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Animal Caretaker Career Profile

How do I become an animal caretaker?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for the career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools, while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

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UPDATED:

11 April 2024

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What is an Animal Caretaker?

An Animal Caretaker is the general and overall description used for someone who cares for the needs of animals. They feed, water, groom, bathe, and exercise animals. They work with domesticated or wild animals, in a variety of places, such as animal shelters, kennels, zoos, stables, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and aquariums.

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This page is dedicated to the general description of an “animal caretaker”, but you can learn more about the specific careers (based on where you can work) included under the “similar careers” tab at the bottom of this page.

Alternative Names

The name Animal Caretaker is also known under other names:

  • Animal Caregiver
  • Animal Care Attendant
  • Kaitiaki Kararehe

Career Categories

The Animal Caretaker career can be found within the following OZT career categories:

  • Animal Care
  • Livestock & Farms
  • Marine Conservation
  • Wildlife Conservation
  • Zoos, Aquariums, Museums and Theme Parks

What does an Animal Caretaker do?

Groups of animals an Animal Caretaker works with

Cats List Icon
Cats
Dogs List Icon OZT
Dogs
Critters List Icon OZT
Critters
Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
Mammals List Icon OZT
Mammals
Birds List Icon OZT
Birds
Fish List Icon OZT
Fish
Reptiles List Icon OZT
Reptiles
Amphibians List Icon OZT
Amphibians
Insects List Icon OZT
Insects
Arachnids List Icon OZT
Arachnids
Crustaceans List Icon OZT
Crustaceans
Mollusks Link Icon OZT
Mollusks
Myriapods List Icon OZT
Myriapods
Worms List Icon OZT
Worms

Animal caretakers work with a wide variety of animals, and the specific types of animals can vary based on the setting in which they are employed. Here are some examples of the types of animals that animal caretakers may work with:

Domestic Pets:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Rabbits
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Birds (parrots, canaries, etc.)
  • Fish
  • Reptiles (snakes, lizards, turtles)

Farm Animals:

  • Cows
  • Pigs
  • Chickens
  • Horses
  • Sheep
  • Goats

Wildlife:

  • Native and exotic birds
  • Small mammals (squirrels, raccoons, opossums)
  • Small reptiles and amphibians
  • Insects and arachnids
  • Deer and other mammals

Zoo and Exotic Animals:

  • Elephants
  • Lions
  • Tigers
  • Giraffes
  • Zebras
  • Bears
  • Reptiles (crocodiles, snakes, lizards)
  • Primates (monkeys, apes)

Aquatic Animals:

  • Fish (both freshwater and marine species)
  • Dolphins
  • Seals
  • Sea lions
  • Penguins
  • Sharks

Research Animals:

  • Laboratory rodents (mice, rats)
  • Rabbits
  • Guinea pigs
  • Primates
  • Dogs and cats used in scientific research

Insects and Arachnids:

  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Ants
  • Spiders
  • Beetles

Large Predators:

  • Wolves
  • Cougars
  • Leopards
  • Cheetahs

Rehabilitation Animals:

  • Injured or orphaned wildlife (birds, mammals)
  • Sea turtles
  • Marine mammals

Therapy Animals:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Horses

The range of animals an animal caretaker works with depends on the specific facility or organization, such as animal shelters, pet stores, zoos, aquariums, farms, wildlife rehabilitation centers, research laboratories, and more. Caretakers in each setting may have specialized knowledge and skills tailored to the needs of the animals under their care. Additionally, the types of animals they work with can influence their daily tasks, training requirements, and the overall work environment.

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With whom does an Animal Caretaker work?

Animal caretakers often work closely with a diverse group of people as part of their daily responsibilities. These interactions can vary depending on the specific job setting and the nature of their work.

Here are different kinds of people that animal caretakers may work with daily:

Supervisors and Managers:

Animal caretakers report to supervisors or managers, who oversee daily operations, assign tasks, and provide guidance on animal care and facility management

Co-Workers:

Animal caretakers collaborate with fellow staff members who share responsibilities for animal care, enclosure maintenance, and other daily tasks. Teamwork is essential to ensuring the well-being of the animals

Veterinarians:

Animal caretakers often work closely with veterinarians who provide medical care, diagnose illnesses, perform surgeries, and prescribe medications for the animals. They may consult with vets on health concerns and treatment plans

Veterinary Technicians and Assistants:

In veterinary clinics and facilities, animal caretakers may collaborate with veterinary technicians and assistants in providing care and treatment to animals

Animal Behaviourists:

In some settings, especially those involving exotic or behaviorally complex animals, caretakers may consult with animal behaviourists to address behavioural issues and implement enrichment programmes

Educators and Outreach Specialists:

Those working in educational settings, such as zoos or wildlife sanctuaries, may interact with in-house educators and outreach specialists who provide information to the public about the animals and conservation efforts

Visitors and Tourists:

