How to Decide If a Pet Pig Is Right for You
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Chantelle has been an online writer for more than four years; she has been an animal lover her entire life.
Pigs as Pets
The popularity of pigs as pets does not seem to be waning. Though they are hypoallergenic, clean, intelligent, loving, and stinking cute, they are different from a cat or dog and present their own challenges. While they can be wonderful pets, there are some things you'll want to consider before you make a purchase or adopt. The last thing you want to have to do is get rid of a pet (which, if that pet is a pig, might not be that easy to do).
How Big Can a Pig Get?
Many people are not prepared for the fact that the cute little piglet they were told would stay small can grow to 100 pounds. Pigs can produce offspring at the age of three months.
At this age, they are still small, and unscrupulous breeders will be more than happy to show you the parents of the piglet you want to buy without telling you how big they truly become. Breeders will also keep pigs small by simply not feeding them very much. They are small because they are malnourished. Pigs were bred as livestock, not pets, so unless you want a 100-pound farmyard animal as a pet, do them a favor and don't get one.
Do Pigs Make Good Companions?
Though pigs were originally bred as livestock and not family pets, they can still be good companions. Pigs are pack animals and crave body heat and the closeness of a pack. They are affectionate and love to have their tummies rubbed and to snuggle. They squeal with delight, bark when they sense danger, and make a coughing sound when they are mad. Many owners dress up their pigs, take them for long walks, travel with them and even sleep with them.
Pigs are highly social animals. Some need the companionship of other pigs, so you may be looking at buying two pigs, not one. Most cannot be left home alone during the day as they will become destructive. They are also territorial and will claim your house as their own. Giving them plenty of time outside should help with this. On the farm, pigs establish a pecking order and will do so in your home as well without strict discipline. Pigs that are allowed to rule the roost can become aggressive toward people, so you will need to make sure you are the pack leader.
What Are the Care and Feeding Requirements for a Pig?
Pigs are generally quite healthy animals. One visit to the vet per year is all they need to get vaccinations and hoof trimming. Pigs have bristly hair that is hypoallergenic and does not shed, making them a good alternative to dogs and cats for people who suffer from pet allergies. Despite the prevailing stereotype, they are clean and odorless and can live up to 20 years.
It is true, however, that pigs love to eat. There are feeds that are designed for potbelly pigs and should always be the mainstay of their diet. Pigs should never be fed dog or cat food as the protein level is too high. Pigs can be given treats, but they should be limited to fruits and vegetables. Pigs can become overweight and can develop leg problems.
Because pigs can't sweat, they will need a mud hole or kiddie pool to cool off during hot weather. They will also need sun protection, whether it is mud or sunscreen.
Before purchasing your pig, make sure you can find locally available care from a qualified veterinarian. In many suburban and urban areas, this can be quite a challenge. Many municipalities ban the keeping of livestock as pets, so there is very little need for vet care in these areas.
Can Pigs Be Trained?
Pigs are quite smart. Studies put their intelligence at about the level of a typical three-year-old child, and they require mental stimulation to be a content friend. They can easily learn to open the refrigerator and cupboards looking for food. The upside is their intelligence makes them easy to train. They can easily be housebroken and love to learn to do new tricks, especially when food is used as positive reinforcement.
Because they are highly intelligent and social, they become bored and lonely easily and should not be left home alone for long periods of time. They will explore household objects without regard for their potential for destruction. They have been known to rip up carpets, eat drywall, turn over plants to sniff through the dirt, tip wastebasket, and cause a wide variety of mayhem too numerous to mention.
A pack animal, they also need a recognized leader. Without one, they will step into the role, which with their territorial instincts, can lead them to become aggressive toward people. Giving them plenty of mental and physical stimulation, as well as consistent discipline, is necessary to prevent these behaviors.
What's Their Temperament?
Rooting is a pig’s natural way to familiarize themselves with an environment and find food. When outside, pigs will tear up any yard in search of food from the ground. They are known to eat anything from acorns to worms. Their natural need to root cannot be broken and will lead to a torn-up yard. Additionally, pigs are built for a cool, low-stress environment. When under stress, they can develop pneumonia, which can quickly kill a pig. If your house always seems to be hoppin', a pig may not be right for you.
Still Undecided? Consider a Mini-Pig
If a 100-pound pig isn't your idea of miniature, BGI, a genomics institute located in Shenzhen, China, will start selling genetically engineered miniature pigs for $1600.
Using a BAMA, an already small breed of pig, they disable a copy of the growth hormone receptor gene to make it even smaller. They then clone the pigs from the fetus, which produces a stunted male BAMA pig. The male is then bred with a normal female, which results in half of the offspring being micropigs.
Normal BAMAs can weigh up to 100 pounds. The genetically altered pigs grow up to 30 pounds when mature.
