Cat Dissection in the Classroom

Cat+Dissection+in+the+Classroom

Every other year senior high students at Redbank Valley have the opportunity to take an Anatomy and Physiology class. Students are able to explore a more medical side of sciences while also being in an advanced class which offers college credits. 

A large portion of the Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) curriculum is spent dissecting cats. Though at first many people could be taken back by the dissection of cats in the classroom, this activity is seen as vital by many people in the field in order to have a full understanding of the curriculum. Here is what Mr. Anderson, the course instructor,  had to say about the topic: 

What is the purpose of your Physiology and Anatomy classes dissecting cats and learning about their anatomy?

In (A&P)  we study the structure and function of the human body.  The best way to understand our structure and function is through hands-on activities.  Obviously, we can’t dissect another human, so we look at other mammals that have a close anatomy to that of ourselves and there are a few options.  Cats, fetal pigs, and rats are often used in A&P classes due to their anatomy.  Cats are used in this class since their muscle structure is very similar to humans, and they are larger than the other options which makes them easier to see.

Since you are new to being the full-time teacher of this class, did you face many challenges with adjusting?

I think the biggest adjustment was moving towards a high academic class.  The material that we cover is about college level.  The dissection aspect of the class isn’t that big of a problem because I just work ahead of everyone by a week or two.

How long do students normally take while dissecting cats?

We spend about the first half of the year studying the skeletal system along with a few other body systems that will help them with the dissection.  We then spend about the rest of the year working on the dissection.  While dissecting, we cover the muscular system first, followed by the digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, and reproductive systems.

Do you have many students who don’t want to participate?

Most of the students who take this class know that we will be dissecting cats.  In fact, many of the students take the class especially for the dissection.  A few students are hesitant at first, but once we start they are excited about it.

Where/how do you receive the cats used for this project?

The cats are ordered through Carolina Biological Supplies, and I recieve them right before school starts.  They come prepared with preserving fluid in vacuum sealed bags.  These are cats that are euthanized at animal shelters.  Cats are overpopulated and would still be euthanized even without dissections.  We are at least giving their bodies a purpose by studying them.  

If there were any issues this year, what things do you think you will change in the future?

So far there hasn’t been any major problems.  I have learned a few dissection techniques and things to watch out for while dissecting with all the practice.  

Why is this an important learning opportunity for your students?

Like I said before, we try to study the structure and function of the human body.  It is very hard to study the internal structure of something without actually touching it to see how it works.  It would be like telling someone how to fix their car’s engine without them ever seeing the inside.  Additionally, this is most likely the first time that a student has dissected anything at Redbank.  

What makes this class as a whole important for certain students to take?

Most of the students in this class have an interest in the medical field.  This is a great opportunity for these students to get a head start on their career.  It is also an opportunity to see if this is something that you would be interested in.  There are students who were not sure what they wanted as a career but now want to pursue a career in this field.  Anyone that has any interest in the medical or biological field should sincerely think about taking this class.

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