In public-facing roles at zoos, aquariums, and wildlife parks, animal caretakers may interact with visitors and tourists, answering questions and providing information about the animals

Animal Owners:

Pet caretakers working in boarding kennels or pet daycare facilities may communicate with pet owners, discussing the care and needs of their pets

Animal Welfare Inspectors and Regulators:

Animal caretakers may interact with government inspectors and regulators who ensure that facilities are complying with animal welfare laws and regulations

Wildlife Biologists and Researchers:

In research settings, animal caretakers may collaborate with wildlife biologists and researchers who conduct studies and experiments involving animals

Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Organisations:

Wildlife rehabilitators often work with volunteers, interns, and staff members from animal rescue and rehabilitation organisations to provide care to injured and orphaned wildlife

Conservation Organizations:

Those involved in the care of endangered species may collaborate with conservation organizations and experts to participate in breeding programs and conservation efforts

Media and Filmmakers:

In some cases, animal caretakers may interact with media professionals and filmmakers who are documenting the work of animal care facilities or conducting wildlife-related projects

Volunteers and Interns:

Many animal care facilities rely on volunteers and interns to assist with daily tasks, and animal caretakers may oversee and work alongside these individuals.

The specific individuals with whom an animal caretaker interacts daily can vary widely based on the nature of their job and the organization or facility they work for. Effective communication and collaboration with these diverse groups of people are crucial for providing excellent care to the animals under their supervision and for fulfilling educational and conservation goals.

What are the different specialisations or career directions that an Animal Caretaker can venture into?

Animal caretaking is a rewarding field with various specialisations and career directions that professionals can pursue. Here are some of the different paths that animal caretakers can venture into:

Veterinary Assistant/Technician:

Assist veterinarians in clinics or animal hospitals by performing tasks such as administering medications, taking x-rays, and providing nursing care to animals.

Zookeeper:

Work in zoos or wildlife parks, caring for a wide range of animals, including feeding, cleaning habitats, providing enrichment activities, and assisting with veterinary care.

Animal Trainer:

Train animals for various purposes, such as entertainment (circuses, theme parks), therapy (service animals), or working roles (police dogs, search and rescue animals).

Animal Shelter Worker:

Assist in animal shelters or rescue organisations by caring for animals, helping with adoptions, and managing day-to-day operations.

Wildlife Rehabilitator:

Specialise in caring for injured, sick, or orphaned wild animals with the goal of rehabilitating them for release back into their natural habitats.

Laboratory Animal Caretaker:

Work in research facilities or universities, providing care for animals used in scientific studies while ensuring their welfare and compliance with regulations.

Farm Animal Caretaker:

Focus on caring for farm animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, and horses, including feeding, grooming, and managing their living conditions.

Aquarist:

Work in aquariums or marine parks, caring for aquatic animals such as fish, turtles, and marine mammals, including maintaining tanks, feeding, and monitoring water quality.

Pet Groomer:

Specialise in grooming services for domestic pets, including bathing, trimming nails, and styling fur, to keep pets healthy and comfortable.

Animal Behaviourist:

Study animal behaviour and psychology, working to understand and modify behaviours through training, environmental enrichment, and behaviour modification techniques.

These are just a few examples of the diverse career paths available to animal caretakers. Each specialisation offers unique challenges and opportunities for those passionate about working with animals.

What does an Animal Caretaker focus on?

As a generalized career, animal caretakers may work in over 80 specific Animal Care careers. The daily duties and requirements are generally the same across all of the careers, with entry requirements ranging from High School to Bachelor’s Degrees.

The general profession of animal caretaker is divided into three types, according to the grouping of all of the different animal care careers:

  • Non-farm animal caretaker – taking care of pets
  • Farm animal caretaker – working with farm animals
  • Wild animal caretaker – working as a keeper

What are the daily tasks of an Animal Caretaker?

The daily tasks of an animal caretaker can vary depending on the setting in which they work, such as a pet store, animal shelter, zoo, veterinary clinic, or research facility. However, common tasks for animal caretakers generally include:

Feeding and Watering:

Providing animals with the appropriate food and ensuring they have access to clean water.

Cleaning and Sanitising:

Cleaning animal enclosures, cages, or habitats is necessary to maintain a clean and sanitary environment.

Observation:

Monitoring the health and behaviour of animals, noting any changes or abnormalities.

Exercise and Enrichment:

Providing opportunities for physical activity and mental stimulation, such as playtime, toys, or environmental enrichment,.

Administering Medications:

Following veterinary instructions to administer medications or treatments to sick or injured animals.

Grooming:

Brushing, bathing, and grooming animals as needed for their health and well-being.

Record Keeping:

Maintaining accurate records of animal health, behaviour, and any treatments administered.

Assisting with Veterinary Care:

Assisting veterinarians with routine check-ups, vaccinations, and other medical procedures.

Socialization:

Interacting with animals to build trust and provide socialisation, especially in settings like animal shelters.

