Do Tarantulas Have Feelings? (Can They Feel Emotions?)

Tarantulas certainly have brains and a nervous system, though it differs from ours significantly. Research into tarantula brains is minimal, but many tarantula keepers believe their pets can feel primal emotions.

As responsible pet owners, we want to ensure our furry friend is happy in their enclosure, so it makes sense to wonder whether they can feel emotions like sadness, boredom, or happiness.

Tarantulas have much simpler nervous systems than humans and can’t feel complex emotions like love, happiness, or sorrow. They do not have feelings apart from their primal instincts to eat, hunt, and avoid pain. Tarantulas may learn to approach you if you have food for them.

Do Tarantulas Have Feelings?
Do Tarantulas Have Feelings?

In this article, you’ll learn about tarantulas’ emotions and feelings. We’ll cover their primal instincts to hunt and eat and their capacity to feel complex emotions or form complex thoughts. By the end of the article, you’ll know everything you need to know to ensure your tarantula is happy in their enclosure.

Do Tarantulas Feel Emotions?

Research into the emotional intelligence of tarantulas and invertebrates, in general, is minimal. However, most scientists agree that spiders and tarantulas aren’t capable of having feelings in the way humans think of them. Tarantulas might feel something, but it’s more basic and very different from what complex animals like mammals feel.

Studies into the emotions of different invertebrate species have given some interesting results about their feelings. For example, one study published in the Current Biology journal looked at bees and discovered that bees produce less dopamine and serotonin after a bad experience, which seems to confirm they were unhappy with what happened.

A similar study at Cal Tech looked at fruit flies and found that they experienced fear, but it was different from how we see it in complex animals.

While tarantulas may experience some limited emotions and feelings, we don’t have enough information to know for sure yet.

Exposure to negative stimuli will cause them to react in a way that mirrors emotional responses. The answer to this question may depend on how you define “feelings.”

Read More: 12 Ways You Might Be Stressing Out Your Tarantula

Tarantula Eating a Cricket
Tarantulas may seem happy to see you because they know you’re going to feed them.

Tarantula Emotions

EmotionTypeCan Tarantulas Experience It?
Desire to ReproduceBasicYes

Are Tarantulas Happy to See You?

Tarantulas may become more tolerant of you interacting with them, but they are not happy to see you. Research has shown that tarantulas don’t feel happiness or sadness like complex animals do.

When it looks like a tarantula is happy to see its human caretaker, it is because they have learned that they are the food provider.

Tarantulas are opportunistic hunters, which allows them to adapt to different situations and learn to associate you with positive things.

A tarantula might appear ‘happy’ when you enter the enclosure because they expect food. Tarantulas can also learn to tolerate handling, but this doesn’t mean they enjoy it.

Read More: Can You Feed a Tarantula Every Day? (And Should You?)

At the moment, we don’t know what tarantulas enjoy or what makes them feel ‘happy.’

A tarantula might be happy to see us enter their enclosure, but that might have nothing to do with them liking us. Instead, the tarantula could feel ‘happy’ because of the food.

In addition to this, tarantulas have very poor eyesight, which means they can’t see you very well.

A tarantula might be ‘happy’ to feel the vibrations you make since it could mean food, but they cannot see you from a distance.

Why Are Tarantulas Happy To See You?

Are Tarantulas Affectionate?

Tarantulas are not affectionate animals. Their nervous system doesn’t allow for the emotional complexity that would allow affection. In addition, tarantulas don’t need to understand or use affection in the wild since they are not social animals.

Animals that feel, use, or understand affection are usually social species that need to interact with others regularly.

For example, affection is essential for a child’s healthy brain development. Even solitary animals such as tigers express love or affection to their young.

Tarantulas may tolerate the presence of others of their species, but this doesn’t mean they like it or are ‘happy’ to see them.

Tarantulas don’t work together or form any social society, so there is no evolutionary reason for a tarantula to show affection.

Spider Resting on Owner's Arm
Tarantulas are not affectionate, but they can learn to tolerate being handled.

Can a Tarantula Feel Sadness?

