Adopting and Caring for a Domesticated Pot-Belly Pig!
On a trip to a local animal shelter to adopt a dog, as the mixed breeds, labs, poodles, pit bulls, and huskies were licking my face, I saw my son out of the corner of my eye, running on the grassy hills with something at the end of a leash.
It wasn't the cute little beagle that I had watched through the adoption window.
My eyes had to adjust to through the sunlit window shade. What was it?
But I didn't care what he was running with, I had to adopt whatever it was. He was having too much fun!
Adopting a Pig
I explained to the animal shelter volunteer that we were really there to look at dogs, but she politely informed me that our application had been denied because our children were under 10 years old. It was a policy that they would not budge from.
I said, "well how about the pig? Can we adopt the pig?"
The answer came at quite a surprise. "Yes, you can!"
Astounded, I looked at her and asked, "Why the pig and not a dog?"
The explanation was simple: "The dogs we have here at this shelter are friendly, but we do not know where they come from. It would not be appropriate for the shelter to place a stray dog with a family when we do not know their temperament around children."
Without thinking another thought, I said, "We will take the pig!"
I hadn't thought through the ride home part. A 60 pound pig with a crate and a garbage pail full of grain shouldn't be that hard to get back home, right? He belonged to a family with small children who had named him Rico. He came with several bathing suits, a few small dog collars, and a harness.
It would have gone smoothly had we not forgotten about the packed lunch we had in the front of the van. At least it kept the pig occupied while we drove home.
What to Feed Your Pot-Belly Pig
The animal shelter volunteers told me that pigs eat a lot and all day if you let them. Raised on a farm, and having farm pig experience, I knew what they meant. This is what Wilbur likes to eat:
- Mini pig food. We go through about one bag of adult mini pig food a month. It's very inexpensive grain that we get at a feed store. We live on the outskirts of an area thick with farms. The feed store is just a few towns over.
- Carrots and fresh vegetables. We buy five pounds of carrots every week for pig snacks. We compost all of our fresh vegetable trimmings so anything Wilbur doesn't like goes in the compost bin.
- We limit sweets and breads. Pigs will eat anything, even bird food dropped from feeders hanging around the yard.
- Ice cubes. In addition to filling a huge round outdoor rubber tub with fresh water daily, Wilbur loves ice cubes! They cool him off fast and are an interesting treat to chomp on.
Wilbur has a hard time digesting raw potatoes and got sick the first and only time we fed him some leftovers.
Mini Pig Grain vs. Farm Pig or Homemade Food
Pot-belly pigs eat mini pig food because it is specially formulated to reduce odor in their waste.
Keeping Your Pig Comfortable: Not Too Hot or Cold
We found out the hard way on a 100-degree day that pigs are heat intolerant.
Wilbur likes to snuggle up in his favorite blanket to stay warm at night. But one day out in the hot sun, he came close to dying from heat exhaustion. I didn't realize the mud hole we filled with water had dried up. He didn't have a way to cool his body down covered in all that thick skin.
Thinking fast, we brought him in the house (practically carrying him), covered him with a cold wet blanket, and set a fan near him. The cold blanket helped cool him off. Afraid he would catch a cold, we turned the fan off when we saw that he was perking back up.
It took a good hour or so but he made it through that and we've since learned pigs are very sensitive to extreme temperatures.
When we adopted Wilbur, we had to sign a contract promising that we would not make him live outside. In fact, the shelter was so insistent that they actually called the animal control officer in my town to make sure that we had an appropriate place to keep Wilbur. We have a large dog crate that he sleeps in filled with a dog bed for padding on the bottom, blankets, and a sleeping bag for winter.
We go through blankets about three times a year from Wilbur tearing holes in them trying to cover himself up. He loves to wrap up in soft fuzzy stadium blankets and sleeping bags!
Can a Pig Be Crate-Trained?
Wilbur loves his crate.
The family that owned him before hired a trainer, so he was already crate-trained and house-broken when we brought him home.
Pigs are really smart. Because he was only 60 pounds when we adopted him, it was like having a dog in the house. He used to walk around freely. When we had a fire, he'd lay down on the floor in front of it and the cats would curl up next to him.
