Ever since Paris Hilton added a teacup pig to her menagerie of pets in 2009, the mini-porkers have been all the rage among exotic-pets enthusiasts (and Paris Hilton enthusiasts). Unfortunately, many pet owners take teacup pigs home with many misconceptions about the animals, resulting in countless pigs surrendered to animal shelters when owners become overwhelmed by the unexpected growth and particular needs of their new pets. We’ve got 10 key tips about owning a teacup pig that you should know before adopting one.
1. Be sure you can legally own a teacup pig where you live.
If you’re thinking of adopting a teacup pig, research the laws in your county, town and state to ensure that owning such an animal is even legal. Too many people miss this step, and end up finding themselves in court for the right to keep their teacup pet, even though it clearly violates local zoning laws. All it takes is one nosy neighbor to report you and notify authorities of your unauthorized “livestock.”
2. Be aware of how big teacup pigs really get.
The name “teacup pig” is a terribly misleading marketing gimmick designed to sell these animals to naïve buyers who think their pets are going to stay piglet-sized for their whole lives. It is true that teacup pigs do not get as big as regular pigs, which easily can grow to be 1,000 pounds. But a teacup pig will not fit inside a teacup for long. They actually get to be around 50-60 pounds, or about as big as a medium-sized dog.
3. Be aware of how long teacup pigs live.
A teacup pig is a long-term pet. They outlive dogs. They outlive cats. They won’t outlive you, as a parrot or a tortoise could, but with their lifespan of 15-20 years, you're signing up for a significant commitment. And since most owners want to adopt teacup piglets to enjoy them while they’re still teacup-sized, they’re really in it for the long haul.
4. Be aware of how much a teacup pig costs.
Teacup pigs are expensive. Obviously, you won’t be able to simply visit an animal shelter and rescue a teacup pig like you could a dog or a cat. You’d have to buy your pig from a teacup-pig breeder, and the adoption alone is going to soak you for around $1,000. And while spaying or neutering a dog or cat may cost a few hundred bucks, getting a teacup pig fixed is a more complicated affair, and you’ll need to find a specialist who can do it, so prepare to cough up more than a few ducats for that.
5. Have your teacup pig spayed or neutered.
You really, really should spay or neuter your pets not matter what, but the truth is that many pet owners don’t bother fixing their cats and dogs, and while that’s not good for them, unaltered cats and dogs can still be lived with. Not so with teacup pigs. With these animals, not spaying or neutering isn’t really an option. Especially with males, you’re asking for trouble once your pig reaches maturity. A male will stink, become aggressive, grow dangerous tusks, destroy your house and just generally become impossible to handle.
6. You can train a teacup pig like you would train a dog.
One of the great things about pigs is their high intelligence level. Pigs are very smart, at least as smart as dogs, and that means they have a similar capacity for training. Take a positive-reinforcement approach to training your teacup piglet, using treats as rewards for tasks and tricks performed correctly. Read our guide to dog training for some strategies.
7. You can litter train a teacup pig, but that doesn’t mean it will be as clean as a cat.
A lot of the marketing for teacup pets as precious, perfect pets includes that they are easily litter trained. Yes, it’s true that you can litter train a pig, and when it’s still small, cleaning a pig’s litter area may be manageable. But don’t expect that way for long. There’s a good reason why we think of pigs as the animal kingdom’s No. 1 slobs. Being miniature will not change a hog’s essential nature. Owning a teacup pig means owning a basically messy animal. Caveat emptor.
8. You should exercise a teacup pig like you would exercise a dog.
Thinking of your teacup pigs as similar to a dog is a good basic plan. They’re about as big as a dog, they’re as smart as dogs, you can train one like a dog and you should exercise them like dogs. In other words, take them for daily walks so they get the exercise they need, as well as the opportunity to eliminate outside.
9. Give your teacup pig blankets.
Teacup pigs love blankets. Lots of them. They want to dig under them and sleep wrapped up in them and build blanket forts all day long. Pigs are born to root, and blankets provide an outlet for that instinct inside your home. And we’re not talking about just one security blanket. Have blankets ready anywhere your pig likes to hang out: in its crate or playpen, on the couch, a favorite corner somewhere, even in the car.
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10. Give your teacup pig a kiddie pool.
Pigs need plenty of water, not just for drinking, but also for playing in. A children’s pool is the one item other than blankets that no teacup-pig owner should be without. Wading in a pool of water will help your pig regulate its body temperature when it’s hot outside. It’s also important to know that your pig will probably splash water from the pool onto the ground to make mud it can roll in. This of course is totally natural behavior for a pig, so before you adopt one, be sure you’re prepared to wash mud off of it almost constantly.
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