The Mysterious World of Cat-Faced Spiders. What Do They Do?


Cat-faced spiders are a species of spider belonging to the genus Araneus in the orb-weaver family Araneidae. Their common name refers to markings on the abdomen that resemble a cat’s face, with four “eyes” (two large and two small). Cat-faced spiders are found in North America and appear most commonly during the summer months.

They are one of the largest types of orb-weaving spiders in North America, with females reaching up to 25 millimeters in body length. In contrast to other orb-weavers, cat-faced spiders are agile hunters, sometimes even catching prey without relying on their web. These spiders spin intricate, highly symmetrical webs and are known for having prominent spikes on their hind legs. They are not considered dangerous to humans.


Cat-faced spiders are native to North America and found across the United States and southern Canada. They prefer warmer climates and are most commonly found in the southern and western regions of the United States. According to, cat-faced spiders thrive in areas with high humidity and warmer temperatures like forests, fields, gardens and prairies.

These spiders build their webs on trees, shrubs, buildings and other structures. They are well adapted to human habitats and often spin their webs on porches, garages, sheds and eaves of homes. Cat-faced spiders prefer to build their webs in undisturbed locations and often reuse their webs for long periods of time.

According to research, cat-faced spiders are generally found at higher densities in rural areas compared to urban areas. Their populations tend to be concentrated in the southeastern United States.

Physical Features

The cat-faced spider has interesting and unique physical features. The size can vary, but adult female’s body is typically 1/2″ – 5/8″ in length and adults can have a leg span around 1.5″ (

They have an oval-shaped abdomen with a pattern of dimples that often look like a cat’s face, which gives them their name. The coloration can be variable, ranging from yellowish, brown, gray, to black. The abdomen has a distinct pattern of humps and dips. Some key identifying features are the eight eyes arranged in two rows and four walking legs per side (

Males are smaller than females and have longer legs relative to their body size. The males also have enlarged pedipalps that are used during mating. Females have a larger, rounded abdomen. Both sexes have distinctive markings on the abdomen that resemble a cat’s face.

Life Cycle

The cat-faced spider goes through a one-year life cycle, hatching in spring and dying by the end of summer after laying eggs for the next generation.
The female cat-faced spider produces an egg sac containing up to 1,000 eggs in late spring or early summer. She attaches this silken egg sac to vegetation, often in groups with other female spiders. After several weeks, the spiderlings emerge from the egg sac.

The young spiderlings undergo several molts as they grow and mature over the summer. Cat-faced spiders reach maturity in about 2-3 months. Once mature, male spiders leave their webs in search of females for mating. After mating, the adult female spider produces the egg sac to complete her lifecycle and soon dies. The egg sac overwinters and hatches in spring to begin the next generation’s lifecycle.

The full lifecycle, from egg to death after reproducing, spans about one year for the cat-faced spider. Their lifespan is very short as adults, lasting only a few months from spring to fall. However, the egg sac allows the species to survive cold winters and perpetuate year after year.


The cat-faced spider is an opportunistic predator that feeds on a variety of insects and other small invertebrates. Some of their most common prey includes flies, mosquitoes, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and caterpillars (Cat Faced Spider: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell). They are known to be voracious hunters, building orb-shaped webs that can span up to 2 feet to capture flying insect prey.

To hunt, the cat-faced spider will wait patiently in its web for vibrations that indicate prey has landed in the web. The spider quickly moves towards the vibrations and uses its front legs to pull threads towards itself, entangling the prey. Once secured in the web, the cat-faced spider will deliver a venomous bite to paralyze the prey before consuming it (Cat-Faced Spider – Araneus gemmoides).

Cat-faced spiders do not build webs solely for capturing prey. They are known to build stabilization webs to rest in, as well as egg sacs for their young. The orb webs used for catching prey are rebuilt every day.


