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Can pigs be kept as pets?

Article ID: 111
Last updated: 22 Jul, 2008
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Pigs are intelligent, inquisitive, social animals and can make great pets. However, if you are thinking of getting a pig as a pet, there are several things you should consider first.

Many local councils in Australia will not grant permits for a pig to be kept in a backyard, even in some rural areas. The first step is therefore to check with your local council on any requirements it might have.

You also need to check with your state or territory agriculture (or primary industries) department about the laws that apply to keeping pigs. The same laws that apply to commercial piggeries also apply to pet pigs. For example, it is illegal to feed anything containing meat to pigs. Many of these regulations exist to protect the Australian livestock industry from exotic diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease.

The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Pigs (http://www.publish.csiro.au/books/download.cfm?ID=5698) sets minimum welfare guidelines for people involved in pig farming.

Pigs as pets should be bought from reputable breeders of pet pigs. Ask to view the parents, as this will give a good indication of the size the pig will grow (although some pigs will outgrow their parents). Commercial breeds of pigs can reach 250–300 kg, and it is unwise to keep one of these breeds as pets unless you have a lot of experience with them and plenty of room.

Some information about looking after your pet pig is provided below.

Housing

Pigs require little in the way of housing and can be kept indoors or out. They can be toilet trained like dogs. Indoor pigs will need their own space, preferably their own room with a pile of blankets to nest in. They will also need an outside run so that they can exercise and have an opportunity to use their natural instinct to forage for roots and fungi. Outdoor pigs will need a simple shelter; this could be a purpose-built brick or wooden house or just half a watertank with some straw inside. Because pigs love to nest, you should provide them with straw or sawdust outside or blankets inside. Pigs get sunburnt easily, so they will also require shade, and they will welcome an area where they can have a dirt bath or mud bath. Shade and a bath are essential in hot weather because pigs can’t sweat and therefore overheat easily. Make sure you have a sturdy fence.

Food and drink

Pigs will eat almost anything. They will need cereals such as wheat, barley or oats, and will enjoy apples, kale, and root vegetables such as mangelwurzel or turnips; they will also forage for roots and fallen fruits. You can give them household vegetable and fruit scraps that would otherwise be used for compost. Small amounts of beans, peas or lupins can be fed to provide protein. Alternatively, you can feed your pig specialist pig feed from a rural feed supplier, which will contain all their nutrient needs. All pigs need fresh clean water, but they will try to tip over the container to make mud for wallowing so make sure you use a heavy container.

Health needs

Pet pigs should be desexed. Undesexed sows will come into heat every 3 weeks, becoming restless, vocal and moody, and undesexed boars will be aggressive, restless and smelly. You should discuss vaccinations with your vet. Pigs will also need annual worming, and hoof trimming.

Pig behaviour

Pigs require plenty of mental stimulation or they will become bored and destructive. If you have space, you may want to consider a pair of pigs so that they have company when you’re not home. Pigs love human company and enjoy attention, tummy rubs and scratching. In general, they are very friendly animals, but they can become territorial, so keep an eye on territorial behaviour and discourage this while the pigs are young.

Pigs can be easily trained in much the same way as dogs. Food rewards are particularly effective. Pigs can learn their name very quickly, can learn tricks such as sitting or twirling, can be trained to wear a leash or harness, and can be trained to use a large litter box. They appreciate routine in their daily lives.

Because pigs are so inquisitive and enjoy rooting, foraging and chewing, they can be quite destructive, so they might not be the best choice of pet if you want to keep a well-manicured garden. If you keep your pig indoors, destructive tendencies can also be a problem. You should also be aware that pigs can be quite noisy when they are excited (for example, when they are anticipating food), making loud grunts and squeals.

This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person’s unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
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