A pet goat: Debunking 9 ill-conceived notions

Want a pet goat, please think twice.
Want a pet goat? Please, read this.

Every spring I respond to multiple phone calls and emails from people who want a pet goat. They are unaware that goats are herd animals and need to have another caprine friend to be healthy and happy. Here are a few of the real life comments I’ve heard from people, as well as my responses:

I’d like to buy a pet goat. Do you have one for sale?

You should not have a single goat. In fact, I refuse to sell a single goat to anyone. I have had too many people contact me over the years desperate to find a second goat because someone else sold them a single goat that is now getting into trouble.

I’ve heard of goats that were found miles from home after they escaped and were looking for a goat friend, goats that would never shut up, goats that would get out of their pen and jump on cars, a goat that kept coming back to the front porch where it stayed and peed and pooped, and a goat that kept getting into the horse’s pasture and the owners were afraid the horse was going to kill it.

Goats are herd animals, which means they are not happy when alone.

Baby pet goat

But we spend a lot of time with our animals.

There is simply no way that you could give enough attention to a goat to make it truly happy because even if you spend 8 hours a day with it, that leaves it alone for 16 hours. They need a companion 24 hours a day.

But we plan to keep the goat in our house.

I have known people who kept a goat in their house, but those goats wound up nutrient deficient and very unhealthy because they were not able to eat a proper diet inside. Because goats have a rumen, they need to be eating for most of the day, which is why they need to be on pasture or in a barn where they can eat hay. It is very cheap to feed pet goats because they only need grass hay and whatever browse they can find in your pasture.

Read more: Should You Keep Pet Goats in The House?

We were planning to keep our goat with our chickens, so it wouldn’t be alone.

Goats and chickens do not speak the same language any more than we do, so the goat would still be lonely. Would you be happy as the only human living with a flock of chickens forever? And you do not want your goats to be able to get to your chicken grain because they will overeat and best case, they will get diarrhea. Worse case, they will get bloat, enterotoxemia, or goat polio and die. No, you can’t train your goat to not eat chicken grain.

pet goat

But we were going to keep the goat with our …

Unless you fill in that blank with the word “goat,” the answer is no. Goats and sheep do not even make good pasture companions because they don’t speak the same language. Goats rear up on their hind legs to butt heads, whereas sheep put their heads down and run towards their rival.

We use mixed species grazing, and sometimes our herd of goats share a pasture with chickens or pigs, but they pretty much ignore each other and don’t interact.

We also don’t have them sharing the pasture at feeding time, which could result in a fight between the pigs and goats, and the pigs would probably win because they bite when fighting.

But I know someone who had a pet goat and it was fine.

I’m not saying that there are not exceptions, but you won’t know that it doesn’t work until it’s too late — as in, your goat gets kicked across the pasture and killed by your horse or it gets out and gets hit by a car or …

I could go on and on. And once your goat has developed these bad habits, it will teach its tricks to the other goat if you finally buy a second one in desperation. It simply is not worth it to try because it usually doesn’t turn out positively. And there is no reason to have a lone goat.

But I don’t have time to take care of two goats.

If you think you don’t have enough time to care for two goats, then you do not understand how to care for them. You are not doing anything with them one at a time. They are herd animals. You give them a flake of hay, which they eat together. You give them a bucket of water, which they all drink from.

The bucket of water has to be changed once a day because goats do not like dirty water, and three or four goats can drink from a 2-gallon bucket. The only thing that has to be done individually with goats is trimming their hooves every few months, and that only take about five minutes per goat.

pet goat
Goats are actually browsers rather than grazers

I’m tired of mowing the lawn, so I thought a goat would take care of it for me.

Goats are actually browsers rather than grazers, so they would be much happier eating your rose bushes and hedges. They will eat grass if nothing else is available, but they won’t keep it uniformly trimmed across the yard. Some sections will be a foot high while others will be an inch, so it won’t look like it’s been mowed.

I’m going to start breeding pet goats.

Please don’t. As pet goats have become more popular, it has become harder to find homes for the culls from dairy herds. We don’t need anyone breeding goats as pets. Dairy goats actually make great pets, because they are accustomed to being handled daily. Not every dairy goat is capable of being a great dairy goat, and when breeders cull their herds, they butcher the ones they can’t sell as pets or brush eaters. And dairy goats come in a variety of sizes from 60 pounds up to 175.

Not every buck should remain a buck, so about 90-95% of them are castrated and butchered or sold as pets or brush eaters. If a doe does not grow large enough to safely breed, or if she doesn’t get pregnant after a few attempts, she will also be butchered if no one wants to buy her as a pet. The market for pet goats simply is not big enough to support those who simply want to breed pets.

To learn more about goats

I have a podcast episode on things you should consider before deciding to bring goats into your life.

And here are 8 things you need to know before getting pet goats.

This article explains the 7 things that all goats need to have.

cute baby goat

41 thoughts on “A pet goat: Debunking 9 ill-conceived notions”

  1. Thanks, Deborah! We became the owners of a goat a year and a half ago, but only because one was literally dumped on our property. We've given him another goat playmate and he's much more well adjusted and happy now. I totally agree — you have to respect your responsibility as an animal caretaker and know what those animals need to thrive. This aint' no Green Acres episode. LOL

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  2. this is great. I think anyone that put even a moment into researching goats should know they need their goat friends to be happy, and happy goats are one of the most wonderful things in the world! Sadly common sense is not so common! If I ever have goats, and I dream of it, I want at least three if not a whole bunch of them and to care for them full time.

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  3. We did have pet goats, 2 pygmy goats. It was really fun and I think successful and happy for the goats too. We had to build a pen and barn, but we also had a large yard for them to eat! My kids spent every free hour with them, sleeping sometimes across the fence from them. (Daughter tried sleeping in the pen, but Barli jumped up on her sleeping bag and peed a great stream!) The two goats felt they were in our herd, so they did make it into the house on occasion. In the summer we moved a tv into the yard and all snuggled up together on a big quilt. We took them for walks in the neighborhood. On the whole, we learned SO much and had to greatly adapt our expectations. But that was what made it so good. Finding out what they needed and making sure they got whatever it was. I'm so glad we had that time.

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  4. I adopted a goat and a pot-bellied pig that were raised from birth together (the goat's mom had died giving birth). They were one year old when they came to me. Although they were happy together, I thought that the goat needed a pal. So I got one. Didn't factor in that MY goat had never seen another goat. Good. Grief. What a nightmare! BUT, after two years and introducing two more goats to our little barnyard, equilibrium has been somewhat reached. One pig, four goats, twelve hens and four chicks. We manage, somehow. LESSON: Every goat needs a goat friend. From the beginning 🙂

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  5. Yeah!!! I am so glad someone wrote this!!!! We love our three goats! And we actually have three so that if we somehow loose one, they will still have each other until we can find another companion for them.
    They really need each other! Ours have only gotten out twice and that is because they are so happy together that they are not trying to get out to find us! (And because someone left the gate very very loose so that when Heartly rubbed up against it…oops!)
    And as far as the breeding..noooo don't do it please! There are already so many Wether's around who need a home!

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    • So agree, Have 3 Alpaca,s & my 2 goats who I don’t believe could exist or cope If one or the other died. Am thinking a new bottle fed baby in Spring. 3 just in case .

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    • I’d much rather see an even number of goats, since they tend to buddy up. Three goats (or 5, or 7…) means someone is left out in the cold without a companion. There may be exceptions, but that’s been my experience.

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      • Hi Joy,
        Odd numbers of goats may work if you have family members together. For example, I bought a goat doe with two doelings a while ago (not the only goats we have), and they hang together as a threesome most of the time.

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  6. Well said! I do find myself explaining that concept often, and turned one woman away this year just for that reason.
    I am going to shere this with my customers, thank you!

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  7. I bought our goats two months ago. We’d been planning on having goats for months, but I talked myself out of it at least a dozen times. The more I read, the more I believed I was completely crazy for even considering the idea of goats. Scared me to death. Still learning something new about these delightful, funny little kids every day, and I can’t imagine life without them.

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  8. Very good article! Am forwarding to a friend considering getting a goat. For the record, I have just recently bought 3 more goats to join our small farm. Lost goat number 3 to old age last year, remaining doe of original group is 17 years old, her neutered son is 15. So I added 2 young does & a bonus kid so I can have weed eaters in training!
    Kept new members in small enclosure next to house for first 3 weeks. They also ended up in laundry room for 3 nights of torrential flooding rains, which did not amuse husband, as we also ended ip with friend’s 100 lb. dog in kitchen the same night!
    Anyway, my old doe spent the first week teaching the new goats that she is the biggest, baddest thing out in the pasture. That was okay, as it means the more stubborn newbie has decided not to try and run things & has been more cooperative. It also means my oldest can eat in peace without being attacked or driven off her alfalfa cubes or that brush she’s eating.

