Pet pigs are often sold, sometimes at low prices, to people without the knowledge or facilities required to care for them properly. Owners aren’t always prepared for what’s involved in keeping a pet pig: a great deal of time, skill, money, and land.
In general, pigs are not suitable as pets, due to their very specific needs.
Whilst piglets may look cute, even miniature breeds (e.g. the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig) soon grow up to weigh 35 to 70 kilogrammes (over 150 kilogrammes if overfed). Other breeds will grow as large as a commercially farmed pig i.e. 200 to 300 kilogrammes, sometimes more.
Whilst some pigs have a very good temperament others should be handled with care! The average life span of these breeds is five to ten years, although some can live up to 25 years - a lot longer than the average cat and dog.
What do pigs need?
Pigs are highly intelligent and social animals. When given enough space they will use specific areas for dunging, exploring and sleeping. They’re also very inquisitive, spending a large part of the day exploring their environment, rooting and foraging in the soil.
The company of other pigs
Pigs are social herd animals and need to be housed in a way that allows at least two pigs, which get on well, to live together.
A pig shouldn’t be kept in the home. A minimum area of 36 square meters (e.g. 6 x 6 metres) is needed per pig, but ideally a larger space should be provided. Pigs are very strong so robust fencing should surround their living area to prevent escapes.
It’s really important to ensure that in warm weather pigs are provided with a wallow and shelter from the sun (pigs can get sunburn and can get sun stroke). In cooler weather and at night, pigs must have access to warm, dry, draught-free, straw-bedded accommodation, as they easily get cold.
To prevent the spread of disease it is illegal to feed any waste food to pigs. This includes meat, bones, blood, offal, or other parts of an animal, or eggs and eggshells. Also, used cooking oil and table/kitchen scraps can’t be fed to pigs, even if no meat or meat products are prepared in the kitchen.
A commercially prepared pig ration, available from agricultural merchants, should be fed.
Pigs must have regular checks from a vet to make sure they are in good health. Pet pigs are prone to a few specific health problems, including:
- arthritis and lameness, particularly in older animals
- pot-bellied pigs can suffer from inverted eyelids.
What is the law concerning keeping pigs as pets?
Under the Animal Welfare Act (2006) anyone responsible for a pet has a legal responsibility to meet the five basic welfare needs of pets. These are:
- somewhere suitable to live
- any need to be housed with or apart from other animals
- being allowed to express normal behaviour
- protection from and treatment of, illness and injury.
By law, pigs require a license if being moved to other premises (except if going to a slaughterhouse), including pet pigs being moved to the vet’s surgery. They then can’t be moved again for at least 20 days.
However, an exception does apply for exercising pet pigs, although the owner has to apply for a licence to their local Animal Health Office Veterinary Officer and meet certain other requirements (more information is available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Defra).
It is illegal to transport pet pigs in any vehicle that has not been properly constructed to carry them – this includes a car. Pigs must be transported in compliance with the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 2006.