(Sections are copied from the original manuscript of the Pot Bellied Pig Manual by the School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis, and published by VIN with the permission of the original author, Dr. Lisle George.)
Photo by DepositPhotos
Young pot-bellied pigs are wonderfully social if they enjoyed nurturing contact with people during their first 8 weeks of life. Pigs who enjoy human contact received positive contact when they were piglets. When they're left alone, they're calm.
Pigs wag their tails. A wagging tail can indicate a variety of moods - friendliness, anger, or aggression.
They like the treats they get from people. They will grunt softly when a person comes near them.
Pigs prefer it when people squat. They are not keen about hats and gloves so remove those before you touch a pig. They are less suspicious of someone who sits quietly and waits for the pig to come to them, and they prefer initiating physical contact than receiving it. Wait for your pig to come to you.
They like to be active in the morning and evening, and nap during the day. Pigs have daily habits, and such functions as sleeping, eating, elimination, and socializing are generally done on a schedule. However, during hot weather, their regularity lapses and they do almost everything at night.
Happy, healthy pot bellied pigs spend some time rooting around, and by chewing or mouthing soil or grass fibers. Rooting in the dirt is a natural behavior, so pigs are not the best choice for those people with neatly landscaped yards.
Although feral pigs may walk almost two miles a day, pot bellied pigs don't care to walk so far.
Pigs should be provided with environmental enrichment because they are very intelligent and in the wild they like to roam. Enrichment includes playing with heavy, non-destructible toys, such as rubber tires, iron chains, cement blocks, non-painted tools. They do not like soiled or dirty toys, nor do they care for large movable objects either on the floor or that hang from the ceiling. Pigs like clean material that is soft, chewy, and heavy. Other fun toys include straw, hay flakes, leather, and thick hemp rope. They enjoy having food placed into their toys. A bowling ball that has been drilled and filled with pellets seems to be a particularly favorite toy; hiding food in the pig's environment is great enrichment but needs to be done daily to keep interest up. Anything painted with lead pigment or made of wood, plastic, fabric or string is not suitable for a pig.
Safety gates can keep young pigs from using stairs but are hardly sufficient to prevent an adult pig from going where he wants to go.
They tend to become more solitary as they age. Pot bellied pigs have an average life span of 10 to 18 years.
Feral pigs are active during the day and night, but during hot weather they are only active during nighttime. Indoor pet pigs, however, are awake about 46 percent of the time. For part of the time they are asleep, they doze rather fitfully, but are fully asleep more than they doze. Pigs develop rapid eye movement (REM) during deep sleep, similar to people.
Pet pigs in a stable environment like to urinate and defecate in one place that is fairly far away from where the pig sleeps and eats. Before they eliminate, pot bellied pigs will lift up their tail and arch their back; sometimes their back legs will move. Because they don't cover their solid waste or dig through it, they don't need their elimination area to have a loose composite texture or a granular surface.
When eliminating, pigs do not necessarily differentiate between outdoor and indoor sites, and they don’t see going inside the house as a problem. However, pigs can be easily housetrained at a young age by going outside every half an hour until an elimination site is chosen. A loss of housetraining can sometimes be seen in bad weather or changes in the household's social order. To re-housetrain the pig, house him outside until he selects a permanent defecation site and only let him back in after he has shown a clear preference for going outside.
In a city setting where there is no yard, the pig can use a litter pan in a small bathroom. Cat litter is not needed. The pig's regular elimination should be used as a guide to get the pig into the litter pan. After he has regularly used the pan, he can slowly have more freedom.
Grunting during elimination can indicate a medical issue. Grunting during urination in females can be cystitis and urolithiasis in males. Urolithiasis is a serious problem that occurs suddenly; the pig loses his appetite and becomes depressed and uncomfortable. If the urolithiasis obstructs the pig's urination, emergency treatment is necessary. Grunting during defecation is oftentimes found to be a perirectal leiomyoma. Frequent attempts to defecate can result in constipation, and the feces become small dry pellets.
