Arachnophobes — look away now.

Giant spiders on the look out for a mate are invading homes across Britain. While this is likely to send a shiver down the spine of anyone with a phobia of the eight-legged creatures, what does it mean for our cats?

As their owners will attest, many cats enjoy chasing, playing with and even eating spiders. But is this behaviour potentially dangerous and is it likely to put your cat at risk of being bitten?

Image of false widow spider for Vets Now article on cats and spiders
False widow spiders have a more venomous bite than other British spider species
Evidence of cats being bitten by spiders

There’s bad news and good news on the spider front as far as cats are concerned.

The bad news is there are 650 species of spider in the UK, and while only some of them are venomous, all can bite — it’s how they catch their prey.

The good news is that of those species, the vast majority don’t have fangs strong enough to pierce a larger animal’s skin.

According to Vets Now’s head of veterinary standards Laura Playforth, there is little evidence to suggest the spiders commonly found in Britain pose a significant risk to cats.

But she said although cases of cats being bitten by spiders are rare, owners should be aware of the signs.

“There have been anecdotal reports of so-called false widow spiders biting cats and signs include pain, swelling, redness and potentially even vomiting or fever.

“If you are concerned your cat has been bitten or if they’re showing any of these symptoms you should contact your vet as quickly as possible or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic or 24/7 hospital.”

Eating and ingesting spiders is also unlikely to cause problems, unless the cat is bitten in the mouth, as any venom will be deactivated during the digestion process.

One cat reportedly bitten in the face by a false widow spider was Hades. He came across the venomous arachnid while in the bathroom of his owner’s home in Dover, Kent.

Vets put Hades on a drip for two days as he recovered from the poisoning. But they only concluded he’d been bitten by a spider after taking x-rays and carrying out tests.

Image of cat jumping from bush for Vets Now article on spider dangers
Many cats enjoy chasing and playing with spiders
How to prevent cats eating spiders

Cats are hunters and enjoy teasing and trying to catch their prey. Their bodies also release endorphins when they manage to pin down and ‘attack’ whatever it is they’ve been chasing.

As a result, if your cat enjoys catching and eating spiders it will be very difficult to stop them, but there are some preventative measures you can try.

Dave Leicester, head of clinical intelligence at Vets Now, added: “All cats, particularly those who don’t leave the house, need mental stimulation.

“One of the best ways to satisfy their predatory instincts is to provide entertaining toys, make sure they exercise regularly, and perhaps even create interest at meal times by hiding their food so they have to search it out.

“This may help reduce their interest in spiders.”

Image of cat with spider for Vets Now article on dangers of spiders to cats
False widow spiders have a more venomous bite than other British spider species
How to keep spiders under control

Pest control specialists Rentokil have drawn up a list of do’s and don’ts for keeping spiders at bay.

But they add that the best advice is to leave them alone as spiders, in the main, are good for the environment and all they really want to do is eat insects, find a mate and breed.

They say home owners worried about spiders should:

  • Vacuum regularly, high and low — particularly sheltered spots such as beneath worktops, backs of cupboards or under/behind large furniture.
  • Remove noticeable webs — on a regular basis.
  • Fill in gaps — in walls, around pipework and under doors to deter entry.
  • Remove sheltering sites — like firewood piles, garden bags, compost piles and general clutter from near your property.
  • Deter all insects — use lighting in a way that is less attractive to the insects (flies) that spiders feed on.