Miniature Pigs as Therapy Animals – Meet Buttercup!

A Therapy Pig Named Buttercup

What do you get when you mix a miniature pig and autistic kids?  Buttercup, the therapy pig!  This amazing little critter is a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig who visits special-needs children in San Francisco schools, alongside her owner, a speech pathologist, Lois Brady.

Lois and Buttercup work with individuals between the ages of 6 and 22 who have autism or other special needs.  When Lois initially started thinking of teaming up with an Assisted Therapy animal, she thought of dogs, which are probably the most popular choice.

However, realizing that some people are afraid of dogs, she knew this might not be the best choice.  Autistic children might react negatively with dogs, maybe covering their ears or even running from the room.

Bunnies are gentle souls, but some of the children don’t know their own strength and don’t understand the fragility of a rabbit.  So that wasn’t a good choice either.

A Miniature Pig and Autistic Kids

Ah, enter Buttercup, a 3-year-old miniature pig.  He’s portable, calm, and so very appealing to the children.

Lois Brady says:

“Students love him because they have no preconceived notion of what a pig should be.  He’s so visually curious to them that they’re immediately drawn to Buttercup. Kids who can’t remember how to spell their own name remember everything about him, from where he sleeps to how many siblings he has.”

Buttercup is tough too.  Lois says:

“Many of our students have aggressive behaviors.  A pig can definitely take a blow — and not turn around and want to attack.”

Of course, Buttercup needed to become certified before he went out into the workforce.  Lois and the pig had to take a course through PetPartners, which is a nonprofit that brings therapy, service and companion animals to people in need.

When it was time for Buttercup’s two-hour evaluation, volunteers pushed him and pulled his tail, doing the things that any child might do, do judge his reaction.  Buttercup remained calm and passed the test with flying colors.

Lois talks about a day when one of the autistic students spoke out loud to his class for the first time.  Therapy works because it takes the children outside of themselves, outside of the world they’re enclosed in, and animals invoke trust and empathy.

I think a miniature pig and autistic kids make a perfect match, don’t you?


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Does a Miniature Pig and Autistic Kids make a good combination? Meet Buttercup: Therapy Pig Share on X

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Jeanne Melanson
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15 thoughts on “Miniature Pigs as Therapy Animals – Meet Buttercup!”

  1. My sons are autistic and ive been thinking on a replacment animal dor their cat that recently passed. I thought of a micro pig but was unsure of how their interaction would go. Im glad i found this page because it confirmed what the breeder said and im almost convinced that a piggy will be the perfect theraputic pet for them. Thank you

    • Heather, I’d love to hear your final decision on whether to get a pig or not. Allow me to give you a warning, though. They do require a lot of attention, especially if they live indoors with you. They can be very naughty. But they’re so delightful. Thanks for visiting my blog! Come back soon.

    • It would certainly be worthwhile. Hey, I didn’t know you were from the UK. I don’t think I’ve ever met a British rabbit before. I’ve met British cows, and British horses, however, when I’ve visited there a few times. 🙂 Take care!

  2. Wonderful – and obviously works very successfully. I wonder if we’ll see anything similar in the UK – there’s a much tighter definition of service animal over here (restricted to guide/seeing eye dogs, hearing dogs and assistance partners). I suspect that partly due to that no one has even thought about the potential for other species.

    • Yes, these pigs are very clean. I used to have 3 of them, at 3 different times. They lived in my house, used the kitty litter box, and came running every time I opened the fridge door. I really ought to dig out my pictures and share them on my blog. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to visit my blog today. I do hope you’ll come again. Take care.


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