Are Cat Faced Spiders Poisonous? Uncovering the Truth

Cat-faced spiders are a common type of orb-weaver spider that can be found in various regions, including the United States.

These spiders get their name from the unique, cat-like appearance of their abdomens, which often display two large bumps that resemble a cat’s ears.

Are Cat Faced Spiders Poisonous

Although they may appear intimidating due to their size and markings, the question often arises: are cat-faced spiders poisonous?

Are Cat-Faced Spiders Poisonous?

In general, cat-faced spiders are not considered dangerous to humans.

While they do possess venom, as most spiders do, their venom is primarily used to subdue their prey—usually insects—and does not pose a significant threat to people.

Additionally, these spiders are known for their shy, non-aggressive behavior, further reducing the chances of harmful encounters with humans.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to exercise caution around any spider, as individual reactions to spider bites can vary.

Some people might experience mild discomfort, itching, or redness around the bite site, while others might have more severe allergic reactions.

However, overall, the risk posed by cat-faced spiders remains minimal compared to other venomous spider species.

Venomous vs Poisonous

  • Venomous refers to injecting toxins through a bite or sting.
  • Poisonous means causing harm when touched, ingested or inhaled.

The key difference to remember is that venomous creatures inject toxins, while poisonous creatures cause harm when ingested or touched.

Cat-Faced Spider

Different Species of Orb-Weaving Spiders

Araneus gemmoides

The Araneus gemmoides are commonly known as cat-faced spiders due to their abdomen having two protrusions that resemble a cat’s ears. They are:

  • Orb-weaver spiders
  • Mated females can overwinter in hidden locations
  • Generally harmless to humans

These spiders are not considered poisonous, but they can produce venom. This venom, however, is not harmful to humans and is primarily used for hunting prey like insects.

Features:

  • Distinctive cat-like appearance
  • Beneficial for controlling insect populations
  • Non-aggressive towards humans

Araneus Gemma

Araneus gemma is another species of orb-weaving spider that is often mistaken for the cat-faced spider. They have similar physical features and habits, but the Araneus gemma is also:

  • Non-aggressive
  • Effective at controlling insect populations
  • Harmless to humans

Just like the cat-faced spider, the Araneus gemma is not considered poisonous to humans despite possessing venom. It presents no significant risk when encountered.

Comparison Table

 Cat-Faced Spider (Araneus Gemmoides)Araneus Gemma
AppearanceDistinctive cat-like featuresSimilar to cat-faced spider
Harmful to humans?NoNo
Venomous?Yes (not harmful to humans)Yes (not harmful to humans)
Role in ecosystemControlling insect populationsControlling insect populations

Bite Symptoms and Treatment

Cat faced spiders are not considered dangerous to humans, but their bites can cause some mild symptoms. After a bite, you might experience:

  • Itching or rash
  • Pain radiating from the site of the bite

In some cases, symptoms may also include swelling, redness, or even mild fever1.

Treatment

If bitten by a cat faced spider, it’s essential to clean and care for the wound properly. Follow these steps:

  1. Clean the bite area with soap and water.
  2. Apply a cold pack or ice wrapped in a cloth to reduce swelling and pain.
  3. Keep the bite area elevated to minimize swelling.
  4. Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen if needed.

In case of severe symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing, severe pain, or vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.

Cat Faced Orbweaver

Recovery

Recovery from a cat faced spider bite is generally smooth and fast. With proper care and self-treatment, symptoms should subside within a few days to a week1.

Recognizing the Cat-Faced Spider

The Cat-Faced Spider, or Araneus gemmoides, is notable for its distinct appearance.

Key characteristics include:

  • Color: These spiders vary in color, usually ranging from light brown to dark brown.
  • Abdomen: Cat-Faced Spiders have a uniquely shaped abdomen that resembles a cat’s face.

Habitat

Native to the United States and Canada, the Cat-Faced Spider is well-suited for various environments. Here are some common settings for its habitat:

  • Wood piles: These spiders often inhabit wood piles, seeking shelter and food.
  • Animal burrows: They can also be found in abandoned animal burrows or closed spaces.

