The Therapeutic Benefits of Cuddling Goats

The Therapeutic Benefits of Cuddling Goats

by Cora Moore-Bruffy Using animals therapeutically is not a new concept, and adding caprines to that list of therapy animals is growing within the research literature (1., 2.,4., 7., 8., 12., 13., 14.). Science and psychology have proven that interacting with our animal companions has many physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health benefits that add to our wellness and happiness. Goats are brilliant animals and within the top three mammals that understand complex language, accents, and multiple languages with the higher primates (e.g., humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and Bonobos) and dolphins and whales, respectively. Much like dogs, goats are great companions that provide us with many health and wellness benefits that allow us to find happiness and peace in our lives. Cuddling goats provides us with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. 

Physical Benefits

The act of petting or cuddling goats (or other animals) stimulates circulation and blood flow and engages our motor skills and muscles. Animals like goats, dogs, and equines encourage us to get outside and be active. Goats are outside animals and thrive best in outdoor environments, which provides many opportunities for physical exercise that helps improve our muscles, joints, and breathing – mostly because much of your day is spent chasing them. The goats do find that a great sport. Like dogs, we can train goats to walk on leashes, which provides an excellent opportunity to exercise and bond with your goat friend.

Being with animals also increases all our feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine and oxytocin (8). Dopamine is the one neurotransmitter that we need to live and survive. A false rush of dopamine creates most addiction disorders. That false rush feels good at the time, but it establishes harmful ways to stimulate and generate dopamine in our brains. Addiction is detrimental to our dopamine production because it knocks our dopamine production out of balance and disrupts our natural ability to find ecstasy.

Practices like mindfulness, physical exercise, and spending time in nature and with animals are all ways to raise our dopamine naturally. When we naturally learn to increase our dopamine, we find more healing and satisfaction in our lives. Animals like goats can help boost our dopamine naturally because of their silly and healing presence and the acts of just engaging with the animals, whether cuddling, petting, brushing, or relaxing.

Emotional Benefits

Furthermore, goats improve our moods and help us combat depression (2, 7). Animals, in general, create a calming space and make us happy overall. Because goats are sociable creatures that love human attention, they too show us appreciation and respect. They show affection by staring you in the eyes, rubbing against you, tucking their head into your lap or leg, vocalizing, and with nibbles and goatie kisses. Just watching goats play creates a calming sense and eases stress that helps to improve our moods and lives. Increasing our mood states helps us learn to regulate our emotions, change our negative feedback loops, and better manage stress in our lives.

Happiness

Mental Benefits

Because of their ability to teach us grounding and patience, goats help us mentally by helping us find ways to slow down and find mental clarity (1). They teach us the value of focusing on our tasks at hand, be that trying to escape the goat pen to eat the “better” foliage on the other side or focusing on ways to jump over the fence to eat the “better” food. When we include goats in our lives, we also find those crafty and creative ways to overcome obstacles and strive for our goals while maintaining flexibility. Goats teach us to think in innovative ways because we have to outsmart them and their escape plans. As life constantly presents us with challenges, goats help us learn mental agility to handle life’s challenges with grace, poise, and humor. I suspect that they understand when they are silly and make us laugh at times. The smile on visitors’ faces when leaving the farm speak volumes.

Through the goats, people personify their own stories and projections, allowing them to bond with the animals while providing therapeutic benefits. Psychologist Sigmund Freud thought that we projected parts of ourselves onto the animals. Formed from the connection to the animals and nature are our perceptions and reactions to our realities, which is also an idea that many cultures throughout time have conceived (6, 11, 5). Animals resonate deep within our souls and unconscious minds and act as symbols and physical representations of characters and qualities that inspire and motivate us toward happiness, health, and well-being.

The goats have taught me to stop stressing out about what I cannot control, like other people’s emotions or reactions, things in the past, how the future will go, or the goats and their shenanigans. Things will just generally get messed with when the goats are involved; something will be knocked over, nibbled on, and possibly pooped on. Also, the possibility of falling, getting horned, getting a black eye, or your front teeth knocked out (because you had to chase an escaped goat and fall face-first onto the big rocks in the creek) can happen. Either way, the goats teach us that life knocks us down sometimes, and we get back up and live to cuddle another day.

cuddling goats
Fred

Spiritual Benefits

Like most animals, goats are more attuned to the natural energies of life. Goats are good at grounding to the earth and focusing on goals. Meditating on goat energy or meditating with goats helps us learn to be like the goat and ground ourselves to the earth’s energy to be more focused, positive, and productive in our lives (1). Goats also help us learn to increase our imaginations and creativity because they are very much faerie creatures with mischievous and fun-loving temperaments. Goats teach us to learn to be calm and quiet inside ourselves so that we can clear the monkey mind chatter and “hear” our inner voice, divine guidance, or calling of the Otherworlds and higher self. Goats help heal our minds and spirits.

Our spiritual sides are the essence of what makes us human and alive, whether we call it spirit, soul, chi, or akasha. Our spiritual sides are the parts of our conscious and unconscious minds that transcend our everyday experiences of reality, provide us with comfort for the unknown, and nurture our creative and critical sides. When we include animals like goats in our lives in mindful ways, we find our spirits comforted and renewed.

Engaging with goats creates a sort of transpersonal experience.

 If you already live with goats, you probably know the healing and spiritual power they bring to life. If not, it is quite the treat to interact with goats. Engaging with goats creates a sort of transpersonal experience. Transpersonal psychology is the study of non-ordinary experiences -experiences beyond the common five senses- affect consciousness and human development (3, 9). The role of spirit and consciousness are emulated in the animals and essential elements to development and behavior because these characteristics comprise individuality and diversity. Thus, individuals achieve their highest potential and create a sense of oneness with the goats, enhancing physical and psychological functioning (10).

Conclusion

Overall, the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental benefits of including goats in our lives are endless and as diverse and unique as our human personalities and their personalities. Goat-like dogs seem to naturally sense our moods and know what we need from them, which is what they need from us — love and affection! Goats help increase our creative and critical skills because they teach us calmness and patience. Most importantly, goats teach us to learn to relax and have fun with life because they nourish our minds, bodies, and souls.

Sources

  1. Atherton, W.L., Dunbar Jr., E.T., & Baker, S. E. (2016). Article 92 Animal-Assisted Therapy as a Complementary Intervention for Mindfulness-Based Therapies. Ideas and Research You Can Use. Vista. counseling.org/docs/default-source/vistas/assisted-therapy-complementary-intervention
  2. Barnhart, G., Silverwood, A., Efird, W., & Wells, K. (2020, December 10). Animal Assisted Interventions on Therapy Farms for Those with Autism. The Humanistic Psychologist. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/hum0000217
  3. Caplan, M., Hartelius, G., & Rardin, M. A. (2003). Contemporary viewpoints on Transpersonal Psychology. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 35(2), 143-162.
  4. Chandler, C. (2012). Animal-assisted therapy in counseling (2nd ed.). Routledge, Taylor, & Francis Group.
  5. De Chavez, J. (2015). Dreaming of Animals: The Animal in Freud’s Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year Boy and History of an Infantile Neurosis. Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities,6(3). http://rupkatha.com/V7/n3/05_freud-dreaming-animals.pdf
  6. Freud, S. (2003).  The “Wolfman” and Other Cases. (L.A. Huish, Trans). Penguin. (Original work published (1977).
  7. Harada, T., Ishiaki, F., Nitta, Y., Miki, Y., Nomamoto, H., Hayama, M., Ito, S., Miyazaki, H., Ikedal, S.H., Iidal, T., Ando, J., Kobayashi, M., Makoto, I., Sugawara, T., Nakabeppu, K., & Nitta, K. (2019). Relationship between the Characteristics of Therapy Goat and Children and Older People. International Medical Journal 26(5). pp. 405 – 408.
  8. Harada, T., Ishiaki, F., Nitta, Y., Miki, Y., Nomamoto, H., Hayama, M., Ito, S., Miyazaki, H., Ikedal, S.H., Iidal, T., Ando, J., Kobayashi, M., Makoto, I., Sugawara, T., Nakabeppu, K., & Nitta, K. (2020). Relationship between the Characteristics of Animal-Assisted Therapy and Patients. International Medical Journal 27(5), pp. 620 – 624.
  9. Hastings, A. (1999).  Transpersonal psychology: The fourth force. In Humanistic and transpersonal psychology: A historical and biographical sourcebook (pp. 192-208).  Greenwood Press.
  10. Koessel, K.C. (2011). The Relationship between Spiritual and Personality. [Doctoral dissertation, Western Michigan University]. scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1432&context=dissertations
  11. Levi-Strauss, C. (1971). Totemism. (R. Needham, Trans.). Beacon Press. (Original work published 1962).
  12. Nitta, K., Cheng, W., Harada, T., Ishizaki, F., Nitta, Y., Miki, Y., Numamoto, H., Hayama, M., Ito, S., Miyazaki, H., Aoi, S., Ikeda, H., Ando, J., Kobayashi, M., Makoto, I., Sugawara, T., Nakabeppu, K.), Asakura, Y. (2020a). An Experimental Study of Therapy Goat. International Medical Journal, 27(1), p.58-61. researchgate.net/profile/Nitta_Kohsaku/publication/338989653_An_Experimental_Study_of_Therapy_Goat/links/5e37900292851c7f7f17b4ce/An-Experimental-Study-of-Therapy-Goat.pdf
  13. Nitta, K., Cheng, W., Harada, T., Ishizaki, F., Nitt, Y., Miki, Y., Numamoto, H., Hayama, M., Ito, S., Miyazaki, H., Aoi, S., Ikeda, H., Ando, J., Kobayashi, M., Makoto, I., Sugawara, T., Nakabeppu, K.), Asakura, Y. (2020b). Status and Practice of Therapy Goat in the World International Medical Journal, 27(5), p.616 – 619. researchgate.net/profile/Nitta_Kohsaku/publication/344338286_Status_and_Practice_of_Therapy_Goat_in_the_World/links/5f69d4baa6fdcc0086344027/Status-and-Practice-of-Therapy-Goat-in-the-World.pdf
  14. Zhi, T.X., Aziz, Z.A., & Taib, N. (2020). Introducing Animal-Assisted Intervention for Special Education in Integrated Farming System. IAFOR Journal of Education: Studies in Education 8(4).p. 193-211.

Cora Moore-Bruffy does goat animal-assisted therapy and animal education in addition to being a college professor. She earned a MA in History and Culture focusing on Archaeology and is working on a Ph.D. in General Psychology with a focus on mindfulness and animal therapy. She is certified in psychology, child psychology, pet psychology, pet nutrition, pet first aid, and FEMA’s Animal Disaster Management. In addition to working with animals, she teaches Psychology, Archaeology/Anthropology to American History, World History, Contemporary History, Cultural Diversity, Sociology, and Philosophy. She has worked with many Native American groups on social and environmental justice issues and with many different groups worldwide with preservation and cultural diversity issues. She lives outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband at Faeryland’s Farm. Catch the goats and other animals on Facebook, their website, or watch videos on YouTube.

Originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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