Is A Pig The Right Pet For You?

So, you are thinking about getting a potbellied (or “Mini”) pig? Make sure you read through this information before making your final decision. Pet pigs are definitely not for everyone. Owning and training a pig is not like a cat or dog. Piglets are very cute but they all grow into full-grown adult pigs. We recommend finding a breeder or adoption agency and spending some time with full grown, adult pigs before making your decision.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PIG OWNERSHIP:
What are some of the pros and cons of owning a pig?

Pigs can make good companions, but only for the right caregiver. On the plus side, pigs are smart, CLEAN, generally non-allergenic, odor-free, flea-free, charming and inexpensive to feed. Pigs are social, bonding easily with humans. They’ll readily roll over for a tummy rub, as well as snuggle with you. They don’t bark, prowl the streets or spread rabies. Compared with dog droppings, mild smelling “pig berries” are a breeze to clean up. While pigs are highly trainable and can learn at a faster rate than dogs, pig behavior is vastly different from dog behavior. As eager as a dog can be to please his master, a pig’s respect, trust and cooperation must be earned. If the pig had it his way, you would be pleasing him.

In nature, pigs are regarded as prey, and are therefore naturally suspicious, cautious creatures. They have to be coaxed and rewarded. You cannot force a pig to do anything he doesn’t want to do; it has to be his idea. Don’t expect your pig to eagerly greet you at the door and fetch your slippers (not to say he/she won’t). It is because pigs are so intelligent that they can be so stubborn, demanding and manipulative. Pigs can become easily bored, grumpy, depressed, sedentary and even destructive and aggressive, if not given adequate attention by a loving caregiver. While the daily cost of keeping a pig is relatively low, if a pig becomes ill, vet bills can be unmanageable for some people. Qualified potbellied pig vets are unavailable in some areas. You need to locate a vet that will care for pet pigs before you bring one home. Often you will find you must travel quite some distance to find quality care.

Can you take a pig for a walk and play catch with him?
A pig can easily be trained to walk on a leash and harness and to ride in a car. Yes, you can take a pig for a walk, but unlike a dog, piggy will take his own sweet time checking out every gum-wrapper and leaf on the pavement. While you can teach a pig to retrieve an object, a pig will only cooperate if amply rewarded with treats. A pig does not retrieve for the joy of it.

Do pigs bite?
That’s like asking if dogs or cats bite. If given a reason, sure they do. While pigs are generally gentle by nature, they are also territorial and emotional. A pig can become aggressive when competing for food or attention. As with a dog, it is important to teach him good manners and let him know who is “top hog” in the family.

Are pigs affectionate?
A pig is not going to jump up and lick you in the face. Their affections are expressed more subtlety. Pigs love to be scratched, rubbed and massaged. Most pigs don’t like to be picked up, but will gladly lie with you and enjoy a long cuddle. Pigs appreciate and seek out human company.

How long do potbellied pigs live?
With proper care, a potbellied pig can live an average of 12 to 15 years so please make sure you are ready for this long-term commitment before bringing one home. Your pig will live long if you make sure he doesn’t become obese, and if you provide him with ample social interaction, stimulation, outdoor time and physical exercise. If your pig becomes ill, making certain he receives prompt veterinary care will also help ensure a long, healthy life.

What happens if I get a pig and later decide that I don’t want him?
This happens far too frequently, mostly due to lack of education. Pigs become attached to their human families very quickly, and are easily depressed when separated. Do your homework first and make sure a pet pig is really right for you and every member of your family. If you find that you do not want to keep the pig, we request that you contact a PIG rescue as soon as possible. Municipal animal shelters (pounds) frequently auction off pigs or destroy them right away. “Free to good home” ads sometimes result in a piggy ending up on someone’s dinner table, or worse still…. Pig sanctuaries across the country are currently at capacity, so there are few good options for unwanted pet pigs. Are you really ready to keep a pig for its lifetime?

