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Adopting and Caring for a Domesticated Pot-Belly Pig

Our family adopted a lovely pig named Wilbur. He is so sweet and cute.

We went to the animal shelter to adopt a dog and came home with this beautiful pig instead. Learn what pot-belly pigs are like as pets!

We went to the animal shelter to adopt a dog and came home with this beautiful pig instead. Learn what pot-belly pigs are like as pets!

Our Story

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 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 as 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!"

The Ride Home

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.

Wilbur exploring the yard

Wilbur exploring the yard

What to Feed Your Pot-Belly Pig

The animal shelter volunteers told me that pigs eat a lot and will eat 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:

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Read More From Pethelpful

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. We limit sweets and breads. Pigs will eat anything, even bird food dropped from feeders hanging around the yard.
  4. Ice cubes. In addition to filling a huge round outdoor rubber tub with fresh water daily, we provide Wilbur with ice cubes. He loves them! 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.

Hog in a sleeping bag!

Hog in a sleeping bag!

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 into 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.

Wilbur's Crate and Bedding

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.

Here is Wilbur enjoying some carrots in his crate.

Here is Wilbur enjoying some carrots in his crate.

Pigs Can Also 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.

What You Need to Know Before Adopting a Pot-Belly Pig

Here are some things I learned about pigs by adopting Wilbur.

Pigs . . .

  • 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)!

Things to Consider Before Adopting a Pot-Belly Pig

You should also know that pigs . . .

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Eat acorns and birdseed. Wilbur stalks me when I'm filling the bird feeders so he can eat any seed that falls to the ground.
  4. Are territorial and can be bossy towards other pets.
  5. Love a good brushing or tummy rub.
  6. Need a place to keep warm or cool off and can't be left out in really hot or cold climates.
  7. Need grain to minimize odors, along with fresh snacks like carrots.
  8. Can grow very large.
  9. Need a vet who will make house calls if they get ill or need medical attention.
  10. Are smart but need specific training to be house-broken and crate-trained.

Check Local Regulations

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.

Hardwood floors can be hard for pigs to walk on.

Hardwood floors can be hard for pigs to walk on.

Slippery Surfaces

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.

Here's Wilbur rooting in the yard.

Here's Wilbur rooting in the yard.

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 clean, but they do shed their hair in the summer months!

Pigs are clean, but they do shed their hair in the summer months!

Pigs Are Hypo-Allergenic!

Pig hair is hypo-allergenic. This is great news for allergy and asthma sufferers!

Wilbur happily slept through Christmas.

Wilbur happily slept through Christmas.

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.

Wilbur is contained to the yard by chicken wire, tall rocks, stone walls, and stairs.

Wilbur is contained to the yard by chicken wire, tall rocks, stone walls, and stairs.

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.

"Here, Piggy!"

Running around the neighborhood shouting, "Here piggy, here Wilbur, 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.

Hilarity for the Teachers

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 schoolyard. 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.

The Sweet Sound of Grunting

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."

Dealing With a Recalcitrant Runaway

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 the noise. Beet 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 backup," 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."

Hot Dogs Save the Day

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.

Wilbur tired himself out!

Wilbur tired himself out!

Pigs Are Great!

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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2013 CraftytotheCore


Monique on June 27, 2019:

What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing. We just adopted an 8 week old Juliana Mini and so far it is the best thing I have ever done for myself and my 3 dogs, 3 cats, 3 tortoises and a giant iguana. He can be a handful but in a good way. He can be mean but in a funny way. He is the most awesome animal I have ever had BUT I would not recommend a pig to anyone as they need CONSTANT looking over but if you have the time and patience and the LOVE, this will be the best thing that ever happened to you

Ja on May 03, 2019:

You feed him hot dogs????!!

Wendy on May 13, 2018:

Loved this article. We have just rescued a male pig who was not wanted by anyone anymore as he had become big and people only wanted him to breed their female. He was quite abused in previous environment and very skittish. I have faith that with proper love and training he will come around. We are Day 3 into this and has rooted his way out twice already

Katherine Bertin on March 07, 2018:

Is your pig neutered?

Flo Behanna on October 07, 2017:

I enjoyed this story. Happy he got a loving home. Pigs are awesome and loving pets. But they require a lot of patience and care.

Melanie Hanke on August 27, 2017:

Very true! Our 6 month old pig has a very large pen with shelter, but prefers to sleep on the screened porch with his dog bed every night! Oh & his buddy Lulu the cat

Brianna on May 10, 2017:

Just curious, do you still eat bacon? Lol

J. Burns on December 23, 2016:

Your words are so true. My baby Gilly is 2 and a 1/2 yrs old over 200lbs. Yes over 200 still growing. I love him lots what a piece of work. Won't lay on ground has a rug hates rain and snow. I could talk about him on an on. Please research before getting one. Jlb

Linda on June 07, 2015:

your baby needs entertainment. They become bored easily. They love cats and cats love pigs. Watching my sunny boy play with a wooded up newspaper was so much fun.

april on April 22, 2015:

I have a 4 month old female her name is Mimi. I've had her contained in our bathroom since I'm litter box training her. I came in to give her her breakfast and she has rooted 2 small holes in my drywall what can I do to deter her from this?

CraftytotheCore (author) on February 03, 2014:

Jennifer, wow, I never had that experience with Wilbur. But we adopted him when he was already fixed. I have to believe that having him fixed will help the situation. Good luck to you and congratulations on adopting a piggie!

Jennifer Hope on January 09, 2014:

We just acquired a six-month old pig and it runs around trying to hump everything and everybody and always has his his corkscrew penis out! Do I need to do? I know he needs to be decent text but is this normal behavior and if I don't having desexed will he do this every time he's around people?

CraftytotheCore (author) on October 14, 2013:

Hi Moonlake! Oh, I'm so glad you found this. He is just so much fun. :D

moonlake from America on October 14, 2013:

Wilbur is so cute. I just love him. It's nice you came along and gave him a good home.

Mel Jay from Australia on July 11, 2013:

OMG he is a big boy, no way would he fit on the couch! So cute he loves cats - Thanks again :)

CraftytotheCore (author) on July 11, 2013:

Oh, Mel, I forgot to add, Wilbur weighs approximately between 150 and 200 pounds now. I hope he doesn't get much bigger. We feed him 1 cup of grain in the morning and at night, with carrot and veggie snacks during the day. He roots in the yard for whatever else delights him. He is almost 4 years old.

CraftytotheCore (author) on July 11, 2013:

Hi Mel! Thanks for your comment! Wilbur was neutered by the prior owner before we got him. I think it helps with the "bully" tendencies they have. Wilbur is really sweet. He loves the company of people in the yard. I have 3 large dogs. I already had Wilbur when I adopted them. They were afraid of him at first. One of them barked at him constantly. But we got that all under control now. Wilbur doesn't seem to mind. I think he loves the company and attention! He loves cats. Yesterday we babysat my grandfather's mini poodle. Wilbur thought it was a cat. The poodle wasn't afraid of Wilbur and walked right up to him and sniffed him. Wilbur is territorial so he will lunge, but has never bitten. Careful management is the key, especially when dealing with various animals. Baby gates and fences help with containment issues.

Mel Jay from Australia on July 11, 2013:

What a fantastic hub - Thumbs Up and awesome from me :) - Wilbur is adorable. Did you have to get him de-sexed? I know you said he was 60 pounds when you got him but how much does he weigh now? I have always thought about getting a pig but was not sure how it would work with the dogs. Thanks for the information - Cheers, Mel

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