Mention has been made of Nikola Tesla, who is, quite possibly, one of the only real mad scientists to exist. How did he get his start? With cats!
Even though, later in life, Tesla spoke to pigeons, he grew up with cats and when petting his family cat, got shocked. He became interested in electricity and eventually made a 130 foot bolt of lightening from one of his Tesla coils and potentially invented a "Teleforce Beam" which shot ball lightening at 60 million volts.
Truly electrifying research, wouldn't you agree?