Should You Get a Pig as a Pet?

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

pigs as house pets

Story at-a-glance -

  • Pet rescues are inundated with full-sized potbellied pigs who have been surrendered after their owners could no longer care for them
  • Some breeders will mislead pet owners that they’re selling “micro,” “mini” or “teacup” pigs, which have been starved in order to keep them small; many pet pigs reach 100+ pounds
  • Pigs are smart, social and playful animals who require a great deal of mental stimulation and an appropriate living environment for optimal well-being
  • Pet pigs are not legal in all areas; check your local laws before adding a pig to your home
  • If you decide a pig is the pet for you, be sure to contact one of the many potbellied pig rescue organizations throughout the U.S. for adoption information

Pigs are undeniably adorable, especially when they’re small, intelligent and companionable, making them a natural candidate for families looking for a pet. Pigs can be trained to walk on a leash, go potty outdoors or in a litterbox and do tricks, much like a dog or cat.1 That being said, despite their similarities, pigs are not dogs, and they have important distinctions that may make you think twice before adding one to your home. Here are some of the most important considerations if you’re thinking about adopting a pig for a pet.

Why Many People Love Pigs as Pets

Vietnamese potbellied pigs became popular as pets in the U.S. in the late 1980s and have remained that way to this day,2 even as legislation in various cities have put restrictions in place. In Las Vegas, Nevada, lawmakers loosened restrictions on potbellied pigs as pets in 2016, changing legislation to eliminate size restrictions and allow more than one on a property.3

In New York City, meanwhile, the animals are illegal, despite a devoted following.4 Assuming pet pigs are legal where you live (be sure to check before adopting one), they are smart, social and playful animals who require a great deal of mental stimulation.

Without an outlet for play, exercise and emotional health, pet pigs may become depressed, destructive or aggressive. You’ll find, however, that they typically adore playing and will carry around balls and sticks much like dogs. They’re also curious creatures who can get into trouble if you don’t have a safe area from them to scamper, dig, root, forage and roam in.

Some people make the mistake of assuming adopting a pig will be the same as adopting a dog. In an opinion piece for the California Potbellied Pig Association (CPPA) it’s noted, “Understand that pigs are different than cats or dogs — the bonding time is different, the way they show affection is different and the engagement you will have with them is different — it's super rewarding but it’s different.”5

Potbellied Pigs Don’t Stay Small

Perhaps the greatest misconception surrounding potbellied pigs is the notion that they’re going to stay small. Pet rescues are inundated with full-sized pigs who have been surrendered after their owners could no longer care for them. While you may be able to handle a pig that’s 20 or even 60 pounds, a 300-pound pig is a very different matter.

Mike Keiley, director of adoptions at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which has taken in nearly 100 unwanted pigs in the last five years, told the New York Post, “People are expecting to get very small pigs that can live in their house and be able to care for them like they would a dog. And what we’re seeing is that people are starting to realize that mini pigs don’t really exist.”6

CPPA also dispels the myth that potbellied pigs are small or miniature pets, stating that they may grow to be more than 150 pounds by four or five years. “This is common,” they noted, adding:7

“A 60 lb. mature pig is actually very rare, despite long[-]standing myths to the contrary. Also be aware that 100 lbs. to 150 lbs. weight is only achieved with a strict diet. A 300 lb. potbellied pig is not uncommon if it is overfed, and a 300 lb. pig could be very difficult to transport, and it will probably suffer many health problems.”

Some breeders will mislead pet owners that they’re selling “micro,” “mini” or “teacup” pigs, which have been starved in order to keep them small. Some also instruct pet owners to underfeed their pig so he doesn’t get too big,8 a cruel practice that leads to malnourishment and growth problems.

While potbellied pigs are “miniature” compared to farm pigs, which may reach 900 pounds or more, they’re not small pets by any means.

Advertisement
Get ​34% Off on a Canine Hormone Support 3-PackGet ​34% Off on a Canine Hormone Support 3-Pack

Basic Requirements for a Potbellied Pig

Pigs need access to the outdoors for exercise and mental stimulation, with access to shade and a wading pool in the summer. Know that they may dig up your yard, garden and flowerbeds, and enjoy having a space to roll in mud. When indoors, pigs will investigate drawers, cabinets and anything they can get into. Be sure to pig-proof your home, keeping dangerous items (including medications, food and even things like salt) well out of their reach.

Pigs can chew and destroy furniture, walls and other items in your home, especially if they’re bored. Crate-training your pig is recommended so you have somewhere safe for him to go when you’re not home, as well as to help when you need to transport him. The nonprofit Pig Advocates League explains that it’s pigs’ curious nature that can be both an asset and a liability:9

“Pigs love to learn, they are eager to investigate, search and find new things. This doesn’t always work in your favor though. Because pigs are naturally curious animals, they tend to get into things that you may not want a dirty snout in, which brings us to the next topic of discussion ... pigs need activities, they need time outside to be a pig.

Pigs can be happy with rooting boxes (a homemade or store bought box) filled with ball pit balls or river rocks, toys, dirt, whatever you'd like to put in there that a pig can't get hurt rooting around in. Throw a few treats in like … oats, grapes, etc. and watch your pig search for every single piece of food that may be in there.”

As herd animals, pigs enjoy companionship and do better with another pig to pal around with. As prey animals, they typically do not enjoy being picked up, but can learn to tolerate it and may enjoy being petted and brushed if you use patience to slowly gain their trust. Pigs can also be territorial and may try to challenge their place in the herd, which means they can be aggressive toward you, children or other animals.

They can also be highly vocal and loud, which is something to consider if you have neighbors close by. Potbellied pigs also need regular trimming of their tusks and nails, and regular veterinary care. Not all veterinarians work with potbellied pigs, so be prepared to travel to find one who will.

95% of Potbellied Pigs Are Surrendered

According to Heartland Farm Sanctuary’s Pot Bellied Pig Campaign, about 95% of potbellied pigs are abandoned or surrendered within the first year.10 So before deciding to get a pig as a pet, be sure you have the time, space, resources and desire to share your heart and your home with a 100+ pound animal who may live for 15 to 20 years.

If you decide a pig is the pet for you, be sure to contact one of the many potbellied pig rescue organizations throughout the U.S. for adoption information. Heartland says they receive calls weekly from people looking to rehome potbellied pigs, but for every pig they’re able to take in, they have to turn 20 away. By adopting a pet pig, you can help to reduce the number of these incredible animals looking for permanent, loving homes.