A Pet Pig? You Bet!

Full-grown pig
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While farm pigs are the same species as pet pigs, they do not make suitable pets — they can weigh up to 800 pounds.

Feeding: Pigs should be fed commercially available pelleted diets formulated specifically for mini pigs and should not be offered diets for farm hogs that are too high in fat and protein. Such diets will result in too-rapid growth and obesity. Formulated diets for pet pigs also need to be changed as the animal grows, so that they match the life stage of the pet (juvenile, adult and senior). To lessen chances of obesity, food can be offered in small amounts throughout the day or hidden in a toy that has holes in it that slowly releases the food as the pig plays with it. Pigs can be offered small amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits as treats but should not be fed human snack foods, fatty meat, cat and dog food, corn, seed or other items that can make them fat. Fresh water should be available at all times, and food and water must be offered in containers fastened to the ground so that not-so-delicate pigs don’t tip them over when eating.

Housing: Big or small, pigs require a significant amount of space. The rule of thumb is a minimum of 8 by 15 feet per pig, with more space being better. If housed outdoors, pigs need an insulated space of at least 6 square feet in which to sleep; this area should be fenced with mesh that extends a foot below ground to prevent digging and escape. Pens should have tile or linoleum floors and be easy to clean. Blankets should be provided for warmth and to decrease slipping. Both indoor and outdoor pigs must be provided with a litterbox (either an area outside or a large, shallow, plastic pan indoors). Outdoor pigs must be shaded from sun (their skin burns easily) and must not get overheated (they cannot sweat). They are most comfortable between 60 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Even pigs housed indoors need to go out to keep their hooves worn down. That means city-dwelling pigs will need to be walked on a leash with a very secure harness!

Enrichment: Regardless of size, all pigs root — or dig — with their noses and will get into everything and anything they can to try to find food. If you don’t want your pig rooting up your floor, walls, landscaping or other inappropriate structures, you’ll need to provide a rooting box to encourage this behavior in a controlled space. A large dog kennel and a child’s wading pool with a cutout for the pig to walk through are both great options. Large stones, paper bags, comforters, beach balls, cardboard boxes and newspapers all may be put into the rooting box with small amounts of dry food and treats for the pig to root for and find. The box must be cleaned when it becomes soiled or wet. Pigs that are not provided with environmental enrichment may become bored, destructive and sometimes aggressive.

Noise: If you’ve never heard a pig scream, the best way to describe it is to compare it to the sound of a shrieking person. Pigs are generally very social and quiet but will scream when they are begging for food, are scared or are being restrained. The sound of a screaming pig can be disturbing if you’re unfamiliar with it, and it typically isn’t something a nearby neighbor appreciates. Excessive noise is one of the main reasons many urban pigs ultimately are given up to shelters.

Medical care: Pet pigs need annual examinations, just like dogs and cats. They should have their stool examined for parasites, and they require annual vaccinations for several viral and bacterial infections, including tetanus. Young pigs, like puppies and kittens, require a vaccination series starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age and need boosters annually. Pigs require regular grooming, including trimming of continuously growing canine teeth (tusks that can get long and sharp, especially in males) and hoof trimming (especially of indoor pigs that don’t wear hooves down as rapidly as those that go outdoors). To reduce the chance of problem behaviors developing at sexual maturity, female pigs should be spayed and males neutered by 3 to 6 months of age. Anesthesia can be complicated in pigs, so only veterinarians familiar with pig anatomy should perform surgery in pigs.

Is a Pig Right for You?

Pigs are very intelligent, social, unique animals and can make great pets under the right circumstances. However, like other exotic pets, mini pigs are not right for everyone. If you’re considering owning a pet pig, remember, they can live up to 15 to 20 years, can grow larger than you might anticipate and require a great deal of care. If you’ve got the time, space, finances and patience to train a cute, muscular eating machine, perhaps a pig is a perfect pick for you.

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