How much is that piggy in the window?
There are designer dresses, handbags, even dogs, but now there’s a new trend: designer pigs. That’s right, celebrities like Paris Hilton are now carrying around pigs in their Louis Vuitton purses, but they’re not the 50-pound porkers you’d see on the farm. They’re “micro” or “teacup” pigs, specially bred pigs that stay the size of piglets through their adult years.
Cranston residents Victor Kinoian and Justin McHugh are hoping to jump on the bandwagon and put some cash into their piggy banks by breeding and selling the newest wave of designer pets. Their business, called My Pet Piggy, LLC, and is just getting off the ground, and is still in the earliest phases. In the spring, Kinoian said he’ll set up shop on a farm in Hopkinton, where he’ll breed and sell the small pigs to savvy pet owners.
Right now, Kinoian is just getting his feet wet – he currently has five micro pigs that he’s treating as pets in order to learn about the care and behavior of the animals. But he didn’t just jump into the business blindly. Kinoian has been researching these miniature pigs for many years, and just got his first one several weeks ago.
The pigs, which range in color from white and pink to brown and black, can weigh anywhere from 15 to 35 pounds when fully grown. That’s about the size of a Cocker Spaniel. Kinoian said the smaller the better, as the tiniest pigs go for the largest sums of money.
“Fifteen pounds is extremely lucky,” he said.
A pig is considered “miniature” when it’s anywhere under 35 pounds. Most of the pigs they own right now are well under a year old; at about 6 months, Kinoian said the pigs are half their adult size.
“Micro” or “teacup” pigs are genetically engineered, and haven’t been around for too long. Kinoian said the trend started in Europe several years ago, when they started breeding the smallest pigs from each litter. The process continued until they ended up with these permanent piglets.
Kinoian said he plans to do the same thing come the spring, and is working with another breeder to obtain the highest quality pets.
Though they’re cute and compact, these pigs aren’t for everyone.
“They’re like babies,” said Kinoian. His first pig, Tank, a 4-month-old the size of a Yorkie, has become attached to him. It recognizes Kinoian’s smell, and prefers to be held by him. Unlike a dog or cat, pigs can only be held one way: cradled like an infant. Otherwise, they squeal, a piercing noise of distress.
The pigs Kinoian plans to sell will be spayed or neutered and litter box trained. Pigs can also be leash walked outside, like a dog. Kinoian said they eat a healthy diet of veggies, though they can also eat feed from a farm supply store and the occasional Cheerio will never hurt them.
Kinoian said he is still learning about bath time, a process the pigs don’t enjoy much. Despite stereotypes, the pigs don’t carry an offensive smell. In fact, some smell quite lovely, depending on what type of lotion you use; pigs need to be moisturized because their skin dries out.
And don’t forget to pamper them, because pigs are extremely smart. Kinoian said pigs are just behind chimpanzees and dolphins on the list of smartest mammals. It’s their intelligence, he said, that prohibits their owners from getting away with hastily handling them or switching up their routines.
Apart from their unique needs and high IQ, pigs are like other pets. They interact well with other animals, and Kinoian’s two pit bulls get along well with the five pigs sharing their home. Usually, the pigs are pretty quiet, squeaking out only the occasional squeal or snort. Cross them and they will nip, but not to injure, just to warn.
Pigs aren’t like cats or dogs, and because of this, Kinoian is only taking serious inquiries from those that have done their research.
The asking price is another hurdle. Kinoian said most pet pigs on the market go for somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000. However, the guy behind My Cousin Piggy plans to sell his pigs for $950 to $1,200.
If you’re considering pig ownership, it’s important to check your local regulations. Some cities and towns in Rhode Island prohibit pig ownership, like Providence. But most don’t have laws on the books, said Kinoian, since micro pigs are such a new fad.
To find out more about My Pet Piggy, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.