Can Cats Eat Spiders?: Toxic and Non-Toxic Spider Varieties
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Can cats eat spiders? If your cat likes to hunt insects there’s no need to worry, unless your pets going after poisonous spiders. Let’s look at the health benefits and risks of spiders and how to keep your cat safe.
Cats are fickle and sometimes strange creatures. The ancient Egyptians considered cats divine, but some cats have ditzy personalities. Cats will turn up their nose if you bring home a different brand of cat food, yet they’ll go after mice and spiders.
The good news is that most of the time, spiders are harmless to cats if ingested. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious, but you’re not going to have to start planning Mr. Whiskers’s funeral just yet.
This article will answer the question, ‘can cats eat spiders?’ We’ll also discuss the benefits and risks of eating spiders and list some venomous varieties.
Can Cats Eat Spiders?
While the terms “venomous” and “poisonous” are often used interchangeably, biologists may prefer to differentiate between the two:
- Venomous refers to creatures that inject poison through fangs or a stinger, such as snakes and spiders.
- Poisonous refers to creatures that are deadly if ingested, such as puffer fish.
Spiders are “venomous,” meaning they can only do damage by biting. Generally speaking, eating something venomous will not cause a problem. Venom is only effective if it gets into your bloodstream; if you (or your cat) were to swallow something venomous, your stomach acid would likely break down the venom before it could cause any harm.
That doesn’t mean you should go around drinking snake venom as a party trick. If your stomach didn’t dissolve all of it, the venom could still get into your bloodstream. However, a spider or two will likely not hurt your cat.
The Benefits of Cats Eating Spiders
While the thought of your cat eating a spider may gross you out, there are some upsides.
Cats as Pest Control
Domesticated house cats aren’t as far from their wild relatives as we might want to believe. They’re still hunters at heart. Sometimes this is a problem, as outdoor and feral cats can reduce small animal populations within an area.
However, owning a cat is a great way to reduce the number of pests within your home. We know that cats will go after mice and other small rodents, but they also go after bugs. In the wild, bugs are sometimes a key part of a cat’s diet.
Related Article: Can Cats Eat Flies?
Spiders as Nutrition
As mentioned above, it’s not uncommon for cats to eat bugs in the wild. This is especially true in areas where typical prey, like mice, may not be as populous. Spiders and other bugs, like grasshoppers and mealworms, can help fulfill a cat’s dietary needs.
Cats require a very high-protein diet; protein should make up at least 26% of what they eat. A large spider can contain over 60 grams of protein!
Fats are another critical part of a cat’s diet. Most average-weight adult cats should get five or six grams of good fat daily. Large spiders usually have about ten grams.
Spiders are missing some vitamins and minerals cats need. However, a spider here or there will only give a little boost to Mr. Whiskers’s diet.
Health Risks Associated with Eating Spiders
While, in general, eating a spider here or there isn’t going to cause your cat any harm, there are a few things to be cautious of.
Something Wrong With the Spider
If your cat eats a spider they’ll likely be fine. The problem is that you don’t know where that spider has been or what issues it may have. It could be infected with parasites or just crawled through some pesticides.
“Secondary poisoning” is the term that describes a predator becoming poisoned after eating poisoned prey. One or two spiders contaminated with pesticides won’t kill your cat. However, you should be cautious if your cat has a habit of chasing down prey in an area where pesticides are used.
The biggest risk to your cat when eating spiders is that a venomous spider may get the chance to sink its fangs into your cat before your cat eats it.
Symptoms of spider bites will depend on the species of spider. Most spider bites will cause redness and swelling at the bite location. Fever and lethargy may accompany the bite.
Toxic Varieties of Spiders
We already laid out the difference between poisonous and venomous animals. Luckily, no spiders in the United States are poisonous to eat. However, a few varieties can cause severe complications if they bite your cat.
Brown Recluse Spider
Brown recluse spiders produce one of the nastiest spider bites. Their bite won’t kill you, but it will kill the surrounding tissue.
Adult brown recluse spiders have ¼ -inch-long bodies and a violin shaped-mark on their back. Instead of the usual eight eyes, these spiders have six. They are found in the US, mainly in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
Black Widow Spider
The United States is home to many black widow spiders, but the deadliest are the Southern Black Widows. Their venom contains a neurotoxin, but there is an antivenom. Signs of a black widow bite in cats include muscle pain, tremors, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Southern black widow spiders have bodies that are about a ½ inch long. Their abdomen is larger than the rest of the body. They have an hourglass-shaped marking on their underside, but we advise against getting close enough to a live one to check.
Southern black widow spiders primarily live in the southeast, though scientists have found them as far north as Pennsylvania.
Western and Northern black widow spiders are not as deadly, but are bigger, with bodies around an inch. Northern black widows primarily live in the northeastern United States, mainly in the New England area but occasionally as far west as Wisconsin. Western black widow spiders usually live in states west of the Mississippi.
Other toxic spiders in the United States include:
- Brown and gray widow spiders
- Red widow spiders
- Hobo spiders
- Sac spiders
- Mouse spiders
- Wolf spiders
What To Do if Your Cat Has Eaten a Spider
If you catch your cat eating a spider, the best thing to do is call your vet. If you’re able to identify the spider, let them know. If the spider is venomous, they may ask you to come in to check that the spider didn’t bite your cat. If your cat shows any signs of illness or agitation, have them checked immediately.
Can Cats Eat Spiders? Final Thoughts
If your cat eats a spider or two, they’ll probably be fine. Venomous spiders won’t harm your cat if your cat eats them. However, there are reasons to be wary of spiders, especially if you live in an area where toxic spiders are common. Call a vet immediately if you suspect a venomous spider bit your cat.
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