What are the zoning laws regarding pigs as pets?
Each city and county has its own zoning codes about pet pigs. Many cities prohibit farm animals, including swine. Many have revised their codes to allow potbellied pig because miniature pigs are considered companion animals. Before getting a pig, check with your city, county and homeowners association to determine the exact code. Get the code in writing!

How big are potbellied pigs?
PPB’s can range between 80 and 160 pounds, with the average pig weighing around 120 pounds. Miniature pigs continue to grow until they reach maturity at 3 to 5 years of age. With improper diet and over-feeding pot belly pigs can reach weights over 300 pounds – which is very unhealthy. Comparatively, farm pigs can weigh 600 to 1000 pounds.

Is there such thing as a Teacup or Micro-mini Potbelly Pig?
Though breeders and pet shops might claim they have micro-mini pigs, far too frequently, such pigs have stunted growth due to under-feeding and poor nutrition. Rarely do we see a pig that remains under 50 pounds at maturity unless it has health problems that are often a result of inbreeding. Starving a pig to keep it small is no different than starving a human child to keep it small. It’s cruel and it doesn’t work.

Can the size of the parents determine the ultimate size of the offspring?
To some degree, yes, but there are no 100% guarantees. Babies born to small pigs often grow up to be larger than their parents. When looking at the parents for sizing, make certain the parents are at least 3-5 years of age and that their growth has not been stunted from malnutrition or inbreeding.

What should I feed my pig?
Pigs thrive on a diet consisting of grain, vegetables and an occasional taste of fruit. Feeding your pig a complete feed like Champion Premium Potbellied Pig Feed supplemented with low-calorie fresh produce greens will keep your pig fit and trim. Do not feed your pig dog chow or cat chow. The quantity of feed depends on the age, size and activity level of your pig. Growing pigs and nursing moms need more calories than sedentary older pigs. We recommend that you feed your pig twice daily, allow yard time for grazing and include low-fat foods such as carrots, cucumbers, celery and leafy green vegetables (collard and mustard greens, spinach, etc.). Canned veggies, corn, potatoes, dried fruit, cookies, chips and nuts, etc, can pack the pounds on piggy. Pigs also enjoy hay in their diets. Use Timothy or oat hay rather than alfalfa hay. Most importantly, your pig needs access to plenty of fresh water. To ensure that your pig is properly hydrated, particularly in the summer months, add lots of hot water to his pig chow. The water will bulk up the pellets, making piggy feel fuller and more satisfied. Pigs are rooters and rummagers by nature, and therefore always act hungry. Don’t let piggy cajole you into feeding him more than he needs. The occasional special treats are okay, but avoid feeding table-scraps. Your piggy is not a garbage disposal!

Can I keep my pig inside?
While some potbellied pigs enjoy being inside the house, they also require ample outdoor time to root around, relax in the sun and engage in other piggly behavior. Pigs acquire certain critical nutrients from soil, so they must be given an opportunity to be outdoors. You can keep your pig outside during the day and allow him to sleep inside at night. While outdoors, your pig will need to be protected from the elements. Provide your pig with a properly secured yard, a house with bedding (blanketsor straw will do) and with an overhead shelter (above the house) like a tarp or canopy to protect him from the sun, wind and rain. If given a choice, some pigs prefer to live outdoors, so you must be prepared to provide a proper outdoor home.

Where do pigs sleep?
Many people provide doghouses or a shed for their pigs to sleep in outdoors. Indoors they should have their own cozy bed filled with bedding; a large crate, dogloo or a children’s play tent are all good. Pigs living indoors need comfortable soft bedding. Dog beds and blankets work well. Outdoor houses can be packed with straw or hay. Of course, piggy will love to sleep on the bed with you. Unless you don’t mind this being an every night occurrence, don’t get him started!

Can I keep a pet pig in an apartment?
We recommend against keeping pet pigs in apartments, condos or rentals. Pigs need ample outdoor space, which cannot be provided in an apartment or condo. Renters are too often at the mercy of their landlord and cannot provide a stable home for a pig. Even if a landlord approves a pig as a tenant, frequently, a renter will move and be unable to find another rental that allows pigs.

