Don't get me wrong. I love pretty much every dog I meet. I have a soft spot for geriatric cats. I've even met a few snakes that I've bonded with in unexpectedly profound ways. But lately, my pet curiosity keeps wandering to an unusual choice: pigs. And, apparently, I'm not alone. The number of urban pigs has skyrocketed in recent years. What's with all the pet pigs? Would you raise one?
According to the Country Farm Lifestyles website, pigs are the fifth most intelligent animals in the world—smarter than the average dog. One study even found them to be as intelligent as chimpanzees in some tasks. But it's not necessarily their brains that are making them the newest choice as animal companion; it's a rise in organic farming and urban homesteading, endeavors that many experts say can't be done effectively without the help of pigs.
A trend that's been growing for several years, the Daily Mail credits Gordon Ramsay with sparking an interest in urban pigs when he raised two of them on television a few years ago (before he killed them and ate them). Sales of pigs after that rose considerably, especially in urban environments. And while many people are raising their own pigs so they know the quality of meat they're getting, there are many more benefits to keeping your pigs alive and healthy.
For the organic home gardener, a pig can be an incredibly rewarding ally. According to the website Organic Gardening and Homesteading, they're masters at turning your compost (particularly if you leave some edible treats in there for them to root for). They can till your soil, pulling out roots and readying the ground for your next planting. Pigs can also eliminate a lot of your food waste scraps that can't be composted. Omnivores with few food preferences, pigs can be easier—and cheaper—to feed than dogs or cats.
They are intelligent creatures, as mentioned, and smaller breeds have actually been known to also make terrific indoor companions as well. Despite the rumors, pigs are incredibly clean animals. They can be trained to use a litter box. They're social creatures, so they can be very affectionate and fun to have around, too.
If you are considering a pet pig, take a trip to a local animal sanctuary first where you can spend some time interacting with pigs. There are quite a few websites with more information on raising pigs as well.
When entering into a relationship with any animal, it's quite important to do your homework and be prepared long before the animal arrives. Far too many dogs and cats already end up abandoned at shelters or worse. If you're not committed 100 percent to caring for your critter, you're doing them a great disservice. And let's face it; there are more than enough pigs on the planet suffering unnecessarily for human bacon cravings. But, a healthy relationship with a pig can offer you and your garden some wonderful benefits. And it can also help bring attention to just how unfairly we treat these animals in general, and why it's time to treat them with respect.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
Image: Heini Samuelson