Spiders are small creatures; nonetheless, the more we study them, the more they continue to amaze us. One of the things that we continue to discover about them is that they are surprisingly smart and complex creatures.
What may interest many spider owners, though, is whether their pet spider can tell them apart from other humans.
Do pet spiders recognize their owners? Pet spiders are most likely not capable of recognizing their owners the same way other pets do. Pet spiders are not capable of knowing who their owner is. However, it may be possible for certain pet spiders to recognize and associate humans with particular feeding time or other activities.
I have been asked this question several times by beginners interested in learning more about their spiders and the way they perceive them. Below I go into more detail about spiders and what they may or may not think of us as their owners.
How Do Pets Recognize Their Owners?
It may seem counter-intuitive, but first, we need to establish how pets recognize their owners.
There is a region in the brain that is responsible for facial recognition. This applies to humans and some animals as well. People that have suffered some injury to those parts of the brain will have difficulty recognizing faces (even their own face, in some instances) even though their ability to recognize objects will usually not be affected.
Based on that information, scientists have tried to study animals and whether they can recognize their owners.
Dogs can tell people apart by looking at their faces, while cats are a different case. Cats, being excellent at recognizing other cat’s faces, performed poorly when it came to recognizing human faces.
Birds are also another species that may be able to recognize human faces. (Something I have some personal experience with as well.)
So there is no question about this—animals can recognize their owner’s face; however, not all animals can recognize people’s faces the same way. Some animals are incapable of telling the different human faces apart at all.
In some instances, animals will recognize their owners by their voice or scent. Or end up associating these human traits with feeding or petting time.
This means that even if some spiders are capable of recognizing their owners, it will not be the same way other animals do. They may get used to particular feeding time or associate you with other activities and queues.
Are Spiders Intelligent Enough to Recognize Their Owner?
In fully understanding how spiders think and if they are capable of recognizing their owner’s face, we need first to explore how intelligent they are.
Undeniably spiders are small. Even the biggest species of spiders are relatively small. Spiders are among the animals that have some of the smallest brains, too.
However, if we compare the Samoan moss spider (the world’s smallest spider and the South American Goliath birdeater (the world’s biggest spider), we will find that they do not act much differently. On the other hand, their behavior is as complicated and intricate as other animals that have much bigger brains.
This begs the question, does one need a bigger brain to be able to do more complicated actions?
But let’s not forget that spiders, although having small brains, are also very small in body size. There is something known as Haller’s rule. It states that smaller animals will usually have bigger brains in comparison to their bodies compared to bigger animals.
One way scientists measure spiders’ intelligence is by observing the mistakes they make while spinning their webs. Spiders have to constantly make conscious decisions while weaving their webs, and they do make some mistakes along the way. So a less intelligent spider should, in theory, make more mistakes.
Interestingly enough, both spiders with smaller brains and bigger brains were making the same amount of mistakes across the board. It seems that there is no intelligence cost of having a smaller brain.
Studies have shown some correlation between bigger brain size and better cognitive abilities in humans; however, the overall difference may be too small to be noteworthy.
In reality, there is more to this than meets the eye.
One study found that in some spiders, the central nervous system took up to 78% of the space in their bodies. In other words, their brains were taking almost the entirety of their body, sometimes even spilling into their legs.
Jumping spiders will be of particular interest here as they have been found to have really good sight compared to other spider species and are believed to be among the smartest spider species.
One study found that jumping spiders are capable of planning and finding their way to points of interest.
Interestingly enough, even when the spider makes a mistake and ends up being not where it planned, it seemed confused as if its expectations were not met.
However, if something unplanned happened or the surroundings changed somehow, the spider was able to adapt and take the necessary detours if needed.
Do Spiders Feel Emotions for Their Owners?
One of the first questions we need to answer is whether spiders feel any emotions for their owners? The reasoning is simple—if they can, they will be more likely to get attached and recognize their owner.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of studies on this subject. At this point, we are not entirely sure if spiders feel any human-like emotions, although the predominant opinion among experts is that they do not feel emotions the same way humans do. They are not friendly or affectionate. But that does not make them unfriendly or bad.
Most of the time, spiders are just minding their own business, trying to stay alive, healthy, and propagate.
One study did find that bees do exhibit some emotion-driven behaviors.
Another study also concluded that fruit flies did exhibit some emotion-like behavior, too, in connection to fear.
Of course, these studies are not done on spiders, but they can raise some good questions.
Even though spiders may be relatively intelligent, they are not really social creatures (although some species do cohabitate). They do not act based on emotion or feelings even though some can develop some unique habits that can almost be defined as personality-driven.
Do Spiders Recognize Their Owners?
It is believed that spiders are not capable of getting attached to or recognizing their owners. They are not capable of facial recognition.
To them, humans will always be a threat in some form or another, and spiders will usually not change their behavior based on who is holding them.
This holds true for both smaller and bigger spider species like tarantulas.
Arguably, spiders may get used to having people around them. This, however, cannot be said with any significant amount of certainty. But it may be possible for some spiders to recognize feeding times, other specific patterns and potentially connect them to that large shadowy figure showing up at certain times during the day.
However, spiders do not eat often, which means that food may not be a good incentive to establish a particular habit with them after all.
It is also worth mentioning that it is possible to train a spider to jump on demand, and some people have been able to train their spiders to climb on their hands.
However, spiders may allow this not because they get attached to their owner, or recognize them as an owner, but rather because they get conditioned and used to that type of activity.
Can Spiders Recognize Their Owner’s Face?
The majority of spiders do not have very good vision. This is why they are usually relying on their other senses.
This means that they are highly unlikely to be able to really study and learn what their owner’s face looks like.
Can Spiders Recognize Their Owner’s Scent?
Spiders do not have noses as humans do; however, they can tell apart different scents by using specific chemical receptors located along their legs.
This area has not been thoroughly studied; however, it is believed that spiders do have a sense of smell, which means that a spider may be able to “smell” you if it crawls on you.
For example, a particular species of jumping spiders, known as vampire spiders, will even actively seek out mosquitos that have human blood in them.
Can Spiders Recognize Their Owner’s Voice?
Spiders cannot hear voices or sound the same way humans do. They do not have ears in the traditional sense, which means that they cannot recognize their owner’s voice.
However, what they do feel instead is the vibrations created by sound through the use of the hairs that are distributed all over their bodies.
In fact, those hairs are so sensitive that they can “hear” you speaking from more than 16 feet away. However, it is extremely unlikely that they will recognize or tell apart their owner’s voice from other people’s voices. To them, those will be just vibrations.