So, You Want a Teacup Pig...
So, you think you want a teacup pig? Join the tens of thousands of us who feel the same. I also wouldn't mind a Smurf. Trouble is, neither the teacup pig or the Smurf exist anywhere except in mythology and fairy tales.
There are miniature pigs, yes, but just like miniature horses, they are still pretty large animals. An average farm pig can easily exceed 800-1,000 pounds, a miniature pot belly pig averages 80-150 pounds. Very miniature when compared to their much larger relatives. If you want to push your pig around in a stroller, you're gonna need a pretty big one and some great upper body strength.
Many breeders will instruct piggy parents to feed them small amounts, (i.e. ¼ cup twice per day and withhold “fatty” treats like fruit). The North American Potbellied Pig Association recommends 2 cups of the proper pig food, (such as the age appropriate Mazuri or Purina miniature pig food), per day, plus a fresh salad of fruits and veggies each day. Feeding a pig according to many breeders’ recommendations will give you a severely malnourished, and unhappy, starving pig who will most likely not live past the age of 3-5 years old, when the average lifespan of a healthy pig is 12-20 years old. With that said, some of our pigs have to eat more to stay a healthy weight, as they are very active, and some of our pigs have to eat a little less, as they are less active. Each pig is an individual.
Some breeders like to sell their pigs as the perfect “apartment pet.” This is also a lie. Pigs need outside time to do what is natural to them: root! They obtain much needed nutrients from rooting in the soil and grazing on grass and roots. They also require outside time for much needed sunlight and vitamin D. A pig with too little or no outside time will become Vitamin D deficient, be quite bored, moody, and destructive. Would you never allow your three year old human child to leave the confines of her home? That is absolutely what you are doing if you confine a pig to the home at all times.
Speaking of a three year old human child: this is the intelligence level of a pig! They learn very quickly and remember what they've learned for years to come. One study showed a pig who learned a particular trick, then not asked to do that trick until five years later, still remembered that command and trick. This impeccable memory has its upside and downside: train them properly and they will remember the good behaviors, but an untrained or spoiled pig will remember their bad behaviors and are hard to retrain.
So now that we've talked about their proper diet, expected size, and need for a yard, lets root even deeper into their behavior. Do you love your nicely manicured lawn? Say goodbye to that! We have separated our large yard into the human side, and the piggy playground. We allow them to do what they wish with their side of the yard. They bald most of it of all grass, then root it all up for the roots. They will eat your shrubs, your rose bushes, and your grass.
How about those indoor pigs? We've already established that even indoor pigs need lots of outside time. Once they come inside, be prepared for their dirty noses and dirty hooves. Their little hooves just sink into the ground so they can carry in quite a bit of dirt, and mud if the ground is wet. We said goodbye to our microfiber furniture and hello to our new, vegan leather furniture (just wipe it with a damp cloth and it's clean). We said goodbye to cleaning the house once a week and hello to having a housekeeper twice a week and sweeping daily. Also, we said hello to an assigned animal room, Dutch doors throughout the lower level of our house, (they figured out or broke every pet and child gate on the market), so they don't have to walk up and down steps. Walking up and down steps is not great on their joints as they age. We said hello to a brick mason who cut a hole in the wall of their room so they could come in and out of their own door and not track mud through the house on rainy days. We said hello to a handyman who built us a great ramp for them to use to come in and out of their room door.
They have personality! Much like a human, they have their moods. I say they are like having a dog crossed with a cat crossed with a human toddler. They can be friendly and snugly, but then they can be moody and want to be left alone. They are highly intelligent and need stimulation and, yes, entertainment. They become very attached to their humans and their other friends. They even mourn any loss for an extended time. Much of the time they are a joy to be around, but they can be bratty like a small child too. If they can get away with a bad behavior, they will. They will test their boundaries like a child and you must set solid rules for them and stick to it.
Pigs also require a veterinarian who is knowledgeable and trained in treating pigs. Often times, this is a large animal vet. See the sites at the end of this post for a state by state list of vets who treat pigs. They will need hoof trims, worming twice per year, and, if male, tusk trims. Tusk trims are common to keep them from growing into their faces or accidentally injuring their companions.
So, why have a pig as an animal companion? They are extremely intelligent, affectionate, and loyal companions. You just have to be ready and be committed. They bring joy and laughter to our lives every single day and we would have more if we could! They are talkative and you learn how they communicate and know when they're happy, sad, angry, or not feeling well. They are protective of their humans and protective of each other.
To research fully, please visit minipiginfo.com, petpigs.com, and feel free to email me, (firstname.lastname@example.org), with any questions you may have. There are also several great Facebook pages out there with lots of experienced pig parents who can offer advice: Lulu’s Pig Network, Pig Snouts- NO BREEDERS, and Camp Skipping Pig Rescue & Sanctuary are all great, breeder free groups.