How do I ‘piggy proof’ my house?
As you would do for any pet, make sure that household cleaning products, insecticides, medicines, lighter fluid and other toxins are out of reach. Remove plants that could harm your pig. Take potted indoor plants off the floor and don’t leave handbags within reach. Pigs love lipstick and chewing gum! They are very cleaver with their snouts and particularly industrious when they smell food. If needed, secure your cabinets with childproof locks. Avoid feeding your pig out of the refrigerator. If your pig learns to open the fridge door, you might have to install a latch. Tape up computer, telephone and electrical wires where possible. We recommend that pigs be kept away from open swimming pools.

Will my pig need a mud wallow?
Pigs do not have sweat glands, so they will attempt to cool down by rolling in mud or water. While piggy will be delighted by a wallow, they are not necessary. Provide your pig with a plastic wading pool filled with water or even keep your pig indoors in air-conditioning on hot days. Simple, inexpensive misting systems can also be easily rigged for outdoor pigs.

Will my pig get along with my dogs and cats?
Pigs and cats frequently become fast friends and bedmates. Dogs, however, are another story. We recommend that you separate your pig from your dogs. While your small dog may eventually get along with your piggy, they must always be closely supervised. As tame as your dog may be, keep in mind that dogs are natural predators of pigs and can turn on pig even years after living together. A dog can easily kill a pig. Don’t leave your pig and dog unattended.

I would like to get a pet pig for my child. Is that a good idea?
Well, that all depends on the age and maturity of the child. If you are getting a pig for a teenager, ask yourself if you are prepared to take care of the pig when your child gets busy with high school activities. Who will take care of the pig when your child leaves for college? We recommend against getting a pig for young children. A pig has a very keen sense of smell and will be attracted to food odors on a child’s hand. It is hard for some pigs to differentiate between food and fingers, unfortunately. It is dangerous to leave a young child unsupervised with a pig or any animal. Children of any age are frequently intrigued with the idea of getting a pet pig, but quickly the responsibility of daily care falls in the hands of parents. Are you prepared for that?

Can a potbellied pig be housebroken?
Yes! A potbellied pig can be housebroken faster than most dogs. If you teach your pig good habits from day one, your pig will not have “accidents” in the house. You can start a piglet with a litter-box if you’d like, but then quickly teach your pig to do his business outdoors in a designated spot. Young piglets need to urinate every hour or two. Mature pigs can hold it longer. We can give you specific instructions for housebreaking your piggy.

What type of training will my pig need?
The more you interact and work with your pig the more bonded you will be to each other and the happier your pig will be. Pigs can easily learn tricks, such as sitting, turning circles, shaking hands, rolling a ball, retrieving an object, blowing a horn and even sinking a basket. It is not necessary to teach your pig tricks for the sake of tricks, but it is necessary to teach your pig good manners. Teaching your pigs simple things like ‘sit’, ‘be gentle’, ‘good spot’ (for doing your business), etc., you will develop a system of communicating with your pig. Pigs love to learn, and are capable of learning many behaviors and words, even full sentences. A training session with your pig shows him that you are interested in him and that you care. And don’t forget to pay your pig! Pigs are highly food-motivated and will do just about anything for a treat. When it comes to training a piggy; a small piece of treat works as well as a handful. Once your pig has learned a few behaviors, reward him only after he’s followed a series of directions. Reward him with a small treat and with lots of praise and enthusiasm, too! Keep the training fun and short, starting with 3 minute sessions and working up.

Should a potbellied pig be spayed or neutered?
Male pigs should be neutered as soon as possible. Boars (uncastrated pigs) give off a pungent, musky odor that will stick to your clothing and furniture. They display sexual behavior at a very early age and can become quite difficult to handle if left intact. Neutering a male will also retard the growth of his tusks. Females should be spayed as soon as possible, preferably before they come into season. If left unspayed, females frequently have uterine problems, such as tumors and infections. Find a qualified potbellied pig veterinarian to perform the procedure and insist that only isoflurane gas be used for anesthesia. Injectible drugs such as ketamine and cocktails used on dogs can result in serious problems, even death. The older and larger your pig gets, the more anesthesias your pig will require and the more dangerous it becomes. Get your pig neutered and spayed as early as possible!

