Eye doctors in England have some advice for tarantula owners: wear protective glasses when caring for your pet.
The Chilean Rose tarantula (Grammostola rosea), the species of tarantula most likely to be found in your local pet shop, has tiny hairs on the rear portion of its body. If the spider feels threatened, it will rub its legs against its abdomen, launching these hairs into the air. Where they can get into your eyes.
The doctors, whose report appears in the latest issue of The Lancet, discovered the danger of this spider when presented with a 29-year-old male patient who had been suffering from a red, watery eye for three weeks. When examining the eye, they discovered "fine, hair-like projections" within the cornea.
When these ﬁndings were described to the patient, he immediately recalled an incident that had preceded the onset of his symptoms. Three weeks earlier, he had been cleaning the glass tank (terrarium) of his pet, a Chilean Rose tarantula. While his attention was focused on a stubborn stain, he sensed movement in the terrarium. He turned his head and found that the tarantula, which was in close proximity, had released “a mist of hairs” which hit his eyes and face.
Most of the hairs were too small to be removed from the eye, and the doctors instead administered a steroid treatment over the next few months which reduced the problem to only a mild inflammation. The patient is now careful to wear eye protection when handling his pet.
Of course, if he'd had a cat, he would have had to worry only about his pet's hair messing up his clothes.