BGI has not observed any health problems associated with the cloned pigs and, in the future, promises to offer miniature pigs in a variety of coat colors and patterns.
Things to Know Before You Adopt a Pig
- Pigs become very attached to their humans. Pigs have been known to become quite depressed when removed from their homes.
- Should you buy a pig and then decide it isn't working out, there are pig rescue organizations. They are, however, quite full.
- While cats and pigs are known to become fast friends, dogs are a natural predator of pigs and are probably not a good fit.
- Spay or neuter your pig as soon as possible. Male pigs that are not neutered will develop a musky scent that sticks to clothes and furniture. Females can develop uterine problems if they are not spayed.
- Pigs can be taken on vacation. You will need to practice riding in the car with them until they are comfortable. However, if you leave your state, you will need a health certificate, and finding a hotel could be challenging.
- Most kennels do not take pigs. They are simply not set up to provide them with the care they need. Hiring a pig sitter is probably a better choice.
- Consider adopting a pig from a rescue organization or pig sanctuary. Many people have the best of intentions but abandoned their animals, so there are plenty of pigs to choose from. If they are full-grown, you will see their size, get a good idea of their temperament and if they have any health issues.
Pigs aren’t for me on September 02, 2019:
I wouldn’t get a pig because I have chickens three dogs and five cats so I don’t think a pig is for my family but still they are cute
Heather Mann on August 28, 2019:
I want a pet pig
pigs are cute on November 20, 2018:
pigs are cute
Lisa on July 31, 2018:
Pigs do shed! Pot bellies will blow their entire coat in the spring & my kunekune sheds enormously as well although not his entire coat. Also, the statement that they can grow to as much as 100 pounds is an understatement! Anything under 300 lbs is considered a mini pig. My pigs hate water & mud. They just need constant access to DRINKING water. And yes, they learn very quickly & easily but this doesn't mean they are easy to train. It means you have to be even more creative because they will train you in about 5 minutes....
Caleria on June 18, 2018:
I love piggies!!! Mine thinks she is a dog lol she follows my dog around sometimes and my golden retriever simply adores my pig.
Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on June 04, 2018:
I think he sounds like he’s a blast. I wonder how my toy poodle would react to a pig?
Trish on June 03, 2018:
And mine is a mini pot bellied juliana
Trish on June 03, 2018:
My pig is absolutely the best pet I ever had!! He is a year old, many tricks, potty trained at a young age, healthy diet that puts him at 41 lbs. , and has been socialized since 6 weeks old. And live car rides and outdoor restaurants for salads
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on March 07, 2017:
Superb hub! Easy to read and understand. Wonderfully-presented. I enjoyed this work very much. I urge you to keep up the great work.
I have loved baby pigs for years. But now I own or nurture six beautiful cats. My wife and I "discuss" us having a pet pig for our grandkids--and her point is, "baby pigs turn into big pigs who have big appetites and we simply cannot afford the feed."
Oh well. I can dream.
Loved this hub.
Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on November 21, 2015:
I have never seen one in person. They look really cute.
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on November 21, 2015:
I met a pot bellied pig once. She was adorable and did lots of tricks, but I had no idea how old she was. She was a small animal at the time and very delightful.
Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on November 16, 2015:
I don't think a pig is for me either. They're really cute but I'm pretty content with my loving, but lethargic, poodle.
drbj and sherry from south Florida on November 16, 2015:
I'm tempted to get a potbelly pig as a pet but after reading this very complete treatise, I realize it would be unwise. So I'll have to settle for collecting non-living specimens instead of the real thing ... which is another story!
Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on November 10, 2015:
Thanks. I wrote this for my "adopted" daughter (close friend of my son) who can't stop about buying a pig. She adores them.
Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on November 10, 2015:
Interesting hub and creative idea. Loved the info and photos.
Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on November 09, 2015:
100 pounds is too big for me. But then I have a 6 pound poodle! LOL
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 09, 2015:
100 pounds does not sound too bad, just like a large breed dog, but a friend that had a pig that size had all of her dog pens and garden fences destroyed. They are really strong. The 30 pound option sounds like a good pet.
12. What happens to unwanted pigs?
In the end, like so many fad pets before them, it is the pigs who pay the price for their popularity. Well-intentioned but poorly-informed caregivers become overwhelmed and, as a result, many pet pigs are relinquished to shelters, rescues and hobby farms. However, pet pigs can be very hard to re-home, as these groups often have little or no capacity to take in unwanted pigs. You may be left facing euthanasia by a vet.
“Releasing pigs into the wild is illegal and inhumane, as pigs used to living as a pet have no experience in the wild,” adds Salumets. “If the pig does manage to survive and reproduce, the surrounding environment could be negatively impacted.”
“We need to learn from the past,” urges Cant. “Other animals, such as turtles and hedgehogs, have had their 15 minutes of fame in the pet trade too. Many are no longer popular because people have realized they are just not suitable as pets. Sadly, though, the realization often comes only after the animals have suffered.”
