Goats as Therapy Animals: A New Approach to Mental Health Support

Therapy animals have long been known for their ability to promote emotional well-being and mental health. Dogs, cats, and even horses have historically been the most popular choice for this purpose. However, a new trend is emerging that involves a less traditional, yet equally effective therapy animal: the humble goat. This article delves into the world of goat therapy, exploring the science behind it, its applications, and the impact it has on mental health support.

Goats: A New Player in the Therapy Game

While goats may initially seem like an unconventional choice for therapy animals, they boast numerous qualities that make them ideal for this role. Goats are social animals that display distinct personalities, mirroring the diversity of humans they interact with. Their affable nature and their tendency to engage in playful behavior can lift people’s spirits, providing relief from mental stress and depression.

In addition, goats’ herd mentality contributes to their ability to support mental health. They’re naturally curious and interactive, which encourages active participation from those seeking therapy. They can help foster a sense of community and belonging in therapy sessions, promoting socialization and encouraging shared experiences.

Science Behind Goat Therapy

The psychological benefits of animal-assisted therapy are well-documented. Interaction with animals has been shown to trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone known for its role in social bonding and stress reduction. Physical contact with animals also prompts the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which can create a sense of euphoria and wellbeing.

When it comes to goat therapy specifically, research is in its early stages but preliminary findings are promising. A 2019 study by researchers at the University of California’s School of Veterinary Medicine found that interaction with goats led to a decrease in blood pressure, a common physical response to anxiety. Furthermore, participants reported a significant decrease in their anxiety levels after spending time with the goats.

Applications of Goat Therapy

Goat therapy has been integrated into various mental health support programs, serving a wide range of age groups and populations. These include seniors with dementia, children with autism, individuals with depression or anxiety, and even those in prisons and rehabilitation centers.

One of the most popular forms of goat therapy is goat yoga, where participants perform yoga poses while interacting with friendly goats. Goat yoga offers a unique blend of relaxation, physical fitness, and animal-assisted therapy that has quickly gained a dedicated following. The presence of goats adds a fun, unexpected element to yoga that can lighten the atmosphere and offer comic relief, in turn reducing stress and enhancing mood.

Goat therapy can also be used in an educational setting to teach empathy and compassion. Interacting with goats encourages care and understanding, instilling valuable lessons about respect for other living beings.

Impact on Mental Health Support

Goat therapy represents a natural and holistic approach to mental health support. The initial findings are hopeful, suggesting that interaction with goats can help alleviate symptoms of mental health conditions, enhance mood, and promote social interaction.

For those wary of traditional therapy methods or simply seeking complementary therapies, goat therapy provides a fresh, engaging alternative. Moreover, for those living in rural areas where goats are common, this therapy method is not only innovative but also accessible.

However, it is essential to remember that animal-assisted therapy like goat therapy should not replace professional mental health services but serve as a supplement to them. Mental health is complex, and it often requires a multi-pronged approach for successful management and recovery.


The role of animals in supporting human mental health is an area of growing interest and research. The rise of goats as therapy animals reflects our evolving understanding of mental health and our ongoing search for innovative approaches to support mental wellbeing. While more research is needed to fully understand the impact of goats on mental health, the preliminary evidence suggests a promising future for goat therapy. By integrating such unconventional approaches, we can expand our mental health toolkit, making it more diverse, inclusive, and accessible for all.

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