Thanks to social media outlets, celebrity pet pig parents, and countless TV shows and movies, micro-pigs have exploded in popularity over the last several years. Otherwise known as teacup or Juliana pigs, these little four-legged pets are not only roaming farms, but living in homes now, too.
You've probably seen the super cute videos of tiny piglets cuddling with puppies or drinking from equally tiny bottles. But do teacup pigs actually stay that small forever? And do they really make good pets?
01 of 09
"Teacup" Pigs Don't Really Exist
Nope, "teacup" is not a breed of pig, and it's not quite a nickname for a new breed either. Rather, "teacup" is a label breeders give regular potbellied pigs that have been malnourished to stunt their growth or are falsely advertised as miniature.
It's true that potbellied pigs are generally smaller than the standard farm pig. They can weigh between 100 and 200 pounds, while farm pigs run about 1,000 pounds. But that's far from the 10 to 12-pound "teacup" claim many breeders make. Even the smallest potbellied pig will weigh between 60 and 90 pounds, and may be considered underweight depending on the pig's stature, activity levels, and environment.
02 of 09
Maintaining a "Teacup" Pig's Small Size Seriously Hurts Their Health
It's tough to hear, but many "teacup" breeders use cruel methods to keep their pigs small or stunt their growth. Two of the most common techniques are:
- Inbreeding: Potbellied pigs are inbred to propagate their smaller stature. This lack of genetic diversity can lead to a whole host of health issues in their offspring. For example, according to one study, "squished" snouts are prevalent among inbred "teacup" pigs, and can lead to severe respiratory issues down the road. This is just one of the many health conditions "teacup" pigs can experience due to inbreeding.
- Starvation: Another way many "teacup" breeders ensure a smaller stature is by underfeeding pigs in order to stunt their growth. They often encourage owners to drastically restrict their diets, too. Essentially, these pigs are starved, so they won't thrive. The result? The pigs' skeletal systems remain small, but their internal organs continue to grow to their full size, which can lead to bone deformities and bone frailty, among other serious health issues.
03 of 09
What You See Isn't What You Get With "Teacup" Pigs
If a "teacup" breeder shows you your potential piggy's parents, he or she is probably just showing you potbellied piglets. Pigs can breed as young as three months old. Because of this, parents to piglets are oftentimes piglets themselves — meaning you can't determine how big your "teacup" pig will be based on the size and appearance of his or her parents.
What's more, some shady "teacup" pig breeders will simply show potential buyers infant potbellied pigs that will eventually grow into full-sized adolescents and adults.
04 of 09
"Teacup" Pigs Are Extremely Expensive
If you want to purchase a "teacup" pig, be prepared to drop a whopping $750 to $3,500 on your new pet. After buying, the cost of keeping a pig as a pet only climbs from there.
Because many "teacup" owners believe their pigs will remain small, they don't even consider the cost of raising a 100-pound (plus) pig in their home. Between adequate food supply (potbellied pigs can eat a lot), check-ups and vaccinations at the veterinarian, and other piggy supplies, it can cost thousands of dollars each year to own a pig. Plus, it's recommended that all domesticated male pigs be sterilized. But, this may prove challenging, as it may be difficult to track down a specialty vet who can perform the surgery.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
"Teacup" Pigs Have a Very Short Lifespan
Although the average potbellied pig is expected to live anywhere between 12 and 18 years, a "teacup" pig's lifespan typically hovers around five years due to issues with their skeletal and immune systems. Genetic disorders caused by inbreeding can also contribute to a shorter lifespan.
06 of 09
Pigs Need a Lot of Space
Pigs in general take up a lot of space, and not just because they're large in size. Pigs are incredibly intelligent animals that can become bored, depressed, angry, and territorial when they don't have the space to explore, root, or dig in mud and dirt. Some can even become aggressive towards humans and bite or charge. Many pigs are abandoned or surrendered to shelters simply because their owners don't have the space to keep them happy, healthy, and engaged.
07 of 09
Owning Any Kind of Pig May Be Illegal Where You Live
Believe it or not, keeping a pig as a pet may be illegal where you live. Zoning laws in several states consider pigs strictly farm animals and won't allow them in non-farming or non-agricultural settings.
If you're considering adding a pig to the family, be sure to check out the zoning laws in your area. A little bit of research can help prevent the abandonment or surrendering of many domesticated pigs each year.
08 of 09
Pigs Are Herd Animals
Did you know pigs are extremely social animals? Much like dogs, pigs develop "packs," often playing, lounging, and sleeping together. Depriving a pig of his or her social interaction can cause the pig to become bored, restless, or depressed, and he or she may act out aggressively.
That being said, it's best to keep at least two pigs at a time, but many "teacup" owners who find themselves struggling with a 100 pound-plus pig will have an even harder time with two or more. Not to mention, double the pigs means double the expenses for food, supplies, and vet visits.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Owning a Pig Is Not Like Owning a Cat or Dog
It's true that pigs are extremely intelligent, playful animals who are capable of forming deep, loving bonds with their humans. For some families, they're the perfect pet! Owning a pig, however, is entirely different than owning a cat or a dog. New pig owners are often surprised to learn how much work and money pig ownership truly requires.
Unfortunately, many people who purchase "teacup" pigs are not prepared for them to grow into full-sized adolescents and adults. When the pigs grow too large, develop health problems, or display destructive behavior, they're often surrendered to shelters or simply abandoned.
The bottom line? If you're considering purchasing a pig, ensure you have plenty of space, plenty of patience, and the budget to keep him or her happy and healthy.