"Animals in the Zoo" was released on March 26, 1971, on The Kinks' ninth studio album, Percy. The album was the soundtrack for a British comedy movie of the same name, which tells the fictional story of the man who receives the world's first penis transplant. Percy was not a critical hit or popular success in movie form or as an album.
Lead singer Ray Davies wrote all of the tracks for the album as he had done for many albums before. Davies was the writer responsible for The Kinks' biggest hits, including "You Really Got Me" and "Lola." Most of the tracks were entirely new material, many of which have never been re-released on any subsequent albums until the 1989 re-release of the album on Castle Music, LTD as Percy/The Album That Never Was, containing all the original Percy tracks with extra, unreleased tracks.
Percy was released on Pye records, owned by the parent Pye Company. Pye Company, originally a manufacturer of TVs and radios, entered the record business when it bought Nixa records in 1953. In 1955, Pye also acquired Polygon Records and merged the two to form Pye Nixa Records. The Kinks signed with the label in 1964, after the group had auditioned unsuccessfully for a number of major labels. In 1966, to the dismay of many signed artists, ATV, a British TV company, bought the label and began selling older Pye material for budget prices. After the release of Percy, the band's contracts with Pye and their American label, Reprise, expired, and they chose not to renew them. The Kinks then signed a 5-album deal with RCA, which earned the band a $1 million advance, enough to fund the construction of their own music studio, Konk.
Percy, as an album, was met with mixed reviews by critics. Many felt as though Percy marked the end of The Kinks' "golden era," while other reviews claimed that there were songs on the album that were some of the best Davies-written tracks. It was not only the reviewers that were at odds over the album. According to Thomas M. Kitts in the biography, Ray Davies: Not like Everybody Else, Dave Davies, Ray's brother and bandmate, was resentful of Ray using time for side projects that could be used for either rest or recording a 'proper' album. In his opinion, several of the songs, first-rate Davies tracks, were "wasted on that awful project."