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
Potbellied Pig Behavior and Temperament
Some people equate having a pig with having a dog. And while the species share some characteristics, such as their social and playful nature, pigs do still have a unique set of behaviors. Pigs are very intelligent and trainable. They can be house trained, learn to walk on a leash, and even perform some tricks. However, they are generally a bit headstrong and sensitive. A person must earn their cooperation through lots of positive reinforcement, especially treats.
A pig’s intelligence means it will become bored and potentially destructive easily when it doesn’t have enough activities and social interaction. Also, by nature pigs like to root around (use their snouts to search) for food, possibly knocking over objects in your home and tearing up your yard in the process. Hiding some of their daily food in treat puzzles or in a portion of your yard where you don’t mind them rooting can help to satisfy this behavior.
Pigs can form close bonds with humans. They also can learn to coexist peacefully with other animals in the house, especially when raised together from a young age. In fact, keeping multiple friendly pigs together is often better than having just one pig due to their social nature.
Pet pigs love to be scratched and massaged by their humans, and many will happily sit next to you and cuddle. They’re generally friendly animals, though they can become aggressive toward people or other animals if they feel threatened, frightened, or territorial. Spaying or neutering your pig can help to control hormones that often lead to aggression. In addition, pigs can produce some extremely loud vocalizations when they express their emotions. If you're looking for a quiet pet, a pig isn't it.
Pigs need to be taught to respect their owners by having rules and boundaries. This is one of the most important factors for a pet pig's overall care. Consistently praise good behaviors, and aim to redirect or give a firm "no" to bad behaviors. Repetition and patience are key in producing a well-mannered potbellied pig that has a good relationship with its family.
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Housing the Potbellied Pig
Because pigs are smart and curious, you’ll need to pig-proof any areas of your house where the pig will have access, much like you’d baby-proof a home for a toddler. Cover electrical sockets, make sure any steps are off-limits, and remove tripping hazards, such as cords and rugs. Although they can be destructive if they don't have enough of their own toys to play with, pigs are fairly clean animals. You can potty train your pig to use a litter box or go outside. Use praise or healthy treats as a reward.
Moreover, give your pig a space of its own, such as a large crate or tent. Having that personal space can help a pig feel calm. Also, it's ideal to provide an indoor rooting box filled with rocks and other natural materials where your pig can use its snout to search for little bits of food you place in the box. And finally, your pig needs exercise to prevent constipation, so regular access to the outdoors for playtime and walks is a necessity.
Food and Water
Pigs can be unrelenting in their quest for food. They can learn to open the fridge, cupboards, and pantry—anywhere they think food might be lurking. They also can become demanding, begging for food and even getting aggressive with people who have food.
Your pig's diet should include pig pellets that are low in protein and fat and high in fiber. Follow the pellet instructions and consult your veterinarian for the appropriate amount to feed. Fresh, nonstarchy vegetables should make up 25 percent of the pig's daily diet. You also can provide alfalfa hay or bran for fiber, and many veterinarians recommend giving a pet pig a multivitamin.
Many owners opt to feed two meals per day in the morning and evening in a bowl, as well as scatter some of the pig's daily diet in a designated rooting area for enrichment. In fact, rooting in the dirt is also a way for your pig to take in minerals, including iron and selenium. Finally, make sure a large bowl of fresh water is always available.
Common Health Problems
Thanks to their healthy appetite, pigs are easily overfed. And many become obese when they are adults, which can lead to arthritis and other serious diseases. A fat roll over your pig's eyes indicates the pet is overweight. If that's the case, discuss your pig's diet with your veterinarian. And avoid feeding your pig fatty or salty foods, as well as table scraps. Make sure everyone in your household is on board with not giving the pig extra snacks.
On the flip side, if your pig stops eating that's typically a sign something is wrong. Some possibilities include an infection or a gastrointestinal blockage. If this occurs, consult a vet as soon as possible.
Pigs that are overheated may be depressed, inactive, and recumbent and show open-mouth breathing or panting with an initial fever followed by a subnormal and decreasing temperature. If you notice this, make sure the pig has access to a shady, cool spot. Moreover, pigs with light skin are prone to sunburn and skin cancer. In addition to shade, it's ideal to use sunscreen on them whenever they go outside.
Furthermore, one of the most common ailments in potbellied pigs is mange, a skin condition caused by mites. Pigs get dry, scaly, and itchy skin when afflicted with mange. So if you notice this, have a veterinarian see your pig.
An annual wellness check by a veterinarian who specializes in potbellied pigs is recommended. In addition, regular hoof trims are necessary throughout a pig’s lifetime to prevent foot and leg problems.
Purchasing Your Potbellied Pig
Potbellied pigs are legal in many areas, though some places classify them as livestock and require certain types of enclosures and permits. Other places allow pigs up to a certain size to be kept as pets, as long as they are kept on a leash or in an enclosed area outdoors. Because state laws generally treat pigs as legal livestock, it's your local laws that you'll need to pay attention to.
Always obtain a pig from a reputable breeder or rescue organization. In fact, there are many pigs in rescue groups from owners who didn't understand their care requirements, and a rescue can help you find a suitable pig for your lifestyle. Avoid purchasing a pig over the internet or through any channel where you're not able to visit with the animal before committing. Also, aim to speak with other people who have gotten an animal from the breeder or rescue to learn about their experience.
The seller should be able to provide you with detailed information about the pig's history, health, and temperament. Look for a pig that is friendly, bright, and alert. Some red flags include a lethargic pig or one that doesn't want to take food from you. Expect to pay around $500 on average at a breeder and less at a rescue.
Potbellied Pig Size Categories
One key factor to be aware of before getting a pet pig is how large it will grow. While potbellied pigs are classified by size, there are disagreements about the names, weights, and heights of the different classifications. Here are the most common sizes:
- Potbellied pigs, Vietnamese potbellied pigs, Kunekune pigs, and Chinese potbellied pigs generally grow anywhere from 125 pounds to over 200 pounds and 16 to 26 inches tall.
- Miniature potbellied pigs reach roughly 35 to 60 pounds and 15 to 16 inches tall.
- Teacup potbellied pigs are usually 35 to 45 pounds and 14.5 inches tall.
- Toy potbellied pigs reach around 35 to 40 pounds and 14 inches tall.
- Royal Dandies grow to around 29 to 39 pounds and 15 inches tall.
- Micro Mini Pigs grow to roughly 18 to 30 pounds and 10 to 12.5 inches tall.
- Dandie Extremes reach around 12 to 29 pounds and 12 inches tall.
- Mini Julianas reach roughly 15 to 28 pounds and 8 to 12.5 inches tall.
It is possible to be misled by unscrupulous breeders who breed pigs before they are fully mature and at full size and claim the offspring will be the parents' size at maturity.
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