Physiology Dissects Cat Cadavers

Fiona Deane-Grundman, Staff Writer

Roxanna Jackman’s Physiology class dissected cats as part of their study of anatomy over the last 4 weeks.  While the odor from the classroom may have been anything but pleasant, the experience allowed students a new appreciation for the complexities of living organisms, including human anatomy.

“Basically we’re in lab groups of like three or four people and the whole point is we’re seeing the muscular system to see real life examples so each day Ms. Kackman gives us a few muscles to work with and its our job within the four of us to pick a leg and remove anything so we can see the muscle and study it,” explained senior Katherine Thorne.

According to senior Cameron Kaiser, students focus on identifying muscle groups as opposed to other anatomy. “In Physio we’re dissecting, looking for the muscles, so it’s not like AP Bio and what we did for the organs and stuff, but its really hard. We take off the fat and then look at the muscles and sometimes it’s hard to tell which ones are which so you have to be careful,” he said.

The reality of the experiment was not as repellent as what student expectations may have been. “I expected it to be awful, like dissecting cats. When you think about that it’s like ‘Ugh, I don’t want to do that,’ but it gives a really strong smell, but it’s not that bad. Everyone says ‘Oh, it smells awful,’ but it’s not that bad and you don’t like, think ‘Oh, I’m dissecting a dead cat.’ It’s just simple.It’s not disgusting,” Kaiser said.

More than the actual poking and prodding of the cats, it was cleaning up that put off many of the novice surgeons. “You have to pick up everything and put it in the trash but besides that it’s all good,” Kaiser explained.

“I thought it was going to be a lot more disturbing and gross than it is, but once you kind of like get over it, the first day, you get used to it and realize its very useful,” Thorne said. “Once you get over the initial shock the first day you get used to the fact that its a cat, the only thing that sticks around is the smell,” she added.

Apparently, no fervent cat-lovers have refused to participate in the dissection. “In my period everyone seems to be fine with it. There are a couple people who are a little more apprehensive when it comes to handling the cat, but pretty much everyone does it,” explained Thorne.

“Everyone’s been up to it,” added Kaiser.

“It’s mainly the same everyday, you come in and find the muscles you need to look for and find the part on the cat and cut through the connective tissue to get down to the muscle and then  you cut along the border to define it from the rest of the muscle,” explained Thorne about the procedures for the lab.

“I enjoyed it. It’s interesting. You get to see and learn a lot. It’s not the same as the human body but it’s as close as you can get,” said Kaiser.

“I think its interesting to see the muscles on the cat and realize that we have the same muscles and how they work on us,” said Thorne.

“The most interesting part was probably the when we reflected the muscles and under it  we see pieces because on the top layer it’s all thick, then you see that cats have really strong hamstrings because they use their back legs a lot and it’s interesting to see how big they were,” explained Kaiser.

The general consensus among students was that the worst part about the project was the hands-on cleanup and the potent odor. “The worst part is the smell,” said Thorne.

“The worst part is the cleanup. Everyday you have to clean up all the bits you took off,” added Kaiser.

According to Thorne,”she [Jackman] orders them [the cats] from some science company and they’re usually cats who have been in shelters or died of natural causes.”

“One of them is missing an arm or something. I would not want to dissect that cat,” added Kaiser.

Students praise the course for its hands-on projects, exemplified in the cat dissection. “I like the labs a lot, because I’m more of an interactive learner and they’re usually quite helpful,” said Thorne.

“Physio’s a great class. I learned a lot and it helps in real life too for different stuff, how everything moves, how everything works, and it’s not hard,” added Kaiser.