Does my pig need vaccinations or de-worming?
Pigs should be yearly, weather they come into contact with other pigs or not. All pigs should be given, at minimum, an annual dose of “Ivermectin”, an antiparasitical agent that treats internal as well as external parasites. Some recommend quarterly doses of Ivermectin or other wormer. Yearly vaccinations are highly recommended up to at least the age of five.

What type of health problems do pigs have?
Given proper care, most pigs have few health problems. However, there are several serious problems that occasionally arise. Pigs can become easily constipated, leading to impacted bowels, a life-threatening condition. It is important that you provide your pigs with a high-fiber diet and plenty of fresh water. Male pigs can also have serious urinary tract problems, which can be costly to repair. Keeping your pig well hydrated can also prevent these problems. The biggest health problem in potbellied pigs, unfortunately, is a condition caused by their human caregivers. Obesity is the number one cause of health complications and death in potbellied pigs. Morbidly obese pigs can become blind from fatty skin folds that obstruct their vision. Obese pigs will inevitably have crippling joint problems and sometimes have respiratory problems, both conditions leading to immobility and death. Don’t let your pig get fat!

Do my pig’s hooves and tusks need to be trimmed?
While castrating a male pig will slow down the growth of his tusks, tusks will still have to be trimmed from time to time. Female pigs have very slow-growing tusks that rarely need to be trimmed. Both male and female pigs need to have their hooves routinely trimmed, usually once or twice a year. Make sure you locate a veterinarian near you that is capable of performing tusk and hoover trimming.  Prepare your pig for vet visits and trims by handling his feet and tusks.

Can I take my pig on vacation?
Yes, some pigs can travel well, but you have to prepare them. Practice riding in the car long before your vacation. Secure your pig inside an airline kennel and don’t let them ride loose in the car. AAA auto service and pet friendly web sites have lists of pet-friendly motels. If you take your pig out of state you will need a health certificate.

Can I board my pig at a dog kennel?
Some kennels will take pigs, but most are not designed to accommodate a pig. Pigs don’t do very well if kept on cement, especially wet cement for any length of time. You are better off hiring a pet-sitter or boarding your pig at The Lodge at Ross Mill Farm’s Piggy Camp.

Do potbellied pigs come in different colors?
Potbellied pigs come in a variety of colors including black, white, red/brown and pinto. Most potbellied pigs are black with white markings. White pigs are hardest to maintain because they sunburn easily and easily show dirt. They are also prone to drippy eyes.

Do potbellied pigs shed?
Yes and no. Pigs do not shed the way dogs shed. Most pigs will “blow” their coats once or twice a year. They will loose all their hair in the summer months and it will reappear by winter.

Should I get a male or female pig?
Once a male pig has been castrated and a female has been spayed, there is very little difference between the two. It is all a matter of personal preference.

Where can I find out more about potbellied pigs as pets?
There are many books, magazines and websites that are packed with information. We recommend reading Potbellied Pig Parenting by Nancy Shepherd. Also, do an Internet search on “pet pigs”, “potbellied pigs”, “miniature pigs” and you will not be disappointed.

Once I’ve determined that a potbellied pig is right for me, how do I go about getting a pet pig?
Contact a legitimate sanctuary, or rescue group, they will help you find the piggy of your dreams! We recommend that you adopt a pig from a sanctuary or rescue program like http://www.pigplacementnetwork.com. Or if you prefer to get a pig through a breeder, check http://www.petpigs.com for breeders that follow a code of ethics. There are many wonderful pigs just waiting to go home with you!

HAVE MORE QUESTIONS? 

Have more questions? Have them answered by an experienced pig owner – Email ColumbusVetCare@mail.com and address it to Myke. 

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