Adoption Counselling:

Providing information and assistance to potential adopters about the care and needs of animals.

Training:

Basic training for animals, such as teaching them commands or behaviours that improve their interactions with humans.

Handling and Restraint:

Safely handling and restraining animals when necessary, especially during medical procedures or transport.

Emergency Response:

Knowing and implementing emergency procedures in case of accidents, injuries, or other unexpected situations.

Collaborating with Staff:

Working collaboratively with other staff members, including veterinarians, trainers, and administrative staff.

Maintaining Facilities:

Assisting in the maintenance of facilities and equipment to ensure a safe and functional environment for animals and staff.

Animal caretakers play a crucial role in the well-being of the animals under their care and often contribute to creating positive experiences for both the animals and the people who interact with them.

With what kind of tools and technology (if any) does an Animal Caretaker work?

Animal caretakers utilise various tools and technologies to perform their duties efficiently and ensure the well-being of the animals under their care. While the specific tools and technologies may vary depending on the setting and type of animals involved, here are some common examples:

Cleaning Equipment:

  • Brooms, mops, and dustpans for sweeping and mopping floors.
  • Scrub brushes and sponges for cleaning surfaces and enclosures.
  • High-pressure hoses or pressure washers for deep cleaning outdoor enclosures.
  • Squeegees for drying wet surfaces.

Feeding and Watering Tools:

  • Food scoops or measuring cups for portioning out food.
  • Food bowls or feeders designed for specific types of animals.
  • Automatic feeders or watering systems for consistent feeding schedules.
  • Watering cans or hoses for providing fresh water to animals.

Enrichment Devices:

  • Toys, puzzles, and interactive feeders to stimulate animals mentally and physically.
  • Enrichment items like ropes, tunnels, and perches for climbing or hiding.
  • Puzzle feeders or food-dispensing toys to encourage natural foraging behaviors.

Handling and Restraint Equipment:

  • Animal handling gloves for protection when handling certain species.
  • Nets or catch poles for safely capturing and restraining animals.
  • Leashes, harnesses, or leads for walking or transporting animals.
  • Animal crates or carriers for safe transportation.

Health Monitoring Tools:

  • Thermometers for monitoring temperature.
  • Scales for weighing animals to track growth or health.
  • Stethoscopes or portable ultrasound devices for basic health assessments.
  • First aid kits stocked with supplies for treating minor injuries.

Environmental Monitoring Equipment:

  • Thermometers and hygrometers for monitoring temperature and humidity levels.
  • pH meters or water test kits for assessing water quality in aquatic enclosures.
  • Light meters to measure light intensity in indoor habitats.

Communication Tools:

  • Two-way radios or communication systems for coordinating tasks with other caretakers or staff members.
  • Mobile devices or tablets for accessing electronic records, schedules, and communication platforms.

Training and Education Resources:

  • Books, manuals, and educational materials on animal behavior, care, and welfare.
  • Online courses, webinars, or training videos on relevant topics.
  • Educational software or apps for learning about specific species or training techniques.

Safety Equipment:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, and masks for handling animals and cleaning enclosures.
  • Fire extinguishers and emergency evacuation plans for responding to emergencies.
  • Safety signs and barriers to designate restricted areas or hazards.

Recording and Documentation Tools:

  • Paper-based or electronic record-keeping systems for documenting animal care activities, health observations, and feeding schedules.
  • Cameras or video surveillance systems for monitoring animal behavior and welfare.

Diagnostic and Medical Equipment (in veterinary settings):

  • X-ray machines, ultrasound devices, and other diagnostic imaging equipment.
  • Surgical instruments and equipment for performing minor procedures.
  • Anesthesia machines and monitoring devices for anesthesia administration and patient monitoring.

The use of technology in animal care continues to evolve, with advancements such as automated feeding systems, remote monitoring devices, and digital health records becoming increasingly prevalent. Animal caretakers may receive training on using new tools and technologies to improve efficiency, accuracy, and animal welfare in their respective roles.

Working conditions of an Animal Caretaker

Where does an Animal Caretaker work?

Animal caretakers work in various indoor and outdoor environments, depending on their specific job responsibilities and the type of facility they are employed in. Here are examples of indoor and outdoor working environments, as well as places of employment for animal caretakers:

Indoor Environments:

Animal Shelters:

Animal caretakers in shelters work indoors in kennels, catteries, and other enclosed areas where animals are housed. They may also have administrative offices for tasks such as record-keeping and adoption counselling.

Veterinary Clinics:

Animal caretakers in veterinary clinics work indoors, assisting veterinarians with examinations, treatments, and surgeries. They may also be responsible for maintaining cleanliness and order in the clinic.

Pet Stores:

In pet stores, animal caretakers work indoors in retail settings, taking care of animals for sale, ensuring their health and well-being, and assisting customers with information about pet care.

