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Spiders toxic to cats?

Species: Cat
Breed: Tabby
Age: 2-5 years
Hi Dr. Marie,

Hope things are well. I had what amounts to a common question but it appears EVERYONE has an opinion on this. As you may remember I live in Western Washington and well this time of year is spider season. You are in Canada I think so you know when it starts to get a little colder in the fall and there is less to eat causing the little(and sometimes OMG large) SH*** to come indoors where it is warmer. Our community values our water supplies and consequently you won't see many folks spraying poison. Its been an unseasonably warm summer and there are a bunch this year. Anyway to get to my point here, Timmy is quite the spider killer. In fact the other night I rolled over and noticed one next to my pillow. No sooner had I panicked then he swooped off his cat post(I knew there was a good reason to put that near my bed) and pounced on it killing it immediately. Treats for Timmy at 2 AM right? So here's the thing he eats them which is normal dietary protein it seems no matter who you ask. So mostly they look like Hobo or Wood spiders which are harmless to everyone. A greater concern though is our health population of Yellow Sac and Brown Recluse spiders. No black widows thankfully on this side of the mountains but nevertheless the previously mentioned can certainly make a human very sick. Maybe I am being naive but I am less concerned with the spiders actually biting him as I am him eating them. Even if one happened to get lucky and bite his noise or ear I would know and could treat or take him to the ER. My question is if he eats them would he have a similar reaction? I am thinking perhaps because it would be absorbed through his stomach lining however that might not be nearly as bad as directly into the blood stream by way of a bite? Now I am making a lot of assumptions but I think about this every year about the same time and I must admit I get a little worried. I realize every situation could be slightly different but if this could be potentially fatal what might I do to delay the effects for long enough to get him to a hospital? Is there any product on the market I could purchase as well to lessen the effect?

Thank you so much for your time and consideration and please raise your prices a little bit!!! I have used you know 3 or 4 times and your research and advice have been invaluable.

Sorry for typos and/or grammatical errors as I am in a hurry to get going this morning.


Jerry Zweiger and Timmy

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Jerry,

I have heard that in a lot of places there is a real overpopulation of spiders this year. I am thinking that possibly this is due to the dip in the bat population as many bats are sick with white nose disease. We haven't seen more spiders than usual here and I am really glad about that!

So, are yellow sac and brown recluse spiders toxic to cats?

I have done some research for you. I could not find any information on yellow sac spiders (Cheiracanthium) affecting cats. That leads me to believe that they are not toxic, even if the spider was to bite the cat. If they were, then my veterinary records search should have uncovered at least a couple of cases.

Regarding the brown recluse spider, the consensus amongst vets is that the spiders are harmless if ingested, because the stomach acid will destroy them and their toxins. But, they could cause a problem if the spider were to bite a cat. A bite from a brown recluse spider can cause very serious tissue damage that usually need extensive care. I did find a number of cases where cats had severe injuries because of a bite from a recluse spider.

I found one case as well where a cat died and on post mortem a large spider was found stuck in his airway. AAAAAGH! That thankfully is not very common.

I hope I haven't caused you more worry. I don't know what you would do to prevent your cat from playing with these spiders. Hopefully as the cold weather comes, the spider population will shrink significantly!

Dr. Marie.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

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