High School Students Should Make Use of Virtual Dissections


Sharat Gadde’s physio class learns about the anatomy of cats firsthand through dissection.

Alison Pietrykowski, Photo Editor

At a certain point in the year, the area near the science rooms begins to reek of formaldehyde and students are overheard talking about their cat’s jugular vein.

As a visitor, one might wonder, “what in the world do these students do to their pets….”

But these cats are not pets, and are being used as a hands-on learning experience for students who chose to take the Physiology class at Miramonte.

Since the 1950’s Miramonte students have had the choice to take the elective Physiology, often referred to as “physio.” The class was started by Jane Synder and is still a very popular class at Miramonte today.

Although students taking the class know that a large portion of the year will be spent looking at the inside of a dead cat, they seldom opt for a virtual dissection.

California law requires schools to offer a virtual dissection and students who wish to do so cannot be penalized.

Many students and staff are unaware of where the cats truly come from, and it has been speculated that the cats come from the streets of Mexico or breeders.

Some Miramonte cat lovers have their doubts about the validity of where the cats are supposedly from, and for good reasons.

“Most animal shelters are prepared to euthanize and then incinerate the animals, not inject chemicals, freeze and ship them to companies,” Chemistry teacher Jennifer Moore said.

After further investigation, it was verified that the cats come from a company called Bio Corporation and are paid for by the science department. The company gets the cats from the Humane Society, which captures feral cats and puts them up for adoption. If a cat is not adopted in an allotted amount of time, it is euthanized and either cremated or donated to scientific purposes.

The cats being dissected were often very sick or had gone through surgeries. A lot of them are also pregnant, which seems inhumane, but with the growing population of feral cats, it is preventing the kittens from a life that most likely ends with being put down.

“The cat I’m using this year as a demo is covered in fleas,” Physiology teacher Manoa Koepp said. “It’s a feral cat, covered in fleas, put in an animal shelter; that’s a pretty miserable life.”

Although the science department at Miramonte has done their best to make the dissection as humane as possible, there are alternatives to the dissection that make more sense at a high school level.

Animals should not be dissected in middle schools or high schools but only in high-level veterinary classes where the knowledge obtained by a dissection in vital.

The teachers do everything they can to make sure the students respect the cats. They are given appropriate names and incisions are made with purpose, not just for the fun of it.

But high school students don’t always take into consideration that these organs once made up a living animal.

The cats used in high school classrooms are not always treated with the amount of respect an animal (dead or alive) deserves, and because of this, virtual dissections make more sense.