Why are people fascinated with pigs?
Pigs fascinate people. They always have. Even people who have pigs as pets can tell you about the love/hate relationship they have with their pet pigs. Most of us have experienced both of these feelings, as well as a range of others, sometimes all in the same day. Pigs are anything BUT subtle. They behave in obvious and interesting ways. They are such unusual creatures, a greater extent than most animals, that they capture and hold peoples attention. Anyone who has a pet pig will tell you the same thing. There isn’t a better pet for select families, but, pigs as pets are NOT for everyone. Pig parents are responsible for some of the hype about having an unconventional pet, we tend to post those cute pictures of our pigs with painted toe nails and a cute outfit, what people do not realize is that it took 2 1/2 hours to get that perfect, Facebook worthy picture. They didn't see the nail polish all over the carpet or hear the squeals that sounded like someone was being tortured in your house as you were trying to get that pig into that cute little outfit. They also weren't a witness to the 712 pictures you took until you finally captured the perfect one, nor did they see the box of cheerios you had to entice your pig with in order to get them to stand there long enough to even take the pictures.
It is probably fair to say most of you have read or seen the movie based on the children’s book Charlotte’s Web. Those who have likely sympathized with the animals in this story, and if you are reading this, on an educational website meant for pig parents, odds are, you too were “rooting” for the pig. I would have to say, that is where my personal pig obsession began. (Because who doesn’t want a talking pig) Obviously as I grew older, I realized pigs couldn’t talk, but I remained intrigued by pigs. Over the last 8 years or so, I have learned a great deal about pigs. Some of these lessons were based on my own experiences and some I have lived through others experiences all while I laughed and cried with fellow pig parents as they endured life and challenges with a pig as a pet, not much different than my own experiences.
If you're lucky enough to have a pet pig, so many emotions run across your mind. When you first see this pig, you want to laugh, you want to smile and you want to cry because you're so glad y'all crossed paths and so happy to have this pig in your life, but scared to death at the same time in fear of losing them. So, what is it really like to have a pig as a pet?
I personally think it is great and I also think it sucks sometimes. Pigs will test the limits CONSTANTLY. They will quickly figure out if they start squealing, someone will check on them and they also know if they continue, someone will likely give them a treat. This may first happen at 6am, then 5 am, finally at 3am, and you're over it. But this is how a pig will act if they are rewarded for undesirable behavior. Your pig has YOU trained. Many do not know this in the beginning, so it escalates into something far worse. This is typically a problem with younger pigs, new pigs versus older established pigs. BUT, it can happen with them as well. Negative behavior needs to be corrected, not rewarded.
What starts your day off like you "woke up on the wrong side of the bed?"
When you are already running a few minutes behind and can not find that adorable sweater you were planning to wear today when you get out of the shower. So, you go hunting for it, it's not in the closet where it was last night, it isn't in the drawer where you would've put it instead...no, instead, it's in hoarder corner. Your pig made a nest with your brand new sweater you planned to wear to that special function at work, tags still attached and then you notice, not only did your pig take the sweater, but also chewed holes in it. Thanks pig.
You stayed up late doing some work on the computer, thankfully finished it around 11pm and go to bed. You go ahead and print off copies for your colleagues because your printer is slow, or mornings are just not the right time to sit around and wait for it. When you go to collect all these copies you made, you notice all the sheets are damaged. Then you see it, hoof prints and bite marks in all these fabulous pieces of paper. Now, you have nothing to wear and your presentation is also ruined. Awesome job pig.
You walk into the kitchen to grab a quick bite to eat and you are left to ponder the question....why didn't I put those child proof locks on the cabinets last weekend? Your kitchen is destroyed, there are 1/2 empty boxes of macaroni and cheese on every surface, along with packets of oatmeal and hot chocolate. There is water all over your floor, either from the water bowl your pig decided to tip over or it could be from the open freezer door on your refridegerator. Items are thawing out in your freezer because, somehow, your pig also got into your freezer and once you look a little closer? Some of the popsicles are also MIA. At this point, your pig is nowhere to be found, so you are also panicked over that and this is only 30 minutes into your day. It is easy to follow the trail of damage to locate your missing beloved pig. Now you have nothing to wear, an unusable pile of papers AND total destruction in the kitchen. Now is when you start wondering "what was I thinking when I decided to get a pet pig?"
You find your pig, in the living room, with the trash can that she has knocked over and dragged through the house and notice the red spaghetti sauce on your white carpet....you are seriously wondering why you EVER got a pig as a pet at this point. Now, you have to re-plan your outfit for work, find a commercial printer to print off 30 packets for your presentation at work, you really need to clean the kitchen and there are red stains on the carpet from the spaghetti sauce you threw in the trash last night that this sweet precious little piglet dumped out that may not come up after work, so you really need to get your carpet cleaner out to do it right this second. On top of all this, now you need to go to the grocery store to replace the food your pig bit holes in or dumped on the floor, not to mention none of your canned foods have labels now, the family isn't thrilled about having a "mystery" item every night with dinner since you have NO idea what is in these cans. But overall, this is a GOOD day! Days can be much worse than this. At this point, you likely just want to call in sick and go back to bed.
