THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A TEACUP, NANO, MICRO, OR ANY OTHER ABSURD TINY SOUNDING NAME YOU HAVE HEARD REGARDING SMALL PET PIGS.
This morning, I took Pennington on a walk and ran into a kind stranger who saw us and asked if my pig was friendly and if she could take a picture. During our conversation she said two things that I hear all too often; “He is so big!” and “I have always wanted a pet pig but I want one of those tiny ones that stay small.” I explained to her that those “tiny” pigs she is referring to are in fact babies, she replied to me by saying she had a friend who had a three-year-old pig who was only 25 pounds but unfortunately he suddenly passed away, however the breeder told them the average life span of her special micro pig was 3-5 years so it wasn’t all that odd just the result of “old age.” I wanted to shout, but instead I responded to her by saying that healthy pigs can actually live anywhere from 15-20+ years and that early death and or illness is sadly quite common with very small pigs due to either malnourishment or bad breeding. She seemed stunned but also unsure of what I was saying, which is a common response I get from people.
In my last three and a half years of pig ownership I have had this conversation countless times, and while I do not want to seem rude or like a know it all, I know that I NEED to do my best to educate these people. I used to believe that a healthy mini pig could grow up to be 35-50 pounds max but after a lot of research (along with watching my own big grow, and grow, and grow) I learned that this is just NOT the case. I want to make it clear that I am not trying to judge people who believe this myth because the media and breeders seem like trustworthy sources, and I also understand that some people may have a pig who is older, healthy, and smaller than average but those pigs are the minority. I just want people to understand that while mini pigs are small compared to the average hog, they are not small pets.
Pigs do not stop growing until they are 3-5 years of age but they can reproduce much earlier than this so while a customer might meet the parents of their new piglet and see that they themselves are small it is very likely that these parents are babies themselves and have a lot of growing up to do. When Pennington was two, I rescued a pig named Norman who was the same age as Penn but less than half the size, when I commented on how small this pig was the owners explained to me that they were very careful about his restrictive diet that was suggested by the breeder so he gets 2 tablespoons of pellets in the morning and another tablespoon at night, with the occasional snack of celery or iceberg lettuce but no fruit or other foods because they are too high in calories. I wanted to cry right then and there but I held my tears back and took Norman home and gave him a proper amount of food (which varies based on the pig’s size), water, and a nice piggy salad. After a visit to the vet I learned that he had potentially irreversible joint damage as a result of stunted growth caused by starvation. He was taken in by a woman who rescues farm animals and almost two years later is now a happy, healthy, normal sized pig, but it is likely that he will suffer from arthritis at an early age.
There is so much more that I could say about these situations but it all comes down to this; if you are contemplating getting a pig as a pet, size is an exceptionally important thing to be aware of, but it absolutely does not stop there- DO YOUR RESEARCH, adopt one of the thousands of pigs who need homes because their owners were not aware of the realities of pig ownership (for the record if you are set on getting a baby pig, there are plenty of homeless piglets out there as well), contact me or another pig parent and ask about everything that is involved with pig care, expect to get a pet that will not only potentially outgrow you in weight but outsmart you at every turn, be prepared to “pig proof” your home to the point that it almost appears that you could run a daycare in your house, check your ordinances to see if pet pigs are legal in your area, make sure there is a vet near you that treats pigs, if your vet does not do home visits make sure you can take a day and have a budding willing to help for the event that is getting a 100 lb pig in the car and to the vet’s office, and expect to have unusual vet visits that you do not usually have for a cat or dog (such as annual blood tests, deworming, hoof and tusk trims, potential emergency visits because a pig will taste test just about anything, and more), expand your pet food budget because not only does your pig need a good solid pig food but also a hefty amount of fruits and veggies, along with food budgeting educate yourself and come up with a diet plan that works for your pig because while many pigs are often not given enough food a potentially even more common issue is giving your pig too much food resulting in obesity, make sure you have a secure yard that your pig can graze and root in and forget about pretty landscaping, your pig will probably dig holes…you need to deal with it ( A NOSE RING IS NEVER THE ANSWER REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE “PET VET” ON TV SAYS, it is cruel, painful, and rooting is an absolutely natural and instinctual habit for all pigs), unless you live in an area where the weather is fabulous all year long make sure your pig has access to shade, drinking water, and a baby pool of cool water for warmer months, and an insulated/dry hay-filled shelter for colder months + a secure indoor area for your pig and a bunch of toys and activities to relieve their winter boredom for not only their sanity but yours as well… THE LIST GOES ON AND ON.
I will admit that I got a pig on a whim, I thought that I had done a proper amount of research before but I was totally wrong. The only reason I still have my Pennington is because I am blessed with a family that has provided me with the resources to accomadate for the both of us as I get through college, the pig community who has provided me with advice and even given emotional support, and a deep dedication that is in my own heart to take care of this intelligent and loving animal that I took responsibility for the day I decided to bring him home. In the summer of 2017 it will have been four years since I got Pennington and I am still learning more about him each day and in all reality there are some things that never get easier but I would not change it for anything.
I have done my best to help other pig owners who didn’t understand what they were getting into much like myself, and I still ask people for help regarding certain things, but I am determined to continue educating others so that one day I do not get another email asking for help because someone got a pet who simply is much larger than they expected. It is long overdue that the fact that pigs do not come in “micro” size is common knowledge.
These animals are incredibly intelligent, affectionate, complicated, and have the potential to bring so much joy. Right now a very small percentage are in loving dedicated homes, thousands of the lucky ones are in sanctuaries that are beyond capacity but doing their best, while many others have been or are being abused, neglected, and often times abandoned. They deserve better, all creatures do. So please, take this message to heart and spread it to anyone who brings it up because there is a literal epidemic of homeless pigs that were once pets and it simply is not fair. We need to be their voice.
And as a last note, just because they are not teeny tiny pets, does not mean they are any less wonderful!
P.S. Pennington was put on a little diet in between 2014-2015, also this picture doesn’t do his growth a great justice because he is turned in the last two and a lot of his growth has simply been in mass. But for a better idea when I got him he was 2lbs, at a year he was 35lbs, at 2.5 years he was he was 70 lbs, and I would guess he is closing in on 90-100 at 3.5 years.
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