Research Facilities:

In research settings, animal caretakers may work indoors in laboratories, assisting with the care of animals involved in scientific studies. This may include tasks related to feeding, cleaning, and monitoring.

Zoos and Aquariums:

In zoos and aquariums, caretakers work both indoors and outdoors. Indoor areas may include animal housing, food preparation areas, and administrative offices.

Outdoor Environments:

Zoos and Aquariums:

Outdoor areas of zoos and aquariums include animal exhibits, outdoor enclosures, and public spaces where caretakers may interact with visitors while caring for the animals.

Animal Sanctuaries and Rescues:

Caretakers in sanctuaries and rescues may work outdoors in large, natural enclosures where animals are provided with more space. They may also participate in habitat maintenance and landscaping.

Farm Settings:

Animal caretakers on farms work outdoors in barns, pastures, and other agricultural settings. They care for livestock, ensuring proper feeding, health monitoring, and general maintenance of farm animals.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers:

In wildlife rehabilitation, caretakers may work both indoors and outdoors. Outdoor areas may include enclosures or natural habitats for injured or orphaned wildlife undergoing rehabilitation.

Places of Employment:

Animal Shelters and Rescues:

Caretakers in animal shelters and rescues work to care for and find homes for abandoned or surrendered animals.

Veterinary Clinics and Hospitals:

Animal caretakers in veterinary clinics assist veterinarians with the care of domestic pets and may be involved in surgical preparation, monitoring, and post-operative care.

Zoos and Aquariums:

Zoos and aquariums employ caretakers to care for a variety of species, manage exhibits, and educate the public about wildlife conservation.

Pet Stores:

In pet stores, caretakers work to maintain the health and well-being of animals for sale and provide customer assistance.

Farms and Agricultural Settings:

Animal caretakers on farms work with livestock and may be involved in tasks related to agriculture and animal husbandry.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Centres:

Caretakers in wildlife rehabilitation centres work to rehabilitate injured or orphaned wild animals for release back into their natural habitats.

The specific working conditions can vary based on the type of animals cared for, the size and nature of the facility, and the overall mission of the organization. Animal caretakers may need to adapt to different weather conditions and work schedules depending on the needs of the animals in their care.

What is the average annual salary of an Animal Caretaker?

Salaries for animal caretakers can vary significantly based on factors such as experience, education, location, and the type of facility or organisation. It’s important to note that these figures are rough estimates, and actual salaries may differ.

United States (USA): $25,000 to $35,000 USD

Canada: $30,000 to $40,000 CAD

United Kingdom (UK): £16,000 to £25,000 GBP

India: ₹2,00,000 to ₹4,00,000 INR

Australia: $40,000 to $55,000 AUD

New Zealand: NZD 40,000 to NZD 50,000

Nigeria: ₦500,000 to ₦1,000,000 NGN

Kenya: KSh 300,000 to KSh 600,000 KES

South Africa: R80,000 to R120,000 ZAR

South America (varies by country):

This can vary significantly by country. In general, salaries may be lower than in more developed regions.

Europe (varies by country):

Salaries can vary widely across European countries. In Western European countries, salaries may be higher compared to Eastern European countries.

Southeast Asia (varies by country):

Salaries in South East Asia can vary considerably. In general, salaries may be lower than in more developed regions.

Salaries may vary based on the cost of living in different areas within a country. These figures are intended to provide a general overview and should be used as a rough guide.

Can an Animal Caretaker be promoted?

The levels of promotion for an Animal Caretaker can vary depending on the organization, such as animal shelters, zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centers, research facilities, and veterinary clinics.

Promotions within the field of animal care often depend on factors such as experience, performance, specialized skills or certifications (e.g., wildlife rehabilitation certification, veterinary technician certification), and the size and structure of the organization. Some animal caretakers may choose to specialize in working with specific types of animals, such as exotic species, marine life, or endangered species, which can lead to more specialized career paths.

Additionally, continuing education and professional development are important for career advancement in the field of animal care, as staying up-to-date with best practices and industry standards is essential for providing high-quality care to animals.

Here are some common levels of promotion for animal caretakers:

Animal Caretaker (Entry-Level)

This is the starting position for individuals interested in working with animals. Entry-level animal caretakers are responsible for basic tasks such as feeding, cleaning enclosures, providing water, and monitoring the well-being of animals.

Senior Animal Caretaker or Lead Animal Caretaker

After gaining experience and demonstrating proficiency in their duties, animal caretakers may be promoted to a senior or lead role. These individuals often take on additional responsibilities, such as training new staff, overseeing daily operations, and ensuring the quality of care provided to animals.

Animal Care Supervisor

Animal care supervisors are responsible for managing a team of animal caretakers. They coordinate work schedules, provide guidance and training, and may be involved in the hiring and evaluation of staff members. They also work closely with veterinarians and other professionals to ensure the health and well-being of animals.

