Spider Bites in Cats

Cat bitten by spider
Image Laurence Grayson, Flickr

Cats are prone to spider bites due to their inquisitive nature and their propensity to get into nooks and crannies under houses and in dark spots where most spiders can be found.

Most spider bites are more painful than they are dangerous, however, there are a number of spiders which are venomous to cats.

These include:

  • Latrodectus (Widow spiders)-Worldwide distribution, well-known species include the Black Widow, Western Black Widow, Northern Widow, Red Widow, Brown Widow (USA), Katipo (New Zealand) and the Redback (Australia).
  • Brown recluse – Found in the USA, the bite from this spider is considered necrotising, killing off tissue around the area of the bite.
  • Tarantulas – Some species of tarantula can be toxic to cats.

Is the funnel-web dangerous to cats?

The funnel-web (found in Australia) is toxic only to primates (including humans) and not cats.

What are the symptoms of spider bites in cats?

Symptoms can vary depending on the species of spider. Cats are usually bitten around the face and paws. You may notice small puncture marks initially, however, once swelling occurs, these will be less apparent. Not all bites will be noticed due to the cat’s fur. Symptoms may take several hours to appear.

Nonvenomous spider bites may swell and become painful, however, unless your cat is anaphylactic, symptoms are usually self-limiting.

If your cat is bitten by a venomous spider, try to keep him as still as possible to avoid the venom travelling more quickly through the system. Wash the bite wound carefully with soap and water and then transport him to a veterinarian. Try to keep the affected area below the heart if possible.

The brown recluse spider causes lesions to develop on your cat, which becomes ulcerated and black over time.

Bites from “widow” spiders may cause the following symptoms:

  • Shivering.
  • Intense pain.
  • Drooling.
  • Ataxia (wobbly gait)
  • Fever.
  • Laboured breathing.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Paralysis.
  • Shock.

In some cases, your cat may develop an anaphylactic reaction to a spider bite. This is severe and life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, pale gums, swelling, vomiting and diarrhea, trembling and collapse. This is a medical emergency and needs to be treated by a veterinarian urgently.

How are spider bites treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of the bite if it was a venomous spider or not. if you are at all unsure if the spider was venomous or nonvenomous, take him to the vet, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

  • Nonvenomous spider bites are usually self-limiting. Wash the wound with antiseptic and apply ice to the area for 20 minutes. Monitor your cat for signs of infection.
  • Venomous spider bites will be treated by the administration of antivenom.
  • Pain medication may be administered via IV.
  • Muscle relaxants may be prescribed for your cat once he is at home.
  • Brown recluse spider bites cause massive tissue necrosis, which may need to be removed. It can take several months for ulcers to heal and will require management from the pet owner such as cleaning the area and changing bandages. Pain medications and antibiotics will also be given to control pain and treat bacterial infection.

Related articles:

Snake bites   Insect bites and stings

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