Providing The Perfect Premise For Your Potbellied Pride & Joy
Oh what fun it is to prepare your home for that new
little sweetie pig. And its important to make the transition from living with
littermates to peoplemates as smooth and painless as possible. The details I attend to as
a breeder in preparing a piggy for adoption are similar to what you as an adoptive family
can do to welcome the little newcomer into your home.
Much of the preparation for your new housemate will depend upon
how old the pig is, how long it has been weaned and away from other piglets, if it has
been handled and socialized, and if it has had any litterbox and/or outdoor training. When
you buy a pig from a breeder, ask lots of questions about how the pig has been handled,
what and how much food he has been eating, the extent of his litter training, the
vaccinations the pig has received and if the pig has had any type of problem. Dont
be bashful. Information you gather beforehand will only make the transition easier.
I am writing from the perspective from which my pet pigs are
adopted: that the animal is at least seven weeks old, has been weaned and isolated from
littermates, has become user friendly and has been taught the fundamentals of potty
Giving The Pig Space
A well-defined place for your piggy is most important. This area
should not be too large, have the ability to be closed off from the rest of the house and
be draft-free with an even temperature. Kitchens and utility rooms work well because of
the linoleum or tile floors in case potty accidents occur. If you received your pig in a
travel or carrying crate, this should be left in the designated quarters
familiarity breeds contentment. Also, if you intend to use this carrier for pig pleasure
travel, trips to the vet or as a kennel when you are away from the house, it is a good
idea to feed your piggy in his carrier and lock him in once in a while. This way when it
is necessary to have your pig confined to his carrier, the experience is not scary or
unusual because he is used to it.
If you dont have a room or part of a room you can use for
your new piggy, a large childrens play pen is a good temporary compromise. The space
is not really adequate for other than a very young piglet. Since the bottom of play pens
are usually plastic, I place throw rugs down for traction and define the sleeping area
with a blanket or sleeping bag, putting the litter pan in an opposite corner. The feeding
area should be in yet another corner. Pigs dont like to eat and eliminate in the
same area. Thats simply not piggy-like. The play pen arrangement only works for a
young pig, so prepare a more permanent space as soon as possible.
Another essential item to have set up before your pig arrives is a litter box.
You will have to use a pan that is more shallow than those designed for cats,
which are far too high for our porcine pals to climb into easily. Cat boxes also
eventually won’t be large enough to accommodate your growing pig. My
favorite litter pan is the plastic tray that is used to catch droppings in the bottom
of a rabbit hutch made by Havahart (www.havahart.com). The litter box should
be placed away from the sleeping area and if you put your pig’s water dish
inside the tray, you will marvel at how your piglet will urinate while having a
For litter, I prefer newspapers because they are readily available, cheap, and
effective. I lay several layers in the litter pan and remove as needed. Granted,
you will be changing the papers more often, but I find wood chips to be very
messy. If you prefer wood chips, use pine and not cedar. Don’t use cat litter; pigs
like to eat it, those silly guys.
A combination of indoor and outdoor potty training is a good idea. My
experience indicates that piggies don’t mind urinating indoors in a litter box but
they prefer to defecate outdoors. So with the goal that one day your pig will be
totally an outdoor eliminator, choose a spot in the yard that you want the pig to
use and start training your pig to “potty” there. You must stay with your piggy
during this initial outdoor training for two reasons: 1. To praise his
accomplishments (say “Good pee!” or “Good poo!” when he completes his
mission), and; 2. To make certain he doesn’t find a way out of the yard or the
If you want to make it easy for your pig to go outdoors, you can install a dog
door. These can either be purchased that fit into the frame of a sliding patio door,
or they can be installed in the bottom of a hinged door. Of course, you will have
to teach the pig to use the door, but he will readily figure out how to push
through it if you stand on one side with a shaker can of pellets and call him. It
won’t take long for him to be scampering in and out. You’ll find that he learns
very quickly to go outside when he needs to do his business.
If your house has floors that are not carpeted, your piggy will
really appreciate paths made of throw rugs. Smaller pigs have more difficulty navigating
on slick surfaces than larger ones, so these throw rugs may need to be used only
temporarily. They also function to direct your pig to the areas you prefer him to go. If
allowed, your porcine pal will investigate every nook and cranny of your abode, as pigs
are very curious by nature. They like to help you with your daily chores, happily
following you around, snorting and almost always collecting dust bunnies on their noses.
Its important to keep kitchen and bathroom cabinets that
contain dangerous substances closed securely, just as you would for a child. Keep your
piggy away from anything that might harm him.
