Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 25, 2013

Bringing home 'Babe': What you should know before getting a pet pig

Pet Talk
CNHI News Service

When most people think of their ideal pet, a certain breed of dog or cat instantly comes to mind. However, for those who love more exotic pets and are willing to put in a little more time and effort, a pot-bellied pig can be an ideal choice.

Pot-bellied pigs, including mini and micro pigs, can make good indoor and outdoor pets," said Philippa Sprake, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). "Pigs are social animals and each has their own personality.

While pigs are unbelievably intelligent (and adorable), there are a few things pet-owners should know before bringing little Wilbur home to stay.

The first thing future owners should do is check with their local homeowners’ association as well as their home’s zoning regulations to ensure that pigs can be kept on the property. Pigs can be extremely noisy, especially when adapting to a new environment, and the last thing any new pet owner wants is an angry neighbor or landlord trying to have the pet removed.

"When it comes to deciding on a piglet, it is very important to choose one that is at least 8 weeks old, weaned, and comes from a reputable breeder to ensure that it is healthy," said Sprake. "Also, even though they are called miniature, micro pigs can still grow to around 40 pounds and full size or traditional pot belly pigs can reach 100 pounds or more, so it is important to see the parents of the pig you are planning on taking home to evaluate your piglet’s potential adult size."

Pigs can be trained very similarly to dogs using positive reinforcement techniques such as clicker training. They are also highly food-motivated, so it is important to make sure that their treats are low in calories, such as fresh fruits or vegetables, in order to prevent obesity.

Sprake said young pigs should be fed pig-specific feed and should have access to fresh water at all times.

All pigs need access to the outdoors so they can root, which is an instinctive behavior in which the pig digs in the ground with its snout searching for food and obtaining iron from the soil, which is vital to prevent anemia.

"Pigs are sensitive to both hot and cold temperature extremes," said Sprake. "Therefore they need shelter from the sun, wind and rain … Pigs can also be kept inside as they are easily house-trained or litter-box trained."

Pet pigs, like their livestock counterparts, should be checked regularly by a veterinarian to ensure that they are healthy as possible. They should be vaccinated and spayed or neutered. 

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.