Can Goats Eat Cans? Debunking Myths About Goat Diets

Written By Jill Taylor

Can goats eat cans? This quirky question popped into my mind one day as I watched one my mischievous goats curiously inspect a discarded soda can in the yard. While the image of goats munching on everything from tin cans to old shoes is often playfully depicted in movies and cartoons, the reality is quite different. The age-old stereotype that goats will eat anything is just that – a stereotype. To fully grasp the truth behind this notion, it’s essential to delve deeper into the world of goats and their fascinating, sometimes perplexing, behaviors.

Recalling the countless times I’d heard tales or jokes about goats consuming the oddest things, I felt compelled to dig in and unravel this mystery once and for all. If you’ve ever pondered this quirky question or are simply curious about the captivating behaviors of these incredible creatures, join me as we navigate the myths and realities of goats and their diets.

can goats eat cans

Common Myths About Goats

We’ve all heard tales of goats that eat just about anything, haven’t we? From children’s cartoons to local lore, goats often get a rap as the “trash compactors” of the animal kingdom. Let’s dive into where this image originated and how it has been portrayed over the years.

Origin of the “trash-eating” goat stereotype

Before the days of widespread internet access and instant fact-checking, urban legends could take on lives of their own. The stereotype of goats eating cans, and other trash, probably started with their curious nature. Seeing a goat nibble on an unfamiliar object quickly translated to “goats eat everything” in the popular imagination.

Depictions in popular culture

Movies, cartoons, and stories haven’t helped debunk this myth. Instead, comedic portrayals of goats munching on shirts, cans, and even car tires have further solidified this image in the public’s mind.


The Anatomy of a Goat’s Digestive System

To understand why goats might (or might not) eat certain things, we need to first understand their digestive system. After all, knowing what’s happening on the inside can give us clues about their external behaviors.

Overview of the ruminant stomach

Goats, like cows, are ruminants. This means they have a specialized stomach designed to break down plant materials, particularly fibrous stuff like grasses. Their multi-chambered stomach undergoes a complex process to extract nutrients.

Natural diet and dietary needs

In their natural habitat, goats primarily feed on leaves, shrubs, twigs, and some grasses. They’re known for their ability to thrive in harsh environments where other animals might struggle to find food. But tin cans? Not so much a natural part of their diet.

The Reality: Can Goats Eat Cans?

tin cans

Here’s the million-dollar question! Just because a goat can nibble on something, does it mean it’s good for them?

Distinguishing between nibbling and eating

Let’s get this straight – goats are curious creatures. They use their mouths much like humans use their hands, to explore their environment. Just because they’re nibbling doesn’t mean they’re consuming.

Potential risks of ingesting non-food items

Like any animal, goats can be harmed if they consume things that their bodies can’t digest or process. This includes materials like metals or plastics found in trash.

Why goats might be interested in cans

The remnants of food, especially aromatic or salty remnants, on cans can attract goats. They’re not really after the can, just the tasty bits left behind!

Dangers and Consequences of Goats Eating Cans

three goats in a field

It’s crucial to understand the risks if a goat does attempt to ingest parts of a can.

Internal injuries and ingestion risks

Sharp metal edges can cut a goat’s internal organs, leading to serious medical emergencies.

Toxicity concerns (inks, metals, and coatings)

While a can itself may not be digestible, the paints, coatings, and residues can introduce toxins into a goat’s system.

Potential for indigestible blockages

Even if a can doesn’t harm a goat immediately, pieces can lead to blockages in their digestive tract over time.

Observing Goat Behavior Around Trash

goats eating crops

Goats’ interactions with trash are often more about their inquisitive nature than actual hunger.

Natural curiosity and exploration

These animals love to explore. If there’s something new in their environment, you bet they’ll be the first to inspect it – with their mouths!

Chewing as an investigative method

Much like babies, goats explore by putting things in their mouths. It doesn’t necessarily mean they want to eat it; it’s just their way of understanding their world.

Importance of monitoring their environment

With their curious nature, it’s crucial for goat owners to ensure that their living spaces are free from potential hazards.

How to Keep Your Goats Safe

goat eating

Since prevention is the best medicine, let’s look at how you can ensure your goat doesn’t get into a tangle with trash.

Safe disposal of cans and other trash

Always make sure trash, especially sharp objects like cans, are disposed of safely and out of reach of your goats.

Fencing and containment solutions

A good fence can work wonders in keeping your goats safe from potential hazards, including trash and other harmful objects.

Providing enrichment and safe chewing alternatives

Bored goats are curious goats. Providing them with toys, safe chewable items, and environmental enrichment can divert their attention from less safe curiosities.

Addressing Other Common Misconceptions

The can-eating myth is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s address some other odd things goats are rumored to consume.

Other “odd” things goats have been seen nibbling

From plastic bags to clothes on the line, there are countless tales of goats nibbling on non-food items. Remember, nibbling doesn’t mean consuming!

Debunking myths related to goat diets

Goats don’t just eat anything and everything. They have dietary needs and preferences, just like any other animal.

What Other Items Can Goats Eat Apart from Cans?

crumpled paper

As we’ve debunked the tin can myth, it’s only natural to wonder what other non-traditional items goats might have a penchant for. Whether it’s a newspaper left out in the yard or a piece of discarded plastic, these inquisitive animals often leave us scratching our heads with their choices. Let’s dive into a few other commonly queried items and see if they’re goat-approved or best left uneaten.


While it’s not uncommon to see a goat nibbling on paper, it’s not exactly a staple in their diet. The occasional consumption of paper, especially if it’s free from inks and chemicals, isn’t necessarily harmful. However, it doesn’t provide any nutritional value. Goats may be attracted to paper out of curiosity, but it’s best to ensure they’re not making a meal out of your morning newspaper.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Paper? Busting Myths On Their Diet


This one’s a big no-no. Plastic is not digestible and poses a significant risk to goats. Consuming plastic can lead to blockages in their digestive tract, causing discomfort, illness, or even death. While their interest might be piqued by the rustling sound or texture, it’s crucial to keep plastic items well out of their reach.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Plastic? Debunking Myths & Surprising Finds


Copper is a bit of a double-edged sword. Goats do need a certain amount of copper in their diet as it plays a vital role in their health, particularly for their nervous system, bone formation, and blood clotting. However, too much copper can lead to toxicity, resulting in severe health issues or fatality. It’s essential to provide the right balance through their diet and to be cautious about any additional sources of copper they might come into contact with.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Copper? Debunking Myths & More

Can goats eat cans – final thoughts

So, can goats eat cans? The resounding answer is no! But don’t be too hard on our bearded buddies; their curious nibbles stem from a place of exploration rather than culinary experimentation. While they might give a cursory chew to that shiny piece of metal or the odd sock left out, it’s not out of hunger. Instead, it’s their way of saying, “Hey, what’s this new thing in my space?”

Before you go regaling friends with tales of trash-munching goats, remember: these captivating creatures are more connoisseurs of greens than garbage. Let’s celebrate our four-legged friends for their natural curiosity and give a chuckle to those age-old myths. After all, while they might not be the recyclers we imagined, goats surely have a special way of recycling our hearts with their charm and antics!