In the 2 weeks since Piper has joined our family, I’ve fielded a lot of questions about the piggie lifestyle. Here I will attempt to answer them, but keep in mind I’m no expert and am learning as I go.
WHERE DID YOU GET HER? Macy did her research and looked at hundreds of piggies online. Her favorite was this little girl, from Jensen Farms (click here to go to their website, but be forewarned: there are a few typos and usage mistakes, so if you’re the kind of person who is bugged by that, peace be with you. I’m still trying to figure out a way to edit their stuff without coming across as a weirdo/know-it-all/grammar stalker).
HOW MUCH DID SHE COST? That’s kinda personal, but suffice to say that the price goes up in direct proportion to how big the pig will be when full-grown. In other words, be very wary of a breeding selling “mini” pigs for $200. Compare the price of a piggie to the price of a purebred dog or cat and it doesn’t seem so outrageous. Plus, with a lifespan of up to 20 years, you’re gonna get your money’s worth.
HOW BIG WILL SHE GET? This little piggie is estimated to be between 15 and 20 lbs when full-grown. The best way to tell how big a piggie will be is to look at the parents’ weights. Piper’s dad is 12 lbs and her mom is 20 lbs at 3 years old. Female breeder pigs (piggie mamas) are kept heavier than non-breeding females, though, so keep that in mind. A breeder can’t ensure a piggie’s final size, so beware of any such claims. Like all mammals, piggies’ growth is dependent upon food and exercise. Feed her a lot, she’s gonna grow. Exercise her a lot, she won’t get too fat. The age-old, simple equation of calories in vs. calories out applies. Be careful, though, because they are good eaters and are quite appreciative of treats & snacks, so combine that with their all-around adorableness and it’s hard to resist feeding them as much as they want. Tammy, if you’re reading this: no more cookies for Piper!!
WHAT DOES SHE EAT? Pretty much anything. We bought pot-bellied pig food in a 25-lb bag at a feed store. Prices are comparable to dog food. I’ve never had a cat, so I can’t speak to how pig chow compares to cat food price wise.This one is by Manna Pro, and Purina makes one too. Check the nutrition label, though; the first bag we bought is for fattening up pigs to go to market. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. The pig chow has the right nutritional formula for her, but she also gets half a Flintstone’s vitamin every day. We have to chop it up and hide it in her food, but she’s worth it. For the pig chow, she gets 1/4 cup twice a day, along with whatever vegetable scraps we have around. Ok, the truth is, she gets a custom-blended tossed salad on top of her pig chow. When I’m making salad for lunch or dinner, I’ll throw the yucky parts of the lettuce, the stems of the spinach leaves, and the tops of tomatoes in a tupperware and save it for Piper’s bowl. She likes all three of the abovementioned veggies, plus carrots and cucumber. She doesn’t seem to like bell peppers or celery, but I’m guessing she would eat them if not offered her faves alongside. She loves strawberries and blackberries, and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen her eat an apple. I have videos of her eating but can’t figure out how to upload them. Stay tuned.
WHERE DOES SHE DO HER BUSINESS? In the backyard, like a dog, or in a litter box, like a cat. She seems to prefer the backyard but doesn’t like to go out in the cold (luckily she lives in Texas!). Whether outside or in the litter box, she is very focused and takes care of business as soon as her feet hit the grass or the pine shavings. If you do use a litter box for a piggie, don’t use kitty litter or any kind of pelleted litter because they can confuse it with their pig chow and get sick. No one wants to see a backed-up piggie.
DOES SHE GET ALONG WITH OTHER ANIMALS? Yep. Our researched indicated that piggies get along well with any animal. Our dogs, and our doggie BFFs, were divided into two camps regarding Piper: the “couldn’t care less” camp, and the “I want to investigate/prove my dominance” camp. She’s a bit leery of the dogs but I expect they’ll become good friends in time.
DOES SHE PLAY WITH TOYS? Piper has several dog toys, and an activity box. The box is an under-the-bed plastic storage container full of wiffle balls and tennis balls. We hide a handful of grape tomatoes in amongst the balls and she pushes the balls around to find the food. Piggies love a sandbox to root around in, and the “hide the tomatoes” game would work in a sandbox as well. Breeders advise giving piggies a section of yard to explore. So far she hasn’t shown any desire to dig, but she likes to push the dirt around with her snout.
DOES SHE DO TRICKS? Piggies are very smart and can learn lots of tricks. Piper is learning to give kisses on command, and she picks up new things easily. She learned to use the litter box in a day. We videotaped her finding tomatoes in her activity box, and while Macy was watching the video, Piper heard us saying “find it!” on the video and promptly jumped in the box to start looking. I’m hoping to train her to do the laundry and load the dishwasher.
DOES SHE NEED VACCINES? Nope, just a dewormer. She will need to be spayed before she’s 6 months old.
DOES SHE SHED? STINK? Neither. Piggies have hair, not fur, so they don’t shed or have dander, which means they’re great for people with allergies. She doesn’t stink, either, which is more than I can say for the two dogs in our house. Our breeder said her pigs get a bath once a year, if that. Piggies’ skin is a little dry, so Piper gets a slathering of baby lotion once a week. She also needs sunscreen if she’s outside (don’t we all?).
IS SHE FILTHY? Not unless someone is eating tzatziki nearby, in which case she tries to dive into the container and cover her body with the tasty dip. Her snout gets a little dirty after she roots in the yard or if she has a particularly juicy blackberry, but a quick swipe with a baby wipe or paper towel fixes her right up.
HOW EASY IS IT TO INCORPORATE A PIGGIE INTO YOUR LIFE? Very. She follows us around the house like a dog and loves to sit and nap in our laps. She can be left in her crate, or to roam Macy’s room, when we’re gone, and piggies like to go for walks on a leash. We’re working on the leash training, but so far she’s been easier to train in every area than the dogs. She was pretty needy the first day or so, but she’d been separated from her mama, had flown on a plane, gone for a long car ride, and thrown into a strange environment. I would have cried, too.
DO PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE CRAZY FOR HAVING A PIG IN THE HOUSE? Perhaps. But who cares? Actually, the general response to her has been overwhelmingly positive. She’s cute, neat, non-stinky, well-behaved, and loving. What’s crazy about that? Some homeowners associations and city ordinances prevent piggies, so check into that if you’re thinking of getting one. If you really, really want one and your area prohibits it, remember the old “What they don’t know won’t hurt them” rule. But you didn’t hear that from me!
HOW DO PIGGIES COMMUNICATE? They make a variety of different sounds: up to 20 different sounds, in fact, from grunting and snorting to woofing and crying. Check out this excerpt from a breeders’ “Piggie Manual:”
Whining- well, that is pretty straight forward–they want food, someone made them mad, or is messing with them.
“Ahhhh ahhhh ahhh”– is a familial greeting. It means they see you as family.
“oink, oink, reeeeeee”- means they are searching for someone or something and they are a bit nervous.
“Woof”- it sounds like a bark. This has two meanings. Excited in a good way, they will bark and run and play. If they say it in a higher pitch it means DANGER and they will run away.
“Ooof” (while blowing air) – usually means annoyed, but can mean nervousness
“Rarararaa grumble grumble”- means I AM NOT moving off the couch!
Teeth grinding- can be confusing, it can mean they are teething and have discomfort, in pain, and some do it for contentment
Continuous oinking- I call this “echo location”- they are just oinking to see if someone is around,
Screaming- this means they are mad because they are hungry, confined, or can’t find you.
Grunts- they have soooo many of these…. Most are happy grunts, they have different sounding ones
that come with belly rubs, when you get the “right spot”, petting, happy I am eating food grunts, etc.
Piper makes a “chuff chuff” sound when we pick her up; piggies don’t like to have their feet off the ground, so the transition from standing to being picked up and getting settled in one’s arms elicits the chuffing. There’s the “I need to potty” grunt that has a different intensity. She makes another specific grunt when she’s following us and trying to catch up. If she’s unhappy, say if someone is eating and not offering her a taste, she will give a little screech. She sighs and sneezes, which is just about the cutest thing ever. She also wags her tail like a dog when we say her name, when she’s eating, or if she’s just plain happy. Then there’s the “piggie flop” she does when she’s being scritched in the exact right spot: we’ll be scratching away and all the sudden she flops over onto her side. Whump! Piggie down!
ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES TO OWNING A PIGGIE? We’ve tried really hard to think of one. Not that our family is a piggie brain trust or anything, but even after a lot of thought and careful consideration, the only thing I can come up with is that her pee stinks.
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and the first chapter is New Year’s Day.” — Edith Lovejoy Pierce
I’m a couple of days late, but the sentiment stands.
Welcome, 2012. I have every hope that this year will be waaaaaaaaay better than the last. 2011 was a humdinger, and not in a good way. 2012 is bound to be better, just by default.
I’m not one for making resolutions as a new year dawns, but I do like to set goals. I’ll leave things like world peace and matching-making for those pathetic Kardashian sisters to a higher power; I’m motivated, but am not a miracle worker. Without further ado, my goals for the coming year, in no apparent order:
drink more champagne (I’m sure some are wondering, is that even possible??)
improve my forehand (more depth and more angles, and quit hitting right to the person on the other side of the net. Sheesh.)
make my own salad dressing (no more Newman’s Own for me, although I want to figure out how to get his face on my bottle of dressing)
take my calcium supplement (every day, no excuses, just do it)
That’s it. A simple list.
Happy New Year!