Since tarantulas can’t talk or make sounds like other animals, figuring out if your T is stressed may seem like an impossible task. Luckily, the signs of a stressed tarantula are pretty specific and once you know them, you’ll be able to see when your T is upset and immediately fix the possible causes.
What are the signs that your tarantula is stressed?
- Tarantula takes up a threatening pose
- Bald spot on the abdomen due to flicking of hairs
- Tarantula is hiding behind its legs
- Excessive climbing, especially if you own a terrestrial T
- Abnormally high activity levels
If you see any of the above behaviors in your T you should know you’re dealing with a pretty unhappy tarantula; and if you see your spider display all of the above, your T is close to a panic attack.
Read on to find out how to destress your pet tarantula – the big, hairy babies of the spider world who can have a full-blown anxiety attack every few seconds!
5 Signs Your Tarantula Is Stressed
Although tarantulas don’t have emotions, these neurotic loners definitely show signs of stress, and more often than you might realize.
The most obvious sign of stress is when a tarantula tries to bite, but if you can read all the warnings that come before fangs break skin, you and your tarantula will be much better off.
1. Tarantula takes up a threatening pose
When your tarantula is relaxed, it will sit on the ground with its legs bent and its abdomen level. This comfortable, relaxed state can, however, be destroyed by the slightest disturbance.
When that happens, and your tarantula is mildly annoyed that its peace was interrupted, you will see it go into a defensive stance, lifting one or two legs.
Your tarantula is already experiencing stress when it is in a defensive pose, but when it moves into a threatening stance, its stress levels are close to boiling (or is that biting) point.
In the threatening stance, your tarantula will lift its first two legs and extend its pedipalps fully into the air, basically flashing its fangs. On top of that, the T will also lift its thorax to show how big and scary it is and that it means business – one more misstep and it will strike.
2. Bald spot on the abdomen due to flicking of hairs
New World tarantulas have urticating hairs they use as a defense mechanism. But tarantulas don’t just flick these hairs when directly confronted by a predator; they do it when stressed. So, if you see a bald spot on your T’s abdomen, it’s time for some stress relief.
Do keep in mind that bald spots also occur when your tarantula is getting ready to molt. To tell stress apart from premolt, you will have to look for other signs that your T is nearing its molt.
This includes sporting a nice thick (sic) booty that looks like it is ready to burst, as well as refusing to eat.
3. Tarantula is hiding behind its legs
Don’t confuse this with a death curl! The main difference between a death curl and this “make me disappear” curl is that the tarantula pulls its legs over its head as if it’s trying to hide behind it.
It actually looks cute but is definitely not an “aww” moment – your tarantula is scared, and you need to figure out why and fix it.
4. Excessive climbing
If your ground-dwelling tarantula suddenly turns into an arboreal, then you know something is wrong.
Excessive climbing is usually an indication that something in your tarantula’s enclosure is not quite right and your tarantula is so stressed-out because of it, it’s trying to escape by scaling the walls.
For terrestrials, climbing is a dangerous business because a fall can be deadly, especially if the landing is anything but soft – for example, the rim of the water dish or some decorative rock.
5. Abnormally high activity levels
Tarantulas are often affectionately called ‘pet rocks’ – they don’t really move a lot, especially during the day since they are nocturnal. So, if your T suddenly turned into Dora the Explorer, something is up.
Something in the enclosure is most probably causing stress to your tarantula. It can be anything really, remember how I said Ts are actually big babies? Yip, new substrate, a new pebble, a noisy cricket, you name it, and there’s a possibility of it being a stressor to your T.
What Causes Stress In Tarantulas
Okay, we covered signs of stress and some of the things that may upset your T…but there’s more. Your T can experience various other stressors.
You can imagine how it must feel for this relatively small creature (in comparison to the transportation vehicle) when traveling. It will be a constant battle to try to maintain equilibrium with all the vibration, bumping, turning and bouncing happening.
It must be very tiring and painful –with getting smashed against the container numerous times there’s no way a T will arrive at its destination unbruised. This is called shipping shock, and your T will require a lot of peace and quiet to recover.
What to do:
- Place tarantula in its new enclosure.
- Put enclosure in a quiet and dimly-lit part of your home.
