Tammy left a comment over in our post on training mini pigs to climb stairs. Tammy is having problems litter training her miniature pig and that’s hardly the first time I’ve heard that lament with miniature pigs and other animals. Compounding the problem is that Tammy’s mini pig also likes to eat its litter! Oh my. Rather than write an extended comment in response, I thought it might be best to devote an entire post to the topic as I’m sure there are others out there with the same problem.
Tammy, your real problem here is that your pig is eating litter. If it is the clumping type, this could cause very serious digestive issues for your pig. I strongly recommend against commercial litter. Use pine shavings. If you absolutely must use commercial litter, never use the kind that clumps. I’ll go into alternatives to cat litter later in this post.
Believe it or not, even the most litter box friendly pet, the cat, isn’t born knowing how to use a litter box. Cats actually learn to use a litter box from their mothers. Absent that, they must be trained by their humans. The good news is that pigs have some habits that can work in your favor when it comes to litter training. They prefer to do their business in specific locations, for one thing.
Tammy’s problem is that her mini pig would rather eat the litter than use it for its intended purpose. So the first step is to try to break her pig of that habit. The next is to try to teach it what the box is for. We might actually be able to kill two birds with one stone here, Tammy. Again, before we start, never use clumping litter for your mini pigs.read more information about training a micro pigs at http://miniaturepigsguide.com/help-miniature-pig-wont-go-stairs/
Start by collecting some of your pig’s feces from outside or wherever it did its business and put that in the litter box. The presence of feces in the litter will hopefully dissuade your pig from using the litter box as a buffet while also getting the point across that the litter box is where poop belongs! If your pig eats around the feces, try to put a fairly generous amount of piggy’s poop in the litter so there aren’t any notable bare patches on which he or she can dine.
If piggy still eats from the box, try sprinkling the zest from a lemon (the peel, not actual lemon juice) over the top of the litter. If your pig enjoys the taste of citrus peel, skip that step and try a commercial bitter product such as Bitter Apple spray. Try using a non-clumping litter and spray Bitter Apple over the surface. Mini pigs have sensitive noses and the smell alone may turn your pig off of the idea of eating its litter.
Tammy mentioned that she has also tried various litters without luck. Apparently her pig does not have the most discerning taste in the world. But remember that you aren’t limited to commercial litter. Sand, pine wood shavings, even shredded newspaper can all serve as absorbent substitutes for commercial litter and may be less appetizing to a mini pig. Keep experimenting. Though some options may mean more frequent litter box cleaning, the alternative (cleaning your carpet) makes this a viable solution.
An absolute last resort effort for breaking your pig from its litter eating habits requires some close monitoring by you. A child’s squirt gun with a mix of lemon juice and water may be the only tool you need. Any time piggy goes for a mouthful of litter, spray it in the mouth with the lemon/water mixture. Do NOT spray your pig in the eyes. Also, timing is critical here. You don’t want to spray your pig every time it just gets near the box or it will never use its litter box as intended. Wait until the absolute last second, when your pig has taken a mouthful of litter, and then spray it with a mouthful of the sour water. If your pig simply sniffs the litter box, praise it. If it uses the litter box properly, praise it lavishly! Note: I am not a fan of this method as I prefer positive reinforcement training (PRT), but I understand that busy lives sometimes don’t afford us the time to use PRT properly. If you have the option, always opt for PRT over negative feedback to train an animal.
Tammy, once you’ve broken your pig of eating litter through any of the steps above, getting it to use the litter box properly is really just a matter of patience and consistent training. There’s no point in my reinventing the wheel so I’ll recommend you visit Pigs4Ever.com for an excellent guide on potty training miniature pigs. But the truth is you are just trying to encourage a miniature pig’s natural behavior rather than train. Consider having more than one box available and place the boxes in the areas your pig is already doing its business. Time, love, patience and persistence are the keys here. And remember, even the best trained pig can/will have accidents. Males are notorious markers. Even sows can go “off” their routine during their cycle as they wander around announcing their… um… readiness to potential mates (real or imagined).