Pigs are social, intelligent animals, making them a good pet for some owners, said RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Australia, an Australian peak organization to promote animal welfare. Pigs are often perceived as dirty, disgusting animals, noted Animal Health Care P.C., a provider of basic care to the pet and offer guidance to owners. In reality, they are clean animals. But before getting your own pig, you have to check your local council for any requirements. You might also consider consulting your state or territory agriculture department about relevant laws in keeping pigs as pets. Miniature breeds such as the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig can weight 35 to 70 kg and more than 150 kg if overfed. Other breeds will weight around 200 to 300 kg or more, said RSPCA, the largest animal welfare charity in the UK.
Husbandry, Health, and Biosecurity of the Smallholder and Pet Pig Population In England (2015)
The pig breeds owned by survey respondents were British Saddleback (21.9%), Kunekune (21.5%), Gloucester Old Spot (19%), Oxford Sandy and Black (12.8%), crossbred (12%), Berkshire (10.9%), and Vietnamese potbellied (9.9%), according to Amy Gillepsie, Dai H. Grove-White, and Helen J. Williams of journal portal Research Gate.
The owners kept pigs because they breed the animals for meat (44.6%), breeding piglets to sell for pets or breeding (33.7%), buying pigs to grow for meat (28.6%), and showing (13.4%). Meanwhile, 4.7% of owners said they used the pigs for other purposes such as land cultivation (eight owners); racing, educational support, or working with clients with special needs (five owners). 277 owners answered a question about their pigs’ housing. They said that their pigs had access to their home in 26 cases (9.4%) while the pigs never or rarely ventured outside in three cases. In 251 cases (90.6%), pigs did not have access to the owner’s home. Among these, 77.5% of owners provided free access to a shelter, 15.5% shut their pig in a shelter for part of the day or year, and 4.8% kept the animals inside all the time. Only 2% of owners reported keeping their pigs outside without access to shelter.
Among 272 respondents, 83.8% said they were registered with DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), 82% with a veterinary surgeon, and 44.5% with a breed society. The respondents vaccinated their pigs against erysipelas (57.5%), parvovirus (28.3%), pneumonia (14.2%), diarrhea (11.3%), swine influenza (7.5%), PMWS (Post-weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome) (5.7%), and tetanus (5.7%). The owners used the following feed in their pigs’ diet: proprietary pig feed (94.6%), fruits and vegetables obtained for the pig (60.9%), household scraps (23.9%), other treats obtained for the pig like biscuits (10.5%), home-grown produce and garden waste (10.5%), and other animal feeds (7.3%).
To administer an injection, the respondents restrained their pigs using food (35.4%), pigboard or temporary hurdles (32.3%), dedicated crate or race (7.8%), jabstick (6.6%), and snare (3.9%). Only 14% did not any use any restraint or physical restraint. Over the last 12 months, the diseases that afflicted the owners’ pigs were musculoskeletal disease (22.3%), skin disease (17.3%), gastrointestinal disease (7.4%), respiratory disease (7.4%), trauma (5.5%), unexplained death (5.5%), and behavioral problems (3%).
How to Take Care of A Pig?
1. Local Laws
For example, in the UK, the 2006 Animal Welfare Act mandates anyone that owns a pet to be legally responsible to meet their animals’ five basic welfare needs: a proper diet, somewhere suitable to live, any need to be kept with or apart from other animals, being allowed to exhibit normal behavior, and protection from and treatment of illness and injury, said RSPCA. Pigs also require a license if they are moved to other premises, with the exception of slaughterhouses. Pet pigs also require a license if they are moved to the veterinarian’s surgery. The pigs cannot be moved for at least 20 days, though an exception applies for exercising pet pigs. However, the owner has to apply for a license to their local Animal Health Office Veterinary Officer and meet other requirements.
Pigs can be kept outdoors or indoors. Like dogs, they can be potty trained. Indoor pigs will need their own space in the house, preferably their own room complete with blankets to nest it. Pigs also need an outside run for exercise. On the other hand, outdoor pigs need a purpose-built brick or wooden house or half a water tank with some straw. Provide them with straw, sawdust, and blankets for nesting. Pigs will require shade as they get sunburnt easily. A dirt bath or mud bath can also help your pigs cool off during hot weather.
Pigs will consume any food. Offer them wheat, barley, or oats. Apples, kale, and root vegetables like turnips are good too. Small amounts of peas, lupins, or beans can be offered as a source of protein. You can also feed your pigs with specialist pig feed from a rural feed supplier. Pig feed will contain all the nutrients your pigs will need. Be sure to provide them access to clean, fresh water. However, your pigs will try to make the container fall to make mud for wallowing, so it is advisable to use a heavy container.
Pigs require plenty of mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors. Opt to get a pair of pigs so that they have company when you leave home. Pigs love humans and enjoy attention, tummy rubs, and scratching from them. Pigs are friendly but they can also be territorial animals.
Watch out for any territorial behavior and discourage your pigs from demonstrating this behavior while they are still young. Food rewards are effective when training your pigs. They can learn their names quickly and do tricks like twirling. Likewise, you can train them to wear a leash or harness or even use a larger litter box. Pigs are inquisitive animals so they enjoy rooting, foraging, and chewing. Hence, pigs may not be the best pet for you if you want to maintain a well-manicured garden. Destructive behavior can also be exhibited when keeping your pigs indoors. They can be noisy when they are excited such as when your pigs are anticipating their mealtime or produce loud grunts and squeals.
Pigs are loveable animals but they tend to exhibit destructive behavior. They love to chew and forage so they may not be the best pets for owners who love to maintain their garden. Owners should check their local laws for any requirements before owning a pig.