Animal Care Manager

In larger facilities, there may be animal care managers who oversee multiple areas or departments within the organization. They are responsible for budgeting, strategic planning, and overall operations related to animal care.

Curator of Animals or Curator of Collections

In zoos, aquariums, and larger facilities, a curator is responsible for the care and management of a specific group of animals or an entire collection. Curators often have extensive experience and may be involved in research, conservation efforts, and exhibit design.

Director of Animal Care or Director of Operations

At the highest level within an organization, the director of animal care or operations oversees all aspects of animal care and facility management. This role involves setting policies, managing budgets, liaising with regulatory agencies, and making strategic decisions to ensure the welfare of the animals and the success of the organization.

What kind of difficulties can an Animal Caretaker face?

Being an animal caretaker can be a rewarding but challenging profession. Some of the challenges they may encounter include:

Physical Demands:

The job often involves physically demanding tasks, such as lifting heavy bags of feed, cleaning large enclosures, and handling animals of various sizes.

Safety Concerns:

There is a risk of injury from handling animals, especially in situations where the animals may be frightened, aggressive, or unpredictable.

Variability in Working Conditions:

Working conditions can vary widely depending on the type of facility. Caretakers may work indoors or outdoors, in different climates, and in environments that may not always be comfortable.

Emotional Challenges:

Animal caretakers may form strong bonds with the animals under their care. Dealing with sickness, injuries, and, in some cases, euthanasia can be emotionally challenging.

Business Management:

In settings like animal shelters or smaller facilities, caretakers may be involved in administrative tasks, fundraising, and community outreach. Balancing animal care with administrative responsibilities can be challenging.

Regulatory Compliance:

Adhering to local, state, and national regulations regarding animal welfare, housing, and healthcare can be demanding. Staying up-to-date with changing regulations is crucial.

Continuing Education:

Keeping abreast of advancements in animal care, welfare practices, and veterinary treatments requires ongoing education. This can be challenging, especially for those in smaller organisations with limited resources.

Unpredictable Work Hours:

Animal care often requires flexibility in work hours. Animals need care every day, including weekends and holidays. This may lead to irregular or long working hours.

Limited Resources:

In some facilities, there may be limitations on resources such as staff, funding, and equipment. This can impact the quality of care that can be provided.

Public Relations:

In facilities open to the public, caretakers may need to interact with visitors, providing information about animals, addressing concerns, and ensuring a positive public perception.

Physical and Emotional Burnout:

Caring for animals can be physically and emotionally demanding. Burnout is a risk, especially if caretakers are not adequately supported or if workloads are consistently high.

Zoonotic Diseases:

Animal caretakers may be at risk of contracting zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted from animals to humans. Proper hygiene and safety protocols are crucial to mitigating this risk.

Communication Challenges:

Effective communication among staff members, veterinarians, and other stakeholders is essential. Miscommunication can lead to misunderstandings and impact the quality of animal care.

Environmental Concerns:

In some settings, caretakers may need to address environmental issues, such as maintaining habitats, controlling invasive species, or dealing with natural disasters.

Animal caretakers must be resilient, adaptable, and passionate about their work to overcome these challenges and provide the best possible care for the animals in their charge. Regular training, support from management, and a strong community of colleagues can help mitigate some of these challenges.

Future growth & possibilities

The yearly growth of job opportunities for this career is around 22%, which is much higher than for other related careers.

Employment projections can vary by region and are subject to change based on economic, social, and industry-specific factors. Here are some general trends and possibilities that may influence the future of the animal caretaker industry:

Increased Focus on Animal Welfare:

There is growing awareness and concern for animal welfare globally. This increased focus may lead to more demand for skilled animal caretakers in various settings, including shelters, sanctuaries, and zoos.

Expansion of Pet Care Services:

With the rise in pet ownership and the increasing importance placed on pets as family members, there may be an expansion of pet care services, leading to more opportunities for animal caretakers in areas such as pet sitting, grooming, and training.

Advancements in Veterinary Medicine:

Ongoing advancements in veterinary medicine may influence the demand for animal caretakers, especially those who work closely with veterinarians in clinics, hospitals, and research facilities.

Environmental and Conservation Initiatives:

The emphasis on environmental conservation and wildlife protection may lead to increased opportunities for animal caretakers involved in wildlife rehabilitation, conservation programmes, and work in nature reserves.

Technological Integration:

Technology, such as automation and digital health monitoring, may become more prevalent in animal care settings. Animal caretakers may need to adapt to and utilise new technologies to enhance efficiency and improve care.

Specialisation and Training Opportunities:

As the field evolves, there may be increased opportunities for specialisation within animal care, such as focusing on particular species or acquiring expertise in specific areas like animal behaviour, nutrition, or enrichment.

Public Awareness and Education:

Increased public awareness of the importance of responsible pet ownership and ethical treatment of animals may lead to more demand for education and outreach programmes, creating opportunities for animal caretakers to play a role in public engagement.

