You've seen them in photos: itsy bitsy, purse-sized pigs billed as dog-like companions. But what you haven't seen is the listings on Craigslist and other buy & sell sites after people discover that having a pig is more of a commitment than a breeder lets on, and that, despite any information you have heard to the contrary, there is no such thing as a teacup pig. Got a tiny pig? It’s going to grow. My friend, Sara found such a growing pig on Kijiji and having raised a pig before, knew she’d be able to provide a good home for the not-so-micro pig. If, like me, you’ve always wondered about how it might be to raise a little Wilbur, wonder no more: Sara is sharing the dirt on having a pig as a pet.
Obviously my first question was, “Can you cuddle with her?” And Sara answered, “Well, I can, yeah.” Which shattered my hope of snuggling up with Babe here. Pigs are emotional animals that are extremely attached to their ‘family’, plus, Sara explained that pigs are prey animals so it makes them nervous to be restrained or held. Even when they sleep, they line up head to butt so they can be ready to flee.
I pictured pigs eating salad, which yes, apparently Lola eats… as long as it’s covered in salad dressing. “Pigs will eat literally anything,” Sara said, unwrapping a candy so she could bribe Lola up on the couch for a picture. It was a Werthers, the crinkly wrapper calling her over as quickly as it would for me. There are also pig pellets, both the kind breeders use (more on that in a sec) and more protein-rich ones that have balanced fats and nutrients— they’re a good supplement to a vitamin-rich diet.
Lola’s was a classic story until she found a home with Sara, being billed as older than she was but likely only seven weeks old and pulled away from her mama too early. Pigs can have as many babies as they have nipples, so that means a littler of ten isn’t uncommon and breeders capitalize on that, selling each for a couple thousand dollars, feeding them only the pellet food that is low in fat and protein in order to stunt their growth, and then selling them quickly. The pig-for-pet racket is a pretty awful, dishonest business. Furthermore, pigs are considered exotics so breeders are also selling an illegal city pet, something that makes vet care a tough go, especially trying to find a vet that doesn’t see them as a farm animal whose endgame is being put down. Luckily, Sara found an out-of-town vet that cares for Lola well and she’s part of some ‘pig family’ support groups on Facebook.
I expected little snorts but actually, pig vocalization is impressive! “Dogs have about ten sounds,” Sara told me as Lola was saying whatever it was she was saying, “whereas pigs have about 30.” There’s lot of inflection in Lola’s voice and her understanding is also pretty good, like when Sara tells her to go to her room, that it’s bedtime, or to come on over. So far, having a pig, minus the hard-to-find vet care and the city bylaws seemed like a good time (eats anything? I have that.) but wait, there’s more.
Pigs root, and although Lola isn’t as aggressive with it as some pigs are, all of the carpet seams have been taped due to her trying to separate them, there are baby locks on the cabinets and fridge because she is smart and again, eats anything, she molts skin and hair, and oh, she needs her own room because pigs like to nest. Lola knocks on the door when she wants out (and slams it when she’s mad) and her hands are hooves so that’s gonna leave a mark. She’s litter trained but is also a big ol’ pig so her box is the size of a big Rubbermaid container, and she’s basically an indoor pet unless it’s a balmy sunny day because she’s picky like that. I mean, the pig commitment seems a little like having a baby that never grows up except in size and hoof length.
But with all of her quirks and toll on the house (she has also ripped the couch and made a Homer Simpson- style indent in the chair she likes to cuddle in with Sara), the bond between Lola and Sara still makes my face look like a heart-eye emoji. That bond is the reason 80% of pig re-homings end in failure, and more to the point, why the myth of teacup or micro pigs is so hurtful.
I had to ask the FAQ: since she has a pig, is Sara vegetarian? No, although the farms she sources her meat from are local, not factory, and the animals there haven’t become socialized like Lola.
Thanks to Sara for letting me spend some time with her beautiful Lola and for sharing info that I hope you’ll pass along to anyone who’s been talking about getting a “teacup pig”.