Can I Have a Pet Bat?

Bats are interesting animals and sometimes desirable pets. But keep in mind that bats are wild animals. They don’t behave like domestic dogs and cats. Bats are not trainable.

There are many issues you must consider before taking in a bat. Keeping some types of bats is illegal in the U.S.

Do Bats Make Good Pets?

You can keep a bat as a pet. Unfortunately caging doesn’t work out well for bats. These mammals perform better in the wild. Bats need to fly long distances to stay strong. That means a caged bat is weaker than one in the wild. They also need to be in a colony to survive. A bat in the wild can live up to 30 years while only a few pet bats will make it to a year.

Bats need special care, housing, and nutrition. They are complicated animals, making it almost impossible to take care of them properly even if you wanted to. Many people have tried only to end up with a dead bat within a few weeks.

Bats are unique animals. Taking them away from the wild isn’t recommended. There are many laws protecting bats, and the federal government regulates the transfer of bats. Interstate laws prohibit their transport without special permits. You may often need to get U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) permits from the Animal Health Inspection Service to handle bats.

If you do decide to get a bat as a pet, here are some things to consider: 

The diet of a bat. Different species of bats feed on different types of food. The bat’s age also influences what they eat. Here are some foods bats like to eat:

  • Milk: All bats feed on milk for the first six months of life.
  • Fruits: Some species of bats eat fruits. They are usually attracted to the smell of ripe fruits.
  • Insects: The largest proportion of bats (about 70%) eat insects. Some of the insects include mosquitos, cockroaches, flies, and beetles.
  • Blood: Only some bat species from Mexico and South America are known to feed on blood from mammals and birds.
  • Nectar: Bats that eat nectar have a long snout and tongue for feeding. They resemble hummingbirds.
  • Fish and other animals: Some bat species are known to eat fish, frogs, birds, lizards, and some rodents. Other bats may even feed on other bats.

Continued

Rabies. Like many other wild animals, bats can carry rabies virus. Even a small, seemingly unimportant bite from a bat can cause transmission of the virus. This means that before you take in a pet bat you must be immunized against the virus. An infected bat may even transmit the virus to other domestic animals in the house. Even if immunized for rabies, a person would need additional care if bitten by a rabid bat or other animal. It is not as simple as just being vaccinated for rabies.

In addition to rabies, bats can spread fatal viruses like Hendra (to horses), SARS, and Ebola to other mammals. Bats aren’t affected by these viruses because they have a highly effective immune system. It gives them broad spectrum immunity against viral attacks. Other animals could develop severe health issues or even death. 

Sociability of Bats. Bats (especially females) can form strong relationships with each other. The flying mammals can make and keep friendships lasting for years. This is how they can stay together in their large colonies. Studies on bats revealed that they rub their noses against each other as some form of bonding. They also pass on information using calls.

Nocturnal. Bats are nocturnal. This means they roost (hibernate) in caves or trees during the day and come out to feed at night. This fact makes them quite interesting and misunderstood by many. Bats are one of the most mysterious mammals. In some states like Missouri, it’s illegal to kill a bat unless it’s destroying your property.

Their being active at night may not favor you as a pet owner.

What to Do If You Find a Wild Bat in Your Home

If you live in an area with bats, it’s common to find a bat in your home. When you do you should try and avoid direct contact with the bat. You can use a towel or box to capture it and then call for an experienced bat rescuer. Protect the bat against direct sunlight until help arrives. You should never handle bats with bare hands.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 08, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

BATS QLD: “What to do if you found a bat.”

Bat World Sanctuary: “Bats as Pets.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Rabies.”

Extension University of Missouri: “Bats of Missouri: Information for Homeowners.”

NCBI: “Chiroptera (Bats).”

PHYS ORG: “Bats with high social intelligence,” “Key to controlling deadly viruses in bat community.”

SAN DIEGO ZOO: “Bat.”

Smithsonian: “Bat Facts.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Fetch in your inbox

Veterinarian-approved information to keep your pet healthy and happy.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.