A majority of us are meat eaters that love bacon and other pork products. However, there's been a current craze about keeping pigs as pets. It's not so much as an animal-rights thing (I'm pretty sure many pet pig owners still eat pork) then a tread. A-list celebs like Megan Fox, David Beckham, Paris Hilton, George Clooney, and Miley Cyrus have pet pigs, and do they like to talk about how fun they are as pets.
But could you take on a pig as a pet? Many still find it strange keeping an oinker at home as a companion. Before you do run off and buy the closest pig you can find, here are a few things to know about keeping them as pets.
You might have heard or seen videos and photos of these little, tiny, precious little pigs that are called teacup pigs circling around the net. They've definitely been a major contributor to the popularity of pet pigs, but be warned, what you see is often times not what you get with these teacup pigs. These pigs are marketed as pigs that will never grow and weigh more than a human baby. This ads to the cuteness, making them very attractive to those looking for cute pets. However, these pigs don't stay that small for long. In fact, there really is no such thing as a teacup pig (they're also called micro-mini, Juliana, and a few other names). There are real miniature pigs, which don't grow as large as the usual 600-pound farm pig, but they don't stay in that "teacup" size for long. So-called teacups are actually potbellied pigs who are either underfed to stunt their growth or who are sold under false pretenses.
The most common pet pig breed, the potbellied pigs ( Sus scrofa domesticus) are actually cousins of wild boars from Vietnam. Compared to a regular farm pig (which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds) or wild hogs (which usually weights at 450 to 700 pounds), a potbellied pig grows to between 100 to 150 pounds on an average. Some do grow to only 60 pounds, but it's still nowhere close to how small teacup pigs are being marketed. They come in a variety of colors and are intelligent animals. This makes them easy to train, so they might just give Fido a run for his money.
Pigs are social animals, so if you're planning to have one as a pet, you might want to get another one to keep them company. But you'll have to be careful when you're caring for potbellied pigs though. These guys can start breeding when they are as young as 6 to 8 weeks old. Have them spayed and neutered or you'll have to deal with caring for more piglets. Potbellied pigs can grow until they are 5 years old and reach well over 100 pounds. Expect your little piglets to grow and grow fast.
Some breeders try to keep pet pigs in a small size by inbreeding them until the produced offspring stay small. This can actually cause a number of heath issues from reduced genetic diversity. This is similar to how some pure breed dogs tend to develop health problems since most of them are inbreeds. Aside from health issues, it can also lead to a shorter lifespan. Other times, people also purposely underfeed their pet pigs which causes them to become underweight and starve. Malnourishment can cause heath concerns such as weak immune systems, sensitive skin and hoof problems, so make sure you're giving them enough food. Diets should include fruits and vegetables. Consult your vet if you're planning to feed them pellets.
Aside from a healthy diet, potbellied pigs need other piggy friends as well as a good amount of space to roam around to stay happy. Pigs love to dig, root, roll around in mud, and play in water (sounds a lot like a golden retriever). Being a smart animal, they're always curious about their surrounding and will not hesitate to explore. They can also get moody and territorial, so it's important to give them their own space. Make sure they have their own dry and sheltered sleeping spot where they can enjoy hay as their bedding. Piglets burrow into a deep litter of hay to stay warm. An adult pig will be satisfied with wood shavings (not sawdust).
You might think that keeping a pet pig won't cost as much, but these little pigs don't stay small for long. It's like expecting to care of a small Yorkie but end up with a Great Dane. Not everyone can afford to handle a 100 pound pig in the house. You have to consider the price of the pig, which could be hundreds and can even reach thousands of dollars. You'll also need to budget the proper food (dog and cat kibble won't work), space needs, sterilization costs, and vet bills. Keep in mind that not all vets specializes or knows how to handle pet pigs. You might end up spending a lot when looking for a vet for them.
In some places, keeping a pet pig is illegal. Pigs are usually listed under the law as livestock, as in it belongs in a farm and shouldn't be running around in a residential area. Many local governments that have no or little farm areas forbid the raising of livestock, so it's best to check with your local ordinances about keeping pigs as pets. Also, condos and apartments usually won't let you keep them as pets, so keeping them as a pet in the city is going to be difficult.
There's a misconception that pet pigs will only live up to 5 years. The truth is, potbellied pigs can live to around 12 to 18 years. Potbellied pigs can be great pets for kids since they can enjoy growing up with them. Sadly, a number of pig owners who bought their pigs under the assumption that they don't live longer than five year or have become too big for them to take care often call animal shelters to take their pet pigs. Some of them are taken in by foster homes, while stay in shelters for the rest of their years.
Whether you think their cute or you just want an exotic pet, a pet pig will turn heads. Take good care of one and you'll have a happy, contented pig to greet you when you come home.
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