Miniature pigs are popular, if nontraditional, pets for good reason: Pigs are highly intelligent animals that constantly amaze and delight their owners. While any pet is a commitment that shouldn't be undertaken lightly, this is especially true of pet pigs, creatures with distinct needs and dispositions that aren't as well-known as those of more traditional animal companions. A few basic concepts and guidelines make pet pig ownership a rewarding endeavor.
Eats Like a Pig
A pig's fabled appetite is more than just legend. Porcine willingness to eat is akin to a force of nature. But miniature pigs don't need nearly as much food as they want, so a controlled diet is both possible and recommended. Pig chow is available at many pet stores and online retailers. A quarter-cup in the morning and again at night is enough for a baby miniature pig; feed amounts will increase as the pig grows and according to his metabolism. Your goal is to keep him lean. Treats such as raisins, grapes or whole grain cereal make great training rewards -- but avoid offering sugary foods. Avocado and chocolate are toxic to pigs and should never be fed to them. Secure food and poisons out of the pig's reach, as the animal will learn to access cabinets.
Pig Hydration: A Crucial Need
Water is the single most essential nutrient to a pig, as he cannot sweat and needs fluids to maintain biological functions. Water should be available always. Keeping a pig hydrated is more challenging than it sounds -- even mini-pigs have incredibly strong snouts and a frustrating tendency to root under water dishes to dump the contents onto the floor. Water dishes should either be heavy enough to prevent tipping or, better, secured to make turning over impossible. Dishes should be monitored to ensure fresh, clean water is available at all times.
Pig in a Blanket
While food, water and shelter are the basic imperatives, pigs have a few distinct tendencies of their own, and blankets are certainly one of them -- in fact, more than one blanket usually, as they'll need one for inside, one for outside and maybe even one for the car. A pig loves blankets, which mimic the straw his barn-dwelling relatives have access to. He will wrap himself in a blanket to hide or to sleep. But don't give your mini-pig a good blanket, as he's likely to tear the thing to whatever size he prefers.
Clean as a Pig
A pet pig needs to be housebroken. Luckily, the intelligent animal is usually up to the task of learning. You have a few options, including paper training him like a puppy, teaching him to go outside via a pet door or alerting his owner, or litter-box training using a dog litter box. Whatever method you choose, make sure you and your pig stick with it -- pig waste is particularly foul-smelling and needs to be maintained in a consistent and sanitary way.
Rodney Wilson is owner and manager of Goldfinch Farm in central Kentucky, where he oversees veterinary and management practices for a diverse group of animals, from dogs and cats to pigs and chickens. He's written professionally since 2001, with articles appearing in such publications as The Cincinnati Enquirer, CiN Weekly, Baby Guide and Akron Life.