What the cat brought in

By Grant Jacobs 08/01/2011

One of these:


(This photo taken from the internet* is slightly larger than what Aimee is bringing, but other than that it’s very similar. The species I’m seeing has a leaner body, but longer antennae compared to the body length.)

This won’t surprise New Zealanders very much. This website describes the situation well:

Wetas are fairly common and wander into New Zealand people’s houses.

If they don’t wander in by accident, the family cat will oblige.


This is the third time Aimee has walked through the cat door with a weta dangling from her mouth by the antennae.

To be quite clear, I’m not talking about the well-known giant weta, which is quite a bit bigger:

Stephens Island giant wetas are big

Aimee’s choice in insects is leaner, with antennae several times the length of it’s ~2cm body. The length of the antennae and comparatively lean body suggests to me that it’s a cave weta, which, naturally enough, live in caves, but also under houses. (Alternatively, it might be a tree weta but the body looks too light, so I’m sticking with a cave weta. As you can tell, I’m not an entomologist.)

As she can’t get into the basement of my house, I’m thinking she’s crawling under the neighbour’s cottage, which like many old cottages rests on piles.

She doesn’t present them to me, so much as walk into the living room, plop them on the floor, fix her attention on their long antennae waving around, then chase them around the room when they jump.**


I’ve rescued her latest victim and placed it in a plastic pottle. It’ll be heading back outside now I’m satisfied as to what it might be.


For those interested in helping these insects, DOC has instructions on how to construct a weta motel. There is a page about weta for children, too. The photo of the tree weta is particularly nice. (Despite what this page says about what species are commonly seen inside houses, I’m fairly sure I’m looking at a cave weta, not a tree weta.)

Giant weta, englarged to near human size, feature in Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

* This is a photo of the web, but it’s the same insect. My camera options are presently limited to a laptop’s camera, which isn’t too practical for photographing a live insect… The photos near the head of this page much more closely resemble Aimee’s choice in insects.

** Weta can jump quite long distances when provoked. (Giant weta don’t jump.)

Other articles on Code for life:

A dot in space and chromosomes

Fainting kittens – feline myotonia congenita?

Immunisation, then and now

Finding platypus venom

Autism – looking for parent-of-origin effects

0 Responses to “What the cat brought in”

  • My pick is a cave weta – I didn’t realize that they lived under houses! When we were students & living in a real old dump of a fly, Fat Maggie (the Terror of the Neighbourhood) used to bring in tree weta quite regularly. Either accidentally or by design, she used to remove a couple of legs on one side, so the poor things would wander around in circles on the bathroom floor until someone came along & put them out of their misery. Mind you, that was always risky as it made Fat Maggie cross….

  • That sounds a grumpy cat 🙂

    Aimee merely more confused than anything else when I take them off her. “Where’d it go? Where’d it go?”

    Is it not possible to turn the predictive text off? I can imagine it being a right pain (in some suitable place) when you’re typing technical words.

    (While I’m writing: I must get back to responding to the vaccine questions from my earlier post… too nice a day, so that might be delayed…)

  • Dear Grant, I enjoy your blog but perhaps you could have subtitled it *Warning! Hideous Giant Arthropod Alert!* I hate wetas. I never got over the weta on the pillow incident. Was never sure if the then resident cat was responsible for it. My current cat, mercifully, prefers butterflies. And skinks.

  • As Allison says, sounds very much live a cave weta which tend to hide out in any old dark place like woodpiles, sheds and underneath houses. They’re not actually very closely related to the other wetas, and very simlar species from the same family (Rhaphidophoridae, yes I had to look it up!) are found almost everywhere in the world. (Not to take the gloss of your cat’s discovery!)

  • Hi David,

    I wasn’t trying to give the impression that the insect itself is of special interest, but more the darn things that cats bring into houses!

    (It’s the reason I didn’t bother go into the species, etc., guff. I agree with you though—or at least that my own research at the time drew the same conclusion!)

  • In Dunedin I more often find ground wetas (Hemiandrus) than tree or cave wetas. They seemed to like to burrow in the compacted banks around my house when I lived in City Rise and our cats used to frequently bring them in at night too. These wetas are a great deal smaller than the ones in your photos. According to the local Zoologists, ground wetas may be an important source of food for stoats… See http://www.newzealandecology.org/nzje/free_issues/NZJEcol29_2_207.pdf

  • we used to get alot of cave wetas under our house in the NEV, Dunedin, mostly in the garage and wood pile. They are lovely wee beasties!
    Wellington tree wetas are the most common ones I have encountered in urban Wellington- they especially seem to like hanging out en masse in the base of large pampas bushes, and pine logs that are at that ‘cardboard stage prop tree’ stage (quite exciting when grabbed on the way up or down a steep hill, and resulting in a horror movie effect!)

  • We need an entomologist in here 🙂

    Interesting to learn that stoats eat wetas, Jean. I don’t usually think of stoats as having an insectivore side!

    Different areas of town may favour different species of wetas. I’m near the NEV, where Serra says she—like me—found cave wetas. (NEV is the local abbreviation for North East Valley.)

    Serra, speaking of horror movie effects: everyone will be familiar with the scene in Peter Jackson’s King Kong that features human-sized giant wetas… Anyone know if the credits feature “No insects were harmed in this movie”?! (I’m kidding.)

    I rather like the little beasties that Aimee brings in, although my initial instinct was to wonder why they don’t topple forward on their faces, with the length of those antennae. They’re very long. (I tried to find a better photograph to illustrate that, but didn’t have any luck.)

  • I remember one of the family cats bringing in a weta. Tilly (the cat) slept in my wardrobe so the thing landed up in bed with me. For some reason when I awoke in the middle of the night I put my hand to my head. My fingers touched something. It felt a bit like a hair clip. But I didn’t wear hair clips. So I felt around the mattress. Nothing. Then I turned on the light. And there it was: a big orangey thing at least two inches long, sitting on the corner of the mattress right by the pillow. It scared all the sleep out of me, that’s for sure.

    • That’s a great story Laraine. Cats and their habits eh?

      I was woken last night by my cat, too. At about 3:30am she decided she wanted me to open the door to let her out by gingerly stretching out a paw and bopping me on the nose with it. *Sigh*