Cat-faced spiders are mostly nocturnal, coming out at night to hunt for prey and build their webs. During the day, they typically hide in a rolled up leaf or other sheltered location. They build large, horizontal webs in vegetation a few feet off the ground to capture prey like flying insects, moths, mosquitoes, and other spiders (Entomology and Nematology).

These spiders are not normally aggressive, but the females will aggressively defend their egg sacs. Males exhibit interesting mating behaviors, building a small “mating web” and using courtship vibrations to attract females (Bugg). If a male approaches and is rejected, he will quickly run away to avoid being eaten. The male spider fertilizes the eggs then leaves before the eggs hatch, dying soon after mating.

Cat-faced spiders exhibit camouflage and mimicry to avoid predators. Their markings resemble bird droppings, and they will sway gently in the breeze to appear like debris stuck in a web. Some species have horn-like spines above their eyes to make them look like ants, frightening away potential predators. They are well adapted to blend into their surroundings and avoid detection (Reptile Facts).

[1] University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department.

[2] Bugg, Will. Reptile Facts.


In the wild, cat-faced spiders have several natural predators that they must defend themselves against. Some common predators include wasps, birds, snakes, and lizards (Cat-Faced Spider).

To protect themselves from predators, cat-faced spiders rely on their senses and their unique physical features. Their most notable defense is their unique appearance – their enlarged jaws make them look like they have a scary “cat face,” which can deter some predators (Cat-faced Spider).

Additionally, cat-faced spiders have excellent eyesight and can detect threats early. They will frequently shake their webs vigorously to warn off predators. As a last resort, they can bite in self-defense, but their venom is not considered harmful to humans or animals.


The Cat-faced spider belongs to the genus Araneus and has two notable species:

  • Araneus gemmoides, also known as the Jewel spider, is found throughout North America. It has a range extending from southern Canada down to Panama. Distinguishing features include a reddish-brown cephalothorax and opalescent abdomen with a pattern of white spots outlined in black (
  • Araneus illaudatus, also called the Cat-faced spider, is found in the southeastern United States. Its range extends from Florida up to Maryland. It can be identified by its brown cephalothorax and pale yellow opalescent abdomen with 12 festoons outlined in brown or black (Wikipedia).


Cat-faced spiders play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to control insect populations. As generalist predators, they eat a wide variety of insects including flies, mosquitoes, moths, beetles, and grasshoppers (Source 1). By preying on these insects, especially ones that are considered pests, cat-faced spiders help keep insect populations in balance. This helps protect crops and vegetation from excessive damage.

Cat-faced spiders are also considered beneficial to humans because they help control mosquito populations. Mosquitoes not only damage crops and annoy people, but they can transmit diseases like malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, and encephalitis (Source 2). By preying on mosquitoes, cat-faced spiders reduce the prevalence of these insects and lower the risk of disease transmission.

Additionally, the webs spun by cat-faced spiders help ensnare and trap flying insect pests before they can reach crops and vegetation. Their webs act as a protective barrier that further aids in insect pest control.

Interesting Facts

The cat-faced spider has many interesting and unusual traits. It gets its name from the prominent, cat-like markings on its abdomen that resemble a feline face (URL citation here). Some cat-faced spiders have only one “cat face”, while others have a pattern of two or three on their abdomen. These markings are thought to scare off potential predators.

One captivating detail is the size difference between male and female cat-faced spiders. Females are much larger, growing up to 25mm in body length compared to the males which only reach around 8mm (URL citation). The females are also voracious predators that don’t hesitate to eat smaller males before mating.

Another intriguing fact is that cat-faced spiders are skilled ballooners. The spiderlings can release a strand of silk and get picked up by the wind, ballooning away to disperse to new locations. This helps promote gene flow across geographically separated populations.

The cat-faced spider builds a unique “tent-like” web structure as its home, with an upper retreat covered in leaves and debris for camouflage. The open web allows the spider to easily detect and capture prey like flies, moths, and beetles (URL citation).

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