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February 26, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Could a Pig Be Your Next Pet?

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

The miniature pig was a HOT trend in the 80's after celebrities like Paris Hilton and George Clooney purchased pigs for pets. Sadly, many people ran out to do the same, not realizing that pigs require a special diet, care, space, and so much more. By the late 80's and early 90's pig sanctuaries and rescue organizations began to form to help rescue many unwanted pet pigs.

I've recently found myself intrigued by the miniature pig after reading and learning more about their personality, social skills, and bonds they have with others.

The more I dug into my research, the more I began to analyze the big picture and wonder, "Is a pet pig more suited as a family pet then a dog or cat?" I believe the answer depends on the family, their lifestyle, and their means to provide life-long care to this very smart, loving, curious, and loyal animal.

The Types of Miniature Pigs, Size, and Age

There are three types of miniature pigs that would be appropriate as a household pet. The Vietnamese Potbellied, KuneKune, and the Guinea Hog.

Did you know these miniature pigs can live up to 15-20 years? That is a life long commitment that shouldn't be taken lightly. Let's take a look at the age and size of these pigs.

The typical size of a Vietnamese Potbellied pig is around 130 lbs, the KuneKune is 400 lbs, and the Guinea Hog averages just less than 200 lbs. It typically will take 3-4 years for a pig to reach their full grown state.

If a breeder is recommending that you feed your piglet less to help stunt their growth, please report that breeder. This is considered animal abuse, and starving a piglet will only give you heartbreak when your grown up piggy is very unhealthy.

Requirements to Care for a Pet Pig

Zoning laws should be checked out where you live prior to running to the nearest breeder to get a pet pig. Many city ordinances do not allow farm animals, and pet pigs are still considered a farm animal. So, be sure to check your zoning laws first.

Pigs are one of the cleanest animals in the world. They detest living in filth, and are especially particular in where they go to the bathroom. Pigs can be potty trained inside the home using a litter box (don't even consider using cat litter, a piggy will be happy to eat it) lined with newspaper. But, they prefer to do their "poo" business outside, in a designated area.

They are very curious critters, especially where there is food, and will make a mess out of areas looking for things with their snout. If you are considering a pig for a household pet, you will need to "toddler" proof your home. They are known to chew on cords, open cupboards, pantries and refrigerators, and have no problem throwing a "temper tantrum" when not getting their way.

Affectionate

They are a very affectionate animal, and LOVE to cuddle; they would much rather be snuggled up next to you on the couch than left outside by themselves. Providing your pig with a crate will help make them feel close to you, while allowing them their own personal space. Pigs can be crate trained and they enjoy burrowing under blankets.

Miniature pigs have a strong desire to be close to their humans once they have been properly socialized. Forcing a young piglet to be handled quickly will only make your piggy stressed and frightened. Take time to bond with your young pet pig, easing them into it by using treats. Don't force yourself on your pig, otherwise they won't take kindly to the relationship you desire to have with them.

Smarter than Many Think

Did you know that pigs rank #5 on the intelligence list (humans, primates, dolphins, whales, pigs)? Yes, above dogs!

Pigs can learn many commands including, "sit," "down," and "come." Their ability to learn quickly and retain the information is impeccable. Pigs respond best with a positive reinforcement training method. Using methods like hitting, poking, or kicking your pig will only make them frightened of you. Pigs are very smart and will not forget how they are being handled. They can be very vocal, displaying grunts, squeals, and many other individual sounds to indicate their feelings towards something or someone.

Don't let their intelligence fool you into thinking that they are easy to train; pigs can have a stubborn streak and will sometimes reconsider performing a command if they feel it doesn't serve them well. Pigs also can become bored easily if they are an indoor pet only and not properly stimulated with toys and activity. They have no problem asserting themselves, wanting to be "top pig" in the family. If this is allowed, a pig can become dangerous and obnoxious when trying to assert their position.

Pigs need physical and mental stimulation throughout the day. Daily walks? Yes, you can leash and harness train a pig. Providing interactive toys is a great way to exercise your pig mentally and physically. Also, letting them forage through the back yard with their noses (if you like a well manicured lawn, you will want to reconsider a pig as a pet) can be beneficial. Because they have no sweat glands, providing a pool or mud hole to waddle in to help cool themselves will make for a very happy piggy!

Keeping a Pet Pig Healthy!

Pigs are considered a very healthy animal, but they are fickle and can stress out easily, causing them to be susceptible to pneumonia, although weather can also play into this series illness. If a pet pig has an outdoor area, proper bedding and shelter should be provided during the cooler months.