- Make sure there is a hiding place inside the enclosure for the T to take shelter in.
- There should be a water dish in the enclosure.
- Don’t feed it.
- Go away, leave it alone except for a brief check once a day.
The tarantula below displayed this behavior after rehousing. As you can see, the new enclosure is not optimal at all.
Tarantulas are dark-dwelling creatures. Yes, you may see them outside during the day, but they will mostly avoid direct sunlight.
Evidence suggests that tarantulas do need exposure to a normal day/night lighting sequence as this helps them with their seasonal cycles but do not expose your tarantula to direct sunlight for any reason. This excessive heat will no doubt cause stress.
What NOT to do:
Do not place a bright light over your T’s cage; normal room lighting is more than sufficient.
Tarantulas should not be forced to endure constant daylight or darkness. They need a day/night structure to help them with normal functions such as molting, fasting, breeding, etc.
Do not expose your T to UV light. Tarantulas’ light sensitivity is most severe in the ultraviolet segment of the spectrum, so be kind to your tarantula and don’t force them to live under what is equivalent to a glaring spotlight.
I know you want to see your tarantula all the time, and for this reason, might be inclined to put its enclosure in an area where there is a lot of traffic. But hang on a second and put yourself in your T’s claw tufts; it’s not nice when the waiter seats you near the entrance of a restaurant is it?
The constant movement and distraction can be enough to force you to go hide in the bathroom. Same can be said for your tarantula – if it hides away in its burrow all the time, it may be suffering from stress caused by all the movement.
Give your T some privacy and peace and quiet for goodness sake!
What to do:
Move your tarantula to an area of the house where there is less traffic.
Tarantula’s do not have ears. They ‘hear’ through the hairs on their legs. So, if you feel the vibrations of the sound form your stereo, imagine how it must ‘sound’ to your tarantula if it is in close proximity.
That guy with the jackhammer outside your window at 7 in the morning caused you a lot of stress, didn’t he? Well, you’re doing the same to your T if your music is loud enough to feel.
What to do:
Move your tarantula away from the stereo or alternatively, don’t play your music loudly.
This is a no-brainer; excessive hunger is a great stressor. Although tarantulas can go for long periods without food, it does not mean that they’re not experiencing stress during that time.
What to do:
Feed adult tarantulas one cricket every 10 to 14 days. Baby Ts should be fed 1 to 2 times a week. Remember, if your T refuses to eat, it may be getting ready to molt.
Your tarantula can get dehydrated for various reasons, including incorrect humidity levels in its enclosure. This is sure to cause physiological stress. Luckily, it is something that can easily be fixed.
What to do:
Figure out what is causing the dehydration. Does the T have access to drinking water, is the humidity in the enclosure too low, etc.? If your T is very dehydrated, implement emergency measures by placing it in ICU.
- Interesting fact: Tarantulas get most of their water from the food they eat.
Much like humans, a tarantula’s temperature runs very close to its upper limit. That is why when things get too hot, Ts will quickly suffer physiological stress. For this reason, it’s best to ditch that heating mat the over-eager pet shop worker sold you.
A good indication of the right temperature for your tarantula is you; if you’re comfortable in your home, your tarantula will be too.
When it comes to cold, tarantulas can tolerate cooler temperatures much better than excessive heat. If the temp drops below 50°F, you can expect your tarantula to get stressed somewhat.
What to do:
- Remove the heating mat if you used one.
- If cold is the stressor, slowly raise the temperature to a heat you feel comfortable in. If you’re comfy, your T will be too.
How To Tell That Your Tarantula Is Relaxed?
If you find yourself staring at a pet rock, then you’ve nailed it – your T is ridiculously happy and so relaxed it couldn’t be bothered to move.
These big, hairy creatures are intimidating to many, but if you own one, you know that they can act like toddlers at times, throwing tantrums at the slightest.
But, if somehow you can get it right to provide them with stability and a calm environment in which all their needs are met, you won’t see them display any of the above signs. Ain’t that grand? You’ve cracked the secret spider code, and your T will live a long and totally chilled life.
If, however, you’re not that lucky yet and you wish you could just give your tarantula some Xanax to relax, don’t worry; some Ts are just born highly-strung grumps, and there’s nothing you can do but love them for the neurotic babies they are.