UNWANTED HOGS: Web site designer Jenny Tsai is worried that the arrival of the Year of the Pig could lead to a spike in the number of abandoned pets
/ AFP, TAICHUNG
Every year is the Year of the Pig in Jenny Tsai’s ninth-floor apartment in Taichung, which she shares with a fellow human and four pampered porcine housemates.
Web site designer Tsai said her pigs are so clever they have worked out how to open the fridge, which is now protected from wandering snouts with a rope.
“Pigs are very affectionate,” she said. “When I am sick they stay by my side and keep me company, but you can’t pretend to be sick or they’ll find out and wreak havoc.”
It is difficult to underestimate the importance of pigs in Chinese culture — especially when it comes to food. One of Taiwan’s most prized treasures is the Meat-shaped Stone, a small piece of carved jasper with an uncanny resemblance to a chunk of stewed pork belly that draws huge daily crowds at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
However, Tsai’s pigs are the lucky ones — they have avoided ending up on a plate.
The 43-year-old first started keeping pet pigs 12 years ago when her family gave her “Little Du,” a piglet who has since grown into a robust 65kg hog.
“When our neighbor’s pig gave birth, I stopped by to watch the piglets every day, so my father and brother decided to buy one for me,” Tsai said.
Over the years, she has taken in six more pigs that were abandoned or given away by their owners, three of which have since died.
The remaining four pigs live a life of luxury in Tsai’s care, staying in the largest room in her small apartment, while Tsai and her housemate occupy the tiny bedrooms either side.
Each pig has its own blanket, clothes, bowl and leash, while the apartment is festooned with pig-themed figurines, cushions and paintings, as well as bowls and pots.
However, keeping a pig is no easy task. Tsai once nursed a five-day-old piglet that required bottle-feeding every four hours, as well as an injured pig rescued from a garbage dump that she wheeled in and out of her house in a cart.
“Pigs are difficult to raise, they can wreak havoc, they bite and they eat a lot,” she said.
Unlike dogs and cats, there are no pet hotels that accommodate pigs so their owners “can’t travel far and have to make a lot of sacrifices,” she added.
Despite the challenges, Tsai said her beloved pets have brought her much joy over the years, but she worries that the arrival of the Year of the Pig could lead to a spike in the number of abandoned pets.
Two Facebook pages that she helps run with about 2,000 fans and fellow pig owners have already seen a rise in requests from people wanting to know more about keeping or giving away the animals.
“I hope the public will understand that pigs are not that easy to keep. I hope they will do some homework, speak to those who have experience keeping pigs, and see if they have the time and space before keeping a pig,” she said.
Tsai often ends up taking in abandoned pigs — especially those fully grown.
“Nobody wants a grown pig and if somebody does want one, they might have an ulterior motive — such as killing it for food,” she said.
Jenny Tsai poses with pillows featuring pictures of her pet pigs in her apartment in Taichung on Jan. 27. Photo: Sam Yeh, AFP