I’m Sabrina Aeluro, and I’m a lifelong cat lover who decided to go back to school to become a science-based, professional-strength cat lady. I originally thought this was going to involve being a veterinarian specializing in epidemiology, shelter medicine, or high volume spay/neuter. After dipping into research, I got excited about studying cats at the population level and felt like that’s where my efforts could make the most impact at reducing cat overpopulation.

In 2018, I earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington in Seattle where I majored in Biology and completed minors in Microbiology and Environmental Science & Resource Management. During the 2018-2019 academic year, I spent my time taking a few classes, writing, planning research, and completing an Applied Animal Behavior Certificate at the UW. I’m in the process of writing manuscripts from studies I conducted on feral cat advocates and wild bird advocates, and a study of how American feral cat care and advocacy groups operate.

In the summer of 2019, I started my Master of Science in Wildlife Science in the Predator Ecology lab at the UW. (Yes, you read that correctly – I’m a cat lady in a wildlife program!) I’m interested in studying populations of free-roaming cats and conducting impact assessments of spay/neuter programs – all with the aim of finding the most effective ways of reducing cat overpopulation using cat-friendly methods. For my Master’s research, I’m validating the use of a citizen science approach to photographic mark-recapture to monitor free-roaming cat populations in long-term controlled studies. I founded Kitizen Science as a 501c3 nonprofit to continue this work as my career after I finish school.

I am also earning a Graduate Certificate in One Health at the UW, where my capstone project is a pilot study on the potential for using outdoor cats as sentinels for environmental heavy metal exposure using non-invasive sampling techniques.

I’m hoping to obtain funding to stay for a PhD program to conduct a comparative study of the behavior and activity patterns of free-roaming cats along urbanization gradients.

On a personal level, I’ve lived in Seattle for most of my adult life. I’m a former clinic and foster volunteer at Seattle Humane, and now I’m a clinic volunteer at the Feral Cat Spay Neuter Project. I volunteered on two trips to Kauai with the island-focused spay/neuter group Animal Balance, and I hope to do more with them in the future. I was a volunteer in 2018 and 2019 for the Hayden Island Project, which uses road-based transect surveys to track free-roaming cats in Portland, Oregon.

I’ve done a lot of international travel (34 countries and counting!) focused on seeing the most amazing animals in the disappearing wild. During some of these trips, I have volunteered with or visited animal shelters, spay/neuter projects, and veterinary clinics in Ghana, Egypt, Guatemala, Fiji, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I love learning how people across the world are meeting challenges and working to help animals on limited budgets and in cultural contexts that are different from my own.

I also enjoy vegan cooking, photography, scuba diving, and my two blind cats (Honey Bee and Fig) who are more famous and adorable than me.

Photo credits: Animal Balance, Spirit of Freedom crew.