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.

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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.  

    

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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.  

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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.  

Are you ready for this sh#t?! Literally...pig poop! A lot! Traditional pooper scooping was getting very old, so we got the largest shop vac on large wheels. With multiple pigs in the house, we fill up the 20+ gallon container two to three times weekly. On the bright side, we haven't bought planting soil for flowers and plants in years! It's like super miracle grow! If you provide them with a litter box, get ready! It needs to be big, like really, REALLY BIG! We use a large plastic container like you would use to store sweaters under your bed. Short sides, but wide and long. And be prepared for litter being tracked through the house, (hence the daily sweeping). And much like cats, they do NOT like a dirty litter box. One to two uses, and they may pee on the floor to let you know their displeasure with the dirty box.  
               

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, (josh@cottonbranch.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.  

 

 

 

 

 

Showing 3 reactions

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  • commented 2016-03-20 12:45:37 -0400
    I loved this article, very informative. I hope people who want a pig read this and really take into consideration everything you said.
  • commented 2016-03-15 09:25:38 -0400
    The main purpose of this article was not to delve deeply into proper diet, but to show the amount of time and dedication needed to care for a pig; and to give examples of how your life will change with a pig as an animal companion. I did want to touch on proper feeding and care so people knew what to expect.

    Pigs are natural foragers which is why I covered the need for lots of time in the yard to root. The pig chows recommended are a completely different blend than the normal farm pig chow, and are specially designed with the appropriate amount of vitamins, minerals, and protein for pot belly pigs. They also help control urinary tract infections and help keep their skin nourished. They were researched and formulated over years of study to give potbellied pigs all the needed nutrients, and help keep them at healthy weights. Pigs are not natural meat eaters, or dairy eaters for that matter, and our opinion is that those items should not be introduced into their diets. I also recommended in the blog that they be fed lots of fruits and vegetables, this is an important piece. Our pig companions will actually toss all of their fruit and veggies out of their bowl to eat all the pig chow first, so I have to assume they do not find it bland. Our taste buds are quite different from animals, and we have been trained to like food that is not “bland,” but filled with sweeteners and salt.

    I follow the recommendations of the North American Potbellied Pig Association (NAPPA), as they have researched and studied the best options for pigs. I also follow what is done with the pigs at Cotton Branch, as we have residents up to 23 years old who are still active and definitely not overweight. Many other respected sanctuaries and pig “gurus” recommend this same diet. Had it not been for NAPPA, our first pig, Oliver, would have been grossly under fed if we followed breeder instructions. When Oliver came to live with us, we learned of the need for rescuing pigs, and the need for proper education on their size and care. By following these guidelines, we have seen our rescued overweight pig, Samson, lose 50 pounds in the last year and maintain his healthy new weight; we have seen our malnourished rescue, Hampton, gain 30 pounds over the last six months, and fill out to be a healthy, happy pig. Our other two, Oliver and Winston, have maintained their proper weights for five and four years respectively and always are praised by our vet, a potbelly specialist, for being so fit.

    One thing I did miss was the addition of coconut oil into their diet. We do give ours one tablespoon per day. This helps immensely with their skin. We also give them treats of shredded wheat, as this has no sugar or salt; and oats (we generally cook those for them in the winter as a nice, warm, addition to their normal meal).

    I am vegan, and have been for 12 years, so we do not feed any of our personal animal companions (dogs and pigs) meat or dairy products. There are wonderful options for dog food, formulated with all their daily needs, plus homemade meals for them too. Our dogs are 11 and 16 now. Our healthy diet, influenced our animal companions’ diets, and then influenced ours again to have more fresh fruit and veggies in our diet.

    As for them being “lean,” yes feral pigs have a leaner and more muscular build, potbellies however, are called that for a reason. They are not meant to be overweight, but they are not meant to be lean. Both can be extremely harmful to the pig. It is for these reasons, I clarified that some eat more and some eat less to stay at a healthy weight. There is a great chart on minipiginfo.com that gives examples of how to tell if your pig is under or overweight.

    Thanks so much for reading the article, and for responding.
  • commented 2016-03-15 05:17:17 -0400
    The article gives decent information except where food is concerned. Please review your recommendation to feed Purina pig Chow and Mazur pet pig processed foods. Both manufacturers base their rations on corn, oats, wheat, soy beans, cottonseed, flax seed and beet pulp which are ALL livestock producing feeds! Pigs are naturally lean, active animals. It is humans that fatten them up and contain them to keep them tender. Pigs are foraging omnivores. A lifetime diet of processed pellets, sweetened feed will quickly ruin their oral health as well as be exceptionally boring. I have had several pet pigs. With my current companions having been with me since birth 20 years ago. He has NEVER been fed processed pig food. His diet has consisted of lots of fresh fruit, veggies, cooked meats, rice, herbs and an occasional treat of vanilla ice cream a couple times a year.When he was a youngster, I would scatter his meals around the backyard to encourage foraging behavior and activity. Now, with arthritis setting in, his meals are served in a shallow dish, but he still has to go find the dish. Pigs should not be so fat they become square or cannot see or cannot move. Those processed foods are too calorie dense, do not offer enough roughage and are tasteless, crap in a bag! Pigs can and should be offered all manner of foods, mostly fresh, raw veggies and fruits with few processed grains or carbs (breads and sweets), healthy fats (olive or corn or coconut oil or plain butter). They NEED protein from cooked meats, and a low protein diet is harmful to the point where their bodies will begin using their own muscles for protein. Eggs, and milk are a delicious protein source, but keep in mind that too much too often will make them look like livestock! People need to get away from convenient processed pet foods and make the effort to learn how to feed their companion properly! It is amazing too, that when you get involved in feeding a healthy diet to your pets, that it influences what you eat yourself!
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