Can Goats Eat Paper? Busting Myths on Their Diet

Written By Jill Taylor

Have you ever caught your goat munching on something unexpected, like paper, and found yourself wondering, can goats eat paper? The answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no. While goats have a reputation for eating almost anything they come across, it’s essential to distinguish between what they can consume and what they should consume.

I’ve been around goats for a fair part of my life, and their dietary choices never cease to amaze and sometimes baffle me. Whether you’re a seasoned goat owner or just starting, understanding their dietary habits is crucial for their well-being. So, let’s delve into the world of goats and paper, shall we?

can goats eat paper

Understanding Goat Dietary Habits

When you envision a goat’s meal, what comes to mind? A lush green pasture, perhaps, or a feeder filled with hay. Understanding what goats naturally prefer to munch on can give us insight into whether something like paper should even be on the menu.

Natural Diet in the Wild

In the wild, goats are browsers, not grazers like cows. This means they naturally prefer woody plants, shrubs, and weeds over just plain grass. They seek out a variety of plants, giving them a broad spectrum of nutrients.

Common Foods in Domestic Settings

In a domestic setting, goats might be fed alfalfa or grass hay, grains, and even some fruits and vegetables. Some goat owners also provide mineral blocks to ensure their goats get all the essential minerals.

The Anatomy of Goat Digestion

kid goat eating plant

Goats, like cows, have a unique digestive system that allows them to break down tough plant materials. Understanding this can provide clarity on how paper might fare in their stomach.

The Four-Stomach System: How It Works

Goats are ruminants, which means they have a four-chambered stomach. Each chamber has a specific role in breaking down and fermenting food, ultimately extracting the nutrients the goat needs.

Comparing Goat Digestion to Other Farm Animals

While other farm animals like chickens and pigs have simple stomachs, goats’ multi-chambered system is more similar to cows and sheep. This complex system is designed to handle fibrous plants but isn’t necessarily equipped for everything.

Paper as a Dietary Item

crumpled paper

We’ve all heard tales of goats eating tin cans, but where does paper fit into the picture?

Components of Paper: What’s Inside?

Most paper is made from wood pulp. While it’s plant-based, it doesn’t offer the nutritional content that a goat’s usual diet does. Besides, modern paper may contain chemicals from processing and printing.

How Do Goats React to Paper?

Anecdotally, some goats seem to chew on paper out of curiosity. It’s more about the act of chewing rather than consuming it for dietary reasons.

Potential Risks of Feeding Paper to Goats

goat in field

Though they’re known for their adventurous eating habits, not everything is safe for goat consumption.

Non-nutritive Elements

Paper doesn’t provide any substantial nutritional value for goats. Feeding them paper won’t benefit them in any way, nutritionally speaking.

Possible Chemicals and Inks

Many papers, especially those printed upon, contain inks and chemicals. While small amounts might not be immediately harmful, consistent ingestion can pose risks.

Potential for Blockages or Digestive Issues

Large quantities of paper can lead to blockages in a goat’s digestive system, leading to discomfort or more severe health issues.

When and Why Goats Might Eat Paper

three goats in a field

So, why would a goat even consider munching on paper in the first place?

Accidental Ingestion: Common Scenarios

Sometimes, goats might come across paper when exploring their surroundings. Maybe they found an old newspaper in their pen or a paper bag left behind.

Natural Curiosity and Chewing Habits

Goats are naturally curious creatures. They often “taste-test” their environment, not necessarily to eat but to explore. Paper can become one of these exploratory snacks.

Alternatives to Paper for Goat Entertainment

If goats are chewing on paper out of boredom, what are healthier ways to keep them entertained?

Safe Toys and Treats for Goats

Consider providing toys like balls or ropes that they can play with. Alternatively, treats like fruit slices, vegetables, or special goat treats can be occasional indulgences.

Encouraging Natural Foraging Behaviors

Ensuring goats have ample space to roam and forage can reduce boredom. Planting shrubs or safe plants for them to browse can mimic their natural diet and behaviors.

What Other Items Can Goats Eat Apart from Paper?

tin cans

Our goats sure do keep us on our toes with their insatiable curiosity and sometimes surprising dietary choices. Apart from paper, there are a few other items that many of us have witnessed goats attempt to snack on. Let’s demystify three commonly questioned items: cans, plastic, and copper.


Contrary to the popular myth, goats don’t eat cans. They might be seen nibbling or chewing on cans, but it’s the label they’re after, not the metal itself. Goats are attracted to the glue used in labels, which is why they might appear to be “eating” a can. However, ingesting sharp pieces of metal can be hazardous, so it’s always a good idea to keep cans away from goats.

Read More: Can Goats Eat Cans? Debunking Myths About Goat Diets


Goats might occasionally chew on plastic out of curiosity, but it’s not a safe or suitable material for them to consume. Eating plastic can lead to severe digestive issues or blockages. If a goat swallows plastic, it can’t be broken down in their digestive system. Ensure that their living spaces are free from plastic items and waste to prevent accidental ingestion.

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


Copper is a tricky one. In the right amounts, copper is an essential mineral for goats and is often provided in their mineral supplements. However, too much copper can be toxic and lead to copper poisoning. The amount of copper a goat needs can vary based on various factors, including breed. It’s essential to ensure they’re getting the right amount and to be cautious about anything they might consume that could throw that balance off.

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

Can goats eat paper – final thoughts

So, the next time your mischievous goat tries to snack on yesterday’s newspaper, you’ll know exactly what’s up! Goats might have the adventurous spirit of a toddler with an “everything is edible at least once” philosophy, but as we’ve learned, just because they can nibble on paper doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for their diet.

In wrapping up our journey into the paper-eating habits of goats, it’s clear that while these curious creatures might give paper a taste-test, there are far better and safer munchies for them. Stay informed, keep those paper treasures out of reach, and let’s keep our four-legged friends both happy and healthy!