What it’s really like to have a pot-bellied pig as a pet.

It’s summer in Calgary and I’m on the front porch reading when I hear a little girl walk by and say“A pig lives in that house”. “Is that right?” her sceptical dad responds. “Yep”.

That is right.
A pig does live in this house.
My house.
Like a dog?
Yes, sort of like a dog but different.
Why did you get one?

I wish I could answer that.

It all started at the wise old age of 24 when I googled “How to keep a pot-bellied pig as a pet”. The articles were very helpful, and painted an easy life with a smart, obedient and charming pet. Filled with confidence in my pet-parent ability, I did what anyone would do; I drove to an exotic animal auction in Olds, Alberta with Georgia and bid on a baby pig while my boyfriend waited in the car.

We had never been to a farm auction before, but we got a number and sat in the risers with everyone else. The pigs were ushered out, so cute, and any hesitation I once possessed, went out the window. Georgia knew. She raised our number, and no one else bid against us, so in a split second pig #7 was ours for $40.00.

In the waiting stall were 12 little pigs with numbers glued on their sides running around biting eachother. Unsure of how to get my little # 7 pig out I asked the closest teenager in farm clothes for help. He found a box, hopped in the stall and picked up #7; the scream was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.

As I approached the car with my pig in a box, Ryan put out his cigarette and shook his head.
“You didn’t”.

The pig was very frightened and immediately went to the bathroom. We ditched the poo box in the parking lot and I held him in my arms the whole way home.

Weird facts no one ever tells you about pigs:

  • Pigs eat smells. Mickey chomps at the air when something smells good or bad.
  • They can run super fast, like videogame fast. See here.
  • Not only do they snort, they also bark (when displeased) and wolf (when scared or running).
  • Pig penises are shaped like corkscrews and dart into the ground at a furious terrifying rate.
  • They can chews gum like a human. Mickey once chewed a piece for 45 minutes without swallowing.
  • They enjoy food like a human would; as Chris once said: “he would like a chip, but he would prefer a chip with dip”.

Mickey settled in nicely at the house, with a little bed, a litterbox and a whole main floor to discover. I went to bed that night and had nightmare after nightmare about the reality of what i’d done.

When you ask Google how to have a potbellied pig as a pet it says something like:

Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs were introduced to Canada in the early 80s as household pets. Smarter than dogs and very clean, pot-bellied pigs are unique pets with special needs, that with the right care can live a very happy life indoors.

I would like to re-write that according to my experience.

What the internet tells you:

1. Pigs are very intelligent. More intelligent than dogs even.

Intelligent enough to know that sitting inside for a few hours a day, or even a backyard enclosure is not stimulating enough. Boredom sets in, as does mischief. Mischief involves: pulling up every little fibre on the carpet, knocking all the cushions off the couch, chewing on the table leg or pulling plaster off the wall. If you think having an inside pig is crazy (it is), you can make him a nice home in the backyard. I did, but it also wasn’t perfect. He got out, no matter what fence I put up, he is that smart. Expect to spend your evenings searching surrounding properties for your pig and wondering what you have gotten yourself into.

2. Pigs can be litter box trained.

They can be litter box trained quite easily, on the first day as a matter of fact. However, they EAT cat litter like it’s going out of style. You must use special pine litter and put it in a giant litter box (a child’s plastic pool works well) to accommodate the size of your growing pig. They also like to drag all the pine shavings all over the room, and into their clean blankets where they sleep, which makes the entire room an embarrassing mess. Pig owners quickly realize their pigs must learn to go outside like all other animals.

3. Pigs are generally clean animals and odourless because they don’t sweat.

Their bodies are clean but their snouts are always covered in mud, leaves, or yogurt. Everything in your house at snout level will soon be covered in that as well. Your pants and your guests pants will get ‘pig faced’ by the dirty snout, and you will also become accustomed to a pigs’ not so odourless gas.

4. Pigs are easily trainable.

Your pig will learn quickly where to go to the bathroom and how to do tricks because they are very food motivated. Some pigs play toy pianos, dunk basketballs, jump through hoops, ride skateboards. Other pigs open the fridge, open the cupboards, knock over garbage cans, run away with purses, tear up books, eat make-up, and shake tables until everything on it comes crashing down.

5. Pot-bellied pigs stay small.

Small compared to a 1000 lb hog, but not small enough to pick up, or put in a car, or do anything you can do with a dog or a cat. Pigs become housebound very easily at anywhere from 80–200 lbs.

6. Pigs make good friends for dogs.

Pigs are a dogs natural enemy, and if they are left alone together, they will eventually fight. There have been many instances of dogs killing pot-bellied pigs in family homes.

7. You can put him on a leash, take him for walks, dress him up and take him to parties.

If you spoil a pig he knows you’re the weakest link. Eventually, he becomes aggressive, territorial, and demands to get his way at all times. This will cause attacks, biting of both you and strangers, and an inability to trust your pig with other people. He is not the cutest guest at a party.

8. Pot-bellied pigs are social animals.

This is why they need other pigs to live with. Then they can create a hierarchy within their pig company rather than within your family. If the pig starts to think he is one of the family, he will decide to move his way up the ranks, by picking on the weakest link.

I am very sad to say that these wonderful animals are being abandoned on a regular basis due to this misinformation. I was duped too. Everything they do is natural for them to do. So the destruction and problems caused are not their fault, rather ours, for trying to convince ourselves they are something they are not.

I had Mickey for 5 years, which, in retrospect, was 2 years too long. I knew he was not in the right environment for a long time, it just took a couple years to find the proper forever home for him. This spring I drove Mickey up to Wetaskewin Alberta to live as a permanent resident at FARRM/Potbelly Pig Rehoming Network where he is living happily outdoors, with many pig friends, and a woman who devotes her life to helping these guys.

So I guess all I ask of you, the reader, is that the next time someone tells you: “I hear they make great pets” — is to share with them the thing about the corkscrew penises and the whole eating walls thing.