Potty Training – Litter Boxes – Trouble Shooting – Clean Up – Signs of UTI
Potty training is one of the first things a pig parent will work on with their piglet. This will be a lot easier if you set them up for success from the beginning! First, decide if you want to train your baby to use a litter box or go outside or a combination. Potty training during winter in cold climates limits outside potty training until Spring. Consistency in training is essential for success.
Young piglets do not have full bladder control, so many parents choose to start with a litter box until they are old enough to consistently make it outside for potty breaks. Start out with a small area. A puppy pen, a bathroom, a small gated off room, or a baby playpen. Remember, babies need to use the potty often throughout the day. Immediately after waking, after eating, after drinking, after playing and anytime in between.
- Keep them confined to a small, safe area until they get used to the family and environment. Give them a comfortable area to nap with a pet bed or blanket. Take them to the designated outdoor potty area. This area must be safe and secure for your piglet. Never take a piglet out without a harness and leash unless you have a small fenced area or outdoor playpen. Every time they eat, drink, wake from a nap, or has playtime, take them out to potty.
- In the beginning you will want to take them to potty many times in a day. If you want your piglet to learn to potty on command, you need to choose command words and use those when you take him/her outside, for example, “go potty” or “go poop,” etc. When they do go potty outside tell them “good boy/girl, good potty!!” (in a happy voice). You can even reward them with a treat when they are successful, and they will soon catch on that they have done the right thing. You can either install a doggy door for them to use, or attach a bell to the backdoor and train them to ring it when they need to go out. Remember, accidents are accidents and they are babies.
- There is no need to punish; as in dogs, rubbing their nose in their mistake, physical punishment and/or yelling (after the fact) will not help your piglet learn house training skills. If you catch them in the act, you can verbally tell them “no” sternly and quickly show them where they should go.
- It is helpful to ask your breeder what they have been using for litter box training and get the same pellet for familiarity for an easier smooth transition. Breeders most often use horse bedding pellet or pine pellet. Cat litter cannot be used as pigs will eat the kitty litter and it is not good for them.
- Keep your piglet confined to a small area when not being held or attended to and keep the litter box in this area. Piglets cannot hold their bladders very long and often do not have time to get to their litter box without an accident.
- Do not let your piglet roam the house freely without being attended to, as they will become overwhelmed and forget where the potty box is, be too afraid to go find it, or get distracted. Pigs are clean animals and do not want to soil where they sleep or eat, so keep the litter box in a different corner of their area, away from the bed and food.
- Put them in their potty box often and say “go potty”. You will want to place your piglet in their litter box every time they eat, drink, and often throughout the day. When your piglet does potty in the appropriate place tell them “good boy/girl!!” in an excited praising voice. You can reward your piglet with a treat in the beginning stages as well. They will soon understand they have done the right thing.
- Make sure the sides of your litter box are very low for piglet to enter. If your piglet slips in the litter box or hesitates to enter, cut an entry low enough and line the bottom with paper towels for added traction.
- Once they are consistently using the litter box in their small area, increase the amount of space your pig can roam SLOWLY! If they start having accidents, then limit the space again until they are consistently using the box. You may need more then one litter box in the house to accommodate your piglet, especially if you have a larger home or a two story home.
- Once you put a litter box down it is best to keep it in the same spot permanently. Once they deem a spot as a potty spot, they will continue to use it as a toilet even if you take away or move the potty box! BEWARE of accidents on carpet.
- Once a pig goes to the bathroom on the carpet, it can be extremely difficult ever removing the urine smell, especially if it soaks into the padding. They have an incredible sense of smell and therefore will be called back to that area after many efforts of removing the smell. Making sure your pig has mastered potty training before they freely roam the home is an essential part of potty training successfully.
Even the most successfully potty trained pig can have set backs or revert to poor potty behavior. Lapses in potty training may be symptomatic of something else.
Pottying right outside the box:
- Put towels or puppy pads around the perimeter of the potty box until they get better control. Place them in the potty box often.
Spraying urine over the side of box:
- Get a box with taller sides and cut a walk in entrance for them.
Pottying in inappropriate places:
- If they are going under a bed or under a desk, they’re telling you they want privacy. Try a covered litterbox or a plastic tub with a lid with an entry way cut in.