At times, it is pure terror, especially when a pig gets sick. Unlike traditional or conventional pets, pig vets, in particular, good ones, are more difficult to find. So when a pig gets sick, and they tend to mask symptoms of being sick until they're really sick, it is frightening when you can't reach your vet or when you do not know what's wrong with them. All you know is that your pig, the same one who gets into EVERYTHING now doesn't want to get up and isn't interested in eating or drinking. (FYI to those who don't already know....a pig that doesn't want to eat or drink is a sick pig) When you see your pig is hurting, there is nothing more you'd rather do than to help her feel better though. I am fortunate because I do have a few vets in my area that I can use and ones that will come to my house to see my pig, but not everyone has that luxury.
At times, it is funny because your pig will have so much personality. And if you have a pig like mine, well, you're in for a treat. I think I should've named mine Sybil because she has more than enough personalities to keep everyone occupied. We love her regardless of which personality she will have that day, but it is fun to watch her walk around, strutting her stuff, while trying to be inconspicuous as she is looking in and under every surface to find something to put in her mouth.
At other times, it is frustration. WHY is my pig acting like a jerk? WHY is my pig squealing at 4am? WHY did my pig just pee under my bed? WHY does my pig want a bite of EVERYTHING anyone is eating? HOW does she hear me opening up a bag of M&M's in my closet? (Another FYI...Your pig will hear you open ANY food-at ANY time.)
All you want to do is protect this little angel/devil pig from anything that will harm them. Sometimes you may go overboard, but nonetheless, it's done not only because you can see the two of you growing old together, but because you can't imagine life without this pig. (And honestly, you can never be too careful when you have a pig, there are never too many precautions to make sure they're safe or protected.)
Pigs have real emotions. Emotions you can feel and see for yourself. If you have never seen a pig cry, pray you never have to. Pigs probably resemble the human emotion the closest of any other animal. A pig will change its tone of squeal or grunt when it’s happy or sad or scared or upset. A pig will show remorse, a pig will show excitement and joy, a pig will show fear and a pig will show hate. Much like people, a pig will show you raw emotions, they do not know how to tell you that they’re sad without showing you tears, they can not tell you how excited they are, so instead they get the zoomies and run all over the place.
Being prepared and pig proofing your home is a MUST. My pig has broken down the crawl space door that leads UNDER my house and ate rat poison, twice in the same day (had to get weeks of vitamin K injections because thankfully, she ate the type with an antidote). She has eaten the touch-up paint for my truck...she has gotten into things I never would've imagined her being interested in, but then again, I can't remember when I was 2 years old, so I do not share that same mind set as her. So, you literally now have locks on anything that opens or closes to protect your pig. (And to protect your things/food/clothes/remotes/phones/plants/carpet/rugs/cords~you get the idea)
Pigs and their overall behavior have been observed for hundred’s of years, so some people already knew pigs had compassion and they knew pigs were smart. The rest of us didn’t realize how smart they were though, especially not most of us who got a pig because we have always wanted one and come home one day to find that the cabinet where we keep snacks is open….and bare. Pigs KNOW where you keep food. Not only can they smell it, but they see you go in that cabinet and then watch you eat your snack. They watch you open the cabinet door and watch you reach your hand in there and pull out something yummy. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, your pig will mock your actions and go to that cabinet, possibly the others too, and try to mimic everything they saw you do....a lesson most of us learn the hard way.
There are also good days, days when nothing bad happens, days that you are so proud of your pig for learning a new trick that the bad days are forgotten about. There are times when my pig just wants to lay in my lap and be cuddled, there are more days when she does NOT want this, but I enjoy the days when she does. The times when I take her on walks or to a store are the best. My pig doesn't mind putting on a harness (she was trained very early on) and it is fun to watch the neighborhood kids/other customers run out to pet her. (although this can be an issue at times, depending on her attitude that day) Everyone wants to touch her snout, I don't understand why anyone would out their hands near any animals mouth when they don't know them, but people are just curious and most have never seen a pig in person. But, when she is good, she is a blessing to have at my side and I am grateful for every minute.
For me, my pig was always asked to participate in events, especially kiss the pig events. She was such a cute little girl. BUT, she had a BIG attitude some days, so while we did some events, I had to closely monitor her behavior and she wasn't able to do many before she had to retire from public service.
Even though she was socialized quite often as a piglet, she didn't grow very fond of people as she grew older. She started nipping and charging at people by a year old and even though her behavior was corrected, she continued to do it to anyone who was not me. (The response in the video was exaggerated because he was trying to be funny, but this did become a real problem at my house. What is cute at 20 pounds isn't cute at 120 pounds. As she got older, she learned to respect people and people learned to respect her as well.) That is a tough spot to be in, seems like you are now the ONLY person who loves this pig unconditionally. The family doesn't want to participate in behavior modification and it won't change without their participation. So you keep on working on it, but do not have much support. As your pig grows older and bigger, things tend to calm down a bit, but an untrusting pig doesn't miraculously change. This is something that has to be worked out. If your pig doesn't trust your spouse or children, and you don't work on it, your pig will continue to not trust your spouse or children. We have pages on our website to help with this and if you cant find what you're looking for on the website, reach out to us and we can put you in touch with others who have consultation services for problems like that. Sometimes the answer is another pig. Pigs need other pigs. Sometimes that isn't possible due to the living situation or zoning ordinances, but these are all things to consider BEFORE you get a pig.
