You’ve seen videos of tarantulas walking up their owners’ arms, so that must mean tarantulas are friendly, right? Well, mine are but that is because to me, not showing any aggression or anxiety when I approach is a sign of friendliness.
But, are tarantulas friendly? Tarantulas make very docile pets and will very rarely bite – in that sense, tarantulas are actually quite friendly spiders. In the end, saying a tarantula is friendly is contributing human emotions to an arachnid – something that has not yet been proven to be true.
Of course, very little in the world of spiders can be answered with a straight yes or no answer. To establish if tarantulas are friendly, we will first need to define what friendly means to a spider. Something which, as you can image, is a difficult task since they can’t talk.
Is Something Like A Friendly Tarantula Even Possible?
This question has been debated in the tarantula community for years on end. The main issue on one side is the fact that by saying tarantulas have emotions, you are anthropomorphizing them – giving them qualities they cannot have.
For example, saying your tarantula ‘loves being held’ is an assumption; how can you possibly know? And are tarantulas even capable of love?
I don’t have the slightest clue about the inner workings of my tarantulas and their cognitive abilities. But, that being said, I’m not going to make blanket statements about whether tarantulas have feelings or not – maybe they do and science just hasn’t discovered it yet.
Nevertheless, tarantula owners may indeed describe their Ts as friendly when they’re willing to crawl over them, show curiosity, don’t bite or display threatening behavior, etc. But to get pedantic, that’s more docile behavior than friendly, isn’t it?
Tarantulas are Docile
Tarantulas cannot be tamed or trained; they are the embodiment of an instinctual predator. This means that the behavior of tarantulas is based on instinct and wholly depends on the environment.
At first, you will look like a big predator to your T, and it will most likely run and hide or show some aggressive behavior – but, even with this display of hostility, it won’t strike unless absolutely forced into a corner.
Although tarantulas have a frightening reputation, these spiders are actually timid creatures more likely to run and hide than bite. Also, if you do happen to get bitten, don’t stress.
A tarantula bite is no worse than a bee sting (unless you’re allergic) and you are most likely to only experience some local pain, swelling, and stiffness of joints.
Fun fact: Tarantulas are known for giving ‘dry bites’ where no venom is injected. They do this to hurt the predator in order to get away.
Over time, although your tarantula may still see you as big and scary, it probably won’t see you as a threat anymore and they will become even more docile – making handling possible (not recommended).
And, yes, we as T owners would like to think it is because they see us as their friend, but they actually just associate us with a source of food.
Given this information, you might be thinking if Ts like to be stroked? You might have been able to stroke your T, but do you really want to know what he is thinking? Take a look at this article to find out if you should be stroking your T in the first place.
Some Tarantulas Are More Friendly Than Others
As with most wild animals, their tolerance level of humans and interaction with us varies vastly. Sometimes, one species will share overall acceptance of us great apes and be ‘friendlier’, while in other instances, tolerance is based on the individual animal.
The same can be said for tarantulas, some will tolerate you for longer than others will. And even those that do endure your presence will only do it until they don’t.
Hopefully, you are lucky and the tarantula you are handling will rather flee than bite when they’ve had enough of you handling them.
Those of us who own Ts don’t collect them because of their cuddly nature, we do it because they are beautiful and fascinating creatures.
If you’ve been collecting tarantulas for a while now, you know there’s only one predictable thing about them, and that is that they are completely unpredictable!
That being said, some species are considered more aggressive than others. And even though serious hobbyists believe that it is not necessary or even safe to handle their Ts, it’s a good idea to have some general knowledge about the more aggressive species.
We don’t want your first T to be from the Pterinochilus murinus species, do we? No, we don’t, believe you me!
Most Docile Tarantulas
- Caribena versicolor
- Nhandu chromatus
- Lasiodora parahybana
- Aphonopelma bicoloratum
- Acanthoscurria geniculata
- Brachypelma smithi
- Eupalaestrus campestratus
- Grammostola rosea
- Grammostola pulchra
- Brachypelma annitha
Most Aggressive Tarantulas
- Pterinochilus murinus
- Chilobrachys spp
- Selenocosmia spp
- Ornithoctonus spp
- Haploclastus spp
- Thrigmopoeus spp
- Lyrognathus spp
- Haplopelma lividum
- Iridoplema hirsutum
It’s best to not handle tarantulas in general, as mentioned before, but when it comes to the aggressive ones named above (not an extensive list by all means – so do your research), rather use tools such as cups, lids, feeding tongs, etc. to coax them in and out of their enclosures when it is time to clean it out.
They’re also only recommended as pets for those who have a lot of experience in owning tarantulas.
Can You Make A Tarantula Friendly?
Okay, it is pretty clear from this article so far that the meaning of ‘friendly’ is subjective; most T owners use the word friendly when they actually mean docile. But the bottom line is, you can’t tame a tarantula. Period.
They are wild animals and they do not have the cognitive ability to be trained.
Yeah, some species of tarantulas may let you handle them, but that doesn’t mean they’re being friendly. It means they don’t experience you as a threat and will tolerate you – until they don’t want to anymore.
Although learning ability may be a necessary survival trait in animals (evidence is limited when it comes to spiders), it will be more basic in tarantulas than in other animals, especially mammals.
This makes training a tarantula to do anything a little difficult (you should actually read ‘impossible’). But, that doesn’t mean your T won’t be able to link certain stimuli with things like food, danger, safety.
And let’s face it, to your tarantula you are a food dispenser – meaning yes, they may even come out of their burrow when you approach.
‘Aaaaw, sweet,’ I hear you say, ‘look how friendly Billy is’. Ever heard of Pavlov and his dogs? Well, this is a case of you and your tarantulas and them associating you with food – not them being friendly.
How about those moments when your T shows that he recognizes you? Is it just because of the routine or he really acknowledges you as his master? Check this article out to know if Ts have the capability to recognize their owners.
Listen, if you want to humanize your tarantula, go for it. But you need to know that your tarantula is not being friendly, it is tolerating you and there is no guarantee that it will always be the case.
That is a fact that you need to acknowledge and respect. Forcing another animal to follow ways that serve our purposes as its keepers, and cause them stress, is not respectful – animals we’re put on this planet for our amusement, they have their own role to play on this big ball we’re on.
Bottom line, if you want a friendly pet that will show emotion and allow you to cuddle it, a tarantula is not for you. They are spectacular creatures to own but are best admired from a distance – not because they are aggressive but because that is what is best for them as spiders.