You are considering getting a pig as a pet. Hopefully, you’ve already check out part 1 of this series The Complete Guide To Pigs As Pets. If you did, you probably already know what breed of pig will work best for you and the right questions to ask when you purchase or adopt one.
Now, you are looking to bring home your pig. There are several aspects of caring for your pig that you should be aware of. Pigs have a variety of needs. We will cover their needs in this guide. You can also skip ahead if you have specific questions.
- How To Care For A Piglet
- Pig Proof Your Home
- A Proper Pig’s Diet
- Common Health Concerns
- Common Grooming Needs & Expectations
How To Care For A Piglet
Baby piglets may need to be cared for a little differently than adult pigs. When you first bring a piglet home, make sure that it is kept in an area with a soft bed next to a pan of fresh, clean water.
Very young piglets under three weeks old may need to stay under an infra-red lamp about three feet above it to stay warm in a cold environment. For a while, they may need to be bottle-fed until it is about time to wean.
Did you know?
If a baby piglet is weaned too early from their mother, chances are they may exhibit charging or butting behavior, similar to when they were nursing. If you find that your young pig starts doing this, place a pillow between it and you to make things feel more comfortable (for both you and the piglet!).
If trying to get your piglet to transition to solid food, start with a soft bread and milk mixture. Little piglets enjoy sloppy food!
Pig Proofing Your Home
If you plan on keeping your pig indoors, make sure you “pig-proof” the home, particularly any areas that it might have access too. Pigs are naturally curious creatures, and without the right amount of stimulation or activity, they can easily turn to the furniture in your home! The following tips offer ways you can pig-proof before inviting your new family member into your home.
- Make sure you cover up any electrical sockets, place secure pet gates or baby gates near stairs, and remove hazards such as cords and shaggy rugs.
- It is also recommended that you install child-proof locks on the pantry and cabinet; if your pig figures out that food is available in these places, they will certainly not resist the temptation to get them open and make a mess.
- Also, make sure your refrigerator is pig-proof by making sure it has a child-proof feature. It may sound ridiculous to imagine a small pig getting into it, but do not discredit their cleverness!
- Pigs enjoy rubbing their bodies against walls and furniture to scratch, so check that any furniture you have that can be knocked down is secured in place.
A Proper Pig’s Diet
A common stereotype about pigs is that they only eat slop, but that’s not true.
Pigs need to have a balanced, nutritious diet and fed at least twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening) in order to remain healthy.
A healthy diet for pigs consists of pellets, vegetables, alfalfa hay, bran, and multivitamins. Overall, your pig’s diet should be low protein, low fat, and high fiber. Fresh vegetables should only make up roughly 25 percent of your pig’s daily diet.
When feeding your pig commercial pellets, give it about a half of cup for every 25 pounds–or 2 cups per day for adults. Some of the more common pig pellet brands you can use include:
If your pig will live outdoors, monitor how much it eats while grazing. If a pig eats a lot of grass, then you may need to lessen the amount of food you give it during the day.
Avoid giving your pet pig high-sugar or high-processed foods as treats. The best treats for pigs are high in fiber and low in sugar, such as fruits and veggies.
Your pig should have constant access to water. Water is critical to your pig’s health.
The amount of water is not as important as the availability of water. When pigs root, they may often splash water out of their bowl to cool themselves down, leaving less water to drink later.
Keep a keen eye on their water bowl and rooting habits, and make sure there is still plenty of freshwater available for them to drink even after rooting. You may also want to invest in a larger, strong trough or a non-tip bowl to prevent your pig from moving it around too much.
- Vegetables, fruits, grass, and hay
- Avoid foods high in salt, fat, and sugar
- Consistent access to water
Pigs usually won’t overeat. However, your pig can become too fat and unhealthy if you feed it food that is too sugary or fatty for your pig’s health. It can also gain weight if it can’t move around and get enough exercise.
Pigs require regular exercise and activity; without it, they can become easily bored and potentially destructive.
They also require exercise in order to keep their digestive tract running properly and reduce the risk of constipation.
Even indoor pigs should be allowed outside for sunshine and exercise. Pigs are happier if they get to spend some time outside.
Common Health Concerns
There are a number of health issues that can arise in pigs. Most of these issues are easily avoided with the right diet and lifestyle for your pig.
But, if your pig is inbred, or their growth was stunted to keep them smaller, then you may see these health issues arise in your pig.
- Mange – Mange is a skin condition that is often caused by mites. Symptoms include dry, scaly, and itchy skin. Treatment for mange is usually offered by the vet.
- Obesity – Pigs can very easily be overfed and will become obese as a full-grown adult. Make sure you keep track of their grazing habits and reduce additional food offerings accordingly.
- Arthritis – Often, a secondary disease developed as a result of obesity, arthritis occurs in pigs who have difficulty walking due to being overweight. Their joints become tighter and much more prone to pain.
- Overheating – Pigs have a normal rectal temperature of 99.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Pigs are only capable of sweating through their snout, so if you notice that it is wet, they are most likely overheated. Make sure you keep them in the shade and have plenty of water available.
- Worms – Pigs can get worms. Most pigs should be treated for worms every 6 months with a shot. You can learn to give the shot yourself and purchase the vaccination from a veterinary clinic or farm store (or order it off Amazon).
Another thing you can do to maintain the health of your pig is to spay or neuter them. This is especially beneficial for female pigs. Female pigs who are not spayed are more likely to develop uterine issues, mammary tumors, and ovarian cancer in adulthood.
Grooming Needs & Expectations
Pigs have hair instead of fur, so they do not shed as often as your typical dog or cat. In fact, they only shed once a year–typically in the spring–within the span of a week. Pig owners with younger pigs should not expect them to start shedding until they get to about two years of age.
