Cats and spiders actually share a lot of traits. Both of these furry creatures are considered predators in their own part of the food chain. They are also both likely to live in your house.
If you’ve ever watched your cat play with a laser pointer, the appeal of something that darts around like an insect or a spider becomes really clear. Cats love playing with anything they can chase and spiders are no exception to that rule.
But, do cats kill spiders? And more importantly, can eating a toxic spider harm your cat?
Yes, cats do kill and sometimes eat spiders. They often use them as playthings but may outright kill them while playing or eat them for a tasty snack. Fortunately, most spiders don’t pose a threat to your kitty. Spider bites are possible but rare and most cats eat even poisonous spiders without side effects.
Below, we’ll take a look at why cats eat spiders and why spiders aren’t nearly as dangerous to your cat as some people may think. We’ll also discuss warning signs to look for that might indicate a spider has bitten your cat, though those situations are very rare.
Reason 1: Cats Are Natural Hunters
While spiders and cats are both predators, cats are higher up in the food chain. Most spiders only pose a real threat to insects that get tangled in their web. Even predatory spiders that hunt small vertebrate like birds, lizards, and other critters aren’t going to try to make a cat their next meal.
Cats, on the other hand, might think that a spider looks like a tasty treat. Cats are known for hunting anything they find in their environment, from small birds and rodents to insects and spiders. Some skilled felines are even able to catch squirrels. There has even been some research into the impact that cats have on the ecosystem around them, particularly feral cats and cats that live in colonies.
However, even domesticated cats that are well-fed are driven by their natural desire to hunt. It’s not uncommon for household cats to eat the critters they hunt down either (unless they decide to give them to you as a gift instead). Outdoor cats might seek out birds, rodents, and other insects, while an indoor cat might turn insects and spiders they come across inside into a tasty treat.
Reason 2: Cats Like to Play with Them
In addition to being natural hunters, cats are curious creatures. They don’t always kill spiders because they are hungry or vicious. Your cat might have wanted to play and accidentally ended up killing the spider instead. This is no surprise since the average household cat is much stronger and larger than the average household spider.
If you’ve ever stumbled across your cat playing with a spider, odds are they weren’t in a big hurry to make them a tasty snack. Just look at this video of a cat playing with a spider. The cat clearly wasn’t in a hurry to eat!
Even when cats do eat spiders and other small animals, they often bat at them with their paws or play with them first. While dogs are more likely to clamp down and rely on their powerful jaws to eat, the average cat is more about the long game. A cat trying to make a kill usually evaluates their prey first. They identify the weakest area of their prey’s body and then attack it in that spot over and over, quickly recoiling out of the prey’s range after each strike.
While the cat could be planning on eating the spider, it’s clearly more interested in playing at the moment. Cats will chase around toys, strings, laser pointers, really anything that they can chase and then catch. Spiders definitely fall into the category of something that looks like it’d be fun to play with.
Reason 3: Spiders Are a Great Source of Taurine
Cats also might eat spiders because they are a high source of taurine, an essential amino acid that cats get primarily from live food sources in the wild. Taurine is water-soluble, so even cat foods that are meat-based instead of corn- or grain-based might not have enough taurine, depending on the way that the meats were cooked. However, any quality adult cat food will supplement with taurine to make sure cats are getting what they need.
Taurine is sulphorous in nature and while humans cannot smell spiders, your feline companion can. Spiders contain high levels of taurine because it’s an important amino acid found in the composition of their venom. Even household spiders that are non-toxic to humans and pets (most of them) have venom in their fangs that they use to inject their prey with while eating.
It’s unlikely that cats are thinking they need a taurine boost the way we would add a protein powder but it does suggest that spiders are a perfectly normal part of a cat’s diet.
Cats Don’t Always Eat Spiders Because They Are Hungry
If your cat eats a spider, it’s probably because they are bored of playing with it and thought it looked tasty. While spiders do have some nutritional benefits like protein and taurine, the small size of the average household spider isn’t going to fill your cat’s tummy up. One study even took a look at feral cats and their hunting habits, finding that even in the wild cats don’t always eat what they kill. After observing 32 successful hunting expeditions, around 28% of cats didn’t eat what they had killed.
Don’t be surprised if you find a spider laying around the house after you’ve seen your feline companion playing with it. Your cat is going to lose interest in playing if they accidentally (or on purpose) kill the spider. Plus, it’s not uncommon for cats to leave dead animals around for their humans to find.
Cats Don’t Eat Spiders Because They Feel Threatened
There isn’t a whole lot that cats are afraid of. They have even been known to scare off alligators when threatened! When a small spider comes into their space, therefore, cats know that they have the advantage. The only real reason to kill them is because they got a little over-zealous while playing or because they are looking for a tasty treat.
Even though spiders are venomous, the risk is not serious enough that cats are afraid of them. Plus, most spiders would have a hard time getting onto a cat to bite it once it’s been spotted. Chances are, the cat is going to keep the spider in it’s line of vision.
