National Pig Day was on March 1st, and in honor of such an important holiday, we found it only fitting to make this month about no one other than the notorious Felix himself! Being a star of his own, ‘Felix the Cat’ (a nickname given to him by his caregiver Thera) truly radiates his own light throughout his days at Luvin Arms.
Felix is a 6-year-old Hampshire pig who possesses many layers of complexity and holds the title of being the oldest of our pig residents and one of the first residents to arrive at the sanctuary. Although he has seniority over the other pigs, Felix has a gentle soul with a childlike heart. When somebody calls his name, Felix, being the gentleman that he is, will reply back to them with a snort, acknowledging their presence and reciprocating the hello. Sometimes you will even catch him sitting up with a big grin on his face flashing his dapper teeth as he says hello back.
He is the gentlest of giants who enjoys activities such as belly rubs from his caregivers and volunteers, chomping on peanut butter and apple sandwiches, listening to the calming tunes played during sound therapy, lounging in the mud pit, and spending time napping/roaming the pasture with his girls Lily and Lizzie. Lizzie in particular has stolen Felix’s heart, and the bond they share with one another is one of the deepest connections we have seen amongst our residents. There is even speculation by those at the sanctuary that their relationship goes beyond the bounds of friendship, and two have been seen from time to time sleeping with their noses kissing.
Although Felix is now living a life of pig prestige, he was born into the food industry where his life was already predestined for the slaughter. Originally Felix and his late friend/brother Franklin were born in Colorado Springs and raised at Rock Ledge Ranch. The ranch itself emulates life as it would be in the 1800s and utilizes farmed animals to portray how livestock was vital to the way of life well over 100 years ago. Each year the ranch raises a pair of pigs who they then slaughter/process into meat as a paying audience spectates.
Felix and his buddy Franklin were intended for slaughter, but before the unimaginable could ensue, somebody realized how special they were and fell in love with the boys. They then went on to start a campaign pressing for their liberation. Following rising pressure from the public and ongoing negotiations, the City and Ranch manager eventually consented to Felix and Franklin’s release. Felix arrived at his forever home at Luvin Arms in the winter of 2015 along with Franklin, who sadly passed away in 2016 from a severe case of arthritis along with other health issues.
Like his buddy Franklin, Felix has also developed arthritis, which was diagnosed around the first year of his rescue. Like its characteristic symptoms seen in humans, arthritis presents in Felix as joint pain/stiffness which has worsened with his age. Just like the discomfort humans experience with arthritis, Felix’s body also processes the same feelings of pain caused by the disease. Farmed animals like Felix who are born into the meat industry are bred to grow as unnaturally large as they can in the shortest amount of time possible. With this method of breeding, many of the animals who are lucky enough to survive past 6 months of age are typically plagued with long-lasting health and mobility issues. The industry has left those like Felix with serious medical complications, arthritis, and substantial weight issues.
Thanks to the great lengths Felix’s loving caregivers have gone for his care with their continuous attention to his health and pain management, Felix can live out and enjoy his absolute best pig life. Through nonstop communication and collaboration between his caregivers and his vet, Felix’s arthritis is managed through a highly involved medication regimen:
Felix’s painful arthritic symptoms are currently mitigated through medication administered 3 times a day. We have to give Felix Pepcid the first week of every month to counteract the possible effects that the medication can have on the lining of his stomach. We also give him CBD for the pain and glucosamine to help with his joints. Furthermore, we also provide Felix with biotin to protect his hooves from cracking from the dry Colorado weather and Vitamin E to help with his hair and nails.
Additionally, 2 times a month Felix’s caregivers administer an intermuscular shot that helps his body increase lubrication to the joints. In case you are wondering how on earth we administer a shot to the big guy; while Felix is busy enjoying his peanut butter snack, one caregiver gently holds the pig board against Felix and gives him a nice firm yet gentle tap on the back to distract him physically as the other caregiver injects him. Like anyone with a chronic condition like this, Felix has his good and his bad days but continues to display an optimistic attitude towards life and portrays such a calming strength.
Felix’s story represents countless pigs like him around the world who currently suffer from physical ailments and pay the price of unnatural breeding brought on by the food industry. Felix proves to many of us around the world that pigs not only feel and process pain, but they experience a wide range of emotions and conceptualize life in many ways that mirror that of the human experience.
If you haven’t already guessed it, pigs like Felix are exceptionally cognitively sophisticated and sensitive beings. Through the years, Felix has shown us all his wide spectrum of feelings ranging from love and happiness, to goofiness, pain, sadness, anger, and loneliness. Like many of us, he has mourned the loss of his friends who have lost their battle to medical issues. Not only does Felix process feelings like humans, but he has the capacity to dream.
He can also communicate with other pigs by varying the sounds of his voice with around 20 different kinds of grunts and oinks! There are even studies suggesting that pigs like Felix are just as intelligent as a 3-year-old child and have been known to understand certain time concepts and can anticipate future events. Through his eyes, Felix also has the ability to see his world in primary colors and can discriminate between colors. During clicker play, he will decipher between a red and a blue bucket, based on the color named. He will also follow simple verbal commands such as touch and has been known to cleverly open a door.
Just like anyone, Felix also has his own personal preferences of foods and activities. Recently we learned that he enjoys bells used in frequency sound healing and shows his excitement by laying directly next to the sound healer while flashing his big ol’ Felix smile. But that’s how Felix is, after all—he shows us all how to embrace new people and new experiences and brings his unconditional love and joy to the lives of Lizzie and Lily, to his caregivers, and to all of those lucky enough to cross his path.
As Caregiver Thera perfectly describes him, “He is a gentle old soul with a childlike sense of wonder.” Throughout the years Felix continues to educate us all on kindness, courage, and forgiveness—we learn about our own humanity through his unrelenting compassion. So, this month we celebrate our larger-than-life guy with his larger-than-life personality and all of the layers that make him the one and only Felix the Cat.