Cats are not frightened of spiders but humans are. Why?

Cats are not frightened of spiders because when they are kittens their mother tells them that spiders are not scary animals but a prey animal to be attacked and eaten. In contrast, when adult humans are young children, they are taught by their parents that spiders are scary insects to be avoided because they can be dangerous.

Domestic cat fascinated with a creepy spider high up on a wall
Domestic cat fascinated with a creepy spider high up on a wall. Photo: u/Astral_Parallax.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There is a general viewpoint and it states that people are taught to be frightened of spiders whereas cats are not. But it is not quite as simple as that. Well, it probably is as simple as that on the cat side of the discussion. It’s quite straightforward for them: the spider is a prey animal. Some spiders will cause a cat injury but it’s a risk that they take.

It is probable that in the wild, wild cats learn about dangerous spiders and non-dangerous spiders and take the requisite precautions. But domestic cats won’t know the difference. For them it is a fascination with a scuttling creature. Cats respond to quick movements in prey animals. The instinct is to attack.

They are interested in those fast-scuttling movements which many people find objectionable. It’s a completely opposite psychological response.

With respect to humans, the primary reason is being taught that spiders are scary but in addition there will be the following reasons why humans are scared of spiders.

An inherited desire to play safe as all animals are potentially dangerous. Spiders move quickly and can be poisonous. One commenter, Paola Gutierrez, colourfully said that she is terrified of spiders “because they are silently creepy, wall-crawling, web-spinning, abundant egg-laying, hell-spawn creatures on Earth”.

A good description as to why some people are frightened of spiders 😃. There may be an inherited long-term human programming of being frightened of spiders. This may originate in the beginnings of homo sapiens, when the humans first evolved on the planet. Spiders can be dangerous (poisonous) and this learned response to a potential danger might have been handed down in the DNA of humans across the planet over the eons.

The fear of spiders might be genetic in that it may be handed down in certain families. In a study conducted by the City University London they found that 75% of the 118 participants were frightened of spiders. It seems that some families have an inherited fear of spiders.

An obvious reason why an adult might be frightened of spiders is because they had a bad experience with a spider when they were children. A study at the University of Maastricht coined the phrase “spider trauma”. A scary spider event takes place in a youngster and that person is conditioned thereafter to be frightened of arachnids. It’s a bit like having an irrational fear of cats (ailurophobia)! You can desensitise people under these circumstances by gradually introducing them to spiders or cats in a staged and controlled process. This removes their fear.

When it comes to spiders it is much easier being a cat. They are drawn to them. They play with them and obtain lots of enjoyment from a poor tortured spider who was minding his own business before being cruelly tortured to death and possibly eaten at the end of it.

Below are some pages on spiders and cats.

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