The cat is much larger and with their fast, agile movements, they can get out of the way quickly. Cats are also armed with sharp claws and teeth, which are much more effective than the fangs of a spider.
Can a Spider Bite Hurt My Cat?
The average household spider isn’t really dangerous for your cat. Cats have thick skin and are covered in hair. Before a spider could bite your cat, it would have to sneak up on it and get past all their fur before getting to the skin. If you’ve ever tried to sneak up on your cat, then you know this won’t be an easy feat. This is especially true since cats are usually on high alert, even when sleeping. They are also sensitive to the sounds and smells of a spider.
Even though a bite from most spiders won’t cause anything more than a little red or itchy area, it’s still helpful to be aware of symptoms of a poisonous spider bite in the rare event that your cat is bitten. Different types of spider venom has different effects, though the effects of a spider bite on a cat is very close to what you’d see if a human was bitten by a spider.
With brown recluse bites, for example, the tell-tale sign is a lesion that continues to grow. Recluse bites start out small and then the tissue around it starts to break down, becoming white and then turning a blue or grey color. As this happens, the skin around the bite starts to die.
This can be hard to see under your cat’s fur, so it’s important to monitor any open wounds your cat might have closely.
Veterinarian and Better With Cats writer Dr. Georgina Ushi explains, “Left untreated the brown recluse bite can be life-threatening but most cat owners will quickly notice the large wound that this spider’s bite creates and take their cat for treatment.”
Black widow bites are also toxic to cats. They are characterized by paralysis of the limbs, as well as muscle spasms and cramps. You may notice your cat lying rigidly if they’ve been bit by this type of spider. Black widow bites can also cause respiratory distress that may be fatal. Respiratory distress may also happen after a spider bite from a funnel-web spider or armed spider.
Dr. Georgina Ushi explains “If you see any of those signs, take your cat to a veterinarian immediately. Supportive treatments like local wound therapy and IV fluids can help and if veterinarians are able to confirm that a black widow bite is the cause of symptoms then antivenin can be used as well.”
Additionally, the hobo spider has similar effects as the brown recluse and Dr. Georgina Ushi explains that “Routine wound care is usually enough to treat a hobo spider bite in cats but left untreated necrosis could lead to infection and the bite could eventually be life-threatening.”
Finally, be aware of tarantula bites. While they do not have a high risk of fatality in humans, tarantula venom can be toxic to your cat. Furthermore, tarantula spiders are covered in long hairs full of toxins. These can damage your cat’s vision if they get in their eye.
What Should I Do if I Think My Cat Was Bitten By a Poisonous Spider?
Poisonous spider bites are something that require immediate medical intervention. Spiders like the Brown Recluse and Black Widow that are very toxic to humans are also toxic to your cat. Plus, with a feline’s small size, you’ll see the venom spread through the body and cause side effects much more rapidly than you would see in a human.
Even if you are unsure, many of the symptoms of a toxic spider bite require immediate medical attention. For example, cats do not pant like dogs, so panting or erratic breathing is something that needs addressed. Of course, this isn’t to be confused with normal cat sounds like huffing, which you can learn more about here.
Fortunately, with medical intervention, your cat will recover from being bitten by a spider. There are several cases where cats have survived spider bites, even one from a black widow.
Since spider toxins work quickly, it’s very important to seek medical treatment immediately. This is especially true since a cat weighs much less than a human, so the venom spreads much faster.
Should I Stop My Cat from Eating Spiders?
Honestly, if your cat wants to eat a spider it comes across in the house or outside, there probably isn’t much you can do about it. Spiders and cats share a lot of the same territory, so they’re bound to run into each other whether you have an indoor or outdoor cat.
It’s rare for your cat to get sick or ill from eating a spider. When a cat (or even a human) swallows a spider, digestive enzymes go quickly to work in the stomach. These digestive enzymes also neutralize any toxins, so even poisonous spiders don’t pose a real threat unless they bite your cat.
Even if you wanted to stop your cat from eating spiders, there’s a really good chance that they will know there’s a spider in the house before you do. Cats can smell the high levels of taurine found in a spider and their sensitive hearing makes it easy for them to track them down. Cats incredible ability to hear and track prey, even smaller animals from far away, is known as socio-spacial cognition.
Cats eat spiders for a few reasons, whether they were playing and accidentally or hunted it like they do other prey. Spiders are a great source of taurine and protein, though they probably aren’t going to fill your cat up.
Even if you find it a little bit gross, there’s no real reason that you shouldn’t let your cat eat spiders. In general, spiders are not a big threat to your feline. There are rare cases of cats being bitten by poisonous spiders, but even then your cat should recover with medical intervention.
On the positive side of things, letting your cat eat spiders keeps the spiders out of your house. That’s a definite plus for some people, especially if you aren’t particularly fond of these eight-legged creatures!
How does your cat feel about spiders? Do they prefer to play with them or turn them into a snack? Feel free to drop your thoughts below!