Goats as Pets: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Have you ever wanted a goat of your own? I’m not talking about a big herd, but just one or maybe two? Doesn’t that seem fun? It turns out you aren’t alone. There are plenty of people who have started to get goats as pets…

two goats climbed on a 4-wheeler ATV
two goats climbed on a 4-wheeler ATV

Even though goats are entirely common, in a way they’re a little exotic. You just don’t hear about people keeping them as pets very often!

But goats are intelligent, bond with people, and are fairly easy to care for. Right? Do goats actually make good pets?

I’ll put it to you this way: you can indeed keep a goat as a pet and have a long and happy life with it. But if you don’t want to go completely crazy, there’s a lot you need to know about keeping them, particularly in the context of a pet.

You’ll be better educated and able to decide after this article because I’m going to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly of keeping goats as pets.

Goats are like any other animal in terms of keeping and caring for. They have a lot of positives, they have some negatives, and they’ve got some major drawbacks that might get you to rethink the whole proposition…

three Nubian nanny goats
three Nubian nanny goats

The Good

Goats are Fun. This is the number one reason why so many people even consider keeping goats as pets in the first place. They are tons of fun!

Your goats will play with you, and each other, run around, jump, climb, explore, and generally just get up to various antics that make them a real hoot to watch.

Compared to other animals that don’t really do anything or won’t get much hands-on time with, goats will give you a big return on your investment in terms of the fun factor.

Goats are Friendly. Goats have a general reputation for being stubborn and ornery, and sometimes that’s true, but they can also be really friendly. Specifically, they can grow very attached to their human owners if treated right.

That means they will miss you when you are gone and come running to see you when you greet them with a treat or just a little bit of affection.

They want scratches and playtime, and some of them can be downright needy when it comes to attention. If you need to have a genuine bond with your pet, goats can certainly fulfill that.

Goats are Affordable. Compared to so many other pets, goats, as common domestic livestock animals, tend to be quite affordable.

A young goat could cost you under $100, and even an adult from a prestigious line will likely only go for a few hundred dollars at most.

This is in sharp contrast to purebred dogs from good breeders, or cats, which can go for well over $1,000. This relatively low cost for entry is certainly a mark in their favor.

Minimal Outdoor Care Requirements. Goats belong outside, and in the right environment, they can mostly take care of themselves.

You have to keep them from escaping and running off, but as long as they have a simple shelter to get them in out of the rain and provide a little shade, and to keep them warm at night, they’ll do just fine even in very cold or sweltering conditions.

Dairy Products. You might only want a goat as a companion animal, a genuine pet, but you shouldn’t forget that they can keep you, your family and your neighbors well-stocked with delicious goat milk and other dairy products.

If you want to breed your goats and expand your herd, or sell kids, mothers will stay in milk for quite a while. It can be a fulfilling hobby in and of itself!

Adorable Kids. Let’s cut to the chase already. For many owners, having a baby goat is a big part of the appeal. Baby goats, or kids, are undeniably cute and adorable.

They are rambunctious and playful, needy, clingy, and just little bundles of joy. They also love to romp and play with each other, so if you get more than one they will melt your heart as they frolic to and fro.

Nubian goat jumping in the barn
Nubian goat jumping in the barn

The Bad

They Need Outdoor Space to Thrive. I mentioned up above that goats belong outdoors, and they really do. This isn’t to say you cannot keep a goat in your home because you can, but they will only live their best life if they have room to run around outside, explore, browse, and play.

This is an instinctive part of their psychology, and one that no amount of love and attention from a human will cover up. You don’t necessarily need a huge parcel, but it’s best if you have at least a large backyard.

Strict Dietary Requirements. Goats have relatively simple dietary needs, but just because they are simple does not mean they aren’t strict. They are!

Goats typically subsist on a diet of hay, grass, leaves, twigs, and other tough, slow-digesting plant matter.

To be sure, they can eat all kinds of things like grains, fruit, veggies, and so forth, but if they get too much of any of these things, or have it too often when they are introduced to it, major indigestion and potentially death is possible.

Goats are Escape Artists. Talk to anyone who has owned a herd of goats for any length of time and they will tell you they are irrepressible escape artists

In the wild, goats climb. They climb everything! They can climb up seemingly sheer surfaces that have the most minute toeholds for their hooves.

They will squeeze through any gap they can find in a fence, leapfrog from obstacle to obstacle to jump over a fence, and do anything else required to get out and explore. If you thought cats were bad about squeezing out of small openings and darting past you when you open a door, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Goats are Highly Destructive. I cannot impress this upon prospective owners enough. Goats are immensely destructive. They’re far more destructive than their relatively small size would suggest.

For starters, those cute little cloven hooves will tear up everything they stand and climb on. They lean on things, chew on absolutely everything, headbutt, rub, and a lot more. If you’re keeping a goat in your house, they will turn it upside down.

Times of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty amplify their destructive tendencies.

They Tend to Be Smelly. Folks, I’ll just come out and say it. Goats stink. They have a distinct, muskiness to them that is always present no matter how clean, tidy, and bathed you keep them.

Males are much worse than females in this regard, but even females and kids have a definite odor and it’s not pleasant. Sure, dogs and cats have a smell too but I promise you it’s nothing like goats. And that is before they start pooping and peeing…

Legality. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something that could interfere with you getting a goat pal to call your own.

Goats are classified as livestock animals almost everywhere, and as such, state, county, and municipal laws on the same will apply to them. Potentially even your neighborhood or HOA rules and covenants.

