Danika and Mike Bannasch on their farm with their dogs

Photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

Mikel Delgado’s cat, Clarabelle, likes to roam around her backyard with supervision. The 16-year-old feline is outgoing and curious — and very attached to her human, who happens to be an expert on cat behavior.

As a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Delgado studies cat behavior and welfare, as well as human-animal interactions. She’s currently looking at how feeding behavior differs in one-cat households versus those with two cats. She also leads projects related to orphan neonatal kittens.

“I’ve been obsessed with cats as long as I can remember,” said Delgado, who begged for a cat as a kid, finally getting one when she was a teenager. “But I didn’t have any fantasies about being a vet. Feline researcher wasn’t a career I conceived of when I was growing up.”

Fast forward to 2000, when she started volunteering at the San Francisco SPCA. At the time, the organization had a special wing for cats with behavior challenges. “That was really transformative,” she said. “I had a lot of empathy for cats having difficulty in that environment.”

She went back to school, earning her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. She said she aims to bring research on cat behavior and welfare to the forefront.

“There’s a lot we still don’t know about cats,” she said. “I hope to continue this path of making their lives better.”