By Sari Reis
Are you thinking about adding a potbellied pig to your household? If so, you are not alone.
A lot of people, including many celebrities, have chosen to bring these adorable, intelligent animals into their homes as pets. And why not? Contrary to popular belief, they do not sweat, do not smell and are very clean.
Potbellied pigs are social by nature and truly enjoy the companionship of people. Due to their high level of intelligence — fifth in the animal kingdom after man, monkeys, dolphins and whales — they are extremely trainable and can be house-broken, taught to walk on a harness, crate-trained and even learn to do tricks. If well-bred and fed appropriately, they are very robust animals and can live between 12–20 years. If well trained and monitored, they are non-destructive, low maintenance, communicative and affectionate.
Unlike dogs, they do not bark or get fleas, though they do need to be spayed or neutered, and need to see the vet for annual checkups and have their hooves trimmed regularly.
Because of the pigs’ obsession with food, they can become overweight and need to be fed properly. About 25 percent of their diet should be non-starchy vegetables, while the remainder is potbellied pig pellets that are high quality, low protein and low fat. About two cups a day for an average healthy 3-plus year old. They also should get a children’s chewable multi vitamin every day.
Even with close attention to their diets, a healthy 3-year-old potbellied pig will tip the scales at about 125 pounds. Not an ideal size for apartment living.
They also need outside time for exercise and stimulation. And since they like to root in the ground, a special spot in the backyard for them to do this will provide gratification and stimulation for your porky pet. If all of this sounds wonderful, let’s take a look at the down-side.
Potbellied pigs have been compared in intelligence and behavior to a 2-year-old child and we have all heard of “the terrible twos.” First of all, they are animals used to a hierarchy and need to know who is “top pig” and that needs to be you. They need a firm yet gentle leader to teach them how to behave and keep them in line.
Pigs can easily get bored without the appropriate stimulation and can become demanding, manipulative, and sometimes even aggressive. Therefore, they require firm but kind discipline and positive reinforcement.
Due to their size, they can become difficult to transport and should be taught to walk up a ramp into a vehicle for vet visits or outings away from home. Since they are very smart and very food-driven, they can figure out how to open the refrigerator, cupboards, and pantries where food may be kept.
If you are still thinking about getting a potbellied pig, make sure the zoning of your home permits this type of pet, go to a reputable breeder to adopt, find a veterinarian who is familiar with this breed, and be prepared to be patient, consistent, loving and “top pig” for anywhere up to 20 years.
—Sari Reis is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information, she can be reached at 760-644-0289 or missionvalleypetsitting.com.