A pot bellied pig will enjoy 6 to 8 small sized meals during the day and 1 to 3 meals in the evening. Pigs are omnivorous, so they will eat anything. On a daily basis they should eat an amount equivalent to 2% of their body weight, although they won't stop themselves until they've eaten approximately 4% of their body weight. Eating 4% of their body weight every day will lead to obesity and joint problems.
When fed the appropriate amount, pigs should vigorously eat the entire ration and lick the bowl afterwards. Carrots, celery or broccoli can be given as snacks. Pigs have a sweet tooth and prefer foods flavored with sucrose, glucose, lactose, or saccharin to vegetables.
Refusing to eat usually means that the pig does not feel well or that the food isn't much to his liking. Hot or cool weather can lessen the appetite. Females (sows) in heat have less appetite than usual.
If a pig vomits but continues to eat, smell the food to check for mold contamination.
With multiple pigs, competition for food can lead to fights while the dominant pig eats until he is full and the submissive pigs eat less. Make sure submissive pigs have access to food.
Pot bellied pigs are very intelligent and are more easily conditioned to some behaviors than dogs or cats. They can be leash trained with consistent training and patience.
That intellect also means that indoor pigs all too easily - and quickly - learn to open the refrigerator and pantry door while looking for food. Pigs are exceptionally good at opening cabinets and can break fasteners meant to keep the cabinet shut. Be sure all poisonous materials are completely out of reach. Foods toxic to pigs when they eat too much of it include breakfast cereals, potato chips, coffee, tea, pretzels, and baking chocolate; prescription medications are also toxic.
Pigs love food, and treats are effective training aids. Pigs learn best when rewarded with juicy, succulent foods. They do not learn through discipline or by visual stimulation.
Treats as rewards should be used infrequently, however, because if the treats are not given, or if offered by someone the pig considers submissive, the pig could become belligerent. That belligerence can result in aggressive behavior such as charging, barking, or hitting the person while the pig tries to get the food. This behavior cannot be tolerated and it will get worse over time, creating a pig who is too aggressive to live with people. Pigs want to be dominant, and you must be a strong leader.
It's best to time training sessions so that they are one to two days apart. It's also hard for them to learn if there are more than three distractions occurring at the same time.
Pigs are seriously opposed to being restrained. When they're not being handled or rounded up, they are calm; however, the moment the tiniest bit of restraint is perceived, a pig reacts with a tremendously strong flight response during which he will scream to the rooftops and struggle. Should you attempt to corner a pig in order to restrain him, he will struggle and scream. Strong, if not violent, resistance from the pig may result in his becoming injured or even dying from cardiac arrest.
Temperament tests can be done with piglets to find a piglet with the least resistance to restraint. Place the piglet on his stomach for a full minute and extend his head; pigs who can tolerate restraint will just grunt and lay there, whereas pigs who dislike restraint will attempt a frenetic escape. This is best done two times over one week. Piglets that try to escape two or more times during each test are called resistant and the passive pigs are referred to as non-resistant. Inconsistent pigs – about 20 percent of those tested - are thought of as doubtful and not likely to accept restraint well. Resistant pigs will be resistant throughout their lives, will likely need to be sedated before being handled, and are more likely to develop the mechanical repetition activities seen in stressed pigs. Their health will likely be poorer overall than their non-resistant brethren.
Chronic Stress Behaviors
Pigs experiencing chronic stress or who have not been well socialized may show some stress-related behaviors such as chewing or licking metallic or concrete objects, drooling excessively, repetitive jaw movements, and continuous rooting, digging with the snout, rubbing, or hitting the walls with the head and shoulders. Constantly rubbing objects with the snout often leads to weight loss and skin ulcers that don't heal easily. That type of behavior is most typically seen in pigs housed in groups with no bedding in the stalls.
Pigs who show repetitive, unchanging activities that have no function, such as repetitive chewing, rooting, drinking, pacing, or blank stares have what are called stereotypies. Restraint resistant pigs are more likely to develop these stereotypical behaviors. Pigs with these behaviors are usually bored and need some social time with people or other pigs. More food can help minimize stereotypies, but they also need some enrichment so that they won't be bored. The pig should have some soil he can root around in. Pigs in separate stalls should be able to see or smell each other.
Straw bedding and alfalfa hay will help avert these repetitive behaviors, as will going outside to roam freely.