Improving robustness of farm animals is one of the goals in breeding programmes. However, robustness is a complex trait and not measurable directly. The objective of this study was to quantify and characterize (elements of) robustness in growing pigs. Robustness can be analysed by examining the animal’s response to perturbations. Although the origin of perturbations may not be known, their effect on animal performance can be observed, for example, through changes in voluntary feed intake. A generic model and data analysis procedure was developed (1) to estimate the target trajectory of feed intake, which is the amount of feed that a pig desires to eat when it is not facing any perturbations; (2) to detect potential perturbations, which are deviations of feed intake from the estimated target trajectory; and (3) to characterize and quantify the response of the growing pigs to the perturbations using voluntary feed intake as response criterion. The response of a pig to a perturbation is characterized by four parameters. The start and end times of the perturbation are ‘imposed’ by the perturbing factor, while two other parameters describe the resistance and resilience potential of the pig. One of these describes the immediate reduction in daily feed intake at the start of the perturbation (i.e., a ‘resistance’ trait) while another parameter describes the capacity of the pig to adapt to the perturbation through compensatory feed intake to rejoin the target trajectory of feed intake (i.e., a ‘resilience’ trait). The procedure has been employed successfully to identify the target trajectory of feed intake in growing pigs and to quantify the pig’s response to a perturbation.