Goats make good pets because of a number of qualities, although they are traditionally thought of as a farm animal. A perennial favorite in petting zoos, their curious and friendly nature make them fun companions. There are a wide variety of breeds available but the dwarf or pygmy varieties are probably the most commonly kept as pets.
Keeping Goats as Pets
Goats are herd animals, so they should not be kept as solitary animals. A pair (or more) of goats will make a good addition to the right family.
They are best suited to rural areas, farms, or homes with acreage because a decent amount of space (a yard or pasture) will be necessary, depending on the breed and number of goats. If you live in a city, bylaws may prevent you from keeping goats as they will likely be classified as an agricultural species. Smaller breeds of goats, such as pygmies, need at least 135 square feet per goat. Larger standard goat breeds, such as Nubians, need twice that per goat so plan accordingly. Fencing at least 4 to 5 feet high is also a necessity for all goats since they are very agile and good jumpers. You will also need a shelter or barn.
You must be prepared for a long-term commitment to having goats. They need attention like any other pet. You should also consider who can look after the goats if you must go away, or if something should happen that means you cannot keep the goats.
Pet Goat Health
Be sure to find a veterinarian who will be available to treat your goats. Goats are susceptible to a number of infectious and chronic diseases. Vaccinations and routine preventative treatment for worms and other parasites are necessary for all goats and you should consult your local vet for what is required in your area.
Common goat diseases include:
- Caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE): Similar to AIDS in humans, this is an incurable disease that affects the goat's immune system. It is also highly contagious to other goats.
- Caseous lymphadentitis (CL). This is a disease that forms pus pockets called abscesses around the lymph nodes. When they burst they infect other goats, and it is highly contagious.
- Coccidiosis: This is a parasite that infects the intestinal tract of goats (and other species) and causes diarrhea.
- Bladder stones: Similar to humans, calculi (stones) can form within the goat's bladder and get stuck in the urethra. This can block urination and be deadly. These stones are often a result of a dietary imbalance.
- Sore mouth (orf): This is a disease that causes blisters in and around the mouth and nose of a goat. It is caused by a virus and can be passed on to humans.
- G-6-S: This genetic defect in Nubian goats and will cause a Nubian or Nubian cross to die young.
- Enterotoxemia: This is a bacterial imbalance in the goat's rumen and it is preventable by vaccination. It can be caused by sudden diet changes or anything else that may cause a digestive upset.
Getting a Pet Goat
Be sure your goats are obtained from a conscientious breeder that practices good preventative medicine. It is always best to visit the breeder so you can see in what sort of conditions their goats are kept and to ask to see test results for CAE and other diseases. Prior to committing to getting a pet goat, think about whether you can meet its needs and what your expectations are. Goats can make great pets for the right people.