Pigs also have poor eyesight. This needs to be taken into consideration when preparing your home for your pig. Stairs are a big no-no, ramps will be needed wherever your pig will need to use stairs.

Veterinary Care

Pigs require yearly vaccinations/physicals and hoof trimming from an accredited veterinarian that specializes in potbellied pigs that is willing to make house calls. They require different needs than their farm hog cousins. Pigs don't take kindly to being transported and brought into an unfamiliar area. Vet care for pigs can be expensive, and you'll want to make sure this expense can be met within the household budget.

Spaying and Neutering

Prior to adopting or purchasing your pet pig, the breeder or foster parent should take care to make sure they are neutered or spayed (male pigs are sexually active by 2 months old, females can start as early as 5 months old, although their first heat cycle can start at 3 months old). An un-neutered pig is out of control, raging, and extremely aggressive towards everyone. Plus, they have an unpleasant odor that comes along with being un-neutered.

An un-spayed female pig is no better then her male counter-part. Let's just put it this way, take PMS and multiply it by a thousand. Female pigs that are un-spayed have no problem displaying their hormonal attributes, like peeing in front of everyone, which, sadly, many pet-parents mistaken for the pig not being properly potty trained.

Grooming

Grooming is minimal for a pet pig. Because they have hair, not fur, their shedding is minimal, usually occurring in spring and winter. They are also odorless (once neutered). Their hair is bristly, and they will require a weekly brushing and baths every now and then. Special oils for their skin need to be used to help prevent chapping and cracking.

The GREAT NEWS about pigs is they do not get fleas, but they are susceptible to ticks and mites.

Diet

Pigs LOVE their food and LOVE to eat! It is very important that a pet-parent properly monitors how much their pet pig is being fed to avoid an overweight pig. They require a special diet and cannot live on dog or cat food. Their diet should consist of formulated pig chow, added vegetables, and fruit.

They are messy eaters that enjoy shoving and tipping their food dishes about, so daily cleanup of their feeding area will be required.

Pet pigs should not be given junk food that is high in sugar and salt. Chocolate is known to be deadly for pigs.

Does sharing your home with a miniature pig sound like fun? Do you have the means to provide for their long life span? A fenced in-yard is a must for this household pet, absolutely no apartment living allowed. If you meet the criteria to provide the necessities of vet care, proper diet, living space, lots of training, and a loving atmosphere, a miniature pig may be what you are looking for.

Adopt First

As you begin looking for a pet pig, please check with rescue organizations first. Every year, pet pigs are being euthanized - not because they are bad pigs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a pig, you are truly saving a life!

At the very least, NEVER purchase any pig from a pet store. Unfortunately, those piglets almost always come from unscrupulous dealers. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.

On a final note, it is important that the piglet you get is already spayed or neutered to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!

Resources:

Pigs 4 Ever - Pot Belly Pig Diet

Pot Belly Pigs

Exotic Pets - Pot Belly Pigs

More from Health Coach Victoria Swanson Others Are Reading

2 Comments

  • I was so happy to see your article on pigies. I jmust adopted a 1 year old unneutered male pot belly and you were correct in your description of the issues with intact pigs. Finding a vet to do the neutering on a grown pig wasn't easy, either. He is wonderful, finally house trained and dog dorr trained, snuggles, squeals, sleeps with the dogs, sits, comes and still refuses to use a harness or leash (never was introduced to him before).
    In Texas there ae only two dedicated pig sanctuaries and one is closing. I am hoping to appeal to my legislators for mandatory lableing at all exotic pet sale sites advising buyers of the ultimate size of their possible purchases and the fact that sanctuaries are few and far between.
    One other thing to note: swine do not have a thalamus, the portion of the brain that produces the awareness of fullness or satiety. They want to eat all the time because they have no off switch. Diets must be tightly controlled or obesity can cause terrible illness and blindness (fat over and around the eyes becomes hardned and permanently blocks vision).
    I love my pig, but pigs aren't the right pet for most people becasue they have behavioral problems and require much more mental stimulation than the average pet. And they really do love their people and family members and rehoming them is hard on their hearts. So buyer beware and be committed!
    Lisa Stevens Austin, Texas

  • Thanks Lisa for sharing, and I love the pic of your piggie too, so very very adorable! Yes, it is sad that many people don't educate themselves prior to purchasing these wonderful animals. Then when they realize it is not the "right fit," they quickly dispose of them not wanting to take responsibility anymore. Thanks for sharing your enlightenment from your personal experience of being a Mommy to a Piggy :-)

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