Tarantulas are not known for the warm and cuddly natures – they won’t come to curl up next to you for some love and affection. So how do you know they actually know you as their caregiver; is it even possible?
Do tarantulas recognize their owners? Although research in this department is limited, it is highly unlikely that your tarantula will recognize you.
Tarantulas are usually chosen as pets due to their exotic nature and not because you can call them over for a cuddle like Fido or Tigger.
But still, we would like to think that these hairy spiders recognize us and maybe even feel happy to see us – however improbable. Read on to find out if your T gets excited when you walk into the room or if you’re just seen as a food dispenser.
A Tarantula’s Senses
First, before we can get to the bottom of your T’s feelings towards you, we have to figure out if they actually have the senses to recognize you. It’s not as if your tarantula can say, ‘hey, Pete, thanks for the cricket, next time I’d like a mealworm, please’.
That’s the one big problem with communicating with animals, isn’t it? The fact that most animals cannot speak. They are still stuck on using scents, vibration, body language and other methods that we have surpassed.
So, we might be communicating companionship through ownership while they may be conveying trust, for instance.
Take a cat as an example, they may roll over and show us their bellies and since this behavior will be very risky in the wild, we assume it is a sign of trust. But again, since the cat can’t actually verbalize what they’re feeling, we don’t really know.
Tarantulas use sight, touch, vibrations and chemical stimuli to discover their environments. This is done through very specialized hairs on their legs and bodies.
Tarantulas do not have nostrils, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ‘smell’. Ts will detect chemical changes in their surroundings through the hairs mentioned earlier; the same applies to hearing and taste.
Tarantulas use either chemical or physical methods to process information and the hairs on their legs, pedipalps and near their mouth play the biggest role in their abilities.
When it comes to sight – probably the biggest tell-tale sign if they can distinguish their owners from other people – I have bad news: they have bad vision.
They might have eight eyes, but it actually means diddly-squat since they rely on vibrations to ‘see’ their environment. That is why your T will most likely move very slowly when placed in a new enclosure; it first has to ‘feel’ its way around.
But all is not lost; thanks to professor of neurobiology and behavior, Dr. Ronald Hoy, it was discovered that jumping spiders with a brain the size of a poppy seed, has exceptional eyesight for a spider.
Dr. Hoy chose to study a jumping spider because it is very different from the rest of the family – they search out their prey, stalk it and pounce. Much like a cat, believes Dr. Hoy.
In a study conducted on honeybees and European wasps, it was found that these insects process visuals the same way humans do.
Now, these two studies may not mean much to you as a tarantula owner, but considering that the research done on Ts and the mechanisms used to recognize faces are sparse, there may be a possibility that scientists will in the future discover your T can pick you out of a crowd of twenty!
Okay, so your Tarantula not being able to really see you doesn’t mean it can’t recognize and love you by using some of those other super spidey senses of theirs, right?
Can Tarantulas Bond with Their Owners?
The fact of the matter is, those of us who have owned tarantulas for years and keep adding to our collection, do not do it for any type of expected affection – other than our own for these creatures.
Tarantulas are not loving; they can’t be tamed and trained. All of the responses your T will make is completely instinctive and reactive.
So, whether they’re calm and tranquil or aggressive depend completely on the signals they are getting from their environment and how they’ve been programmed to react to said events.
Think about it, Ts don’t really have much if any opportunity to show affection in the wild, do they? Females eat the males after sex for goodness sake! So, why would they now all of the sudden need the ability to feel care and love?
Tarantulas basically run on two emotions: contentment and fear; your T will either be super chilled or completely freaked out.
To a tarantula, you are a big and scary predator and their first instinct will be to run and hide or go into protective mode.
But given a certain time, some type of recognition may play a role – your tarantula may see you as ‘safe’ and not threatening at all, so it will freak out a little less when you come close.
It is a case of familiarity, especially because you are usually the one feeding your T, and for that reason, they may be ‘happy’ to see you. It’s basically like Pavlov and his dogs; you remind your T of food, so it may come out of its burrow when it sees you approaching.
That’s possibly the closest you’re going to get to seeing love from a tarantula, but it’s better than nothing if you ask me!
Here Is What Scientists Believe
That being said, some scientists believe tarantulas don’t have a memory. Although they have more centralized brains than other arthropods, scientists believe that they are not very intelligent.
The memory they do have is tied with instinctive activities like spinning a web, catching food, finding their burrow, etc. For this reason, they may not necessarily remember your face, but routine feeding may reinforce in them that although you’re big and scary, you’re not a threat.
As you just read, science is leaning more towards ‘no, your tarantula cannot recognize you’ and this is something you need to know before you decide to get a T as a pet.
They’re not going to run up to you when you come close and lift their bums in the air for a scratch; they’re not domesticated and still run purely on instinct.
Tarantulas are beautiful creatures and watching them grow and go through their various stages is fascinating – that’s why you would want a tarantula. And of course, because they are fairly low maintenance with basic needs.
Give them food and water and living conditions as close to their real environment, and you’ll have yourself one happy tarantula – who cares if it realizes you’re its owner?
If you want a pet that recognizes you and loves you, a tarantula might not be the best pet for you.
So what about you? Do you own a tarantula? Do you have the feeling that your tarantula knows who you are? Or is it a problem for you that your T does not know who you are? Tell us about it in the comment section below!