If your piglet is picking spots around the house to potty:
- clean the area thoroughly. Their sense of smell is incredible. Just because we can’t smell it, doesn’t mean it is gone. Once the odor has been eliminated (tips below) use those spots as “feeding stations.” Pigs don’t like to potty where they eat. If you sprinkle their pellets and treats over those spots, several times a day, they will view that spot as a place to eat, therefore they’ll hesitate to soil the area. If the pig potties where they shouldn’t, put a piece of stool or a urine soaked paper towel into the litter box, put pig into the box and tell them “go potty” as they sniff the paper towel.
- Intact pigs are incredibly difficult to potty train because their hormones will drive them to leave their scent to attract a mate. Spayed and neutered pigs are far easier to potty train.
Pig refuses box:
- If your pig refuses to use the litter box, they might not feel comfortable entering. Make sure there is a short entrance for them. Make sure they feel secure standing in it as pigs do not like slippery surfaces. Experiment with different litter choices. Some pigs have litter preferences and refuse to use litters they don’t like.
Pig was potty trained and now won’t use the box.
- A few reasons pigs may stop using their litter box after developing good habits are: a urinary tract infection, soiled litter box not cleaned often enough, other pets (i.e. dogs) have access to the potty area and pig doesn’t feel comfortable with potty area/needs more privacy/security, pig has outgrown the litter box and needs a bigger accommodation or pig wants to potty outside, or their are soiled areas in the house that is disrupting their training.
- Many pigs naturally prefer to potty outside especially as they mature and develop better control. If your pig does not have a UTI, has a clean box, has the litter they prefer, litter box is big enough and pig still isn’t consistently using the box, then try taking them outside to potty several times a day. They may be trying to tell you something…
- Newspaper pellets: These pellets can be found at pet stores in the cat litter section. They are made from compressed recycled paper. One popular brand is Yesterday’s News, although store brands are just as effective and lower cost. This litter can be found for ~$12 for 25 pounds.
PROS: The pellets have no odor. This is great for those that don’t like the smell of pine. The pellets are tidy. These pellets have excellent absorbing properties, keeping piggy’s feet dry. When they become wet, they stay in pellet form and darken, making it easy to scoop out the soiled areas. This litter can be composted and is good for the environment. Safe if ingested in small quantities.
CONS: This litter is more expensive than some other litter options. Some aren’t satisfied with the odor control since the pellets have no scent.
- Pine pellets: These pellets can be found at pet stores or farm stores such as tractor supply. They will be far more expensive in pet stores, in the cat litter section. The name brand is Feline Pine. These pellets can be found far cheaper at Tractor Supply in the horse bedding section. One brand name is Equine Pine although other brands are widely available. These pellets are about $5-7 for 40 pounds.
PROS: This litter is very cost effective. The pine scent has a pleasant smell for some and covers the urine odor. These pellets have excellent absorbing properties keeping piggy’s feet dry. This litter can be composted and is good for the environment. Safe if ingested in small quantities.
CONS: When wet the pellets turn to a sawdust like powder. This powder is more difficult to scoop thanwhole pellets and is often tracked out of the litter box. Some find the pine and urine odor to smell reminiscent of a barn. It comes in a big heavy bag.
- Wood pellets: Pellets sold for wood burning stoves are also used in litter boxes.
- Pine shavings: Pine shavings can be found in any pet store, feed store, tractor supply, or Walmart in the small animal section. The prices will vary by location, feed stores are usually the cheapest place to buy, around~$6 for a large bag.
PROS: This litter is cost effective and easy to find. Light weight for hauling around. Safe if ingested in small quantities. This litter can be composted.
CONS: Messy! The lightweight shavings tend to scatter out of the litter box very easily. This is also a tempting material for piglets to root around. They aren’t very absorbent, urine can run to the bottom of the litter box and pool up around their hooves causing them to seek an alternative potty spot. Some find the pine and urine odor to smell reminiscent of a barn. The bag is large and bulky for storing.
- Puppy pee pads: Puppy Pee Pads can be found at any pet store, Walmart or farm store in the dog section. Prices vary by size and location. They can be found at Amazon.com or eBay.com in large quantities for a better value.
PROS: Lightweight and compact, exceptional for traveling. No messy litter scooping or tracking out of the box. Urine color is obvious and medical concerns can be addressed immediately.
