Pigs are becoming increasingly popular to keep as pets. However, these are not the same pigs as you would necessarily find on a farm. Many people prefer "mini" pigs, which are much smaller than typical farm pigs, but perhaps not as small as you'd think. For example, these "mini" pigs can weigh as much as 180 pounds (compare that to farm pigs, which can grow to more than 600-1,000 pounds). So yes, they are smaller, but nowhere near tiny. Regardless, pet pigs can be wonderful, but there are some important things to consider before you make the decision to get one for yourself. Let's explore them below.
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How long do pigs live as pets?
"Teacup" or "micro" pigs are actually just baby potbellied pigs. They can live from 12 to 18 years (even up to 20!), but sometimes lack of proper care as pets means they only live about five years, before they've even fully matured. They can grow to be 100-150 pounds, so the term "teacup" is definitely misleading. These pigs will need a lot of space if you intend to keep them as pets. Sadly, many people get "mini" or "teacup" pigs when they are still very small piglets and then realize, as the pigs grow to their full weight, that they got much more than they bargained for. Make sure you understand that these pet pigs will grow before you purchase or adopt one.
What do pigs eat?
The stereotype is true: pigs love to eat. Pigs are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They need a varied diet to be in peak health. In the wild, for example, pigs root around, or forage, to find roots, fruits and flowers, even insects. On farms, pigs will often be fed corn and soybean meal with some vitamins/minerals added.
For your pet pig, you can feed it potbellied pig chow, which you can get from certain suppliers. Rations will depend on your pig's size, age, stage of development and status as a pet or breeding pig. Piglets ranging in age from five weeks to three months of age will need about 3/4 cup of chow daily. For adult pigs (three months and older), about two cups of chow daily is recommended. In the winter, if it's particularly cold, you may want to increase this slightly, as pigs will burn more calories when it's cold.
You can also feed your pet pig a fresh salad every day, while limiting fruit intake (fruit can have too much sugar and calories). Limit starchy vegetables like potatoes, as well. Some great snacks include unsalted, unbuttered popcorn, fresh or dehydrated fruits and vegetables, but not citrus fruits, and cereals and crackers that are also free of salt and sugar.
How much space do pigs need?
In a word, lots. Pigs need plenty of space to root around and play. Do not consider keeping them in a small apartment like you would a small or medium dog -- and occasionally taking it outside. Now that you know that these "mini" and "teacup" pigs can weigh as much as 150-180 pounds, you can understand that the more space you have the better. Pet pigs will also often not want to be confined in a home all day. They need space to root around and graze outside if they are to be happy and healthy.
Also, please note that some states may not recognize your pet pig as strictly a pet but as livestock. In Miami-Dade County, for example, all livestock is banned, so you may not be able to keep a pet pig there.
What are pig personalities like?
Pigs can be very hyper, wild and even destructive. Unlike a dog or cat, you do not want to leave your pet pig home alone—he will become bored and you may come back to a house you no longer recognize.
Pigs are very social, and are happiest when surrounded by other pigs. Many pet pig owners prefer to have at least two so that their pets will have each other to socialize with. Pigs can also be rather hierarchical and feel the need to establish some sort of pecking order. This problem can be alleviated if you have more than one pig, but if you don't, you might find that your pet pig is challenging you and your other non-pig pets for dominance. This can result in aggressive behavior.
Can you train a pig?
You can certainly train a pig, and you should start while they're young, just as you would with a dog. Basic commands and tricks can be taught to your pet pig with food used as an incentive. Cheerios, shredded wheat, unbuttered, unsalted popcorn and pieces of fruit like apple can be used as a reward while you teach them certain behaviors. Repeating words, using consistency and establishing a routine will be of significant help as you strive to teach your pet pig certain commands like sit, come, no and stay, among some extras like wave or shake.
Bonding with your pig
Bonding with your pet pig can be tough. Dogs, for example, seem to bond with their owners rather quickly, but with pigs it can take months. Your pet pig might exhibit some stubborn habits, only wanting to do whatever it wants, without necessarily paying you any mind. However, they tend to come around with time, and can be very affectionate and playful. Your pet pig will enjoy spending time with you and getting belly rubs and treats, but it won't be obsessed with you. It really does need other pigs around to truly be comfortable and happy, so that's definitely something to keep in mind.
We hope this article gave you enough information to determine whether you want a pet pig of your own. Remember, they can get to be quite big, they can have destructive tendencies and often do best with other pigs around. If you cannot provide them with lots of space, don't torture them and yourself by trying to force them into a small area without plenty of outdoor space where they can indulge in their natural behaviors. Getting a pet pig is a big step, just like with any pet, and it's important that you understand what will be expected of you, and know whether you can provide it.