Global Health Events:

Events such as pandemics can impact industries, including animal care. The global response to health crises may influence the regulation of wildlife trade, animal handling practices, and the management of animal facilities.

Legislative Changes:

Changes in legislation related to animal welfare, environmental protection, and pet ownership may impact the responsibilities and requirements for animal caretakers. Staying informed about and adapting to these changes will be important.

Economic Factors:

Economic conditions can influence the growth of the animal care industry. Economic growth may contribute to increased spending on pet care services, while economic downturns could potentially impact funding for animal welfare organisations.

It’s crucial to note that the trends and possibilities outlined here are general observations, and the trajectory of the animal caretaker industry can be influenced by a complex interplay of factors. Individuals considering a career in animal care or related fields should stay informed about industry developments and be adaptable to changes in the landscape.

Availability of Jobs

Good

Which Skills are required by an Animal Caretaker?

The skills required for a career as an animal caretaker can be divided into two very important groups. First is the group containing life skills and personality traits, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills and Personality Traits

Animal caretakers typically possess a range of specific personality traits that enable them to excel in their roles. Here are some common traits:

Compassion and Empathy:

Animal caretakers must genuinely care for the well-being of the animals under their care. Compassion allows them to understand and respond to the needs and emotions of the animals effectively.

Patience:

Working with animals can be unpredictable, and tasks may take longer than expected. Patience is essential when handling animals, especially those that may be frightened, aggressive, or resistant.

Observant:

Being observant enables animal caretakers to notice changes in behaviour, health, or environment that may indicate a problem. This trait helps them address issues promptly and provide appropriate care.

Physical Stamina:

Animal caretaking often involves physical tasks such as lifting, cleaning, and exercising animals. Having physical stamina allows caretakers to perform these tasks efficiently and without exhaustion.

Communication Skills:

Effective communication is vital for interacting with other caretakers, veterinarians, and sometimes, pet owners. Clear communication ensures that everyone involved in an animal’s care is informed and on the same page.

Adaptability:

Every animal has its own unique needs and behaviours, requiring caretakers to adapt their approach accordingly. Flexibility and adaptability are essential when dealing with various species, personalities, and situations.

Attention to Detail:

Animal caretakers must follow protocols precisely, administer medications accurately, and maintain detailed records of an animal’s health and behaviour. Attention to detail ensures that nothing is overlooked and that the animals receive the best possible care.

Problem-Solving Skills:

Animal caretakers often encounter challenges, such as behaviour issues, medical emergencies, or facility maintenance issues. Strong problem-solving skills enable caretakers to address these challenges effectively and find solutions quickly.

Love for Animals:

Perhaps the most fundamental trait, a genuine love for animals, motivates caretakers to pursue a career in animal care and provides the foundation for their work ethic and dedication.

Successful animal caretakers possess a combination of these traits, allowing them to provide excellent care and support for the animals entrusted to them.

Life Skills
40%

Career Skills

  • Understanding animal behavior
  • Knowledge of animal handling and care techniques
  • Handling equipment
  • Customer focus
  • Computer skills
  • ​Good health and physical fitness
Career Skills
60%

Which Subjects must I have at School to help prepare for this career?

These subjects are the ones recognized around the world and recommended for the more advanced and competitive of the animal caretaker careers, such as zookeeper or aquarist. Most of the careers in animal care don’t really require specific subjects, BUT it is always important to plan properly. If one of the animal care careers is maybe a stepping stone career (entry careers towards something more advanced) for you, then you will definitely need to take the three subjects to be able to progress.

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

What will I need to Study to become an Animal Caretaker?

Minimum educational requirements

In most cases there is no formal college diploma or University degree needed, but it is advised that you do finish your High School Diploma (Senior National Diploma, Matric or Grade 12).

Study Focus

Short Courses:

Completing Short Courses on topics such as animal care; animal first aid; basic animal behaviour; modern office procedures and correct language usage within animal care will help you prepare for this career. There are a lot of the short courses that you may complete while still in school.

General Animal Studies:

It is also advised that you continue to study as much as possible about the animal(s) you are working with to become an expert in animal care and secure the best career. OZT has an entire section on the different animals to help you gain some knowledge.

Advanced or Further Studies:

Some of the careers will require a higher level of education, such as a college certificate or diploma in animal care or animal management, or a Bachelor’s Degree in subjects that teach you more about animal sciences.

Study Duration

The duration of the different Short Courses depends on the difficulty and institution presenting it. Most Short Courses are between a few weeks and a year. College diplomas are up to 2 years, while University Degrees will be between 3 to 4 years.

FREE Career Path Plan

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A preparation path is like a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

Here’s an example of a step-by-step plan for a high school student interested in pursuing a career as an animal caretaker:

  1. Attend Career Guidance Sessions:

Attend career guidance sessions at school or in the community to learn about various career paths within the animal care industry. Seek advice from career counsellors and professionals in the field.

