Pets

Goats can be charming, but are they a good fit as pets?

Goats in sweaters. Yoga with goats. Goats doing agility. Goats on the internet. Goats are everywhere these days, including suburban backyards and living rooms.

What’s to love about a goat? A better question might be: What’s not to love? Goats are bold, curious and mischievous. But maybe it’s their wide-eyed playfulness that has made them a pop culture – and pet culture – phenomenon.

While standard-size goats such as Nubians or Alpines might be a little much in a home backyard – they can weigh 100 to 200 pounds – miniature breeds such as the pygmy or Nigerian dwarf bring the same entertaining goat energy in a smaller package.

What can you do with a goat? Some have been known to hang out and watch TV with their people. Goats have learned to run agility courses – they’re naturals -– and they can perform tricks such as high-five, spin and wave, and even pull small carts.

Check your fencing before bringing a goat home. Goats are chewing champions, and they will find ways to exploit any weaknesses in their enclosures. They will chew indoors, too, so don’t leave your goat inside without supervision.

Whether you’re keeping goats in the country or suburbia, visit breeders to see their stock and determine which size goat fits your family. Take note of the enclosures the breeders use, and ask for recommendations on building a secure goat pen. Otherwise, you may find them making a break for freedom and stopping traffic with their cuteness.

Goats are natural browsers, so if you’re keeping them in your backyard, be prepared for your landscaping to become their salad bar. Consult your county extension office about goat-safe plants, and consider landscaping with your goats in mind.

Grass isn’t all goats eat. They need 2 to 4 pounds of hay daily, depending on their size and breed. Hay is divided into two groups: grass hay and legume hay. Grass hay provides some protein and energy, but legume hays, such as alfalfa or clover, usually provide more nutrients, including protein, vitamins and important minerals such as calcium, than grass hays. Also provide plenty of fresh cold water in buckets, and change the water at least twice a day.

Not too surprisingly, goats can develop digestive problems if they eat the wrong thing. Make sure your veterinarian knows a little something about caprine care, or is willing to learn.

The best way to keep a goat entertained is to have two goats. Goats are herd animals, and if they don’t have another goat around, it will fall to you to entertain your lone goat, which can become a full-time job. You will find yourself with a bleating shadow that follows you around the yard, then stands at the back door, bleating loudly, until you pay more attention to him.

Routine care includes regular brushing and hoof trims, which give you an opportunity to give your pet some extra attention, as well as ensuring that his coat and hooves are in good shape.

Before adopting a goat, do your homework. Check with your city government to determine whether goats are legal as in-town pets. Ask breeders’ opinion of goats as pets.

The best chews have some give

Q: Are cow hooves safe for dogs to chew on? My dogs love them and eat them down until nothing is left. Is that OK?

via email

A: The search for the perfect canine chew toy is a never-ending quest for dog owners.

I’m not a big fan of cow hooves and here’s why: These items are excessively hard, and it’s not unusual for a dog to break a tooth chewing on them.

Dr. Marty Becker

Guest contributor Julie Mancini has shared her life with a variety of companion animals, from a blue budgie named Charlie to her current companion, a black lionhead bunny named Bella. She has written about animal topics for 29 years.

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