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  9. So fun to read other’s goat experiences. My doe had 5 kids and she and i, together, have raised them sucessfully– what a lot of work, and what joy. After five years of bucklings only, i finally have two doelings to keep!

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  10. When I bought my goats, I was really only interested in Capri since she was going to kid shortly. My breeder would not sell her alone citing the reasons given in the article. As a human, thinking like a human, it was only going to be two or three weeks until she had her babies so she wouldn’t be alone. I am grateful that my breeder would not budge about selling her alone. She did give me a fabulous deal for Capri and her first daughter, Summer, who was a year old. As it turned out, Capri had only one kid, a doeling, which was perfect since I live in town and can only have three adults. After having them, I fully realized why my breeder refused to sell a single goat. If I had brought Capri home alone, there is a good chance she would have been overly stressed and lost her baby. (The kid’s lungs would not have been developed enough to survive; my vet told me the last thing to fully develop is the lungs.
    After having goats and knowing how critical it is for them to have a goat buddy, I realize that there is no way a human (or any other animal) can take the place of another goat regardless of how much attention we give them. I also refuse to sell a single goat (unless there are goats at their new home) though many don’t understand. It is my responsibility to do the best I can for my goats.
    We humans tend to think like humans and forget what it is like from the goat’s standpoint. We know they are going to a great home and will be loved. However, all they know is they are torn from their family and herd, loaded into a vehicle with strangers and strange smells, and go to a strange place they have never seen before where nothing is familiar. Having a goat buddy with them helps reduce the stress of all of that. Even a strange goat, with whom they will become buddies, is familiar to them. We need to understand that stress is the greatest danger to our goats; they are easily stressed and being alone will cause stress for most goats which are prey animals. Stress with goats, as with humans, can cause health issues. Please never, ever expect a goat to be without a goat buddy; they are quite different than other animals.

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  11. We have neighbors who have a goat living in a pasture with two cows. It’s about the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. I kind of want to put my goats on their leashes and walk down there for a play date, but I don’t know how healthy that goat is, or if it’s a buck, or what. I wish I knew those neighbors.

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    • Unless you are planning to breed goats, you really should get wethers (castrated males). You don’t need to get another female goat. Does will come into heat about ever 21 days if they are not bred. Sometimes they are quiet, but sometimes they scream their head off.

      If you are planning to breed, then you should get a second female because you can’t keep a buck and doe together all the time. He’ll drive her crazy and make her stinky. You would then get two bucks or a buck and a wether. The bucks and does need to be penned separately, but they can’t be alone, so you would need at least four total (two bucks and two does).

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  12. We found a two day old kid on our driveway covered in ticks and scared. We could not find her family anywhere. We did the only thing we could at the time brought her into our home and clean her up. We pulled over 100 ticks off her and have been bottle feeding her good goat milk. We have two dogs one of whom has taken over as the kids mom, we feed her, the dog cleans up after her. We work from home so the goat is never lonely and if she can’t she my wife or me or the dogs you can hear her for miles. We have become the herd. She’s gained 10 kg and loves her hay and is almost 3 months old now. She appears to be a saanen and very healthy and happy. Anything I should be on the lookout for bearing in mind she think she’s a dog and we still have now idea where she came from.

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    • Sorry I just saw this question, so you’ve probably figured this out already, but you can’t keep a goat in the house for very long. Although you can usually teach them to pee in a certain place, they just poop wherever. Plus, they need to be eating for about 1/3 of their day, and most people don’t want to have a hay rack hanging in their living room. And on top of that, goats can find all sorts of trouble! Here’s an article I wrote about this recently, and I mention a house goat that died even after surgery attempted to remove all of the toys he had eaten.
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/should-you-keep-pet-goats-in-the-house/

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  13. A very honest view was conveyed in your piece and to that I must say THANK YOU!!!! I was thinking of having a pygmy goat here and I have now been empowered by knowledge enough to discard that idea pronto! I will admit that I am unable to provide a suitable environment to accommodate a ‘herd’ so the goat idea dies with some disappointment. I am glad I researched and found your site. It is wonderful, keep up the great work and the sage advice. (I kept a flock of chickens for many years and miss having them, they’re so easy to keep) Maybe I’ll revisit having some chickens again in the future instead, I miss them so much, for so many reasons.

