If you have an Instagram account, chances are that you follow your friends, favorite celebs and maybe even a few TV shows. You probably follow a bunch of different accounts for cute puppies and kittens, too. It’s hard not to, when there are probably thousands of pet accounts and there are almost 16 million photos with the hashtag #petsofinstagram. Grumpy Cat herself has over 2 million followers, merchandising and a movie. If you can’t help but scroll through #petsofinstagram on a daily basis, you may want to consider turning your love for animals into a health care career as an animal behaviorist!
Animal behaviorists study and specialize in specific animals and their behavior. Their specializations can range from household pets to livestock to wild animals. No matter the size or shape, or if they have scales or fur, animal behaviorists want to see why animals do what they do. Unlike veterinarians and vet techs, behaviorists are not acting as physician or nurse to the animal. They may research how the creature acts and why this may have led to an illness, but they do not prescribe medicine or try to heal them.
This health care career focuses more on the curiosity of the actions of animals. Wonder why cats like to sit in boxes? It’s not only because it makes for a great picture. They have an instinct to stalk their prey and hide from predators and boxes make great hiding places. Have you wondered why wolves are always pictured howling at the moon? In reality, wolves are not howling at the moon, they are just communicating. Animal behaviorists were able to help the science community come to these conclusions by researching and studying these behaviors.
Some animal behaviorists go beyond how animals interact with each other and instead specialize on how they interact with people (this is known as anthrozoology). If you know anything about reality TV, think of the famed dog behaviorist, Cesar Millan. You may remember him from his show Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan where he helped families learn how to curb bad behavior in their pets. He showed owners how to work with their dogs to figure out why they are acting strangely or aggressively. Helping humans interact with their pets creates a more pleasant environment and happier home for everyone.
If you are interested in becoming an animal behaviorist, you will want to major in biology, psychology or animal behavior in college. You will also want to take as many opportunities as you can to spend time with animals and the professionals who study them. The experience and preparation will pay back when you start to prepare for graduate research and if you plan to get your Ph.D.
This health care profession also lets you work at a variety of locations. You can work in a university, research facilities, zoos, animal training facilities, animal shelters, farms, shelters and at companies that create pet products. As an expert, others will be relying on you to let them know how to understand and care for creatures of all kinds. Career paths can vary widely, so you will have the ability to shape your career to your interests as an animal behaviorist.