Although some people would never consider sharing their home with a pig, there are many people who are charmed by intelligence and the personality of their pet pigs. There is no doubt that given the proper expectations as well as care and training, a pot bellied pig can make an interesting and much-loved addition to the home. However, many people find that pigs are demanding pets and are overwhelmed by their needs - as shown by the abundance of shelters overflowing with pigs (one such shelter, PIGS, a Sanctuary houses more than 200 abandoned pigs at times)
Before discussing the negative aspects of pigs, it must be noted that pigs have several desirable qualities. They are intelligent, readily trained, affectionate, curious, playful, clean, generally quiet, odor free, and usually non-allergenic. Many owners consider their pigs an integral part of the family and involve them in all their activities. However, there are a few things potential owners should know. PIGS neatly summarizes the pros and cons of pet pig ownership. Pigs are complex creatures and require an owner who understands their needs.
Pigs are very intelligent. This is usually a positive trait, and in fact pot bellied pigs are quite trainable, much the same as a dog (i.e. can be house trained, leash trained, and will learn a few tricks). However, their intelligence can make them a bit of a handful, too. They are curious and playful, but also head-strong and sensitive. Without appropriate stimulation, they will become easily bored, and possibly destructive.
Pigs are also unrelenting in their quest for food - and can learn to open the fridge, cupboards, pantry - wherever food may be lurking. They can become demanding, begging for food, and even getting aggressive with kids that have food. Pigs also "root," or dig/explore with their snouts - and in doing so may overturn items in the house, including wastebaskets, and can disrupt the landscaping. This is instinctual, so an area of soft dirt should be provided in the yard so they can fulfill their need to root.
Another problem some have encountered with their pigs is aggression. Pigs can be territorial and have a drive to be dominant ("top pig"). Unless shown that the humans in the household are number one, pigs can exhibit a form of aggression known as dominance aggression (also seen in dogs). Pigs need to be taught to respect their owners, but setting rules and boundaries, teaching the word "no" and using gentle but firm discipline. Pigs respond well to positive reinforcement (e.g. using praise and treats when the pig is doing something desirable), and do not do well at all with physical punishment. From day one, the owner should be setting the rules and enforcing them. Consistent rules, praise for good behavior, and correction/redirection with lots of repetition and patience will help produce a well mannered pig with a good relationship with its family.
On a more basic level, a pig will live an average of 12 -18 years, estimates range up to more than 20 years. Although often called miniature pot bellied pigs, the term miniature is relative - they are smaller than most pigs kept for food production, but they still usually weigh 125 pounds or more when fully grown. Responsibility for their care is not to be taken lightly, with respect to time or finances. Pigs should be obtained form conscientious, reputable breeders, and will need a good quality pig food, regular vaccinations, hoof and tusk trims, and will also need to be spayed or neutered. Regular access to the outdoors for exercise is a necessity as well. Pigs are social animals so needs lots of attention and interaction, and if feasible, owners should consider keeping more than one pig. Of course, as with any other exotic pet - an owner needs to check local regulations to make sure pot bellied pig ownership is permissible.
For people with appropriate expectations, a pot bellied pig will make a rewarding, entertaining, much-loved pet.
More on Pot Bellied Pigs (on this site)
- Baby Pot Bellied Pigs - covers handling and bonding with a baby pig.
- Feeding Pot Bellied Pigs - providing a balanced and nutritious diet is very important in preventing problems associated with obesity in pet pigs.
- Pet Pig Photo Gallery
- Pigs, a Sanctuary Information - pros and cons of pot bellied pigs.
- Pigs4ever.com FAQs - lots of specific information on caring for pot bellied pigs, along with lots of extras such as photos, poetry and stories, and a shopping section.
- North American Pot Bellied Pig Association (NAPPA) - good source for lots of pot bellied pig information.