It has become fashionable in the United States and some European countries to have miniature pigs as pets. Celebrities such as Paris Hilton, George Clooney, Rupert Grint and director of “Titanic” and “Avatar”, James Cameron (among others), are already part of the “micro-pig mania”. But how “micros” are they? Some have even called them “teacup pigs”, which suggests to buyers that these animals will remain this size, or slightly larger, for all of their life. Nothing further from truth. These pigs grow up to 3 years, at which time they reach a height of about 16´´ and a weight of 100-125 lb.
The reason why it´s said to be smaller is to entice buyers into thinking that the pig will look that cute and tiny forever, and won´t cause any trouble because of his size. Some breeders even go further in order to achieve the easy sale: they feed the pig below normal for him to grow less. Needless to say, this system will cause nutritional deficiencies in the animal, with disease waiting in the end of the road. NEVER accept the advice of a breeder that tells you to feed your pig below normal standards; actually, don´t buy anything from that person.
With all this said, it´s true that this breed is much smaller than the traditional farm hog, which can weigh up to 1000 lbs. when fully grown and much more than 16´´ high. From this point of view it is indeed a miniature pig, but the problem comes when their smallness is exaggerated and their owners are surprised when the pig exceeds the size they expected and end up abandoning him. Although it´s commonly called “miniature pig”, the most correct name of all is “Potbelly Pig”, and that´s how he will be referred to throughout the article. Furthermore, the name “Teacup Pig” isn´t appropriate, as it is often used to indicate that the pig will be the size of a teacup permanently.
There is an increasing demand for these pets, as they are animals that adapt well to home life, besides being funny, intelligent, sociable and clean, don´t cause any allergies and have a very soft skin, similar to that of a human being.
Questions to ask yourself before buying a potbelly pig
- Are you willing to assume the responsibilities the pig brings during the 12 to 15 years he usually lives?
- Does the area where you live allow you to have this type of pet?
- Do you know a vet capable of handling these type of pigs, with experience in health, immunization and nutrition?
- Do you have a backyard in your home where the pig can entertain himself?
- Are you willing to spay or neuter the pig at a vet? (Failure to do so is the number 1 reason of abandonment by Potbelly Pigs owners).
On the other hand, some breeders make it a condition for the customer to buy at least two pigs, and the truth is that it is the ideal scene (though not strictly required) because they are highly social animals and would be nice for them to have a companion of his own species.
Preparing your home for the welcome
- Socializing with the pig a few days before the trip will help him adapt better to his new home.
- Must be transported in a carrier, never in your lap because he may panic and run away.
Example of carrier
- Once you arrive home take him to a small space (e.g. the bathroom) to explore it and you´ll be just an observer; when he finishes he´ll most likely come to you again. You´ll gradually show him the different parts of the house.
- You must choose for him a space from the house that is safe, warm and quiet to rest and sleep. Here you can put a large box with hay or blankets to sleep on it.
- Place a sand box where he can do his business away from his place of food and water. These pigs are so clean that they don´t like to have this smell near his place of food and rest.
Food and care
- They are omnivorous animals. You must be careful not to give him farm swill that can lead to obesity (nor chocolates or sweets). In the winter they need a higher dose of food than in the summer. You should consult your veterinarian for this.
- In countries with very cold winters you must be careful because temperature changes can ill him with pneumonia. Pigs do not tend to cough when they have this disease, they just stop eating.
- Always have fresh, clean water available.
Up to 6 months the animal isn´t ready for full control of his bodily functions. In this moment he learns how to easily relieve himself in the place he´s told, such as a sand box (as mentioned above) that is big enough for him to rotate smoothly, or in the garden. His stools are usually tiny and he doesn´t manipulate them because he´s a very clean animal.
- Take him every 2 hours to the sand box to remind him where to do his business.
- The moments he usually goes: when he wakes up, after drinking water, breakfast and dinner, before bedtime.
- Don´t hit or yell at him when he makes a mistake, rather take him to the sand box to reinforce the training.
How to choose a veterinarian?
These questions will help you find the best vet for your pet:
- Does he have experience with Potbelly Pigs?
- Does he look interested and willing to answer all your questions with interest and professionalism? If he never has time to report and his answers are incomplete, you would do better with another veterinarian.
- Are you allowed to accompany the animal during treatment or when undergoing surgery?
The first visit to the vet should be at 2 months old to worm him and vaccinate him against diseases, although there is controversy on this subject as vaccines used with farm hogs may not be valid for Potbelly Pigs. If any local law requires it, he´ll have to get vaccinated.
He likes to go for a walk with children and dogs. Due to his explorer and adventurer nature, the walk should be part of his daily routine; contact with fresh air helps him maintain healthy hair and legs.
It´s important to entertain him so that boredom doesn´t lead him to chew everything in his path and to develop destructive behaviors. If you live on a farm or a similar place you must be careful, because his exploring instinct will get him into unknown places and he may get lost.
Selecting a breeding centre
You should look for reputable breeders, something you can search online with the name of your city. This will allow you to visit the farm to observe the environmental conditions and the quality of the facilities so that you´re sure that there are no situations of abuse in their reproduction.
If you buy a Potbelly pig that has been traumatized by his breeder, his relationship with you and other pets living in your home will be affected. Observe how they interact with other pigs at the center and with the persons taking care for him, as this will be an important fact to evaluate the place.
How is he with dogs and cats?
Pigs and cats get along very well but with dogs you must be careful, for their predatory nature may lead them to feel the urge to attack. It´s not recommended to leave the two of them alone for dogs may not tolerate well the pig’s screams and end up attacking him. So if you let them alone, place them in separate and closed spaces where they won´t be able to make contact.
How is he with kids?
They are affectionate and very gentle with children, but being herd animals, they can try to establish dominance over the younger children, as it´s something they usually do in nature with the weakest members. However, with proper training, this situation is easily controllable.