Can You Cuddle This Creepy Crawly? The Truth About Cat-Faced Spiders

What is a Cat-Faced Spider?

Cat-faced spiders, known scientifically as Araneus gemmoides, are a type of orb-weaving spider found predominantly in North America. Some of their key physical characteristics include:

  • Large, round abdomens with patterns that resemble a cat’s face, hence the common name. The patterns can vary in color from yellow to orange or white.
  • Sturdy legs with small hairs and spines used for climbing and capturing prey in their webs.
  • Females reach sizes of 13-20 mm, while males are smaller from 5-9 mm.
  • Eight eyes arranged in two rows on the front of the cephalothorax (head region).

Cat-faced spiders build intricate, wheel-shaped webs that can measure up to 2 feet in diameter. The webs are designed to capture flying insects that become entangled in the sticky silk. These spiders tend to rebuild new webs each night.

Are Cat-Faced Spiders Venomous?

Cat-faced spiders do have venom, but it is generally not considered medically significant to humans (Source: Their venom is designed to paralyze and kill insect prey rather than large animals. According to experts, the venom has a mild effect on humans, comparable to a bee sting.

While their bites are not considered dangerous, some localized symptoms can occasionally occur, including mild pain, redness, and swelling around the bite area. These symptoms typically resolve within a few hours. Severe reactions are very rare, but anyone experiencing concerning symptoms after a cat-faced spider bite should seek medical evaluation as a precaution.

Overall, cat-faced spiders have a low level of toxicity to humans. Their venom is mild, and bites generally result in minor localized effects, if any. Though unlikely to cause serious harm, it is still wise to exercise caution and not intentionally handle these spiders.

Where Are Cat-Faced Spiders Found?

Cat-faced spiders are native to North America and are primarily found in the United States and Canada. According to the Bugwood article, their range extends from “New England south to Florida, and west to Texas and Nebraska” (

These spiders prefer to build their webs in outdoor environments, often in vegetation like shrubs, tall grass, vines, and the branches of trees. As the A-Z Animals article mentions, you may find their circular webs “in gardens, woodlands, meadows, marshes, and prairies throughout their range” ( Cat-faced spiders thrive in areas with ample prey like insects.

Within their native range, cat-faced spiders are most abundant in late summer and early fall when prey is readily available and the spiders reach maturity. Their numbers begin to decline in late fall as temperatures drop and the spiders start to die off.

Typical Cat-Faced Spider Behavior

Cat-faced spiders exhibit some interesting behaviors related to web building, hunting prey, and their general lifestyle. They are nocturnal spiders that build large, intricate webs resembling wheels with spokes radiating out from a central hub [1]. They construct these webs in vegetation, often several feet above ground, to capture flying insects like moths, flies, mosquitoes, and butterflies [2].

The webs have a very sticky silk that allows the spider to ensnare prey with ease. Cat-faced spiders will wait patiently in the hub of the web for vibrations that signal an insect has landed in its trap. They then quickly move along the spokes of the web to bite and wrap the prey in silk to immobilize it. Once the prey is fully wrapped, the spider returns to the hub to feed.

These spiders are well camouflaged to blend in with the vegetation around their webs. They will rebuild new webs every night after consuming the old web. During the day, cat-faced spiders usually hide in a rolled up leaf or other natural shelter near the web. The females remain in their web year-round, while males wander in search of mates in the late summer and fall.

Is It Safe to Hold a Cat-Faced Spider?

Cat-faced spiders are not aggressive and rarely bite humans. According to Salisbury Greenhouse, the typical cat-faced spider is harmless to humans. However, you still need to exercise caution when handling them.

Cat-faced spiders have small fangs and venom that is not medically significant to humans. A bite would be comparable to a bee sting in pain level ( Bites typically only occur if you accidentally pinch or crush a cat-faced spider against your skin.

To safely hold a cat-faced spider:

  • Allow the spider to walk onto your hand. Do not grab or pinch it.
  • Cup your hands gently around the spider once it is sitting on your skin.
  • Avoid making sudden movements that may startle the spider.
  • Do not tightly enclose the spider in your fist.
  • Hold the spider close to a surface in case you need to set it down.

With proper handling technique, holding a cat-faced spider momentarily poses very little risk of being bitten. However, it’s still wise to wash your hands after handling any spider.

Picking Up and Holding a Cat-Faced Spider

Cat-faced spiders can generally be safely handled if done carefully. Here are some tips for safely picking up and holding a cat-faced spider:

Materials Needed

  • Gloves
  • Large clear glass or plastic container

Step 1: Locate the spider and its web. Identify that it is in fact a cat-faced spider by its markings and large bulbous abdomen.

