It’s interesting that so many people are afraid of spiders (or bugs) and snakes. I’m afraid of spiders, even though they are so much smaller, but I like snakes. I wonder how much is learned and how much inherent. My parents were careful to raise me without irrational fears; my mother at least concealed her own so as not to pass them on. My brother, on the other hand, when I told him that I was talking myself out of a fear of spiders, took care to reinforce it.
But in Africa, where there are more venomous snakes (and more-venomous snakes) than in North America, chimpanzees are said to have an instinctive fear of snakes. I don’t know how they react to spiders. I noticed recently that my cat reacts with what seems to be instinctive fear. I gently tossed a belt I was going to wear onto the bed where she was dozing, and she startled and jumped away sideways. The only explanation I could think of was that it looked vaguely snakelike. She’s an urban cat and I very much doubt that she has ever seen a snake. She does hunt mice and even rats.
On the other hand, I have two younger cats who are avid hunters. They more than once brought home long strips of spongy weatherstripping putty, seemingly because it was snakelike. Am I reading too much into this? I mean, they also bring home small stuffed toys to wrestle with, and I can hardly claim that stuffed toys are a natural prey item.
Hat tip to the Kelosophy blog.