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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Pet stores have plenty of gifts for pets. © David L. Sperling
Pet stores have plenty of gifts for pets.

© David L. Sperling

February 2008

Creature comforts

Remember your honey bunnies and love your puppies.

Natasha Kassulke

February monthly observances
And the dogs have it...
Just what the doctor ordered
Incredible eggs
Groundhog's Day

The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPMA) anticipates more than nine million pet owners will purchase a Valentine's gift for their pet this year, spending an average of $17. How does one pamper their furry companion on Valentine's Day? Treats. Toys. Some quality time with you.

February monthly observances

And the dogs have it...

According to the 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, 63 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 71.1 million homes.

Breakdown of pet ownership in the U.S.
  Number of U.S. Households that Own a Pet (millions) Total Number of Pets Owned in the U.S. (millions)
Bird 6.4 16.0
Cat 38.4 88.3
Dog 44.8 74.8
Equine 4.3 13.8
Freshwater Fish 14.2 142.0
Saltwater Fish 0.8 9.6
Reptile 4.8 13.4
Small Animal 6.0 24.3

Total U.S. Pet Industry Expenditures
Year Billion
2007 $40.8 Est.

Just what the doctor ordered

Pets can be pricey. But, as if you needed any reason to have a pet — beyond those eyes, that nose, that face — here are some of the health benefits of pet ownership:

Pets help lower blood pressure. A recent study at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that people with hypertension who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did those who did not own a pet. (Dr. Karen Allen, SUNY- Buffalo)

Pets help reduce stress. Walking with a pet helps soothe nerves and offers instant relaxation. Studies conducted worldwide have shown that the impact of a stressful situation is lesser on pet owners, especially males, than on those who do not own a pet. (Josephine M. Wills, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, United Kingdom)

Pets help prevent heart disease. Because pets provide people with faithful companionship, research shows they may also provide their owners with greater psychological stability, thus a measure of protection from heart disease. (National Institute of Health Technology Assessment Workshop: Health Benefits of Pets)

Pets help lower health care costs. People with pets actually make fewer doctor visits, especially for non-serious medical conditions. (National Institute of Health Technology Assessment Workshop: Health Benefits of Pets)

Pets help fight depression. Pets help fight depression and loneliness, promoting an interest in life. When seniors face adversity or trauma, affection from pets takes on great meaning. Their bonding behavior can foster a sense of security. (Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship)

Incredible Eggs
Lots of animal babies hatch out of eggs. Spend the morning discovering which animals lay eggs, and you'll get a chance to dissect a real egg! "Incredible Eggs" is Saturday, March 1 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The event is free but donations are appreciated. Meet at the Havenwoods State Forest - Environmental Awareness Center, 6141 N Hopkins St, Milwaukee. Call (414) 527-0232.

Groundhog's Day

Wisconsin's celebrity groundhog, Jimmy, steps into the spotlight on Feb. 2 in Sun Prairie. His prognostication occurs at sunrise. While groundhogs are fun to watch, remember that they are wild animals. To be a caregiver to a wild animal such as Jimmy, families have to be certified by the state.

The groundhog is also known as a woodchuck or whistle pig. They are mammals of the squirrel family and weigh between four and 14 pounds. Groundhogs are excellent diggers, constructing a burrow with a main entrance and an escape tunnel. Groundhogs hibernate and generally live alone.

Here's a guide to reading Jimmy's prognostication: If it is a sunny day, the groundhog will see his shadow. Frightened, he will go back into his burrow, and there he will nestle for more sleep. Winter will last six more weeks. If it is a cloudy day, the groundhog will not see his shadow. Hungry after a long winter's sleep, the groundhog will scamper off in search of food. Spring will come early.

To learn more about Jimmy visit Groundhog Central.

Natasha Kassulke is creative products manager for Wisconsin Natural Resources.