Although for many people the word pig conjures up images of a farmyard, potbellied pigs are increasingly popular as domestic pets. They are much smaller than the standard farm pig, and commonly seen with mixed black and white coloring; or all black, all white, or silver coloring. Adults typically weigh around 125-200 lbs, are fully-grown at 2-3 years and are about the height of a medium sized dog. They have a projected lifespan of 15-20 years, and are relatively low maintenance pets, requiring roughly the same amount of daily care as a dog. Potbellied pigs are popular city pets, and their small size lends itself well to apartment living.
The potbellied pig originated in Vietnam, and is a combination of several breeds. Given the chance, they can interbreed with common farm pigs and wild boars, as they are all part of the genus sus scrofa. Potbellied pigs are exotic pets, which can make them a bit more troublesome than a cat or a dog for this reason: not all veterinarians treat them which can make it difficult to get these pets the care they require. Pigs need their tusks trimmed every couple of years, and may need their hooves trimmed annually. A veterinarian, or an owner who has learned how from a doctor, can perform these tasks. Pigs will need to be spayed or neutered and require regular vaccinations.
Potbellied pigs make enjoyable pets because they are very intelligent and affectionate. However, like many animals they are prone to laziness and aggression if not properly exercised and socialized. At times, an adult pig may rebel against the owner in so-called “dominance aggression”, and will need to be reprimanded gently yet strongly, and taught to respect the owner’s authority. They can be well trained, if properly motivated by food and other rewards. They take well to positive reinforcement when they are behaving well, but should not be physically punished.
Pigs should have daily leash-led walks or they will gain weight. They will eat nearly endless amounts of food, particularly high-carbohydrate unhealthy food, if allowed, so it is vital to restrict your pet’s access to the food it craves. They are relentless in searching for food, and should be kept far away from the kitchen or any food storage. Special pig feed can be purchased in a pet store or special-ordered. Pigs are omnivores, equally interested in vegetables, meats, sweets, and carbohydrate-based foods.
Pigs are social herd creatures, and it is often recommended that they be kept in pairs or groups, especially if they are kept outside the house. This keeps them stimulated and active. Because of their intelligence, if pigs get bored they may become destructive and troublesome. Inadequate attention or playtime can compel pigs to do anything from rooting up plants to taking up linoleum floors and eating drywall. Pigs need to be kept in their own confined area of the house, preferably an entire room, if not a confined outdoor area. They are clean and essentially odor-free, so it is not usually difficult to find a room where they can roam.
Like any pet, a potbellied pig is a serious commitment, and requires some specialized care that demands time and resources. Shelters are overflowing with abandoned pigs whose owners did not anticipate the kind of attention that their pet would need. However, the intelligence, affection and personality of a well trained, adequately cared for potbellied pig can be very rewarding for the prepared, responsible owner.