My Goat Ate My Coffee Table!

If you're considering keeping a goat as a pet, make sure you're ready for the responsibility. Although goats are intelligent animals, they haven't been domesticated in the same way that dogs and cats have. Leave a goat alone in your house and you'll come home to find your furniture destroyed. Leave a goat fenced in for too long, and it will find a way to escape.

Here are a few tips for peacable, pleasant coexistence with pet goats.

  • Know that goats are social animals. You don't get just one goat, you get at least two. Goats are herd animals and won't do well on their own for extended periods of time. They need at least one other goat to play with. They also need plenty of interaction with you. Goats thrive when they get plenty of affection and attention from their human friends. To a goat, you're a member of the herd. If your goats accept you as the herd leader, you'll be able to interact with them outside their pen without fear of them running away.
  • Goats explore with their mouths. Goats see everything in the world as food until they learn otherwise. That means the sweater your aunt made, your coffee table, the morning newspaper and anything else they can chew. Leaving a goat alone indoors almost guarantees disaster, because they'll start chewing everything in sight. It's best to keep goats outdoors in an enclosed area.
  • Goats hate confinement. You can't crate train a goat or put it on a run. A goat may tolerate this for a short period of time, but once its patience runs out, you can expect bleating, kicking or the goat attempting to chew through whatever's keeping it in one place. Goats aren't terribly fond of outdoor pens, either, particularly if there's a food source nearby. Goats will figure out how to open many types of doors and latches. They're also not afraid to climb over post and rail fences. Electric fencing or chain link is recommended for goat pens. Keeping a constant supply of food and fresh water available will encourage goats to stay in one place.
  • Goats "go" where they want to go. Goats won't foul their food, but the rest of the world is a wide-open bathroom. Don't expect to housebreak a goat or convince it to use a litter box. With a lot of effort, you can train them to go in specific places most of the time.
  • Goats can be aggressive. Mating season triggers powerful urges in goats. In the herd, goats compete for the right to breed. They do this by fighting, often by bucking heads and horns. Your friendly goat may see you as a challenger and charge or kick at you. Goats can cause serious injuries, so you'll need a strategy to deal with this behavior.
  • Goats can be trained. Goats respond to food, not affection, though they do appreciate both. The most successful way to train a goat is to use treats as a reward when the goat performs a positive behavior. If you're keeping fainting goats as pets, this is your only option, since shouting at them or hitting them will only trigger their fainting behavior.
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