Brushing & Skin Care
Because their hair is thin, pigs often develop flaky, dry skin. To avoid this, you will need to brush your pig regularly. To avoid dry skin further, apply mild skin lotion on a daily or every other day basis.
A common misconception of pigs is that they often smell bad. However, it actually is not necessarily the pig as it is the environment they live in.
Many things in a pig’s environment can be attributed to its smell, one being how its bathroom area is being managed. Pigs usually like to use the bathroom in the same area every day, but if their waste is not picked up, a smell can begin to develop. Make sure you keep their bathroom area clean and tidy.
But, although pigs are not actively smelly animals, they do still need baths from time to time. It is recommended that pigs receive baths at most once a month. This is because baths can dry their skin out easily. When you do bathe them, apply a mild skin lotion afterward to help lock in moisture.
Pigs will need routine hoof care to make sure they do not cause long-term damage to their feet. Their hooves need filing or trimming at least three to four times a year.
It is best to get your pig used to hoof trimming and filing while it is young to prevent hassle later. The ideal time to trim your pig’s hooves are while it is relaxed or while getting its belly rubbed. However, if you find that your pig is resistant to the trimming or filing, a professional groomer who works with pigs can help.
Older pigs that develop tusks (usually around three years of age or older) will require them to be trimmed at the sharp points.
Flea & Insect Protection
For the most part, fleas usually leave pigs alone. However, there are other insects–such as mites–that could affect your pig’s well-being that you should be mindful of.
Training Your Pig
Pigs can remember positive and negative reinforcement, so they respond well to training involving their favorite low-sugar, high-fiber treat. They are capable of being house-trained, learning to be on a leash, and can even pick up a few tricks with repetition and enough patience (and treats) to spare.
Pigs can learn to use a litter box or go outside when it is time to use the bathroom.
If you are trying to train your pig to use the litter box, take baby steps.
First, start with some newspaper that is gradually moved closer to the litter box until the box is used. Make sure the litter box you choose to use is shallow enough for your pig to reach comfortably. Use lots of praise as positive reinforcement rather than treats for any time they successfully use the litter box or go outside.
- Use newspaper or a doggy pad
- Gradually move it closer to the door
- Reward your pig with veggies or fruits as treats when they go on the pad properly
- Make sure your pig has access to the potty box or outside anytime
Leash and Harness Training
It is best to use a Figure 9 or H-style harness for your pet pig, as it is safer for their neck. However, it may take a few days before your pig becomes used to wearing the harness and walking with both harness and leash.
If you start younger, it will be easier.
To get them accustomed to the harness, start by placing it near your pig’s food bowl to sniff for a few minutes. Right afterward, put it on the pig for an hour; this will help the pig adjust to the feel of having the harness on them.
The next day, put the harness back on again, only this time with the leash. Begin walking with them for about an hour again. Allow them to walk you, so they have the chance to adjust. The following day, put all of the previous steps together, but this time you lead the walk; try calling the pig to you with their name, and offer them lots of praise if they do come to you.
From there, increase the duration of time your pig wears the harness with the leash each day, until you feel they are completely comfortable with it.
- Let your pig get used to the harness. Leave it by their food bowl, let them sniff it.
- Put the harness on your pig for no more than an hour
- Do this daily, but extend the time they have the harness on by a few minutes a day.
- After they seem comfortable with it, take your pig on a walk. Let them lead you.
- Take them for a walk, but you lead them. Call them, and offer treats when they come.
Adopting Pet Pigs
Before you move forward with adopting a pig, think about your current situation and whether or not it is the right time to adopt. Do your research carefully before you commit to being a pig parent.
- One of the things you will need to check is whether or not your neighborhood allows the ownership of pigs, as some residential zones actually prohibit it. Those that do allow it may have a housing requirement or weight limit that must be met in order to own a pig. It is not recommended to adopt a pig if you live in an apartment or another type of rental property.
- Pigs are unlike cats or dogs in that they require their own special type of care. Make sure you understand their needs and common health problems that can be prevented early own.
- Learn about pigs’ behavior. Pigs are considered “prey” animals, meaning that it takes a bit of time and patience to eventually gain their trust. In addition, pigs can also be dominant and can express aggressive behavior if you are unable to assert your dominance over them when they first enter the home.
- Research veterinarians in your area to see if any have experience treating pigs, and if so, note which pig breeds they specialize with.
- Consider volunteering at a pig sanctuary or rescue group to get used to caring for pigs before committing to adopting your own.
After your research and planning, if you find that you are definitely prepared to take care of a pig of your own, make sure you visit a reputable breeder or rescue organization to adopt one.
The best pig breeders and rescue organizations will make sure that a piglet is at least six weeks of age before letting it go for adoption. They will also be able to provide information regarding the pig’s current health, food requirements, vaccinations, housing requirements, and more to ensure you are fully aware of the pig’s history and needs.
If you are a first-time pig owner, you may have trouble choosing a pig. Do not worry! Many breeders and rescue organizations are happy to help you find the ideal piggy companion. However, if you are still unsure how to pick the right pig for you, consider these tips:
- First-time pig owners should start with a piglet or fairly young adult pig.
- Look for pigs that have no signs of ill health. When it comes to physical attributes, a healthy pig will have a shiny coat with a semi-moist snout. A healthy pig’s body will also be long and slightly arched, with its chest wide and the sides a little round. Its legs should be strong and well placed with short and well-maintained hooves.
- The pig you choose should show signs of activity.
- Make sure the pig you choose does not show early signs of aggression. Pay attention to how it behaves around other pigs and their siblings. If it seems more wild-natured, look for another pig option that is more even-tempered.
There is no doubt that with the right care and training, pigs can be the next best addition to your family!