For more information on this issue, you can email the BC SPCA.
To adopt a pig from the BC SPCA and sign up for alerts to be notified when pigs come into our care, check our our farm animal adoption page for available farm animals.
How to Care for Mini Pigs at Home
Mini pigs are intelligent animals and they love to navigate and explore. They have lots of curiosity, just like human toddlers, and they will seek to get into your cupboards and cabinets, closets, and bins. For your mini pig's safety as well as the protection of your possessions, "pig-proof" your home as you would child-proof it for your tot. Here's how:
- Try child-proof locks on cabinets, and block off areas you do not want your mini pig to explore.
- Make sure there are no sharp edges or objects around the home that could injure your pet as he wanders from room to room.
- Supervise your pig, especially when young, when he roams the house.
- Leave him in a smaller secured area or pen when you leave the home.
Miniature Pig Discipline 101: What to Know
Miniature pigs are intelligent creatures. Unfortunately, miniature pigs can also be aggressive creatures, especially if they aren’t disciplined properly and consistently from a young age. This aggressive behaviour can lead to biting, among other issues, that no individual or family should have to deal with.
Aggressive behaviour usually doesn’t occur because your pig is upset or angry at you but because they are trying to assert their dominance in the household. As such, it’s important that you address the problem early on.
The Problem: There is No Proper Training
If there’s one major problem when it comes to micro pigs and discipline, it’s that many owners believe they’ve established patterns of discipline but actually haven’t. In fact, many owners think that just because their pig understands “No!” or other disciplinary phrases, that they’re “disciplined.” But this isn’t necessarily true.
Delving a bit deeper into the supposed “discipline,” many owners reveal that the pig does, in fact, run the show. This might mean that your pig will listen when you say no, but do the unwanted behaviour when no one is looking. It might also mean that you can pick up the pig, but only on their terms.
Unfortunately, this can leave a pig feeling dominant and feel aggressive that may not have been present before. Luckily, you can do something about it.
Step-by-Step Guide to Eliminate Dominant Behaviour in Your Micro Pig
At six months of age, your micro pig will begin testing the waters of what they can get away with. As such, it’s important that you take proactive steps to stop the behaviour either before it starts or shortly thereafter to prevent a minor issue from becoming a major problem.
Common signs of aggressive behaviour in miniature pigs include:
- Standing still while holding their head low, often before biting
- Snapping in the air
- Lunging to nip a rival, and then stepping back
- Swinging their head in a sideways motion and
Here is a step-by-step guide of how to confront aggressive behaviour in your pet:
- Gently Hold Your Pig’s Mouth Closed – By first petting your pig, you can get them comfortable as you hold their mouth closed. You may even want to move a few inches away and do the same. This is preparation to make the necessary behavioural corrections.
- Create the Situation – Pigs will often snap or bite at you in reaction to the same event. You should set up this event so when the negative behaviour occurs, you can reach to the pig and hold their mouth shut. You should hold it shut for three seconds and when you release, state a firm “No!” This puts you in control of the situation and prevents you from having to chase the pig, which can interfere with how he or she learns to correct negative behaviour.
- Increase the Severity of Punishment – You can do this by increasing the time you hold the pig’s mouth shut by 1 second every time you’re forced to do so. It’s important you remain calm and don’t show emotion when this happens. You should also continue on with life as usual after the event and not punish your pig by ignoring them or locking them away.
- Continue With the Process Until the Behaviour Stops – If your pig still has not learned by the time you’re counting to 15 seconds, it’s important to escalate punishment. You can do so by lifting the pig off their front legs while holding their mouth shut for 5 seconds. You may also want to drag the pig backwards at increasing intervals until the behaviour has ended.
Don’t Give Up on Your Pig!
Some owners are frightened or unsure about aggressive behaviour in their pet micro pig and as such, are tempted to find a new home for their pet in desperation.
However, with four to five weeks of careful, consistent discipline, you can show your pet who is in charge and get back on track to a happy, healthy relationship with your pet.
Potbellied Pig: Species Profile
Potbellied pigs can be charming, intelligent, and affectionate companions. But they're not good pets for everyone. There's no doubt that when given the proper care and training, a potbellied pig can make a much-loved addition to a home. However, some people don't realize the demands of keeping pigs as pets and are overwhelmed by their needs. Pigs are quite smart and curious, and it can be difficult to keep them entertained. Plus, it can be hard to manage a healthy diet for a pig, largely because of their insatiable appetite. Overall, expect to spend a lot of time each day socializing with your pet pig, as well as keeping it exercised through play and outdoor time.
Common Name: Potbellied pig
Scientific Name: Sus scrofa domesticus
Adult Size: 2.5 feet long on average weighs between 100 and 250 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12 to 18 years on average