You might not be keeping them for any actual livestock purpose, but if the laws say you can’t keep goats in certain zoning areas, in residential areas, or inside the city limits of a place then that’s all there is to it.

You Need More than One Goat. Goats need company, and not just from you. Yes, even if they love you the most.

Goats are herd animals and must have the company of others of their own kind to stay psychologically and emotionally well-adjusted. If you want to get one goat, plan on getting at least two for their own well-being and three is better.

Hooves Need Trimming. Goat’s hooves are very much like our fingernails and the fact that they will grow continuously if they aren’t worn down regularly.

Because our goats are not going to be climbing on harsh, rocky surfaces all day like they would in the wild, their hooves will grow and eventually get too long or even split and that can lead to severe infections.

You must plan on hoof trimming every 6 to 8 weeks at the absolute most and that will require the services of a farrier or vet if you don’t know how to do it.

Can Be Noisy. Easily forgotten, but you definitely shouldn’t. Goats can be quite noisy! Bleats and baas and laughs and screams.

Goats make noise for attention, to communicate, to express discomfort or agitation, and even to call out to potential mates. You need not think they are a quiet pet, because they aren’t.

a goat eating some alfalfa
a goat eating some alfalfa

The Ugly

Horns. Many goat breeds have horns. These are extremely hard and can be sharp, and even a small goat that gives you a sharp crack on the shins with its horns will leave you with tears in your eyes.

Horns also cause lots of extra damage, get the goat stuck and tangled up more often, and generally just make everything about keeping them worse. Horns can be removed (you may have heard about disbudding), but this is a pretty dangerous and questionable practice. Consider getting a polled breed which naturally doesn’t have horns.

Large Goats Can Hurt You. If you don’t go with one of the small, pet-suitable breeds I will recommend later, you must keep in mind that large goats can really hurt you.

Even the smallest goat is going to weigh at least 60 lb, and most weigh a lot more than that, upwards of 150 lb.

If they were to charge, leap, and headbutt you or kick you, they can break bones or knock you down and knock the stuffing out of you. They must be treated with respect.

Billy Goats are Horrible. I will not mince words here. Male goats are absolutely horrible in every way that matters. They are larger and stronger, smell terrible naturally, and make themselves smell absolutely horrendous if they are sexually intact.

They will deliberately pee on themselves and pee into their own mouth to spread nasty, foamy slobber all over- all so they can attract a lady. They also get territorial and very aggressive. They’re 100% not worth the trouble. Don’t even think about it unless you plan on castrating them early.

Vulnerability to Predators. People often forget because of their size, but goats naturally have many predators. Worse, the most prolific ones are some of the most common animals around: coyotes and domestic dogs!

You can’t count on goats to protect themselves from predators either; I’m telling you from experience, it always goes badly for them.

Generally Poor Health Compared to Other Animals. Goats, regrettably, don’t have great health compared to most other animals.

They’re particularly vulnerable to parasites and all sorts of other diseases which can maim or cripple them. Coccidiosis, urinary calculi, caprine arthritis encephalitis, mouth and hoof diseases, and enterotoxemia, and a lot more.

Plus, depending on the breed, they will suffer if it is too humid or if they are kept in damp conditions. This can lead to a revolving door being put in at the vet, just for you…

What are the Best Pet Goat Breeds?

Most goats can make reasonably friendly and fun pets, but take it from me: with few exceptions, smaller is better, and the breeds below all have a good reputation for friendliness towards people, ease of handling, and overall good health—at least by goat standards!

Nigerian Dwarf. Some of the tiniest goats around, they rarely stand taller than 2 ft or weigh more than 65 lb. They have friendly, playful, and curious dispositions and get along famously well with people.

Pygmy Goat. Another tiny goat breed and one that is even smaller than Nigerian dwarves on average, under 2 ft tall as a rule.

They tend to have beautiful coats and come in many different colors, and they’re also one of the very best milk producers in their size category if you’re interested in getting a little bit of milk from them.

Mini Myotonic. A miniature breed of the internet-favorite fainting goat, these quirky, funny goats will lock up and topple over when startled or frightened, but it typically doesn’t hurt them.

Surprisingly, they tend to be healthy, adaptable to different environments, and friendly overall. They typically weigh anywhere from 50 to 70 pounds.

FAQ

Can You Own Goats in Residential Areas in the US?

Sometimes. Be sure you check your county and city laws before you commit to a purchase. If goats are considered livestock animals and there’s no provision for keeping livestock anywhere but on a farm where you live, you’re out of luck.

Is it Okay to Keep a Goat in Your House?

Yes, as long as it is a smaller breed and you don’t mind more or less constant pandemonium…

For one, you must keep in mind that goats love to jump, climb, and bang on stuff. Goat-proofing a house full of stuff that you actually care about is a full-time job.

Second, you must make sure that your goats get enough exercise. Unless you have a whole room for them to romp and play in, they’ll need time outside to explore and run around.

Is it Okay to Keep Goats Around Dogs?

Yes, but with considerable caution. Remember that goats are prey animals, as I described above.

Even with the sweetest and best-behaved dog, goats tend to activate canine prey drives. This is often unexpected and believe me when I tell you it is very ugly, even if it doesn’t result in death.

A trained livestock guardian dog is one thing, but I would be very careful to keep an eye on any dog, especially a large breed, that has access to the goats if they weren’t raised from birth together.

goats as pets Pinterest image

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