Step 2: Put on gloves for protection. Cat-faced spiders are not considered dangerous, but gloves prevent potential bites.

Step 3: Slowly move your hand toward the spider until you are an inch away. Avoid sudden movements so you do not startle it.

Step 4: Gently grasp the spider’s abdomen between your thumb and forefinger. Do not squeeze too tightly.

Step 5: Once you have hold of the abdomen, carefully lift the spider off its web. Be slow and gentle so you do not injure the spider.

Step 6: If desired, you can transfer the spider into a plastic container for easier handling. Place the opening near the spider and let it walk from your hand into the container.

Step 7: Hold the spider in your hands or observe it in the container. Limit handling to a few minutes to avoid stressing the spider.

Step 8: Return the spider back to its original web by placing it near the web and letting it walk off your hand. Or place the entire container near the original web and open to let it walk out.

Always exercise caution when handling any spider. Supervise children and limit handling to a few minutes at a time. Wash your hands afterwards.

Pros of Holding a Cat-Faced Spider

There are a few benefits to safely holding a cat-faced spider when the opportunity arises. First, it can be educational, especially for children, to get up close with this fascinating creature. Cat-faced spiders are not aggressive, so with proper handling, observing one allows you to see its unique markings and watch how it moves (Salisbury Greenhouse, 2023). Getting to hold a spider can help kids and adults alike learn more about and appreciate the natural world.

For some people, holding a docile spider like the cat-faced spider can help them face their fear of spiders. The cat-faced spider is a non-threatening species that does not bite or jump, so it provides a good starting experience for arachnophobes to confront and overcome their phobias through exposure therapy. As people become more comfortable holding a cat-faced spider, it can open the door to overcoming fear of all spiders (Salisbury Greenhouse, 2023).

Cons of Holding a Cat-Faced Spider

While cat-faced spiders are not considered dangerous, there are some potential risks and downsides associated with handling them that are worth considering:

One risk is the potential for a bite. According to AZ Pest Control, the fangs of a cat-faced spider are large enough to break human skin. Although the venom is not considered medically significant, the bite could still be painful and cause redness and swelling.

There is also a small risk of disease transmission from a spider bite. Spiders can potentially carry bacteria like Staphylococcus and Streptococcus on their fangs that could cause an infection. However, serious illnesses are very rare from cat-faced spider bites.

Some people may also have a pre-existing allergy to spider bites that could trigger a more severe reaction. Those with sensitivities should exercise extra caution or avoid handling spiders altogether.

Frequent handling may also cause undue stress on the spider. Although cat-faced spiders are docile, excessive grabbing could disrupt their natural behaviors and lead to defensive biting.

In summary, the chances of any serious harm from brief, careful handling are very low. But the spider’s welfare and bite risks should always be respected.

Alternatives to Holding a Cat-Faced Spider

While holding a cat-faced spider may seem appealing, there are safer, more ethical alternatives to get an up-close look at these fascinating creatures. Here are some options:

Take photos or videos. Getting pictures or footage of a cat-faced spider allows you to admire it without stressing the animal. Use a macro lens or telephoto zoom to get vibrant close-ups. Just be sure not to disturb or relocate the spider for your shots.

Observe in nature. Watch a cat-faced spider build its web and go about its routine from a slight distance. This lets you see its natural behaviors without interference. Look for webs in shrubs, trees, and eaves to spot them.

Visit insectariums or spider exhibits. Some zoos, museums, and nature centers have educational spider displays in safe, controlled environments. This provides an opportunity to see a cat-faced spider up close with an expert guide.

Handling wild spiders is generally not recommended. Appreciating cat-faced spiders through photography, observation, or exhibits is a safer and more ethical approach. This allows us to be curious about nature without disturbing it.

Key Takeaways

Cat-faced spiders are not considered dangerous to humans. Their venom is only potent enough to subdue small insects and invertebrates. While their bites are not medically significant, it’s still wise to exercise caution when handling any spider.

If you want to hold a cat-faced spider, the safest approach is to gently scoop or allow the spider to crawl onto an open palm or fingertip. Avoid squeezing or restricting the spider’s movement. Always wash your hands afterwards.

While interacting with spiders can satisfy curiosity, it’s generally best to simply observe them in their natural habitats. If you want to handle a spider, seek out a docile pet tarantula for a safer and more predictable experience.

In summary, cat-faced spiders pose minimal risks if handled briefly and gently. But restraint and respect for their space is advised. Focus on appreciation through observation to fully enjoy nature’s marvels.

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