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what's it really like to have one at home?

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by Spear, May 8, 2010.

  1. Spear

    Spear JF-Expert Member

    May 8, 2010
    Joined: Jun 21, 2008
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    Can we have a micro-pig, mummy? The stars love them, but

    what's it really like to have one at home?

    Last updated at 12:20 AM on 8th May 2010

    Cleaner and more intelligent than dogs, micro-pigs have become the celebrity's pet of choice. So we asked Charlotte Kemp to take Percy and Penny in. Her verdict? Watch your flower beds...

    It is still dark outside when I'm woken by the most terrible din from downstairs. I hulk myself out of bed to investigate (time check: 5.50am) and discover that one of my daughters, Bea, is responsible.

    She has turned on the stereo and is merrily singing along to Old MacDonald Had A Farm as loudly as she can.

    [​IMG] Ideal pet: Bea plays with a micro-pig, who can master dog commands such as fetch and sit

    Before I get angry - I am not a morning person, let alone an early morning person - I remember there is reason to her madness. Bea is trying to wake up our temporary pets, Percy and Penny, and what other song would you choose if you were four years old and desperate to rouse two very sleepy piglets snuggled up in an old dog crate in the corner of the living room? Yes, that's right - the living room.
    For Percy and Penny are micro-pigs, the latest must-have pets with a designer price tag to match, and we are road-testing them. To give an idea of just how dinky these creatures are, Percy and Penny are smaller than your average cat. A normal commercial piglet of the same age (14 weeks) would be four times their size.
    These little sweethearts are compact enough to sit on your lap, and sweet-natured enough to let you tickle their chin. When they are awake, that is.
    Finally, at just after 9am, we hear a telltale grunt and the piglets are awake, which means Bea and her older sister, Amelia, can have their first cuddle of the day. This is followed by breakfast - a noisy affair, especially when a carrot rolls under the sofa with two hungry piggies in hot pursuit. We then let them outside, where we have put up a pen, and stand there transfixed as they sniff the morning air with their pudgy noses and root about in the grass.

    [​IMG] Good natured: There's a waiting list for these Lilliputian porkers, despite their price-tag - they start at £550

    There is no denying that Percy and Penny are the most adorable animals imaginable. But pigs (albeit very small ones) as pets? It seems too ridiculous. And yet there's a waiting list for these Lilliputian porkers, despite their price-tag (they start at £550), and a roll call of celebrity owners including Jonathan Ross and Charlotte Church. So what's the big fuss about these little fellas?

    'My pigs are loyal and affectionate, they are also clever, and the relationship you can build with them is so rewarding,' enthuses micro-pig breeder Chris Murray, who rears his 'teacup piglets' at Pennywell, his open farm near Buckfastleigh, Devon.

    'In practical terms, they are easy to toilet train, and have hair not fur, so they are great for children with allergies.
    'Jonathan Ross has had his two micro-pigs for a few years now,' continues Chris, who sells about 50 annually.
    'I remember this man on the phone saying, "Rossy here, I want two of your pigs." The thing is, I had no idea who he was. When he said he lived in London, I said that wasn't really appropriate unless he had a big garden. He replied: "Is two acres enough?"'

    [​IMG] Piggy love: Amelia cuddles one of the pets, who are easy to toilet train, and have hair not fur, so they are great for children with allergies

    Chris started cross-breeding pigs 18 years ago, applying the knowledge he learnt during his days at agricultural college - but with a twist.

    'Instead of breeding them to be bigger, I bred them to be smaller. But it wasn't just their size that was important, it was also their personalities and temperaments,' he says.
    'If you wanted to have a hog roast, you wouldn't choose a Pennywell pig. They don't have much meat on them. But as pets, they are superb.'
    Potential owners are carefully vetted before they part with the fee.
    'It sounds expensive but it's less than the price of a pedigree dog,' says Chris. 'I always say to people that a pig is not just for breakfast. These animals can live for 14 years, so if you take one on you have to be prepared to look after them for quite a while.
    'They are a bit like children. You have to let them know who is boss. If you don't train your pig then they could well trash your garden.'

    [​IMG] Walkies: Charlotte Kemp takes Percy and Penny for a stroll

    And Chris's words are ringing in my ears as I watch Percy and Penny snuffle their way across a freshly dug flower bed towards the vegetable plot. I thought our 15-month-old Labrador, Dolly, was obsessed with food, but there is no stopping these two.

    We try to keep them occupied by hiding their pig nuts under flower pots, and they relish the challenge. But after five minutes, they've found the lot and are looking around for something else to do.
    Bea and I decide to take them for a walk. Worried about them running off, I buy two cat harnesses at the pet shop that fit them perfectly, and off we trot on a little excursion, much to the amusement of our neighbours.

    Although, as it turns out, it's not so much us taking them for a walk as them taking us, and I lost count of the times I got tangled up in the leads as they crisscrossed from left to right. Once we get home again, they are exhausted and retire to their crate for 40 winks in the straw.
    With the right paperwork you can even take your pig for a walk in public, which is exactly what science teacher Katie Palmer did when she took her Pennywell pig, Rupert, to stay in London in a hotel right next to St James's Park.
    'He caused a bit of a stir when he arrived, and we soon had other guests knocking on the door desperate to see him. The only downside to the visit was that we had to walk down the pavement to the park when he needed the loo because Rupert is trained to go on grass.

    'Rupert can do all the basic dog commands - fetch, sit, and so on,' she says. 'But pigs are so much more capable than that. We play a game where Rupert tells the difference between musical instruments. I say " tambourine", for example, and he picks one up with his snout. He can sort shapes and slot them in the right gaps. He can open every kind of latch, he gets upstairs, and has even been in a lift.'
    At the end of our time as micro-pig owners, we are just as enamoured with Percy and Penny, and are all sad to see them go.

    The house is so quiet without them and, really, they have been no bother. Their food comes in dry, pellet form which can be supplemented with the occasional carrot. As for sleeping, they bury themselves beneath a blanket of straw that we lay out in the dog crate. They won't mess their sleeping area either - holding on until we let them out in the morning. The perfect guests, more or less.
    The day after their departure, the girls and I are listening to an audio tape of Charlotte's Web in the car, and when it gets to the bit when Charlotte the spider writes 'some pig' in the web to save her friend Wilbur from the abattoir, we are all nodding our heads in agreement. Percy and Penny were some pigs indeed.