While we’ve been researching alpacas, we’ve wondered what their ideal living environment is. My research has shown that they prefer living outside. Even so, I can’t help but wonder – can an alpaca live inside?
An alpaca can live inside as a pet with proper care and attention. However, pet or indoor alpacas are still the exceptions rather than the rule. Most alpacas prefer to be outside unless bad weather forces them to take shelter inside of a barn or lean-to.
Keep reading to learn more about having an alpaca live inside – and what the appropriate indoor living spaces for them should look like!
Can an Alpaca Live Inside?
Alpacas can most definitely live inside, provided they’re cared for properly, they want to be inside with their adopted herd, they get enough attention, and they get plenty of time outside (either in a yard or on a walk).
Some alpacas live indoors temporarily – and others, like Cody the alpaca, live inside on a permanent basis. Don’t get me wrong – Cody still spends a good deal of her day outside, though. But she’s an inside alpaca.
Cody was born prematurely and will likely never grow to be full-sized. She’s about 50 pounds – about half the size of a full-grown alpaca. As such, she’s more like a large dog and has been adopted as a pet. Her owner has created a safe, indoor home for Cody – and even lets Cody sleep in her room!
Cody follows her adopted mom around the alpaca farm doing chores during the day. But she’s always with her adopted mom, rather than with other alpacas. Why? Because after so much specialized care, Cody has adopted people as her herd.
So an alpaca can definitely live inside. This video proves it’s possible.
However, pet alpacas are still very much the exception, not the rule. Cody is, after all, one undersized alpaca that lives inside the house. And remember, she lives on an alpaca farm with her owner.
Can an Alpaca Come Inside the House?
Letting an alpaca come into the house on a more temporary basis is more common and totally possible. Just check out this video of an alpaca owner who purposely brings in lost cria (baby alpaca) into their home to warm them up during a surprise storm.
Apparently mother alpaca lose cria in sudden storms often enough to be an issue because the farm owner makes a regular habit of searching for accidentally-lost cria in storms. That’s an awesome alpaca owner who cares for their herd!
Once the storm passed, the cria was able to find his mother and rejoin the herd when he was warm enough to go back outside.
Do Alpacas Make Good Indoor Pets?
Alpacas can be great indoor pets as long as they get enough outside time and attention. I’ve found several examples of them as awesome pets on both YouTube and Instagram.
One alpaca, named Alfie, was adopted as a pet in South Australia by a man named Jeff. Today, Alfie lives with his family indoors – although even they admit that Alfie spends most of his days grazing on their backyard lawn. Alfie is house-trained to a degree, too. He’s chosen the middle of the backyard lawn as his dung heap. If Alfie is left inside for a while, he’ll “hold it” until he can get outside to relieve himself.
Alfie used to sleep outside – but now he sleeps inside next to Jeff like a dog would. Alfie and Jeff are also on Instagram. You can check them out under their handle @alfie_the_alpaca_in_adelaide.
Apparently pet alpacas are cool in Adelaide because there’s another pet alpaca there who’s also popular on Instagram. Chewpaca the alpaca goes on some pretty awesome-looking adventures with his teenage owner. Their Instagram handle is @chew_paca if you want to check them out. I did notice that their latest gram is from 2019. So perhaps Chewpaca’s adventures as an indoor pet have changed.
Based on what I’ve learned from both of these examples, here’s a list of factors to consider before you adopt a pet alpaca.
|Factor||Advice and Notes|
|The legality of owning an alpaca.||Make sure you check with your local laws before buying a pet alpaca. Be sure to be in compliance or risk forfeiting your pet.|
|Get your alpaca shorn yearly.||Find a local professional to shear your alpaca yearly – or to teach you how to do it properly.|
|Alpaca feed and water.||Alpacas will eat lawns, hay, and some kinds of vegetables. Make sure your alpaca pet has plenty of appropriate feed and water at all times. Alpacas eat about 2% of their weight daily.|
|Communal dung heaps.||Alpacas use communal dung heaps to relieve themselves. Provide an area and hope they use it. Adjust if they choose a different spot.|
|Alpacas can “spit” acidic blobs of partially digested food material.||Spitting is rare – and usually related to them being annoyed at whatever you just did to them.|
|Alpacas need outside time.||Alpacas can’t be inside 100% of the time. They’ll need some time outside – even if it’s in a small backyard. Walks are another great option.|
|Socialization is important.||If you can, take your alpaca on play dates with other alpacas. Or give them plenty of playtime and attention with their adopted herd – be it people, dogs, or other animals.|
|Depression and Sleep deprivation.||Most alpacas need another alpaca – this helps them trade-off “keeping watch” at night for predators and prevent depression. If you only get one alpaca, you’ll need to provide a safe sleeping area and interaction to prevent these two issues.|
|Berserk Male Syndrome.||Alfie’s owner explains that they aren’t too worried about this particular issue because Alfie was weaned and neutered before puberty. Male alpacas that go berserk are usually bottle-fed babies that get castrated after puberty.|
|Alpacas as pets.||This is still new territory. Even so, find a support system willing to work with you on this.|
|Alpaca health.||Ideally, find a vet who’s familiar with alpacas and is comfortable with treating them. Become familiar with at-home treatments, too.|
|Seasonal Care: Summer.||Alpacas will need to be kept cool during summer. Shearing will help. Using a mister or a kiddie pool for wading may be another option (idea courtesy of Jeff’s site).|
|Seasonal Care: Winter||During the winter, provide your alpaca with a warm place to retreat if they get too cold or if there’s a storm.|
Do Alpacas Like to Be Petted?
