich and famous aren't the only ones who find these animals adorable. Making the decision to care for a kinkajou isn't to be taken lightly though, as these critters require a very special owner.
Names: Honey bear, nightwalker, Potos flavus (but several subspecies exist and are kept as pets), kinkajou
Life Span: Typically 20-25 years but some have been recorded to live over 40 years
Size: Kinkajou sizes vary somewhat among the subspecies but in general, the body length usually falls somewhere between 16 and 25 inches and the tail is another 15-20 inches. Kinkajous usually weigh up to about 7 pounds but some subspecies are smaller.
Kinkajous In the Wild
Kinkajous are nocturnal tree-dwellers and in the wild they spend most of their time in the rainforest canopies. They have prehensile tails and can turn their feet backwards which helps them with climbing and running up trees and although they somewhat resemble monkeys, they are actually more closely related to raccoons, coati (coatimundi), and red pandas (among other animals). The kinkajou also indulges on fruit and honey by utilizing it's long tongue while climbing in the trees which is how it got it's nickname, the honey bear.
Kinkajous are found throughout Central and South America.
Due to the fact that they only produce one offspring a year in the spring or summer, habitat destruction, and the illegal exotic pet trade, the wild populations are declining.
If hand raised from a young age, kinkajous can be quite tame but they are still wild animals. They are active, curious, and like to get into things, much like a raccoon does.
They are nocturnal and are most active in the late evening when they feed and explore.
Kinkajous do not have much of an odor but they can be messy, partly from tossing food around and partly because litter/house training isn't really feasible (but they do tend to pick a few favorite toilet areas).
Kinkajous can be noisy at times, especially when defending their food source (they can be territorial towards food). However, they have a variety of vocalizations that include a soft huffing, chirping, or whistling, a "barking" noise (like a yelping dog), and a shrill shriek that can be very loud (a feeding call).
Kinkajous need a large, tall cage that is at minimum four feet wide by six feet long by six feet tall but the larger the cage the better. Provide lots of branches, ledges/shelves, and ropes for climbing within this cage to give your kinkajou something to do while inside. In addition, you can try a variety of bird toys such as hanging wood/rope parrot toys and wide pieces of PVC pipe from the home improvement store. Hammocks or sleep sacks can also be hung in the cage as well as a nest box of some sort (often made from an opaque plastic storage container with a hole cut in the side and suspended from the walls of the cage for easy cleaning).
In addition to the enrichment sources inside the cage, kinkajous also need lots of play and exercise time outside of their cages daily for socialization and to prevent boredom. Most owners find it best to confine kinkajous at night (when kinkajous are most active and their owners are trying to sleep) and when they are not supervised but the ideal kinkajou owner would have a similar nocturnal lifestyle as their pet.
Kinkajous primarily feed on fruits and nectar/honey in the wild, although if the opportunity arises, they will sometimes eat insects, eggs, and frogs along with other plants and blossoms. In captivity, they can be fed monkey biscuits or chow, and a variety of fruits (especially tropical fruits) such as bananas, papayas, mangoes, melons, kiwis, grapes, pineapple, pomegranates, cherimoya, figs, etc.
It is said that some kinkajous are allergic to strawberries so these are best avoided and experts recommend avoiding citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, and avocados. Dairy, chocolate, and caffeine should always be avoided.
Heavy ceramic food bowls or bowls that can be securely attached to the side of the cage are good for feeding. Kinkajous can be messy and territorial at feeding time and anything that keeps them from dumping their food will help with clean up time. Water can be provided in a bowl but these are prone to being dumped or dirtied, so a heavy water bottle with a sipper tube usually works better (make sure your kinkajou figures out how to drink from the sipper tube before completely making a switch off of bowls though).
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT