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Do Alpacas Make Good Pets? – A Personal Perspective
As an alpaca farmer since 1998, it is very obvious that these domesticated South American camelids are highly social creatures and are used to having companions, usually other alpacas. Alpacas have personalities that are quite varied. They may seem gentle and docile, but make no mistake, each alpaca is unique and some may be quite aloof or skittish.
What to look for in a pet alpaca
I’m going to assume when we’re talking about alpacas as pets we are looking for more than just having alpacas running around in your backyard. You want a friendly alpaca you can walk up to and pet and it seems genuinely happy to see you.
Keep in mind, alpacas do not do well on their own. You should have at least two.
You can get some idea of an alpaca with pet potential by walking around in the herd and looking for an alpaca that accepts your touching them. If they run away or kick or spit (yuck!), look for another one.
If you are looking at a young alpaca, ask to see the parents. If the parents are friendly, the youngster will be the same. If the parents are high-strung and skittish, look out.
Girls and Boys are Different!
While you might find an older, friendly alpaca to be suitable, most people desire cute cuddly looking baby alpacas. Be very careful here!
Male and female alpaca babies are very similar in their behavior until their hormones start kicking in. Then everything changes!
An overly handled and fawned-over female can get very pushy and potentially dangerous when they reach sexual maturity. A male can get downright dangerous. Been there, done that… Scary stuff! Read about Berserk Male Syndrome.
That being said, a young male is the most likely what you will be offered due to most farms keeping their females for breeding stock. This is actually in your favor!
Simply geld the male alpaca when its leg bones are almost done growing longer, but before puberty and you won’t have any hormone issues to deal with. Well-adapted young male alpacas make good pets!
Alpacas and dogs
Important: some dogs do not do well with alpacas! If your dog likes to chase other critters beware! Many, many alpacas have been killed or injured by an otherwise friendly family dog. The nature of your dog, if you have one, could be the deciding factor whether you get alpacas or not. If you want to get a dog, a livestock guardian dog would be an excellent choice.
The Pros of Keeping Alpacas as Pets:
• Affectionate Companions: From my experience, some alpacas are affectionate by nature and can form strong bonds with their owners. Some love human interaction and can be great pets for those who enjoy spending time with their animal friends.
• Low Maintenance: Like any other pet, alpacas need feed, water, and salt. The only additional care is yearly shearing.
• Livestock Potential: Although alpacas are gaining popularity as pets, they also have a practical side. They can provide you with a steady supply of high-quality wool, making them a two-for-one deal for your homestead. If you have the space and resources, keeping a small herd of alpacas can be a wooly good investment.
The Cons of Keeping Alpacas as Pets:
• Cost: Hay isn’t getting any cheaper. And veterinary care is rarely cheap, so be prepared. Add in your annual shearing cost.
• Space Requirements: Alpacas need plenty of room to roam and graze. They are not suitable for apartment or urban living and require a large, fenced-in area to call home.
• Behavioral Issues: Although alpacas are generally considered docile, some individuals can be aggressive or difficult to handle. It’s crucial to evaluate an alpaca’s personality and behavior before bringing it home and to seek professional help if you encounter any behavioral problems. Trust me, nipping problems in the bud will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
As an experienced alpaca farmer, I can tell you that choosing the right alpaca that would make a good pet is not as simple as you might first think. You gotta consider the age, health, and temperament of the animal. A friendly and easy-to-handle alpaca is what you’re looking for, not one that’s aggressive or skittish. Always work with a reputable breeder or rescue organization to make sure you’re getting a healthy and well-behaved alpaca.
Alpacas are like big kids, they need plenty of space to graze and roam around, so you better have a large, fenced-in area for them. They also need a shelter from the elements, like a barn or shed, to protect them from the sun, wind, and rain. You want to make sure your alpacas are safe and comfortable.
When it comes to feeding, alpacas are grazers and they gotta have their greens! Their diet should primarily consist of grass or hay, with access to fresh water and some supplements, such as minerals, to keep them healthy. You’ll have to work with a veterinarian to develop a balanced diet for your alpaca to make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need.
Alpacas are relatively low maintenance when it comes to grooming, but once a year, they gotta get a haircut. Their dense fleece has to be shorn, and that’s typically done by a professional shearer. Do it in the spring so they don’t overheat in the summer months.
Do alpacas need a lot of attention?
Not really, they’re social animals and enjoy human interaction, but they’re not demanding. They’re relatively low maintenance compared to other household pets, but they do need daily attention for feeding and basic care.
Can they be trained?
Yes, but they’re not as easily trainable as dogs but it’s done all the time. They respond well to positive reinforcement, such as treats, and can be trained to lead on a halter or lead rope. Take a look at clicker training, it works!
Are they good with children?
Generally, yes. Alpacas are gentle and make good pets for families with children. They’re not aggressive and are unlikely to harm a child, but you still gotta supervise interactions to ensure everyone stays safe.
The right alpacas make good pets for the right person, but they’re not suitable for everyone. They require a small investment in terms of education, time, and money. Remember they need plenty of space to roam and graze. You gotta carefully consider your resources, lifestyle, and goals before deciding to adopt an alpaca. If you’re looking for a unique, affectionate, and low-maintenance companion, alpacas might just be the perfect choice for you!
Article by Paul, proprietor and Chief Shovel Officer at the Alpaca Mining Company since 1998.