I have taught my pig to paint pictures and donate those to various charities to raise money for pigs in need or auctions to benefit different rescues, naturally, I have a few pieces hanging around my home as well. But this is something not everyone can say they have or can do with their traditional pets. My pig has helped me with the junk mail, my personal shredder service. Obviously she is GREAT at tilling up the soil for plants or a garden and helps out often, even in places where I didn't necessarily need the ground to be tilled. Nonetheless, she is MY pig and MY helper and I love her dearly, so i overlook some of the undesirable things she may do at times. I knew getting a pig as a pet would come with some issues that I wouldn't necessarily like, but I accepted that as a part of having a pig in my home. I do not regret one minute of it, there are some things I wish I had done differently, but overall, I know I have made good decisions for my pig and that she will never have to worry about where she will lay her head at night, and ultimately, that is all that matters to me, my pig is safe.
Finding someone to watch your pig while you go on vacation or out of town for work? Even thinking about your pig not having you there is scary, but not having someone you can trust is even worse. It is almost impossible to find someone that would care for your pig as you do. Making sure your pig gets that good night belly rub and a body check before being tucked in and a kiss on the snout? Yeah, highly doubtful someone else will treat your pig the way you do. Not to mention, your pig not being agreeable to having an unknown person to interact with them...stranger danger. Some pigs will behave very badly for another person while you're not home.
Pig life isn't for everyone, just ask ANY pig rescue and they'll tell you the same thing. People do not truly know whats involved with having a pet pig until they have a pet pig and then decide that a pig isn't the right pet for them. Visit a pig rescue before you decide to get a pig, see what having a pig is truly like. (Click here to see a list of pig rescues) It isn't all rainbows and butterflies. There are going to be bad days, but there are also going to be good days.
Pigs get bigger, they don't stay piglet sized. If you are expecting that, you will be extremely disappointed. Pigs require training, you cant expect a pig to know what you want them to do without teaching them to do it. Pigs aren't animals that can be left in a crate 12 hours out of the day. Pigs need outdoor time. They need to root around and find treasures in the yard. Pigs need social interaction and activities so they don't get destructive. These aren't wants, these are NEEDS for a pig. It is heartbreaking to see any pig that is unwanted or unloved. It is even worse to see one that is being mistreated. It is sad to see people starving their pig to keep them small, and it is equally as sad to see a morbidly obese pig struggling to walk. BUT, all of these things can be addressed. (and we have pages here on the website that can be helpful for all of it) Sometimes it's not the pig that needs training, but the pig parents instead. Ask for help, ask for advice, good, experienced people are willing to help. Don't post your pig as a rehome if there is a chance that your pig can stay. Don't let common problems, that can be fixed, cause you to lose your faith in your pig. Fight to keep your pig, not to find another home. I understand there are some circumstances, beyond your control that limit your options and there is no other way but to find your pig a great new home, but do your part in finding one. Screen potential families, ask lots of questions, ask for help from those who do this on a regular basis. It is bad enough your pig has to go somewhere else to live, but don't make that worse by finding an inappropriate home, try to really find somewhere you want your pig to go and check them out first. NEVER hand your pig over to someone you do not know anything about. There are an equal amount of bad people out there as there are good ones. Don'y buy into the "teacup" or "micro-mini" pig lie. Click here to learn about the marketing terms people use to entice you to buy a pig from them. The volume of people who are looking for pigs is far less than the hundreds of pigs looking for a home. It is hard to GIVE a pig away, much less try and recoup any money you may have spent to buy one. Remember, even though you spent money buying your pig, and maybe even for a spay/neuter, there are MANY years left that someone else will have to pay for. Feed isn't free, vet care isn't free, hay/straw/houses aren't free. You are not doing anyone a favor by selling them your pig at a reduced rate, a pig isn't a novelty item, a pig is a responsibility for life.
As we always like to say, if you can...rescue a pig in need, or adopt a pig that needs a home, if you cannot do that then consider sponsoring a pig at one of the many pig rescues/sanctuaries, maybe you can help transport a pig that needs help getting to a new home, you can always donate to a pig charity, like Mo Money For Pigs, to a pig in need or directly to a pig rescue, and donations don't have to be money, hay/straw/feed/blankets are always needed at rescues/sanctuaries, ask if there is volunteer program or if you can lend a helping hand to a pig rescue for a day. If you're not able to help financially or physically, you can help pigs by being an advocate and most importantly by educating others.
Our names are Brittany Sawyer and Nicole Cox and we are pig parents, pig advocates and also the authors of the "Dear Pig Whisperer" blog. Follow our blog that will feature topics to help you become the best pig parent you can be...along with some other fun things. We will also feature guest bloggers from time to time who want to share their life experience or knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning.