Cats are stored in large plastic bags within a solution of formalin. This chemical preserves the cat. Cats can be stored in these bags for a long time, but once the bag is cut open, the cat will begin to decay. You will use the same cat in anatomy all year long.
During dissections, you must wear safety goggles, this prevents the chemicals from the cat splashing into your eye. Latex gloves are used during the dissection, but they are not entirely necessary. Nitrile gloves can be substituted if you have a latex allergy. Even if you wear gloves throughout the dissection, wash your hands before leaving the lab.
This pictures shows students practicing safe laboratory techniques. Latex gloves are beige in color, and the blue is the nitrile gloves. All students are wearing safety goggles.
As you examine the cat, you may notice some interesting features. Think about these questions.
1. Why is there a sponge in the cat’s mouth?
2. Why was the skin left on the feet (and even pulled over the feet)?
3. Why is there an incision in the cat’s throat?
The sponge is placed in a cat’s mouth to make it easier to open them mouth when it comes time to examine that area. When an animal dies, rigor mortis sets in causing the muscles to stiffen and lock in place. If the cat is preserved this way, it can be difficult to move the joints or open the jaw to examine the mouth.
When the cat is skinned prior to shipping, the bit of skin at the ankle is pulled over the cat’s foot. This is a safety precaution as many of the cats still have their claws. The skin serves as a barrier for the claws so that a student does not accidentally get scratched when working with the cat.
If your cat has been injected, then you may see an incision and a string attached to the neck area. This is the point where the colored latex was injected into the cat to fill the veins and arteries. The process makes it easier to identify arteries, which will be colored pink, and veins which will be colored blue. Without the injection, the vessels all have the same brownish, gray color.
Next Section: Muscles of the Cat