Tarantulas lack the emotional complexity required to become sad or depressed, although it’s unknown exactly how much emotion tarantulas feel or how strong it is. Spiders and tarantulas live according to their primal instincts and can not form complex emotions like sadness or joy.

In a 2001 study published in the Journal of Arachnology, researchers discovered that tarantulas experienced a drop in serotonin after losing a fight.

According to the study, serotonin levels dropped by almost 30% after a fight. Furthermore, this decrease in serotonin levels lasted for up to 24 hours.

In mammals, serotonin creates positive emotions. However, tarantula brains process chemicals differently than human brains. Serotonin is a critical component of tarantula venom, so this drop in serotonin levels found in tarantulas may be a defense mechanism.

Can Tarantulas Form an Attachment to Humans?

Tarantulas can not become attached to their human caretaker because they lack the emotional complexity required to feel complex emotions like love or happiness. Similarly, tarantulas don’t feel affection for others because they are not social animals and never evolved the neurobiology required to experience affection.

A tarantula will never become attached to you or other humans, but their behavior might sometimes suggest they like you.

In reality, they like something you can do for them, typically providing food. There is no evidence to suggest a tarantula can become attached to a human or even enjoys being around humans.

If you’re worried that your tarantula doesn’t like you, make sure you’re not doing any of these things that tarantulas hate. Over time, they will get used to you.

Reasons why your tarantula seems happy to see you:

  • They know you bring them food
  • They are making sure you aren’t a threat
  • They like climbing on you to explore
  • They know you will replenish their water dish
  • They are attracted to your scent

As you can see, tarantulas may look happy to see you, but in reality, they have learned to associate you with one of their fundamental instincts to feed or explore.

Tarantula Crawling on Fingers
Tarantulas are indifferent to humans. They see us as another part of their environment to explore.


Can Spiders Feel Physical Pain?

Although spiders can’t feel complex emotional feelings like sadness or joy, they can feel physical pain. Almost every organism on earth can feel physical pain, including tarantulas. Pain is an essential evolutionary trait that allows tarantulas to detect and avoid potential dangers in their environments.

Spiders have been around for over 120 million years. They are incredibly adept at staying alive because they have evolved to avoid things that hurt them.

If tarantulas couldn’t feel physical pain, they would have no method to detect danger and wouldn’t avoid predators.

Read More: What Animals Prey On Tarantulas? (Humans Are One Of Them)

Are Tarantulas Emotionally Intelligent?

Tarantulas are not emotionally intelligent. They can feel basic emotions like fear and hunger but lack the complex nervous systems of mammals and other intelligent animals. For example, they can not feel complex emotions like joy, regret, or sadness.

Tarantulas have evolved to have just the right level of emotional intelligence to keep them alive. Tarantulas don’t pursue happiness. They pursue survival. That’s why they have been around for 120 million years.

Can Tarantulas Learn?

Tarantulas aren’t capable of complex thoughts like humans and other mammals, but they are still smart enough to learn.

Tarantulas can learn what behaviors further their survival. For example, tarantulas often learn to associate their human caretakers with food delivery. Therefore, tarantulas may exit their burrow when they see a human, expecting to be fed.

Costa Rican Desert Tarantula
The Costa Rican Tarantula (Aphonopelma seemanni) has learned to hide from predators under rocks and in small burrows.

Conclusion – Tarantulas Have Basic Feelings

Tarantulas have an instinctual need to hunt, feed, reproduce, and avoid pain, but they don’t have complex feelings. They can’t feel happy or sad. They only live according to their basic evolutionary instincts.

Tarantula emotions are still not fully understood, but we know they are driven by basic emotions and instincts and can’t feel complex emotions like mammals.

Tarantula brains are also different from other invertebrates making it hard to know if the emotional intelligence in insects generally can be applied to tarantulas. They most likely feel something, but what that is, we don’t know yet.

Written by:

Clare Godwin

Clare has always been fascinated by invertebrates, especially arachnids. Over the years, Clare has gained experience keeping various invert species including mantis, isopods, and arachnids.
Clare is passionate about educating people about keeping inverts as pets and enjoys helping people look after their spiders and tarantulas.