I would not recommend using crockery dishes for feed and/or water
bowls. Pigs love to push things around with their noses, hence the possibility of lots of
broken dishes. Because pigs have big jowls, a wide bowl is necessary. Ive had the
best luck with straight-sided, plastic bowls about 7" in diameter and 2" tall.
Another good option is an aluminum pan about 1-1/2" tall and 12" in diameter.
Both are light weight, good for traveling, indestructible, and easy to clean.
Very young, newly weaned pigs really like to have something warm
to cuddle up to. A rubber hot water bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a cloth
or old t-shirt works great. This is like a mini water bed, warm and very comfortable, and
not unlike the feel of another piglet. A household electric heating pad should not be used
because the pig may chew on the cord and the result could be disastrous. Its
important to keep all electrical cords inaccessible to your pig, but because pigs are so
smart, you can quickly teach your pig that cords are a definite "NO." Special
heat mats are available if you feel your climate and usage would warrant the expense. They
are made of a heavy plastic material with the heating element completely embedded and the
cord protected. Many sizes are offered, and they can be used indoors as well as outdoors.
(heat mat: Kane Mfg. Co. Inc., 800-247-0038). Another heated pad for dogs, cats and other
small animals is made by K & H Manufacturing and is called Lectro-Kennel. If not
available locally, call 719-591-6950 and inquire.
Every pig Ive ever dealt with would much prefer a sleeping
bag to any other indoor bedding. Ive tried blankets, rugs, and dog pillows, but the
bag definitely wins. I think they like the slick feel and coziness as well as the ability
to burrow down. Discount stores carry sleeping bags for under $20 that fill the bill and
are machine washable.
You can create a cozy sleeping area for your pig by setting up a
card table and draping blankets, large towels or sheets over it, making a tent afair.
Place your piggy cushion and all your pigs special blankies inside. She will love
the privacy and there will definitely be no drafts. The table top serves as a handy space
for her supplies.
The Mobile Pig and More
At first, getting your pig up and down steps and in and out of
cars will be no problemjust pick him up and do with him what you will. However, as
the size of your sweetie pig increases, so will this ease of handling lessen. All of the
entries into our house have steps. It just so happens that we had built a ramp for an
aged, arthritic, canine buddy that also works beautifully for the pigs. It is made out of
piece of 3/4" plywood with a guard rail that is made from a 1" x 6". Be
certain that the slope of your ramp is not too steep. Ive stapled a piece of rubber
matting down the center of the ramp to help with tractionindoor/outdoor carpet or
roofing shingles will also work. A similar ramp can also be constructed to use with your
It seems that younger, smaller pigs have less trouble climbing
stairs than older, larger ones. Since my breeding girls are in and out of the house a lot,
I certainly dont want them dragging their precious underlines along hard, concrete
steps. But that is not to say a perky, pet pig cant learn to use the steps without
harming himself. Using food as a motivator, work with your pig on stair training. You will
be surprised at how quickly your pig will master this. As always, be slow and patient and
dont over do your training sessionsshort, frequent sessions are more
productive than long ones.
You will have fun watching your particular pig and discovering
what works and what pleases him. Ive bought dog toys, hung tether balls from trees,
and perused toy departments looking for the perfect diversions, but none have been
overwhelmingly successful. Rather, my pigs most enjoy playing with a throw pillow or
tearing up newspapers. A wagging dog tail or shiny canine toe nails passing by also have
I discovered a wonderful rubber brush that is actually designed
for cattle but works well for pigs. On one side there are bristles, on the other little
rubber nubs. It fits on your hand like a glove, which makes grooming convenient and
reinforces that the human hand brings pleasure to the piga concept that comes in
handy during training. Ive tried other styles of brushes, but this is by far the
favorite of my piggies, and it is very durable. (scrub & wash mitt: Nasco, #C11574N,
The items Ive mentioned here have been tried and tested and
work very well for me and my pigs. Thats not to say that there arent lots of
other systems and supplies that will work for you. Success depends upon each
individuals set up, the personality of each pig and the time you spend with your
pig. The most important thing to remember is that your pig is quite intelligent. Put
yourself in your pigs position and try to reason as he would. If you suddenly move
his litter box, for example, dont be surprised if your pig either eliminates in the
spot the box used to sit, or refuses to eliminate at all. Try not to make abrupt changes
in your piggys environment and routine. The adaptability of these little creatures
never ceases to amaze me, but consistency and familiarity are very important when you are
trying to train your pig.