Spider Bites on Cats

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Spider Bites on Cats

Spider bites are typically rare in cats. However, spiders can seem like a fun “toy” to a cat, and some spiders’ bites are dangerous. Cat skin is thick enough that most spiders’ fangs are not long enough to penetrate it. In America, there are three types of spiders that can cause serious damage with their bite; the black widow, the hobo spider, and the brown recluse. Because the spider bite is painless and the spider will have long disappeared when the cat starts itching, the type of spider must be identified by analyzing the symptoms.

The venom of a black widow spider is a neurotoxin. This venom will affect the cat’s nervous system and cause involuntary muscle cramping. The cat’s muscles and abdomen will feel rigid. Because the diaphragm is a major muscle essential to breathing, the cat’s breathing will become rapid and shallow.


The venom of a hobo spider or a brown recluse spider is necrotic. Necrotic venom will kill the tissue by breaking down the cellular structure. The tissue damage will begin at the bite site and will show as an itchy, red lesion. This area might also have a white ring form around it. Bluish or bruised-looking coloration is the indication of tissue death.
Once a cat has been bitten, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours for symptoms to appear. In the case of the hobo spider or brown recluse spider, a white “bulls-eye” pattern will appear within 4 to 8 hours. Symptoms of deeper tissue damage such as fever, vomiting, kidney failure, and internal bleeding may take 3 to 4 days to show. This further emphasizes how important it is to seek medical attention as soon as the bite is noticed.

DO I NEED TO TAKE MY CAT TO THE VETERINARIAN?

A veterinarian can administer pain relievers and muscle relaxants to help the cat get through the effects of a black widow spider bite. Keep in mind that typically antivenin is rarely administered as it is usually reserved for very young or elderly cats that are at higher risk for more serious effects. Application of cold packs to the bite location of hobo spider or brown recluse spider bite can help slow or stop the tissue damage. There are drugs that can effectively fight necrotic spider venom, as well as antibiotics to combat secondary infections that may occur.

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