2. Research Possible Careers:

Conduct thorough research on careers related to animal care, including roles such as animal caretaker, veterinary assistant, zookeeper, wildlife rehabilitator, or pet groomer. Understand the responsibilities, qualifications, and potential growth in each field.

3.  Explore Educational Paths:

Investigate the educational requirements for your chosen career path. Consider diploma or degree programmes in animal science, veterinary technology, biology, or related fields.

4.  Align High School Subjects:

Choose high school subjects that align with your chosen educational path. Focus on biology, chemistry, and other science courses. Mathematics can also be beneficial.

5.  Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent:

Ensure successful completion of high school or obtain a GED (General Educational Development) diploma.

6.  Learn about Animals:

Gain knowledge about different species of animals, their behaviour, and basic care requirements. Consider reading books, attending workshops, or taking online courses.

7.  Align Post-School Path:

Decide whether you want to enter the job market directly after high school, pursue further studies at a college or vocational school, or explore the possibility of starting a business in the future.

8.  Gain Experience:

Seek opportunities for hands-on experience through volunteering at animal shelters, wildlife rehabilitation centres, or veterinary clinics. Explore internships and mentorship programmes to gain practical insights.

9.  Pursue Extracurricular Activities:

Participate in extracurricular activities related to animals, such as joining a biology or ecology club, participating in 4-H programmes, or volunteering at local animal-related events.

10. Join Professional Associations:

Explore joining professional associations related to animal care, such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Membership can provide networking opportunities and access to resources.

11. Gain specialised Skills:

Acquire specialised skills relevant to your chosen field. This may include learning about animal behaviour, basic veterinary care, or specific training techniques.

12. Network with Professionals:

Attend industry events, workshops, and conferences to network with professionals in the field. Establishing connections can open up opportunities for mentorship and potential job leads.

13. Enter the Job Market or Continue Studies:

Decide whether to enter the job market with the skills acquired, pursue tertiary studies for further specialisation, or explore entrepreneurial opportunities.

14. Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education:

Stay informed about industry trends, new technologies, and advancements in animal care. Pursue continuing education courses to enhance your skills and stay competitive in the job market.

Remember that the journey to becoming an animal caretaker may involve a combination of education, hands-on experience, and networking. Continuously assess your goals and interests to ensure that your career path aligns with your passion for working with animals.

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternative(s):

Stepping Stone Career

A stepping-stone career refers to a job or position that serves as a transitional or intermediate step towards a long-term career goal. Individuals may take on a stepping-stone job as it requires minimum education or finances to enter, or to gain relevant experience and develop skills, or to make professional connections that will ultimately help them progress towards their desired career path.

These interim positions may not be the ultimate or dream job, but they provide valuable learning opportunities and contribute to the individual’s overall career development. Stepping-stone careers are often seen as a strategic approach to building a successful and fulfilling professional trajectory, allowing individuals to gradually move closer to their desired roles or industries.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and apprenticeship

On-the-job training and apprenticeship requirements for a person entering an animal caretaker career can vary depending on the specific employer, the type of facility, and the nature of the work. However, here are some common elements often associated with on-the-job training and apprenticeship in the field of animal care:

Orientation and Facility Familiarisation:

New animal caretakers typically undergo an orientation process to familiarise themselves with the facility’s layout, policies, and procedures.

Shadowing and Observation:

Trainees may spend time shadowing experienced animal caretakers to observe their daily routines and gain insights into handling various animals.

Animal Handling Techniques:

Hands-on training in proper animal handling techniques is crucial. This may involve working with different species, learning restraint methods, and understanding safety protocols.

Feeding and Nutrition Training:

Understanding the dietary needs of different animals is a key aspect of the training. This includes learning about various diets, portion control, and dietary restrictions.

Cleaning and Sanitation Procedures:

Trainees are taught the proper methods for cleaning animal enclosures, including the use of cleaning agents, tools, and equipment. The emphasis is placed on maintaining a clean and sanitary environment.

Health Monitoring and Basic Veterinary Care:

Training may cover the basics of health monitoring, recognising signs of illness, and administering basic veterinary care, such as giving medications or applying treatments under supervision.

Record-Keeping and Documentation:

Understanding the importance of accurate record-keeping is emphasised. Trainees learn to document observations, treatments, and any changes in the behaviour or health of the animals.

Enrichment and behavioural Training:

Depending on the setting, training might include methods for providing environmental enrichment and basic behavioural training to ensure the well-being of the animals.

Emergency Response Training:

Training in emergency procedures is essential. This includes understanding how to respond to injuries, escape situations, or other unexpected events.

Communication Skills:

Developing effective communication skills, especially when working in a team or interacting with veterinarians, fellow caretakers, and, in some cases, the public.

Customer Service (if applicable):

For animal caretakers in settings like pet stores or those dealing with the public, customer service training may be provided to assist with inquiries and educate customers on proper pet care.

