When we think of animals in a shelter waiting to be adopted, cats and dogs typically come to mind. However, recently, there have been a number of pot-bellied pigs finding themselves homeless and in local shelters. Just this month, the Louisiana SPCA listed one at its facility, and the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter had two available.

Pot-bellied pigs can make excellent companion animals for people who know what they are getting into when they adopt a pig as a pet. Pot-bellies can be house-trained and can walk on a leash, and they love to have their bellies rubbed. They also make great snuggle buddies. Keep in mind that they are highly intelligent, curious creatures, and sometimes this curiosity can lead to mischievous behavior. They tend to be demanding and can outwit even the smartest of owners.

Pot-bellied pigs average about 125 pounds at 3 years old and are not considered full-grown until the age of 4. They have a life span of 12 to 15 years. Spay and neuter is a must, as unaltered pot-bellies can be hormonal and demanding.

They make great house pets, as they are smart, clean, generally nonallergenic, odor-free and flea-free. However, they also require ample outside time in a secured yard in order to root around and just relax and bask in the sun.

While pigs can get along and bond with cats, having a dog and pig is not always a good idea, because dogs are natural predators of pigs. Pot-bellied pigs also should be supervised around small children. Pigs are generally gentle by nature, but they are also territorial and emotional and can become aggressive when competing for food or attention.

Preparing a home for the arrival of a new pig is similar to getting ready for a toddler to visit. Make sure that cleaning products, medicines and other toxins are out of reach. Keep plants off the ground and put away anything they could dig in, such as purses. Child proofing the cabinets is also recommended, as these clever animals can quickly learn how to open cabinets and drawers.

Pot-bellied pigs thrive on a diet of grain, vegetables and occasional fruit. There are several pig food options available, much like dog and cat food options. However, a pig should not be fed dog or cat foods, and table scraps are a no-no.

Pot-bellied pigs can sleep in a dog crate with soft bedding or in a doghouse with lots of comfy straw or hay. They do not like to lie on hard surfaces. They have no problem sleeping in the bed with their owner.

The more interaction and training a pig receives, the better. They can easily learn tricks and good manners such as “sit,” “gentle” and “stay.” Pigs are extremely food-motivated and will do just about anything for a treat.

With proper care, most pigs have few health problems. However, some may experience constipation, leading to impacted bowels, which is a life-threatening condition. This is why it is important to feed a diet high in fiber and always provide plenty of fresh water. Male pigs can sometimes have urinary tract problems. By far, the No. 1 problem pot-bellied pigs face is obesity. It can lead to serious health issues and even death. Severely obese pigs can become blind, suffer from crippling joint problems and can have respiratory issues, so keep Mr. Piggy fit and trim.

Those interested in adopting a pot-belly should contact a local shelter or seek out a pig rescue program such as the Pig Placement Network, http://www.pigplacementnetwork.com">www.pigplacementnetwork.com.

Events

SECOND CHANCE SUNDAYS: Every Sunday in May, the Louisiana SPCA will reduce the adoption fee of all cats and dogs 6 months and older by 50 percent.

COLLAR DONATIONS: Donations of new pet collars of any size, shape or color are being accepted through May at Compass Furniture, 5025 Bloomfield St., Jefferson, as part of the Compass Cares program. The collars will be delivered to the Louisiana SPCA at the end of the month. For information, visit www.la-spca.org/events.

LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish, you can send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact information to lostandfound@la-spca.org. In Jefferson Parish, email http://www.la-spca.org/eventshttp://af-neworleans.org">molsen@jeffparish.net and bbourgeois @jeffparish.net, and in St. Bernard Parish, email cluna@sbpg.net.

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at animalrescuecolumn@ gmail.com, www.animal rescueneworleans.org or call its recorded information line at (504) 571-1900.