While the Cat-Faced Spider is not exclusive to North America, it is not commonly found in places like Australia. Its preference for wood piles and animal burrows suggests it favors relatively closed spaces.

Prey and Hunting Tactics

The Cat Face Spider primarily preys on insects such as aphids, small caterpillars, and beetle larvae. As part of the orb weaver spider family, they create intricate webs to capture their prey.

Insects may also be attracted to their webs due to the spider’s vibrant colors.

Orb weaving tactics:

  • Spin sticky webs
  • Wait for prey to become trapped
  • Consume caught insects

Natural Predators

Cat Face Spiders have several natural predators, like mud-dauber wasps and birds. Pets such as dogs and cats usually avoid spiders due to their venomous bites.

However, it’s important to note that the venom of Cat Face Spiders is not dangerous to humans.

Comparison of Cat Face Spider predators

PredatorThreat LevelOccurrence
Mud-DauberHighLate summer
BirdsModerateAll seasons
Pets (dogs and cats)LowOccasional

These spiders can typically be found in gardens and other vegetated areas, where they blend in with the foliage and have access to an abundance of prey.

Conclusion

The cat-faced spider emerges as a fascinating predator, contributing to pest control while evoking curiosity rather than alarm among those who cross its path.

With its distinct appearance and venomous capabilities, the spider raises questions about its potential danger to humans. However, these spiders are not considered harmful to people.

While possessing venom used to subdue prey, their non-aggressive behavior and minimal risk of harmful encounters minimize chances of concerns. Nevertheless, it’s wise to exercise caution, as reactions to bites can vary.

Footnotes

  1. https://entomology.wsu.edu/outreach/bug-info/cat-face/ 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about cat faced spiders. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Unknown Orb Weaver: Maybe Neoscona oaxacensis and Cat Faced Spider

Great big orb weavers
Hi Daniel,
Thanks for the info on the purse spider. Would like to share a couple of others in our collection from our days in New Mexico. The golden spiders were plentiful and every year we had 3 or 4 set up shop around our windows to catch the bugs flying toward the house lights.

The black and white one was solitary, and it was around for our last two years there. It spun a huge circular web with a bit of zig zag center, very similar to the large argiopes we had in South Louisiana.
Denise Dailey

Maybe Neoscona oaxacensisCat Faced Spider

Hi Denise,
We are uncertain of the identity of your black and white spider. The closest we can match it to on BugGuide is one of the spiders in the genus Neoscona, perhaps Neoscona oaxacensis. We hope someone can provide us with a definite answer on this beauty. We believe your golden spider is a Cat Faced Spider, Araneus gemmoides, based on photos posted to BugGuide.

Confirmation: from Eric Eaton
Daniel:
I believe you are correct in the identification of the black and white orb weaver from New Mexico. It is definitely in the genus Neoscona, and the species oaxacensis is highly variable.
Eric

Letter 2 – Possibly Male Cat-Faced Spider

Subject: wondering what spider this is
Location: Sacramento California
October 25, 2015 9:53 am
Found this little guy from outside and i havent ever seen one for my 20 years of life. So im just wondering what it is. Thank you!
Signature: katie

Possibly Male Cat-Faced Spider
Possibly Male Cat-Faced Spider

Dear Katie,
Were it not for the orb web, we might have thought this was a Crab Spider because of the long front legs, but Crab Spiders do not spin webs and the web is definitely an orb web, indicating this is a Orbweaver in the family Araneidae. 

The bumps on the abdomen remind us of the Cat-Face Spider, Araneus gemmoides, and we suspect this is a male of the species.  As you can see by this pair pictured on BugGuide, the male is the smaller of the sexes.  According to the Cirrus Images site:  “The males are generally much smaller than the females and commonly lack the showy coloring of their fairer sex. They often spin their own smaller orb web near an outlying portion of the female’s, and I’ve noticed most males give the females wide berth. Indeed, I rarely see male orb weavers, they are so reclusive.”

Possibly Male Cat-Faced Spider
Possibly Male Cat-Faced Spider

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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