It became more challenging to contain Wilbur as he got bigger. He started eating our sheetrock off the walls! We used carrots to treat-train him to go directly into his crate when he comes in from outside. He no longer walks around the house because he is too big. He feels safe in his crate and he enjoys snuggling up in his blankets when he is in there.
What You Need to Know Before Adopting a Pot-Belly Pig!
Here are some things I learned about pigs by adopting Wilbur.
- are very smart
- leave no odor (compost their waste for your summer garden!)
- can be treat-trained
- like to roam and need a fenced area to contain them
- like warm weather and love to sleep under a shade tree in the hot sun
- love to lay in mud holes with cool water
- don't stay dirty because they can shake the mud off of their tough skin
- do not get fleas
- can get ticks
- shed in the summer
- love companionship
- sound like dogs barking when they grunt
- can become bossy around food
- are territorial
- get along with other domesticated animals such as dogs and cats (most of the time)!
Pigs Can Be Treat-Trained
Wilbur is treat-trained to go into his kennel when he comes in from outside. He follows a trail of food. We throw a carrot in his crate and he goes right in.
Things to Consider Before Adopting a Pot-Belly Pig
- may harm your grass or landscaping. They root up grass and dirt. They eat flowers and will eat a garden not protected by a fence. We used to put Wilbur in our garden at the end of the season to eat up all the leftovers.
- need space to roam around, and ideally a fenced area to contain them. The fence needs to be sturdy: Wilbur could force his way under a chicken wire fence.
- eat acorns and bird seed. Wilbur stalks me when I'm filling the bird feeders so he can eat any seed that falls to the ground.
- are territorial and can be bossy towards other pets.
- love a good brushing or tummy rub.
- need a place to keep warm or cool off and can't be left out in really hot or cold climates.
- need grain to minimize odors, along with fresh snacks like carrots.
- can grow very large.
- need a vet who will make house calls if they get ill or need medical attention.
- are smart but need specific training to be house-broken and crate-trained.
Pigs are not allowed everywhere. Some places have laws that prohibit pigs as pets. Check with your local animal control office before adopting a pot-belly pig.
When Wilbur Escaped
We did not have a fenced yard when we adopted Wilbur. We had to set up a chicken wire barrier around the yard. He could still root under the fence, but we put blockades around where he would try to escape.
Wilbur did escape once. By the time I noticed, he had made it to the neighbor's house 1/2 mile away where onlookers snapped photos and called the police with a report that there was a wild boar roaming loose.
Luckily for me, the shelter had registered Wilbur with animal control so they knew exactly who the owner was. I was afraid that someone might injure Wilbur before I found him.
Running around the neighborhood shouting, "Here piggy, here Wlbur, come home pig pig" is not something I do on a daily basis. You can only imagine the looks I got from neighbors coming out of their houses wondering if I was really calling for a pig.
One gentleman stepped outside of his front door and asked what I was looking for. When I told him I was looking for my pet pig, he thought he had heard wrong so he repeated the question. Then he thought maybe I was speaking a foreign language because for certain I could not have possibly said I was looking for a pig! After we got that straightened out, he told me there was no way a pig could be around his house because he had two large dogs that would have definitely barked to alert him. He assured me they were sound asleep in the back yard that happened to be completely fenced in.
I continued my journey down the road and through to the park. Well, having noticed that no one was running away or screaming, I decided that no pig could possibly be in the area. I decided it would be best not to start telling people there was a pig on the loose and create panic. I kept running over the hill to the school yard. School was in session that day.
The animal control officer was there first, alerting school teachers to stall recess until we captured the pig on the loose. The teachers were laughing hysterically by the time I got there. They could hardly compose themselves. Who could blame them, though! Really, it's not like this is something that happens every day.
I have a sharp ear. I played the piano growing up so maybe that helps me tune into sounds. Whatever the reason, I heard Wilbur barking. He really sounds like a dog when he grunts. The thing was, it was coming from the back yard of the neighbor who said he had a fenced in yard and two big dogs. I told the animal control officer what I had heard and ran as fast as I could. When I finally made it back around to the neighbor's house with the big dogs, he was waiting for me as I came down the street panting and hardly able to catch my breath.
The look on his face while he stood there holding a package of hot dogs said it all. I knew he had met Wilbur!
