Choosing a Potbellied Pig
Since being introduced to this country from Asia 15 years ago, potbellied pigs, with their easy trainability, alert curiosity and affectionate nature, have won the hearts of people, giving rise to legions of porcinophiles. They're smarter than the smartest dogs, and just as appreciative of a good belly-scratch. They're quick to house-train, are quite clean and odor-free animals, they don't bark, don't chew and shed very little. Their eyesight is poor but they have a keenly developed sense of smell. Do not adopt a pig under 6 weeks old or who was weaned before 5 weeks of age. Pigs can develop behavioral problems if weaned too early.
Yet depending on how you train your pet, all that brainpower can make a pig either a cherished companion, or turn him into a four-footed, house-wrecking menace. They are not a maintenance-free pet and they'll figure out how to open cabinet drawers or the refrigerator.
Pigs can live indoors or outdoors, but they need shelter if kept outdoors in cold weather, and they should have a small wading pool during hot weather. They also require a patch of soft dirt or soil in which to root. If housed indoors, make sure your cabinets have baby locks and do not allow your pig unsupervised access to the refrigerator. Confining them to one room of the house when you are not home will prevent serious damage to your home. Unfortunately, many potbellied pigs have been banished to the outdoors after rummaging through the kitchen.
Commercially-prepared foods for potbellied pigs are available, but they appreciate additional fresh fruits and vegetables.
Make sure your pig is spayed or neutered. Intact females have cycles every 21 days and exhibit symptoms of heat cycle. Intact boars are smelly and can be aggressive.
Avoid buying pigs at swap meets or pet stores. Adopt from a reputable breeder. Ask your veterinarian to recommend one in your area. Once you locate a breeder, visit the facility. Are the surroundings clean and neat? Are the pigs in large enough pens and free of feces, with shelter, shade and water? Can you meet the parents of the piglet you are considering? Has the piglet been socialized to live in a human house?
While potbellied pigs will never challenge their larger farm-pig cousins for size, they can grow to a substantial size averaging 50 to 150 pounds. Pigs need daily brushing and regular hoof trimming. Males will require occasional tusk-trimming.
Once considered a trendy exotic pet, thousands of the animals were adopted in the past decade, only to be abandoned or turned over to shelters when the trend became passe – and the little piglets got big. Potbellieds live 12 to 30 years, but since they've only been in this country since 1985, at this point it's difficult to determine their average life span.
The key to living happily with a pet pig is training – and establishing yourself at the top of the pecking order. As "top pig," you'll set the rules your pig will willingly live by.