By Dr. Jacob Hammon, DVM
You may be thinking about getting a pig to enhance your home – (melodic sounds of grunt and squeals) – this can be a great experience!!! You can add another pet to your family and enjoy the companionship of a cloven hoof variety. This change in your lifestyle can be rewarding if you start right and be practical about your new future with a perpetual “two-year old child”.
You’ve seen “Micro-Tiny-Teacup-Miniature-Pocket-Toy” piglet picture and hoopla – very cute, adorable little guys that look like they fit into a purse to parade around town while doing your errands. Be wary, you’ll be trading that purse for a wheel barrow… THOSE LITTLE GUYS DO NOT STAY LITTLE!!! The terms above to describe the type/breed of piglet you like are meaningless. There is no breed, size rating, or standard developed for any of these terms. Photos taken of that small guy will be the only small thing you soon have.
All small pigs are some variation of a Pot-Belly Pig. Miniature (small) pigs have been a scientist’s friend since the 1940’s. Commercial hogs were close to 180lbs then, today’s market weight is 225-250lbs. Those mini pigs have crept up in full size weight also (likely to better nutrition and care standards). GO SCIENCE! Since the US has a limited genetic opportunity and research pigs do not become house pets, “Let’s breed it to the Vietnamese Pot Belly!” Over the next 70 years we find ourselves yearning for a tiny bundle of farm life right in our living rooms, only to find that our little friend is not so little anymore. You should expect any adult (2.5-3y) miniature pig to be 90-150lb, the largest “mini” pig can top out at 400lbs. You should be skeptical of any small (<90lb) adult pig – lack of nutrition will stunt size. Think of all those full size organs trapped in a tiny body….
Now that we can wrap our heads around our new roommates being in a higher weight class, let’s start the relationship on the right foot. As alluded to above, pigs can reach the maturity level of a 2 year old. Now don’t get nervous – you get the wonderful and the terrible twos. Establishing that you are the one in charge early and consistently keeps you from being bullied. If you want to make them your equal – WATCH OUT – you are in for a SCREAMING SQUEALING good time. Pigs are not born with manners and rarely get full. Imagine your four legged friend following you down every isle screaming to ride in the cart and eat that cereal and throwing things off the shelves… You CAN control your mental health. Boundaries are good; make sure everyone in your house can maintain them early.
Pigs will eat anything – I mean ANYTHING! Outdoor access to hay and grass makes a nice meal; one cup of most commercial pot belly pelleted feeds can support a 50-80lb oinker. Table scraps can cause big problems with begging and digestion. Remember that new rug you just cleaned? Your precious piggy just changed the color a shade or two darker…. Want a treat? Try dry popcorn. Also make sure you have water to drink, each 100lbs of pig can drink a gallon a day.
Don’t be discouraged, pigs can be an indoor friend to you and your family – dogs and cats included. Take a closer look if pig ownership fits your life – thousands of pigs have been surrendered to animal sanctuaries because trendy people couldn’t handle ownership. This is a small bit of what these guys require to live happy and healthy lives, we are available to help you learn the rest if you find a wet snout roaming your halls.