CONS: These pads cannot be composted and are terrible for the environment sitting in landfills. They areone of the more expensive options for a litter box. Some pigs will shred & destroy them. This causes a mess in the house and also ingestion danger. Odor control is minimal. Pads need to be changed after each use.Pads may not contain the amount of urine a pig can hold.
- Newspapers: Newspapers can be used but may not be successful. Since the absorbing properties are minimal urine may pool around the pig’s feet. This is uncomfortable for pigs and they make seek an alternative potty spot.
PROS: Newspapers are cost effective if you have access to unwanted newspapers. They can be composted and good for the environment.
CONS: Newspapers are not very absorbent. There is no odor control.
- Litter-free potty systems: There are several litter free potty systems on the market. These are marketed for dogs and come in various sizes. Some will have fake grass at the top or a plastic grate. You can also create your own with wire grate and pvc pipe.
PROS: Save money in the long run on litter costs. Save the environment- no trees were harmed and landfills won’t be used unnecessarily. No messy litter to get tracked in the house or to dispose of. Never run out of litter.
CONS: No odor control. Pan needs to be large enough to contain pig pee flood. Carrying the pan of urine to the toilet for dumping daily can be a balancing act with messy consequences. Brands are:
-Clay cat litter. Clay cat litter is dangerous for pigs. They tend to root around in material and will inhale dust and/or get litter stuck on their snout. Ingestion of this litter can be life threatening through intestinal blockage.
-Corn cob litter: Corn cob litter is an impaction/obstruction hazard for pigs. They may try to eat it even though it is indigestible. If this litter gets stuck in their digestive tract they will need lifesaving surgery.
-Walnut litter: Walnut litter is an impaction/obstruction hazard for pigs. They may try to eat it even though it is indigestible. If this litter gets stuck in their digestive tract they will need lifesaving surgery.
-Cedar shavings or pellets: Cedar does not make a good litter choice because of the toxic aromatic oils. Cedar is toxic causing a variety of health problems in humans and animals that are exposed to it for long periods of time. To use cedar in a litter box puts the cedar right at nose level where the pig must enter and breath multiple times a day.
- Rubbermaid tub appropriately sized for your pig (the bigger the better!)
- Under the bed sweater plastic container
- Livestock water tub from farm store, 40 gallon or sized appropriately
- Dog crate tray
- Rabbit droppings pan
- Shallow cat litter box
- Covered cat litter box with entrance hole cut
- Plastic tote with entrance hole cut (lid on top for privacy)
- Kiddy pool
- Under washing machine pan
- Water heater drip pan
- Cement mixing tub or multipurpose tub from Lowes or Home Depot
- An enzyme cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle will break down the organic compounds of the urine or feces to eliminate the odor rather than mask it as some cleaners will do. These can be found in the potty training section of any pet store, or in the pet section of Walmart.
- Vinegar and water is also a good cleanser for urine.
- On carpet, spray carpet cleaner over area a little wider than soiled spot. Let soak in for a minute or so. Then sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over whole wet area. Let sit over night. The next day the baking soda will have soaked up urine and cleaner. Vacuum up.
- Odormute, it’s a powder that you mix with water.
A urinary tract infection may include some, all, or none of these symptoms. Different pigs with a UTI may show different symptoms or overlapping symptoms based on the severity of infection, their overall health, and their tolerance or irritation with the infection. Anytime a UTI is suspected please take a urine sample to the veterinarian’s office to be evaluated. This can be obtained from sticking a Tupperware, a pan, or a ladle in the stream while they urinate. If they potty outside it’s easiest to catch the urine if you have them on leash so you can be close by when they squat. Urinary tract infections can be brought on by a number of factors: hormonal changes (heat cycle), stress, other infections, strain on the body such as healing from surgery, bladder stones or kidney stones, and sometimes factors that we can’t see will play a role. Never assume your pig doesn’t have a UTI when something is “off”.
-Urinating on bedding or urinating while sleeping
-Urinating in several spots during the same potty break
-Straining to urinate
-Change in water consumption
-Change in urination frequency, odor, and color
-In case a urinary tract infection is suspected, veterinary care is required. Take your pig to the vet or catch a urine sample and drop off at the vet’s office (store in refrigerator until sample can be taken to clinic; obtain one as fresh as possible). They can analyze the urine for abnormalities and infection. In case of infection, the veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics.