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What to expect from a pet pig

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Before getting a pet pig, it’s best to have all the facts. Every year, many pet pigs are abandoned to shelters because their owners didn’t have a clear idea of what to expect. Pigs can make lovable pets but can be high maintenance. Pot-bellied or Vietnamese pigs are making their way into more and more homes, and not just those down on the farm.

Is owning a pig legal in the city?

Some urban areas are zoned for pigs, but many are not. Check for local ordinances before moving ahead. If finding this information is difficult, one might consider contacting an animal law attorney.  Some people keep pigs in the yard, but this is not a viable option if the pig is left alone for any length of time; lonely pigs will scream. The pig will need to live indoors, though he should be walked (a leash and harness are fine) on a regular basis. For sleeping, he needs a spot with soft bedding, away from any drafts.

Choosing a pig has to be done with the utmost care. Unscrupulous dealers sell pigs that they claim are the pot-bellied variety, but are in fact not. Beware -- average pigs of "standard" breeds, such as the Poland China or Chester White, can weight 500-900 pounds as adults. Ask to see the stock that confirms the offspring are small, and that both parents and piglets are accustomed to human contact.

He’ll eat anything, right?

Pigs are omnivores, which means that they will eat almost anything. But, like all animals, pigs need a balanced diet, supplemented by a few low-fat tidbits such as salad and vegetables. Food high in sugar is not healthy, and chocolate is a definite no. Commercial pig chow is available, and the breeder should provide feed so that the pig will have some familiar food as he adjusts to his new home.

One instinctual need shared by all pigs is “rooting,” or exploring with their snouts. A rooting pig might overturn a wastebasket and wreak havoc in the garden or yard. Focus on redirecting, not eliminating this habit. Give the pig an area of soft dirt where he can fulfill his urge. His curiosity makes him likely to find things that he shouldn't indoors, too; keep medicine and small items out of reach. “Childproofing” the environment is essential because pigs can become adept at opening cupboards.

Vaccines and upkeep 

Pigs require some vaccinations, and their hooves also require trimming. Checking their feces periodically for parasites is important, and a vet familiar with pigs should evaluate abnormal skin, coughing or sneezing, or other symptoms promptly. 

Because of their high intelligence, pigs enjoy the process of learning tricks; like dogs, they will thrive if they are given the chance to master new skills. They respond well to leash and potty training. But territorial by nature, they may also display aggression, especially if not handled firmly. Pigs respond well to positive reinforcement and should never be hit or hurt. Consistent rules, praise for good behavior, and correction or redirection with lots of repetition and patience will help produce a well-mannered pig that everyone can enjoy.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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