Alpacas aren’t overly fond of being petted, no. They’ll tolerate being petted by their owners and familiar people. They may have a spot or two where, when scratched or petted, they actually enjoy it.
However, they’re more like a cat in this regard. If the alpaca wants to be petted, they’ll be open to it. But if they don’t want to be petted? They’ll walk away or spit at you if you don’t respect their personal space. Okay, so cats won’t spit – they’ll hiss. Even so, the analogy sticks.
Quick tip: try using a safe treat to feed an alpaca. They may be more likely to tolerate being petted if they have a treat to nibble.
Indoor Space and Size Requirements for Alpacas
Whether you’re keeping alpacas as alternative livestock or as a pet, let’s at least cover the minimum types of indoor spaces and sizes they’ll need. At the minimum, alpacas need one of two types of indoor shelter.
- An alpaca stall or area in an enclosed barn.
- Windbreak shelters for use in open pastures.
Depending on your space, you don’t need both. As long as your alpacas have access to at least one dry, wind-proof area they’ll be happy.
And they’ll probably only run into that shelter when there’s bad wind or a storm. After all, alpacas are from the high mountains of South America. They’re used to cold – and some wind. It’s when things get bad that they’ll want shelter.
The ideal size for each shelter will depend on how many alpacas you have.
My research shows that alpacas have good-sized personal bubbles. They want their own 6’x8′ (six by eight-foot) space inside an enclosed shelter or windbreak during hotter weather (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit).
During colder weather, the alpacas’ personal space shrinks – and they’re fine huddling together to keep warm.
|Shelter Style||Average Minimum Size Required per Alpaca||Notes|
|Windbreak (or 3-sided, open-faced barn) with a high ceiling||6-foot x 8-foot||Alpacas enjoy this style best and will self-regulate their comfort and temperature well in this style enclosure.|
|Traditional style barn||6-foot x 8-foot||Alpacas in a barn will stay between 2-10 feet away from each other unless cold.|
|Open Pasture||0.1 acres||Most sources say 10 alpacas per acre is acceptable.|
If you opt for an open-faced, 3-sided windbreak style of shelter, you’ll just want to make sure that the open side isn’t facing the wind. Otherwise, it’s kind of a useless shelter.
Or if you’re providing your pet alpaca with space inside your home, make sure it’s an area they can access on-demand – in case there’s a surprise storm or something.
Do Alpacas Like to Be Petted? Alpacas don’t typically enjoy being petted by anyone, especially strangers. However, they may enjoy a neck scratch by someone they know very well.
How Long Does an Alpaca Live? Alpacas typically live between 15-20 years, though many may live past 20 with proper care. The oldest alpaca on record lived 27 years.
Can Alpacas be House Trained? Alpacas tend to use a communal dung heap for relieving themselves. Once an area is selected and used, alpacas will generally all use that same spot – effectively potty-training or house-training the whole herd. Keeping alpacas inside a house is something not to be taken lightly, though, as they prefer to be outside.
Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “FAQ.” ALFIE THE ALPACA, alfiethealpaca.weebly.com/faq.
- Fields, Harry, 2014, Alpaca Keeping, World Ideas Ltd.
- “Llamas and Alpacas.” NAL, www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/llamas-and-alpacas.
- Montana, Alpacas of. “Barn Size Needed for Alpacas.” Barn Size Needed for Alpacas, 1 Jan. 1970, alpacasofmontana.blogspot.com/2012/06/barn-size-needed-for-alpacas.html.