Here it is - my honest opinion piece on having a pig. Let me start by saying the following: I adore my Winston - my life has been changed for the better having him in my world and I wouldn't change having him for anything. I love him to pieces. That said - pigs are hard! I have had lots of kinds of critters in my life - cats, dogs, birds, ferrets, frogs, fish.... pigs are by far the hardest and I think the reason is they are by far the smartest.
You know the sayings - stubborn as a pig, pig headed - um yeah - they are steeped in reality. Pigs are smart - super smart and as a result they require pretty much constant stimulation. A bored pig is a naughty pig. Bleeding like a stuck pig is also a saying steeped in truth but that's another post. Sweating like a pig - not true - pigs can't sweat....but wait - I am on a tangent....
Here is the bottom line - and maybe some folks won't like this but I feel like its true and important to say out loud. At the end of the day - Winston is a pig - even though he lives inside and we want him to be 'domesticated' he is still a pig and he is going to do the things that pig do and have done for thousands of years. Pigs are hierarchical in nature and sometimes their need to challenge the order of the herd results in crappy behavior. It's easily correctable but it's a constant thing - as a pig parent you need to remind them - sometimes daily (even multiple times a day). Pigs can be quite destructive. The big ticket items in Winston's world were carpet and drywall. Others have issues with shoes, furniture, etc - they will destroy things if they are bored, or mad, I do believe they have the capability of being spiteful.
They need space, they need outside time, they need to root, they like to run and frolic. We did the subdivision thing - its hard on pig parents and hard on the pig. Zoning issues are not something to play with - we had a scare with Winston, Animal Control was involved and for a few weeks it was very stressful not knowing our fate. It all worked out fine but wow - crazy times.
I could go on forever so I will recap it here in a simple list. These are the things I wish someone would have told me before I got Winston:
- Be prepared to make a 20 year commitment - take it seriously - pigs need stability - if you think you can't do it, don't get a pig
- Research, research, research - I did a lot of research before I got Winston - in reality I was clueless.
- Don't let a breeder convince you that a 4 week old piglet is old enough to be away from it's pig mom - it misses out on all the pig manners she will teach him/her.
- Understand that pigs are different than cats or dogs - the bonding time is different, the way they show affection is different and the engagement you will have with them is different - it's super rewarding but its different.
- Piglets are LOUD when they are mad, they are intimidating and scary and they know if you are scared and will take advantage of it. Make sure you get a piglet that has been handled - I think when we got Winston he was touched for maybe the second time in his life - he was so scared!
- Get a piglet that is already fixed - there are many reasons I say this. Fixing them is better for their health, getting Winston fixed was stressful - if you get one that has already had this done it's one less thing to worry about - and you will worry ALOT, and last and maybe most importantly - boy pigs S T I N K if they are not fixed - save your nose!!!
- Ask and ask again about zoning - check all the zoning, county, town, city, homeowners. Don't think you can hide a pig - it can't happen, people are too interested and people are busy bodies. Someone will report you!
- On the day you bring your piglet home touch his feet, play with his ears, his eyes, his snout, look at his teeth, get him used to you picking at him and doing maintenance. Winston is great about letting me do his hooves, clean out his ears, pick goobers out of his eyes, clean out his nostrils and look in his mouth. I got him used to that very early on by doing it all the time.
- Teach them tricks - they love to learn.
- Pigs and other animals can be challenging. Before we got him we had ferrets, cats, dog and hedgehogs that were always together, out and about - they lived peacefully together with no issues. Once we added the pig - all bets were off. Pigs and dogs don't mix - Emma and Winston are friends and they do well together - but if we are gone - they are separated. Winston did well with the cats - they pretty much avoided him. The ferrets were obsessed with him and he was very interested in them - but I don't let them interface because I don't want any of the weasels to get stepped on. We have zones - ferrets and kitties together - pig with his own space- dog with her own space. It works great for us - but make sure you have a plan for how your fur children will cohabitate.
So - there you have it - my thoughts on having a pig. If this makes you not want a pig - I am okay with that because I would rather you not get one than get one and give them up. Having a pig is fun and rewarding and a privilege - I am blessed to live in a place where its okay to have him, that I have the family support necessary to keep him (did I mention my husband is a saint?). If you still want a pig I think that is fantastic - but please - make sure you know what you are getting in to and you can make that forever promise to your new little oinker. I would be remiss if I didn't say one last thing - please consider a rescue rather than a piglet - we got Winston from a breeder - but if I had it to do over again knowing about all those unwanted piggies out there I likely would have opted for the rescue option instead.
Okay - end of opinion piece. I hope there was nothing too controversial in there. I don't want to make anyone angry....