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Daisy the pot-bellied pig will help kids 'Pig out on Reading,' at the St. Tammany Parish Library.

When we think of animals in a shelter waiting to be adopted, we typically think of cats, dogs and even bunnies. Every so often, however, I see a potbellied pig.

So, how do these cute pigs measure up as household pets? Personally, I’ve always wanted one, but the hubby disagrees.

Potbellied pigs can make excellent companion animals for people who know what they are getting. Potbellies can be house trained, walk on a leash and love to have their bellies rubbed. They also love to snuggle.

Keep in mind that they are highly intelligent, curious creatures and sometimes this curiosity can lead to mischievous behavior. Potbellies tend to be demanding and can often outsmart even the smartest of owners.

Potbellied pigs average about 125 pounds 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 potbellies can be temperamental 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 to root around and lounge in the sun.

Although pigs can get along and even bond with cats, dogs and pigs may not mesh well as dogs are natural predators of pigs. As with any animals, potbellied pigs should always be supervised around small children. Pigs are gentle by nature, but they are also territorial and emotional, and can become aggressive when competing for food or attention.

Preparing the home for 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 that they could dig in, such as garbage cans, purses, etc. Child-proofing the cabinets is also recommended, as these clever animals can learn quickly how to open cabinets and drawers.

Potbellied pigs require a diet of grain, vegetables and occasionally fruit. There are several pig foods on the market — much like dog and cat food options. However, a pig should not be fed dog or cat foods, and table scraps are not advised.

They 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 also 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, stay, etc. Pigs are extremely food motivated and will do just about anything for a treat.

With proper care, most potbellied 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 potbellied pigs face is obesity. It can lead to serious health issues and even death. Severely obese pigs can become blind, can suffer from crippling joint problems and can have respiratory issues, so it’s important to keep them fit and trim.

Those interested in adopting a potbellied pig should contact their local shelter or seek out a pig rescue program such as Pig Placement Network www.pigplacementnetwork.org.

Events

SATURDAY: Basic Manners, a five-week group training class, starts at 9 a.m. at Jefferson Feed on Jefferson Highway. Taught by a certified trainer from the Louisiana SPCA, the class covers behaviors such as sit, down, stay, come, leave-it and focus. To attend Basic Manners, register in advance at la-spca.org/grouptraining or email training@la-spca.org.

SATURDAY: Manners Plus starts at 10:30 a.m. at Jefferson Feed on Jefferson Highway. The five-week group class is taught by a certified trainer from the Louisiana SPCA. Graduates of the Basic Manners course learn distance cues, stay and come when called around greater distraction, as well as polite walking on a leash. To attend Manners Plus, register in advance at www.la-spca.org/training or email training@la-spca.org.

TUESDAY: The Louisiana SPCA is holding a volunteer orientation from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd., New Orleans. Pre-registration is required at www.la-spca.org/volunteer.


Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For topic suggestions, email animalrescuecolumn@gmail.com or for more info on ARNO, visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org.