Identifying the Cat-Faced Spider. 9 Key Features to Look For


Cat-faced spiders are common orb-weaving spiders found throughout the United States, southern Canada, and parts of Mexico (Cat-faced Spider (Araneus gemmoides) – They get their name from the markings on their abdomen that resemble a cat’s face. Identifying these spiders is important because although they are not dangerous to humans, their bites can be painful. Knowing how to identify them can help prevent unwanted encounters.

This article provides an overview of the physical characteristics, behaviors, habitat, and range of the cat-faced spider. It also covers how to distinguish them from similar looking spiders.

Physical Characteristics

The cat-faced spider has a large spherical abdomen covered in spines, giving it a knobby appearance that resembles a cat’s face. The abdomen is typically 5-8 mm wide, and females have an abdomen that can be over 15mm wide when full of eggs.

This spider has a leg span ranging from 2-4 inches. The long legs are light tan to brownish, with dark bands on the joints. The body is dark brown to black. The juxtaposition of the light legs against the dark body gives them a distinctive appearance when viewed from above.

One key identifying feature is the 4 pairs of protrusions or “spikes” arranged in a row on the top of the abdomen. Like other orb weavers, cat-faced spiders have 8 total eyes arranged in rows. The bottom row has 4 small eyes and the top row has 4 larger eyes (as cited in

Web Structure

Cat-faced spiders build distinctive webs that give the spider its common name. The web has a unique structure, consisting of an orb-shaped web with two tall, nipple-like tufts extending above and below the center (

The webs are usually built horizontally a few feet off the ground, often woven among vegetation. They range in size from 10-20 inches across. The thick tufts of silk on the top and bottom of the web resemble cat ears, giving the spider its name (

The tufts serve to help stabilize the web in wind and weather. Insects get caught in the sticky spiraling portions of the orb web between the tufts. The spider waits in the center or top tuft for prey to become ensnared (

Egg Sacs

The egg sacs of the cat-faced spider are spherical in shape and covered in soft silk. The color ranges from off-white to yellowish-tan. The sacs are typically located in rolled leaves, crevices, or corners of walls and eaves. The female spider produces an egg sac containing up to 100 eggs or more. The egg sacs can measure 20-30 mm in diameter when the spiderlings are ready to emerge, making them quite sizable egg sacks

According to Wiki, the mother spider spends winter in the egg stage within her silk egg sac. The egg sac helps protect the eggs over winter.


The cat-faced spider is mostly nocturnal and comes out at night to hunt for food. They are described as shy and non-aggressive. According to Cat-faced Spider, the cat-faced spider is not an aggressive species and will flee from threats. If cornered, they may rear up in a defensive posture, but are unlikely to bite. Their shy nature keeps them hidden during the day, emerging at night when their prey is active.

The cat-faced spider is known for its intricate web building skills. According to Cat-Faced Spider Animal Facts | Araneus gemmoides, they construct elaborate, wheel-shaped webs that have signature stabilimenta radiating out like spokes. Their webs can measure 2-3 feet across. The webs are often built in vegetation and anchored between branches and leaves. At night, the cat-faced spider waits in the center of the web for prey like moths, flies and beetles to become ensnared.


The cat-faced spider can be found in a variety of habitats across its range. This species tends to prefer rocky, wooded areas. They are commonly found under rocks, logs, and in the crevices of tree bark. These spiders may also make their home in caves, overhangs, and abandoned rodent burrows. They seem to like sheltered spaces where they can build their webs and avoid predators.

The cat-faced spider thrives in drier areas and is well-adapted to desert environments across the southwestern United States and into Mexico. You may encounter them in rocky canyons, cliffs, and scrublands. However, they are not restricted to deserts only. These spiders can inhabit forests and woodlands in other parts of their range. Just look for sheltered nooks and crannies under debris or rocks where they can set up their web and catch prey.


The cat-faced spider can primarily be found in the southern United States, including states like Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia (Wikipedia). Its range extends up into southern Canada as well. The spider prefers warmer climates and is most commonly found in the southeastern states.

According to Wikipedia, the cat-faced spider’s range stretches from southern Ontario and Quebec down through the eastern United States as far south as Florida and as far west as eastern Texas and Nebraska. It is considered an introduced species in Hawaii. Within its range, the spider can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, farmland, gardens, and urban areas.

Overall, the cat-faced spider is very common across the southern United States. Its preference for warmer environments means it thrives in the southeastern states in particular. While less common further north, isolated populations can occur as far as southern Canada.

Bite Info

The cat-faced spider is not considered medically significant to humans (according to Bugwood). The venom is very mild and the fangs are not large enough to penetrate human skin. If a bite does occur, it would likely feel like a pinprick with some mild pain or itching that goes away quickly. There is no need for medical treatment. Some possible symptoms from a bite include minor swelling, redness, and irritation at the bite location. However, severe reactions are very unlikely. While the spider looks intimidating, it is not an aggressive species and will only bite in self-defense (such as if trapped against skin). The spider would generally rather flee than bite.


The cat-faced spider can be confused with some other spiders that have similar markings and coloration. Here are a few key differences to look for:

Brown recluse spider – The brown recluse lacks the distinctive cat-faced markings on the abdomen and has a uniform brown color. It has six eyes arranged in three pairs while the cat-faced spider has eight eyes (Source 1).

Black house spider – The black house spider is solid black or dark brown in color without any lighter markings. It makes a loose irregular web instead of the organized structure of the cat-faced spider (Source 1).

Spitting spider – The spitting spider is brown or grey in color. It has bold white stripes on its legs and a row of white spots on the abdomen, unlike the cat-faced spider’s markings (Source 1).

Jumping spiders – Jumping spiders have a compact body and jump to catch prey instead of building webs. They have very large front eyes unlike the small eyes of the cat-faced spider (Source 1).


Here are the key identifying features of the cat-faced spider:

  • Large oval abdomen with a pattern that resembles a cat’s face
  • Long, spindly legs
  • Build intricate, messy webs close to the ground
  • Produce egg sacs that are spherical and covered in silk
  • Shy and nonaggressive
  • Found in warmer climates like the southern United States

If you come across a spider that matches this description, it’s likely a cat-faced spider. They are not dangerous to humans and help control insect populations. Unique identifying features like the cat-faced pattern and ground webs make them easy to distinguish from other species.

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