2018's Hottest Cultural Internet Trend – Your Perfect Pet?

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

are goats good pets

Story at-a-glance -

  • Registration of Nigerian dwarf goats, whose small size makes them popular as pets, has risen by 8% from 2014 to 2017
  • Many owners become attached to goats the same way dog owners do to their dogs
  • Goats are curious, playful and intelligent, with excellent long-term memory
  • Goats are social herd animals and must live with other goats in order to be happy
  • If you can provide the proper space, shelter, food and environmental enrichment that goats need, they can make excellent pets

Goats, with their quirky personalities and charming antics, have become all the rage on social media and were even named the hottest cultural Internet trend in 2018. In some areas of the U.S., "goat yoga," which allows you to strike various poses in the company of these adorable creatures, is even a thing, as is goat therapy, offered at an Oregon retreat center aptly known as a "Goatel."1

Registration of Nigerian dwarf goats, whose small size makes them popular as pets, has risen by 8% from 2014 to 2017, according to USA Today, signaling their growing popularity.2 While goats are still largely regarded as farm animals, they're one of the oldest domesticated species (dogs were the first), making many consider whether a goat could make a good pet.

Goats Are Lovable and Intelligent

One thing that's certain is that to know a goat is to love one. Many owners become attached to goats the same way dog owners do to their dogs, and for good reason — the two species share many similarities. Dogs, for instance, will make eye contact with their owners when they need help solving a problem, and so, it turns out, do goats.

In one study, when faced with a treat-containing box with a difficult-to-open lid, the goats turned their heads toward the researcher and gazed intensely.3 The goats gazed for a longer period when the researcher was facing them, compared to when the researcher's back was turned, which suggests the goats were in tune with their audience, much like dogs.

Goats are also curious, playful and intelligent, and they exhibit excellent long-term memory.4 Researchers have stated they have features associated with advanced cognition and live in complex societies, changing the size and composition of their groups depending on what they're doing at the time, similar to chimpanzees.5

Research also suggests that goats enjoy interactions with humans, including being brushed on their head and back.6 They can even read human facial expressions, and prefer to interact with happy faces, which suggests they're sensitive to the emotional cues displayed by human faces.7

Goats Can Be Great Pets

If you're interested in sharing your life with animals you can pet, brush, bond with and play with, goats certainly fit the bill. The plural is important, as goats are social herd animals and must live with other goats in order to be happy. If you're prepared to adopt a pair of goats (or more), the next consideration is whether you have the space to do so.

While you may be tempted to keep your goat in your home, there are a number of reasons why you probably shouldn't, No. 1 being that goats enjoy roaming and foraging outdoors. For this they need adequate space — at least one-quarter acre for a pair of full-size goats and one-eighth acre for two dwarf goats.8

Goats also love to climb, courtesy of their mountain-climbing ancestors. As such, you'll need to provide a sturdy climbing structure (and if you let them in your home, be prepared to have them jump onto your furniture, including your kitchen table). Goats are also not easily housetrained — another reason why they need to live outdoors.

Goats do require some shelter, though, which should offer protection both from the elements and predators like coyotes. Their enclosure, including their roaming areas, must be completely fenced using sturdy, escape-proof fencing, and be aware that they will eat most foliage that they can reach. This means the area must be free from plants that are poisonous to goats, such as azaleas, rhododendron and ferns,9 as well as any landscaping you wish to keep intact.

Goats also require some labor to keep, such as physically hauling bales of hay and scooping manure. As for diet, high-quality hay, fresh foliage, fruits and vegetables are recommended, while grain-based feed is not. "It becomes all they think about when they see a human, and they can become quite pushy and aggressive," Barbara Jamison, owner and director of Puget Sound Goat Rescue, told USA Today. "They make better pets without it."10

Many Goats Are in Need of Homes

Like dogs, there are many goats in need of safe, loving homes. Puget Sound Goat Rescue rescues goats from dairy farms and other locations, then matches them with people looking for a goat to love:11

"Each year we take in dozens and dozens of baby boys (and an occasional baby girl) that are born on dairies and farms where they have no use for the boys since they do not produce milk. To insure these babies are not sent to livestock auctions or end up in the hands of meat buyers, we take them in at the rescue and bottle raise them.

We also rescue babies born at a local slaughterhouse. Each spring and summer our farms are full of adorable rescued babies! After bottle raising them, we find them loving forever homes where they get to live the life that they deserve as cherished pets."

Before contacting a local goat rescue organization, be sure that goats are allowed where you live (not all cities allow them). Also, be sure you adopt a goat that's the proper size for the space you have. While mini goats, such as Nigerian dwarf goats and pygmy goats, typically weigh 100 pounds or less, standard-size goats, such as Nubians and alpines, may weigh 200 pounds or more.12

Be prepared to trim your goats' hooves very regularly (which means finding a farrier close to you with these skills), and be sure you have a vet who can provide proper care. Not all vets care for goats, even those who treat exotic animals or practice large animal medicine, so call first to find out.

If you do choose to adopt a sterilized pair of goats or more, you'll be rewarded with a unique relationship with fun and quirky pets. For some people, goats are, indeed, the perfect pet.