Dissecting cats in high school

I was not sure if high schools in America or any other country for that matter still dissect domestic, stray or feral cats. I thought that dissecting the bodies of shelter cats had gradually phased out but apparently not. My research indicates that it still happens in American high schools and there are suppliers of cat bodies today. And there are some big arguments about why it is a bad idea to use the bodies of domestic, stray or feral cats in high school anatomy classes.

Still happens – video

The video below comes from TikTok and it must be fairly recent because TikTok hasn’t been around that long. Here we have what appears to be an American – but I can’t be sure in which country the girl lives – telling the world that she has recently dissected a cat. The strong indication is that this is in America. There’s also a video online, which was made in 2010 of a school anatomy and pathology class incorporating dissection. I’m surprised that the video has not been deleted as I would argue it is out of step with modern thinking. It is captioned “The first of two days dissecting cats in Ms. Murchie’s Anatomy Honors class at Gulf High School.”

PETA info.

PETA have an article about cats in laboratories. I don’t see a date on their article which is irritating to me because all articles should be dated. This is because attitudes can change fairly rapidly. However, they say that more than 19,000 cats are abused in US laboratories every year-“in addition to the tens of thousands who are killed and sold to schools for cruel and crude classroom dissections”. They go on the state that annually in the US an estimated 20 million animals are abused for cruel “archaic teaching exercises despite the existence of superior non-animal teaching tools”.

They state that about half of these animals are used for classroom dissection and the others are “tormented while they are still alive in classroom biology and psychology experiments”.

I can’t show the dissection of a cat on this page as there are adverts. If you want to see it, please click the link below. I must say it is unpleasant and demeaning of the cat. It is insulting to treat cats this way. It must stop.

Students learn anatomy by dissecting cats

Suppliers

They tell us that biological supply houses breed animals to supply schools. One of those appears to be Carolina Biological Supply Company in North Carolina. They sell formalin preserved cats for between $62 and $124. If you want the cat skinned then you pay a bit more. We do not know the source of these cats. Perhaps they are from shelters or they are stray cats or they breed the cats themselves.

I’d be surprised if they breed the cats themselves because it would take too long to obtain enough adult cats. They very probably get them from shelters. If they are supplied by shelters it is unethical because it will encourage euthanasia at shelters in order to make money in selling the dead bodies to these sorts of businesses. This completely goes against the declared aims and goals of animal shelters. Carolina Biological Supply Company state that they are currently in difficulty in obtaining supplies of preserved cats. They are getting them but the supply is limited and therefore you should book early.

One website tells us that the dealers in cat bodies buy them cheaply from, for example, shelters and sell them on at a very healthy markup to schools and other purchasers. They state that they acquire the cats from animal dealers, pounds, auctions, private breeders, ‘free to good home’ ads and so on. It appears that sometimes they acquire cats from dealers in Mexico. It is documented that they sell lost, stray or abandoned cats from streets and shelters to American biological supply companies. Sometimes microchips are found in these bodies.

There have been some uncomfortable incidents at school. In one incident, a number of years ago, students at an Oklahoma high school made their cat cadavers dance in an inhumane video which was widely circulated on the Internet. As I recall, it led to the ending of cat dissection at that school.

RELATED: Students Dancing With Dead Cats.

Student aversion to dissection

The major problem with dissecting cats is that it can put high school students off biological sciences for life. It seems that many high school students have not developed the necessary mindset to regard dead animals as objects. They see them as deceased cat companions; pets. They are often animal lovers. They might want to become a veterinarian or a doctor. Sometimes these dissection classes can put them off pursuing their career.

A friend of one student said that the dissection class convinced her not to go into medicine. A study found that up to 25% of secondary students object to dissection. A 2000 Society & Animals study involved interviewing North Carolina high school students while they were dissecting and their conclusion was that the activity “bolstered their convictions that they were not suited for a career in biology or the health sciences”.

Some students refuse to attend a dissection class or drop the science class. It might be fair to say that female students are more inclined to be put off by these dissection classes. They sometimes conflict with the interest in science and their desire to “help people, animals, plants or the Earth” (study dated 1995 and Journal of Research in Science Teaching).

Students who are ambivalent about dissecting animals including cats are sometimes pressured by the teacher to do it. It seems to me that speciesism is an issue here. If they are told to dissect a frog, this is a wild animal and therefore there is less of a personal connection. If you are told to dissect a cat that looks like your neighbour’s cat companion, they are dissecting what could have been a pet.

Constructive speciesism

I think this is a major issue here. Personally, I believe that all animal dissection class should be stopped. Certainly, with respect to cats. It is not part of the agreement between humans and cats that humans can kill them to cut them up to educate kids. The deal that we have with cats on their domestication is to look after them and they keep us company and entertain us. Humans are in breach of the deal if they use them in anatomy and pathology classes.

Alternatives

There are alternatives such as lifelike manufactured frogs. This is called the SynFrog. It is said that you can “extract the same exact anatomical information without having to harm a living organism” from this plastic frog. And it must be much more acceptable to students. And there is such a thing as “digital dissection” which, as it implies, it is a non-destructive method in which students can interact with data in 3 dimensions without dealing with real cadavers.

An alternative to dissecting cat cadavers
An alternative to dissecting cat cadavers. It cost around $50. Yes, not as good as a real body but possibly good enough and far more ethical.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Do we need real dissection?

I am not even sure that students need to learn dissection of animals before commencing training to be a doctor. And if they want to become a surgeon, they can practice their skills on a human cadaver. It’s time to stop this out-of-date practice of cutting up animals particularly cats. Cats are too close to humans on an emotional level as pets to embark on dissecting them.

Below are some pages on animal testing.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

4 thoughts on “Dissecting cats in high school”

  1. I’m dissecting a cat to observe the muscle in my Anatomy and Physiology class this year. I go to a public high school in Texas (2023) and this is not a uncommon thing to do in this class.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment, Sarah. I understand that it is not uncommon. Personally, I don’t think that it is a good idea to use unwanted domestic cats for biology classes at school like this. It devalues the cat but that’s my personal view. Of course, sometimes people allow their bodies to be used to educate medical students through dissection. But they have given their consent. Domestic cats can’t give consent for obvious reasons. And I don’t think their owners can give consent for them and in any case they never do.

      Reply
  2. I once got a F in high school because I refused to dissect a frog. When the teacher said he would fail me I told him go ahead, said F U and walked out of the class.

    Reply

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