The Claws Are Out. Are Cat-Faced Spiders Friend or Foe?


Cat-faced spiders (scientific name: Araneus gemmoides) are an intriguing species of orb-weaver spider found throughout North America. With their unusual physical appearance featuring prominent forward-facing protrusions on their cephalothorax that resemble cat ears or faces, cat-faced spiders capture the curiosity of many who cross paths with them.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of cat-faced spiders, covering their physical traits, habits, habitat, diet, reproduction, benefits, risks, and interactions with humans. The goal is to satisfy the reader’s curiosity about these charismatic spiders and leave them with a balanced perspective on their potential good and bad qualities.


The cat-faced spider gets its name from its unique appearance. The most distinguishing feature is the two spherical or oval projections on its abdomen which resemble eyes or “cat faces” and give the spider its distinct name. The body is 15-20 mm and yellowish-grey in color with small black and white spots [1]. The projections are reddish or orange and contrast sharply against the rest of the body. The abdomen has semi-circular dimples above and below the projections that add to the cat-like appearance [2]. Their legs are also banded with black, white and orange. Overall the spider’s unique markings and projections give it a very distinctive look.


Cat-faced spiders are solitary and build webs to capture prey. According to the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management Program (Source), they construct a retreat made of silk near the center of the web and wait there for prey to become ensnared. The webs can be up to 2 feet wide. Cat-faced spiders usually rebuild new webs each night.

These spiders are nocturnal hunters that wait in their webs at night to ambush prey (Source). They consume insects and other smaller spiders that become trapped in their webs. Cat-faced spiders wrap prey tightly in silk before carrying it back to their retreat to feed.

During the day, cat-faced spiders remain hidden in their retreats or foliage near their webs. At dusk, they emerge to reconstruct their webs for the night’s hunting.


The cat-faced spider is naturally found throughout North America. Its range stretches from southern Canada through the United States into northern Mexico. This species prefers temperate climates and is most common in areas with moderately moist conditions.

Cat-faced spiders are generally found in fields, forests, and meadows. They are commonly encountered in and around human habitations as well, since they build their webs on porches, in garages, and under eaves. These spiders prefer habitats at lower elevations and are not typically found in high altitude or extremely arid environments.

Ideal conditions for the cat-faced spider include areas with ample vegetation and prey. They thrive in locations that provide anchoring points for their webs as well as protected nooks for their retreats. The climate should be mild to warm, with moderate but not excessive rainfall. Extreme cold limits their range, while very hot and parched conditions also reduce their numbers.

According to one source, “Cat-faced spiders are ubiquitous across North America. They can be found in a variety of habitats from deserts to forests to urban areas. They are generally found at low to moderate elevations.” (


The diet of the cat-faced spider consists primarily of insects and other small invertebrates. According to the Cat-faced Spider article on Bugwood, they feed on a variety of insects including beetles, true bugs, grasshoppers, cicadas, flies, bees, wasps, and caterpillars. They supplement their diet by preying on other spiders as well.

Cat-faced spiders are ambush predators that wait for prey to become ensnared in their webs. Their webs are usually built low to the ground, just a few feet above the soil surface. The spider waits quietly near the center of the web until it detects vibrations from an insect hitting the web strands. It then quickly rushes over, bites its prey to inject venom, and wraps it in silk. According to the Texas Parks Foundation, cat-faced spiders often build their webs near lights, which attract night-flying insects.


The cat-faced spider mates in the late spring and summer. After mating, the female produces an egg sac made of silk that contains up to 1,000 eggs (Cat-faced Spider, 2023). She will carry this egg sac with her as she searches for a suitable location to attach it, like under rocks or foliage. Once attached, the female guards the egg sac and frequently turns it to ensure proper air circulation and prevent mold growth. The eggs hatch in 2-3 weeks.

After the eggs hatch, the spiderlings stay in the egg sac for several days before dispersing. The mother provides no care for her offspring once they leave the egg sac. In fact, the female often dies shortly after producing the egg sac and hatching her brood (Cat-Faced Spider, 2023). The spiderlings must hunt and fend for themselves immediately after emerging from the egg sac.


Cat-faced spiders play an important ecological role in pest control and helping to balance insect populations.(

They are voracious predators that eat a wide variety of insects and other arthropods. Their large webs can trap all kinds of flying and jumping bugs, including many species considered garden and agricultural pests.(

Some of the insects cat-faced spiders prey on include mosquitoes, flies, beetles, grasshoppers, and moths. They help control populations of these and other potentially harmful bugs. Their presence around homes and in gardens can help protect plants and reduce nuisance insects.

Cat-faced spiders may also eat other spiders, including black widow spiders in some cases. Their predation on mosquitoes that can transmit diseases makes them beneficial to humans.

By feeding on so many insects, the cat-faced spider fills an important niche in local ecosystems. Its voracious appetite helps keep insect populations in balance.


The venom of the cat-faced spider is not considered dangerous to humans. According to the A-Z Animals website, the venom has low toxicity and is practically harmless. While the spider is capable of biting if threatened, their fangs are not robust enough to penetrate human skin in most cases.

Cat-faced spider bites may cause mild irritation or redness in sensitive individuals, but are unlikely to cause significant effects. As Texas Parks & Wildlife notes, the venom is not medically significant. Severe reactions are very rare.

For dogs and cats, cat-faced spider bites generally only result in minor swelling or itching around the bite site. Damage from the venom is typically minimal. However, pets that are highly sensitive to insect venom may exhibit larger localized reactions or feel ill. Overall, the risks posed by the cat-faced spider are low for both humans and domestic animals.

Interactions with Humans

Cat-faced spiders do not make good pets due to their venomous bite. While the venom causes very mild symptoms in humans, such as soreness, swelling, and itching at the bite site, it could potentially have more severe effects on sensitive individuals. Handling any venomous spider frequently increases the risks of getting bit.

However, cat-faced spiders can be beneficial in homes and gardens. They help control pest populations by preying on insects like flies, mosquitoes, moths, and caterpillars. According to Salisbury Greenhouse, cat-faced spiders will set up large webs in corners, eaves, and rafters of homes and “go quietly on their business” without disturbing homeowners. Their presence helps indicate a healthy ecosystem free of harmful chemicals.


In conclusion, cat-faced spiders have both beneficial and potentially harmful traits. On the positive side, they help control insect populations and are not aggressive unless threatened. Their venom is relatively mild and their bites rarely cause serious issues in humans.

However, they do have large fangs capable of piercing skin. People allergic to their venom could have severe reactions. Their webs can also be a nuisance when built in doorways or other high traffic areas.

Overall, cat-faced spiders play an important role in the ecosystems they inhabit. As long as they are treated with caution and respect, they do not pose a major threat. If they become problematic, gently relocating them away from living spaces is recommended over killing them.

With proper understanding and precaution, cat-faced spiders and humans can coexist peacefully.

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