I was a Disney TV star but I quit fame to be a zookeeper – and I love it | The Sun

A DISNEY actress has opened up about quitting her life in front of the cameras to become a zookeeper.

The star – who was part of the cast of hit show Summerland alongside Zac Efron before hitting big on the Disney Channel -admitted she's happier than ever looking after animals.

Kay Panabaker first hit screens as Niki Westerley on The WB programme, with Zac, 35, playing her boyfriend Cameron Bale.

She went on to star as Debbie Berwick in Disney show Phil of the Future, which aired from 2004 to 2006.

The much-loved tween programme followed the life of the Diffy family, who ended up in 2004 in a time machine accident.

And Kay, 33, portrayed goodie two shoes cyborg Debbie, who was written out of the show after season one.

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After starring in the Fame remake movie in 2009 – and Piranha DD in 2012 – she went on to take a back seat from acting.

While still working for Disney, the star had studied for a degree in zoology at the University of California in Los Angeles.

She returned to the company not as an actress, but to work as a zookeeper in Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Kay said the move was driven by "losing her passion" for acting, and she instead found her "dream job" inside the Disney park.

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The Phil of the Future star now cares for "elephants, porcupines, skunks birds of prey and opossums just to name a few".

She told Naperville Magazine of the career move: "I no longer had that love, that passion [for acting].

"I was 21 at the time the show [Summerland] ended. I spent a couple years after that in LA, still auditioning, but the passion wasn’t there.

"With my parents’ help, I began to re-evaluate my life. I went back to school… I did an internship at Disney World and then I was hired."

Kay added: "I don’t earn a fraction of what I used to, and yet, I couldn’t be happier.

"You have to love your job because you spend so much time there. So that’s what I’ve done… I just wanted to be a light in the world."

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