Positive welfare indicators include calm locomotion (relaxed gait), relaxed allogrooming, exploration,play and affiliative behaviours with other marmosets such as relaxed huddling and food sharing.

It is a good sign if marmosets are generally relaxed in the company of their social group and around the human caregivers.

Negative welfare indicators in captive common marmosets include excessive scent marking, scratching, gouging, agitated locomotion (excluding during play) and vigilance (inactive alert behaviour).

Affiliative/Amicable Behaviours (Positive Welfare Indicators)

Allogroom: Grooming Each Other

  • Marmoset parts hair of other with mouth or hands and may remove particles with their teeth
  • Positive welfare indicator

Grooming Invite

  • Marmoset lies down on back or side next to another individual, frequently elicits allogrooming
  • Positive welfare indicator

Nuzzle: Face Nuzzle; Body Nuzzle; Anal Nuzzle

  • Marmoset rubs muzzle against the face or body of another
  • This video shows a face nuzzle
  • Social greeting which may be accompanied by licking and sniffing
  • Positive welfare indicator

Body Hug

  • Marmoset hugs other with arms
  • Response is always an amicable behaviour (e.g. nuzzle, lick)
  • This example clip also shows face and body nuzzle between two adult females
  • Positive welfare indicator

Face Lick

  • Marmoset licks other (most often towards infants)
  • Social behaviour which also has a functional, cleaning role when performed on infants
  • Licking has been linked improved cognitive development in infants
  • Positive welfare indicator

Anal Lick

Share Food

  • Marmoset shares food or allows food to be taken when other reaches towards them with hand or mouth (no aggressive behaviour seen)
  • Positive welfare indicator

Playful Behaviours (Positive Welfare Indicators)

Play Wrestle

  • Marmoset performs a grappling motion with hands and feet. The other individual often responds playfully and mutual wrestling is common
  • Positive welfare indicator

Play Pounce

  • Marmoset pounces rapidly on another during play
  • Positive welfare indicator

Play Bite

  • Marmoset gives an inhibited bite (playful and not aggressive) to any part of another marmosets’ body
  • Positive welfare indicator

Play Somersault

  • Marmoset turns a complete turn within mid-air, a somersault, during a play bout
  • Positive welfare indicator


  • Marmoset hits another with one or both hands in an amicable context to initiate play or social contact
  • Positive welfare indicator

Solitary Play

  • Marmosets may play on their own, performing solitary playful behaviours, not directed towards or involving others
  • Positive welfare indicator

Aggressive Behaviours (Negative Welfare Indicators if Cause Injury or are Persistent)


  • Marmoset pursues another aggressively
  • Negative welfare indicator


  • Marmoset gives a sharp hit with the hand when chastising another marmoset
  • Usually performed by an older towards a younger marmoset
  • Mildly aggressive (tends to be milder if towards a younger infant)
  • Negative welfare indicator if persistent

Snap Bite

  • Short sharp bite given to another marmosets’ neck
  • Usually seen together with cuff and from an older to a younger individual
  • Mildly aggressive
  • Negative welfare indicator if persistent

Uninhibited Bite

  • Marmoset gives another a strong, aggressive bite
  • Usually to the head or limbs and may inflict a bleeding wound
  • Negative welfare indicator

Steal Food

  • Marmoset takes food directly and rapidly from another (and is sometimes chased by the individual he/she has stolen from)
  • Negative welfare indicator if persistent

Anogenital Tail Present

  • Presentation of genital area whilst raising the tail
  • Displayed by marmosets when threatened
  • Negative welfare indicator (especially if persistently directed towards human caregivers)

Mobbing Behaviour

Food-related Behaviours


  • Marmoset bites into, chews and swallows food

Foraging/Ground Forage

  • Marmoset actively searches for food with hand(s) in the substrate (e.g. sawdust; bark chippings, leaf litter)
  • Positive welfare indicator

Beg for Food

  • Marmoset approaches another tries to solicit food by extending hand or mouth towards another marmoset with food

Stalk and Pounce on Insect (Prey Capture)

  • Marmoset approaches stealthily at a crouch and rapidly jumps, bringing their hands together to capture the prey


  • Marmoset gnaws at wood with teeth
  • Marmosets are adapted to gnaw trees to get at the gum (exudate)
  • Gouging is a feeding behaviour in the wild but in captivity it is usually a sign of stress if not related to feeding for gum
  • Negative welfare indicator if persistent (and not feeding behaviour)


  • Gouging behaviour is often followed by scent marking

Scent-related Behaviours

Scent Marking

  • Marmoset rubs sternal (tummy) or anogenital area (more commonly) over surface/substrate
  • Scent marking performed in the example video is all anogenital
  • Observed at a higher frequency in captive relative to wild marmosets
  • Negative welfare indicator when excessive


  • Marmoset lifts tail and rubs genital area on other marmoset

Self-directed Behaviours


  • Marmoset repeatedly moves hand or foot with claws drawn rapidly across fur
  • Negative welfare indicator when excessive as indicates anxiety or a potential skin problem


  • Marmoset cleans their fur or skin with their hands or mouth


Calm Locomotion

  • Marmoset moves rapidly between locations (walking, running, climbing or jumping with a relaxed gait
  • Positive welfare indicator

Agitated Locomotion

  • Marmoset moves rapidly between locations (walking, running, climbing or jumping with an exaggerated gait (excluding play contexts); tail may be either extended or arched
  • Negative welfare indicator when excessive


  • Marmosets are capable of leaping across relatively large distances

Vertical Flight

  • Sudden startled and direct movement upwards followed by freezing (the startle response)
  • Negative welfare indicator when excessive

Stationary Behaviours

Resting (Inactive Rest)

  • Marmoset is stationary with a relaxed facial expression and with eyes closed or open
  • Usually with their tail curled around their body or through their legs
  • Positive welfare indicator


  • Marmosets are resting or sleeping piled on top of one another
  • In the wild: marmosets sleep huddled together in tree forks or in dense tangles of vines
  • In captivity they like to huddle high up in their enclosure when sleeping at night
  • Positive welfare indicator if relaxed

Inactive Alert

  • Marmoset is stationary, awake and attentive to their surroundings
  • May be actively vigilant (looking all around themselves in an anxious manner)
  • Negative welfare indicator when excessive

Sexual/Reproductive Behaviour (Positive Welfare Indicators)


  • Marmoset mounts another’s back, gripping with hands and feet
  • Seen during wrestling play bouts by any marmoset; and by males during copulation


  • Male marmoset mounts back of female, with their back legs on a solid surface, and thrusts for several bouts

Tongue In-out (Slowly; Quickly)

  • Marmoset moves its tongue in and out rhythmically
  • Seen in males and females along with other sexual behaviour and also directed at marmosets of the opposite sex in nearby enclosures



  • Marmoset opens mouth wide and yawns


  • Marmoset rubs nose on surface/substrate


  • Marmoset closes eyes, throws head forwards and sneezes

Abnormal Behaviours

Stereotypical Behaviour

  • Repeated circling and weaving behaviour
  • Usually occurs when enclosure is too small, so provide more space
  • Serious negative welfare indicator

Self-injurious Behaviour

  • Excessive self-scratching picking at their hair, biting self, etc.
  • Serious negative welfare indicator that requires veterinary intervention