Continuous Learning and Professional Development:

Animal caretakers often engage in ongoing learning to stay updated on industry best practices, new technologies, and advancements in animal care.

Mentorship Programmes:

Some employers may implement mentorship programmes where new hires are paired with experienced animal caretakers for ongoing guidance and support.

Performance Evaluation and Feedback:

Regular performance evaluations and feedback sessions help trainees understand their progress, areas for improvement, and areas where additional training may be needed.

It’s important for individuals entering the animal caretaker profession to seek employers who prioritise thorough training and ongoing professional development. Additionally, obtaining certifications related to animal care or completing relevant courses can enhance one’s qualifications and contribute to career advancement.

Average level of educational qualification people had when entering the Career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Registration, Certification and Professional Associations

The specific requirements for licences, certificates, and registrations to become an animal caretaker can vary depending on the location, the type of animals involved, and the nature of the work. Here are some general considerations:

Educational Requirements:

Many positions in animal care may require a minimum level of education, such as a high school diploma or equivalent. Some roles may necessitate a degree in animal science, veterinary technology, or a related field.

Licensing:

Some regions require animal caretakers to obtain a licence to practise. This may involve passing an exam, meeting educational requirements, and demonstrating practical experience. Check with local or state regulatory bodies for specific licencing requirements.

Certifications:

Certifications can enhance your credibility and demonstrate specialised skills. Depending on your area of interest in animal care (e.g., dog training, pet first aid, exotic animal care), there may be relevant certifications available. Examples include a Certified Professional Animal Care Provider (CPACP) or a Certified Dog Trainer (CDT).

Registration:

Certain types of animal caretakers, such as those working in pet sitting or dog walking, may need to register their business with local authorities. This could involve providing details about your services, obtaining insurance, and meeting any zoning requirements.

Specialised Training:

For specific roles within animal care, such as equine dentistry, wildlife rehabilitation, or zookeeping, specialised training may be required. Look for accredited programmes or workshops that provide the necessary skills and knowledge.

Insurance:

Consider obtaining liability insurance, especially if you plan to operate your own business or work independently. This can protect you in case of accidents or unforeseen incidents involving the animals under your care.

First Aid Certification:

Having certification in pet first aid and CPR can be beneficial, especially for roles involving direct care of animals. This demonstrates your ability to respond to emergencies and ensure the well-being of the animals.

Background Checks:

Some employers or regulatory bodies may require background checks to ensure the safety of the animals in your care. A clean criminal record is often essential.

Compliance with Local Regulations:

Stay informed about local, state, and federal regulations related to animal care. Compliance with these regulations is crucial for legal and ethical practises.

It’s essential to research and understand the specific requirements in the region where you plan to work as an animal caretaker. Local animal control offices, veterinary boards, or regulatory agencies can provide information about licencing and other requirements. Additionally, joining professional associations in the animal care industry can offer valuable resources and guidance on meeting regulatory standards.

Professional Associations

Joining professional associations can provide valuable networking opportunities, access to resources, and a platform for staying informed about industry developments. Here are some relevant associations for animal caretakers:.

International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP):

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS):

International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE):

  • Website: https://www.iaate.org/
  • Focus: Dedicated to promoting avian training and improving the welfare of birds in captivity.

Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT):

  • Website: https://apdt.com/
  • Focus: Provides education and resources for professional dog trainers.

International Association of Zookeepers (IAZ):

Pet Professional Guild (PPG):

American Association of Professional Farriers (AAPF):

American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP):

  • Website: https://www.aaep.org/
  • Focus: Represents veterinarians dedicated to the health and welfare of horses.

International Association of Canine Massage Therapists (IACMT):

World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA):

  • Website: https://www.waza.org/
  • Focus: A global organisation for zoos and aquariums, promoting animal welfare and conservation.

When considering joining a professional association, it’s important to assess the organization’s goals, values, and the resources they offer. Membership in these associations can provide networking opportunities, access to educational resources, and a platform to stay updated on industry developments. Additionally, regional or country-specific associations may exist, so it’s worth exploring options based on your location and specific area of interest within animal care.

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in figuring out a path to prepare, as well as help you to gain further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools. There are almost a dozen free tools, but these are the three primary ones:

CAREER PATH PLAN

Use the career path plan above on this profile as an example to follow, or to work out your own path.

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 

SHORT COURSES

Access easy-to-use short courses to make your career preparation easier! The basic information in each course is free, but the rewards can only be unlocked as an OZT member!

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 

STUDY GUIDE

Get a supercharged study guide that fits into the career path plan! Now that's really upping your preparation game! Join us for free to gain access!

COST; Free

ACCESS: Members Only

But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.

OR

Join the OZT online community for special access to more tools!

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming an animal caretaker.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being an Animal Caretaker and want to join our Community, then please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu to start a new search and learn about a different career.

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