He said, "Oh, I'm so glad you came back! You aren't going to believe this! Wilbur has made friends with my two German Shepherds. He is trapped in the back yard because he can't figure out how to get back through the fence."
Just then Wilbur heard my voice and came plowing through the fence, where he had found a hole. He ran over to the large shade tree and plopped down to rest.
(Note: No fences were damaged during Wilbur's escape.)
The animal control officer brought a small dog leash and asked me to put Wilbur in her van.
I was so embarrassed at this point that I just wanted to get home with him. However, pigs don't like to be picked up. When I tried to lift him into the back of the animal control van, he let out a squeal that rattled the neighborhood. People were coming out of their homes looking for the source of noise. Beat red in the face and barely able to breathe, I felt totally defeated. I didn't think there was a way I could get Wilbur back home.
"Animal control calling for back up," said the officer.
"Oh great," I said. "Are you going to arrest me?"
She smiled. "No, but we need to get Wilbur back home safely."
With two officers in patrol cars with lights flashing, a package of hot dogs from the gracious neighbor, a red, white, and blue dog leash, and the animal control van, we paraded down the street. I walked ahead, enticing Wilbur with hot dogs.
Wilbur was tired out from his journey to meet the neighbors and he wasn't moving too fast. The ordeal lasted three hours. Needless to say, chicken wire was installed the next day.
Pigs can be house-trained, but keep in mind that pig hooves are very slippery and hardwood floors are not the best surface for pigs to walk on. Especially if the floor is wet, pigs can slip and fall.
Fleas and Ticks
Luckily for Wilbur, he can't catch fleas. They do not like his tough leathery skin.
But pigs can still get ticks. We have to make sure Wilbur is brushed down before coming inside so that he doesn't bring ticks or other insects in with him.
Pigs Are Territorial
When we first brought Wilbur home, my grandfather helped us install a dog run. At 60 pounds, Wilbur had a lot of energy and loved to run around.
Once he got too big for his harness, he could no longer be contained on a dog run. A fenced-in yard was the only way to keep him occupied and happy.
Wilbur doesn't mind sharing his yard under his terms. When my grandfather was installing the dog run, Wilbur didn't like the noise. He ran and lunged at my grandfather. He didn't hurt him, but it was quite a shock to see this little pig becoming disgruntled and trying to boss my grandfather around.
Pigs Are Bossy Around Food
Pigs have a passive nature in general, except when around food.
This can become an unsafe character trait around children.
What Is Rooting?
Pigs love to root.
Stated simply, they take their snout and dig up dirt with it, like a child digs in sand with a shovel.
Before we started filling a mud hole for Wilbur, he rooted up a shady place to nap. He rooted up a large patch of grass where the coolness of the dirt soothed him on a hot day.
Pigs Are Hypo-Allergenic!
Pig hair is hypo-allergenic. This is great news for allergy and asthma sufferers!
Pigs Can Sleep Through Anything!
The Christmas tree lights and decorations didn't bother Wilbur at all. I think he can sleep through anything except the smell of food cooking on the stove!
Pigs Can't Climb Well
We have two back porch stairs that Wilbur climbs up and down, but that's about it. Our front stairs are steep. We didn't need to fence in the front because Wilbur won't climb over stone walls or down steep stairs.
However, for awhile we had a piece of plywood down over the back stairs that Wilbur could use as a ramp during the rainy season. It helped him get up and down without slipping on the rain-soaked stairs.
Pigs make great companion pets!
While they are not the perfect pet for everyone, pigs are really easy to take care of.
But I probably wouldn't adopt another one unless I lived on an actual farm. The reason I say that is because sometimes I feel bad for Wilbur that he is the only pig here. Although, he does act part dog most of the time.
We love having Wilbur around.
If he hadn't been at the animal shelter, I would have never even considered owning a pet pig.
Fortunately we have enough outdoor space to keep Wilbur happy. He doesn't require much. It's fun watching him cool off in his mud hole.
On the other hand, he is a pet. There is care involved which takes time and energy.
There are a lot of things to consider before adopting a pet pig.
Pet pigs are not novelty items. Sometimes they end up in shelters because people don't realize how big they get and how much space they require to be kept comfortable.
Pigs can live a long time.
Adopting a pet pig is a big undertaking. It takes a lot of responsibility.