The Coastal Star

Paws Up for Pets: Potbellied pigs are smart and clean, but need space

Luciana Gilman, of Loxahatchee, finds Ruby, left, and Sonny good company.

Together, the pigs weigh 150 pounds. A potbellied pig can reach 200 pounds.

Photo by Ximena Olds

By Arden Moore

    The majority of the pet columns I’ve penned for The Coastal Star have gone to the dogs and cats. But not this one. Brace yourself. We are about to go hog wild about what it is really like to pick a potbellied pig as your pet.
    In Palm Beach County, pigs as pets created quite a stir with the County Commission four years ago. The elected officials agreed to conduct a three-year trial to weigh the pros/cons of pigs as pets in urban and suburban neighborhoods. Because there were no major protests or pig problems, the commissioners voted in late 2015 by a 6-1 vote to OK these sweet swines as pets.
    If you do explore adopting a pig, you’ll want to know, how healthy are they? For answers, we turned to Dr. Kristy Lund, a veterinarian who treats all animals, including exotic pets, at her practice, Lund Animal Hospital in Boca Raton.
Lund, who has been caring for potbellied pigs since 1991, says, “Pigs are extremely intelligent. They are hypoallergenic and do not get fleas, so they do make good pets for certain households. But they do require regular teeth trimming and hoof trimming.”
    She adds that they love to learn tricks and can live up to 25 years. She recommends seeking out a veterinarian trained to care for exotic pets and consider ones who do house calls, because these big-and-wide pets can be challenging to inspect in an exam room.
    “We encourage the owner to work with their pigs when they are little to allow them to accept being handled and to train them to wear a harness,” Lund adds.
    And what exactly is life like with a pet pig? For insights, we chatted with a pair of Loxahatchee residents, Alissa Gilman and JoJo Milano.
    Gilman, her husband, Chris, and their 4-year-old daughter, Luciana, happily cuddle up in the living room each night with a pair of pigs named Sonny and Ruby, who collectively weigh about 150 pounds … and counting.
    Milano’s menagerie at her Goodness Gracious Acres home includes a pair of pet pigs named Ignatius C. Potbelly and Sweet Pea, as well as some goats.
    Gilman’s pig pair definitely are homebodies. Sonny, 5, and Ruby, 3, spend their days in and out of the open-styled house and particularly love diving their snouts into the yard to root out bugs, which they like to eat.
    But Ruby also enjoys participating in mock “tea times” with Luciana and hanging out with the cats, named Nemo and Jack, plus the assortment of chickens clucking out in the backyard. Both pigs perform tricks, including sit and spin.
    The pair apparently can tell time (especially for 5 p.m. dinners) and love belly rubs and behind-the-ear scratches. And, yes, they are house trained: They go to the door and oink when it is time for a potty break.
    “There is a notion that potbellied pigs are smelly and dirty — and they are not,” says Gilman, who works in airport services at Palm Beach International Airport. “Once in a while if our pigs roll in the mud, they will go into the shower with us.
    “Sonny and Ruby are very sweet, very loving and they make us laugh. At night, we all hang out on the couch or in the living room. At bedtime, Ruby follows us like a dog into our bedroom to sleep on her bed and Sonny heads to his bed in the living room.”
    At Milano’s 2-acre home, Ignatius and Sweet Pea revel in spending time outdoors, but display different personalities.
    “Iggy acts like a grumpy old man and Sweet Pea loves, loves, loves to meet people,” says Milano, who operates a home-based design and advertising company as well as Delilah’s Dairy, which features goat milk and handmade soaps. “She squeals with delight when saying hello to new customers.”
    Parting advice? Prep your home before adopting a pig and make sure to go with tile flooring, not carpeting. And be aware that tiny potbellied piglets grow big and wide. They can reach up to 200 pounds.
    “Potbellied pigs do not stay small at all,” says Gilman, whose pigs eat commercial pig chow plus fruits and vegetables. “They are bulky and need wide spaces in the house to maneuver. And they are super smart. They quickly learned if they squealed, I’d feed them. But don’t overfeed them or they will get overweight quickly.”
    Before you rush out to adopt a potbellied pig, call your local municipality — and your homeowners association. Permission for having pigs as pets can vary by municipality.
    
Arden Moore, founder of www.FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and master certified pet first aid instructor. Each week, she hosts the popular Oh Behave! show on www.PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.

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