What You Should Know About Pigs as Pets
Want to adopt a pig as a pet? Here is everything you should consider, according to experts
“We didn’t go into getting a pig lightly,” says Charles Zaucha, whose 8-month-old kune kune Peter Porker is almost 40 pounds. Charles and his family visited the farm they eventually adopted the pig from three times before deciding he was a good fit for their household.
Over the last decade, a trend has emerged: People like Charles and his family have decided to adopt pigs as pets. Associate Veterinarian Kristin Valdes of Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital says high-profile celebrity “pig parents” (from Miley Cyrus to David Beckham) and the proliferation of cute pig pictures on social media are big reasons why households are adopting the animal that’s usually associated with a barnyard rather than a backyard. Other reasons are that pigs are hypoallergenic and have been known to work well as support or therapy animals.
Plus, as Charles says, “Who can say no to a piglet?”
Charles and his family, who live on a hobby farm in Northern Illinois, spent a considerable amount of time researching pet pigs before adopting Peter Porker. “I […] deep-dived into a ton of blogs to help get prepared. We are fortunate enough to live a mile down from the farm we got him from, and the owners have been more than happy to answer all of our questions.”
Doing your research and learning all there is to know about pig breeds, costs, and care is critical if you don’t want to end up with an aggressive, 200-pound porker for a pet.
Pet Pig Breed Basics
While some may refer to their pets as miniature or teacup pigs, those aren’t specific species. Kristin says that “miniature” pet pig breeds are typically Vietnamese potbellied pigs, Yucatan pigs, and African pygmy pigs. “[Those breeds] can live for up to 25 years, although they tend to live for 12 to 20. They are sweet, gentle, and great with humans.”
And “miniature” is relative to larger hogs on production farms—not to more conventional pets, such as cats or dogs. Kristin says that it’s impossible to predict the weight of a full-grown pig, even if a breeder promises something in a small range. “I recommend pig parents expect the heaviest and may be pleasantly surprised if their pig does not reach that weight,” she says. She has seen pigs called “teacup” or “micro” weigh between 60 and 175 pounds.
Peter Porker is a kunekune, a New Zealand breed known to be good for small farms. When Charles and his family first met Peter Porker, “he was incredibly friendly and calm and would just collapse to his side when you rubbed his belly,” Charles says. “He still does that instantly with anyone who rubs him. It’s hilarious.”
Along with getting to know a pig before bringing it home, it’s a good idea to visit multiple breeders of different varieties and research what to expect from each breed before selecting your pig.
Give Pet Pigs Space
Without enough space, pigs can become depressed or anxious, which “can manifest [into] behavioral problems,” Kristin says. She does not recommend a pig for apartment dwellers, even if they give the pet long walks.
“An ideal place would be a home with a fenced-in backyard where your pet can dig around in the grass and dirt,” Kristin says. If your pig is indoors, it’s important to not discourage rooting around on carpet. “Make several boxes filled with treats, towels, newspaper, or other things your pig can dig around in.”
Peter Porker spends his days outdoors on the Zaucha farm, where he grazes in a pasture among other animals.
What to Feed Pet Pigs
“Potbellied pigs are omnivores and they are continuously hungry,” Kristin says. But that doesn’t mean they should keep eating. If they do, they can become obese, which causes health issues. “Typically, pigs fair best when fed twice a day,” she says.
According to Kristin, depending on their age, size, activity level, and general health status, pigs over 1 year old should receive 1 to 1 1/2 cups of food each feeding. “Remember: Pigs will always beg and whine for more,” Kristin cautions.
She also says to avoid feeding pigs dog or cat food, as well as table scraps, chocolate, fruit, corn, and potatoes, explaining it’s important to make sure they don't each too much protein, fat, carbs, or salt. She suggests selecting a good commercial food formulated specially for pet pigs and offering them a children’s chewable vitamin daily as a treat.
Cost Considerations for Pet Pigs
Kristin says that pet pigs often have to visit a vet more frequently than a dog or a cat—and that those visits, diagnostics, and treatments will be pricier. Hoof and tusk trims, vaccinations, and fecal and skin analysis can cost up to several thousand dollars a year. “Each pig is different. However, this is not an inexpensive pet,” she says.
Pet Pig Adoption: It’s a Family Matter
Have other animals? Factor them into your decision to adopt a pig. “Pigs are naturally prey species and dogs and cats are natural predators,” Kristin says. But she warns that pigs, like cats and dogs, can get aggressive and even bite or significantly injure another animal. “While a relationship amongst other pets can blossom, this will occur slowly and will need close monitoring,” she says.
Charles let his dogs sniff Peter Porker to get used to him, and he introduced him to the farm’s sheep and goats several times through a fence at first. “Now that he’s bigger, he runs with them as one of the herd,” Charles says.
Children are another important consideration. Charles says he and his husband made sure their kids were involved in picking and naming Peter Porker. “We wanted everyone to spend time with him to get him socialized,” he says.
Because Charles and his family are raising Peter Porker as a pet and want him to be comfortable around people, they let him stay in the house and sleep on a dog bed for several weeks.
“With an already full house, I’m glad we took the time and had the patience to find the right pig for our family,” he says.