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    • Thanks for your comment! A flock of chickens sounds like a great idea! They are definitely easier than goats. Ever since I got chickens I said that I shall always have them, even if I’m an old lady in a wheelchair someday.

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  14. What should I do as we had two goats and now after 10 yrs one has died it is obvious the other one is lonely. He seems so sad and depressed. i feel terrible. We do not want to get more goats. We have had them for 27 yrs and now want to raise more chickens instead, He does have a rooster he hangs with but that is no substitute. I thought of adopting an older goat to give him companionship but then is that the answer as what if one dies again and we have one left? We get too attached so it would be hard to adopt one out but it seems we may have to eventually, Any thoughts on this?

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    • This is really a challenge. If you know someone who raises goats, they may have a senior who is close in age to your goat. Although it is stressful for them to be alone, it is also stressful to move to a new home. How is he adjusting?

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  15. Hi . I rescue a goat and horse After ( long story) and although I always had horses I never had a goat they are great friends the goat is a buck ( not fixed) . I had them 3 years now they are both healthy. The problem is My horse is young and I cant ride him without the goat freaking out . I am not sure If the goat would be happier with other goats . Or will he griebe without the horse vise a verse . I know I saved them from starvation and death now, I need to do the right thing ; I love them Both but whats best . The horse needs to be rode and worked with now that they are healthy not sure Whats the best thing to do for them at this point ? Help .

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    • I don’t recommend having a goat as a companion to a horse. It’s better for them to have another goat friend who speaks the same language. I’d suggest getting another goat.

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  16. I’m hoping to get 2 Nubian % doelings in the spring, but it’s too soon to tell and I’m 12 so I gotta convince my fam first. I was already planning on getting 2 and expanding after a year, probably twins about 4 months old so they’re weaned, but this was the deciding factor in more than 1. I have a black lab, a beagador, and a German shepherd so I’ll have to keep especially the shepherd away from the goats because she’s 3 and rambunctious but the other 2 are probably fine I’ll watch them close but they’re both 13 sooooo…

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    • It’s great that you’re doing your homework and learning about goats before getting them! There are more than 100 articles on here about goats, so you have lots to read!

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  17. Great article,thank you.
    Just two questions I can’t seem to find a straight answer for…

    How does it affect a doe if she never falls pregnant?
    Do they produce milk even if they never have kids?

    Thank you.

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    • Almost all goats must get pregnant and give birth at full term to produce milk. Once in awhile someone may have a “precocious milker,” sometimes called a “maiden milker,” which means she starts to produce milk even though she does not give birth. Most will just dry up if you ignore it, but some people take advantage and start milking. I’ve heard of people milking anywhere from a few month to many years in these cases. But this is rare. I’ve never had a Nigerian dwarf do this in 19 years, but I did have a LaMancha doe that got an udder without kidding. I didn’t touch it, and it just went away after a couple of months.

      Most does are fine if they never get pregnant. However, I have seen a lot of people wind up with overweight does if they never breed them. And several years ago someone with two pet does contacted me because one had hormones that went so weird that they had to get a hysterectomy for her, which is usually $1000+ for a goat because it is nowhere near as simple as spaying a cat or dog. If you only want pets, I recommend wethers (castrated males).

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  18. Deborah, I love all the stuff you do to improve the lives of farm animals and the people who live with them. I’ve spent my life trying to make sure that people understand what an animal needs to live and thrive BEFORE they get them. Nothing much can make me cringe like hearing someone say, “Oooh, it’s so CUTE! I want one!” Heaven help that animal if that’s the only reason that person follows through on their desire. Dogs and cats fill animal shelters because someone decided they didn’t want them anymore or got sick or died without having a backup plan for their care. Farm animals require care that even fewer people can provide, so when those animals lose their homes, it likely means they die. There aren’t that many reputable sanctuaries and those there are, are either too far away or full. Often people who say they’ll love your pet like their own family will just send it off to slaughter. Anyone considering taking on the responsibility of another living creature needs to consider all those things.

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    • Thanks for your feedback! I have a podcast coming up on Wednesday about refusing to sell goats to everyone who contacts you. I told just a few of the crazy stories of very misguided people who wanted to buy goats from me, and either I talked them out of it or just said no. I’ll never forget the woman who wanted to buy a couple of bottle-fed kids so her grandchildren could play with them for Easter, and the she was going to donate them to a petting zoo.

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