Bat meet Cat; Cat don't play with Bat!
February 28, 2012 2:50 PM   Subscribe

My cats "played" with a bat in our house that was either sick or hurt. They're up to date on all shots including rabies. Is this a cause for concern?

I recently learned that a week or so ago that my cats were playing with a bat in our house. I wasn't there but the bat was not doing so well. When my roommate took it outside to release it, it just kind of fell to the ground like it was hurt. My cats are up to date on rabies vaccines (one in August, one in October) and at least 8 days have passed since the incident.

Is this a cause for concern?
posted by OnTheLastCastle to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Oh, sorry, that was rude to not include pictures. Meet Deedee and Torrin.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:52 PM on February 28, 2012 [12 favorites]

Your roommate should be concerned. Bats have tiny teeth and humans are often not aware that they have been bitten.

A call to the vet wouldn't be out of order, just in case your cats are on the edge of needing a booster. (I believe the rabies schedule requires more boosters than science would call for, but maybe that's just cheap gossip. )
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:55 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

In general you can call your town/county's public health department and ask them if there have been reports of rabies in bats in the area, and what they recommend. This is especially relevant for your roommate, or any humans who may have had contact with the bat - especially if there is a chance a human was asleep in the room with the sick bat. You can also call your vet to ask for details on your cats' vaccine status.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:02 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I were the bat, I'd be quite concerned. What happened to it?

No idea. I didn't find out until much later. He thought the bat was already hurt. My cats weren't really savaging it just kinda pawing. They're not so good at being cats.

The cats are definitely up to date on the yearly rabies vaccine, one isn't due until August and one isn't until October.

Checking out the rabies exposure chart on my county's public health website. Thanks for the idea.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:06 PM on February 28, 2012

When I had this situation with my cat, I released the bat and only called the county later. They said, if this happens again especially if the bat was acting strangely in any way (eg being in a place it should, being unable to fly, etc), to catch the bat in a paper bag and arrange to give it to animal control for testing. Sadly this means their standard recommendation is to kill the bat (required for testing it).
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:11 PM on February 28, 2012

being in a place it should

being in a place it shouldN'T be
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:12 PM on February 28, 2012

Thanks, I was pretty upset he didn't think to tell me about this IMMEDIATELY. I didn't notice any cuts, scratches or unusual grooming but I wasn't looking for anything. Now it's too late to notice.

Important safety tip everyone! Keep the bat!

This resource was helpful too, it pointed out that the type of bat it was (small brown) is unlikely to develop rabies.

It doesn't sound like I can do anything for the cats (who are most likely fine as they're vaccinated) and I really needed to worry about my roommate instead!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:16 PM on February 28, 2012

This happened to me over Labor Day; a bat got in the house and my cats cornered it -- and then released it to mom. (I was also told to "next time" kill the bat for testing or close it in a room and call animal control. NEXT TIME!!!!) I spoke with my vet, who was not concerned because my cats were up to date on their shots, but told me it was possible to "run titers" to see what the level of antibodies in the cats' systems were if there was a concern.

Immediately after the exposure we had checked both cats for injury as best we could (fur gets in the way), and, on the instructions of the local nurse line, everyone who had been in the room with the bat even briefly showered thoroughly and all clothes were washed. The pre-verbal child (who had been hustled out of the room but was for 15-30 seconds in the room) was checked by a doctor in the morning, in bright sunlight, for any scratches or punctures of any sort (he was given a clear). He was then seen by his pediatrician a few days later (it happened over the weekend) who conferred with public health (there had actually been a bat with rabies in the county captured four days prior after biting a child, UGH UGH UGH), who also declared no danger based on the story of the possible exposure.

Adults were able to assure the doctor and nurses we had not touched the bat, and we conferred with our doctor the next workday.

Your roommate should definitely call his or her doctor and/or public health. Bat exposure is a Big Deal. The impression we got was that the risk of exposure is fairly low, but that the danger of exposure is so high that they take extra extra precautions.

Definitely the moral of the story is to keep your pets up to date on rabies vaccinations!

The whole thing was extremely traumatic. I'm sure for the bat as well, but mostly for me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:23 PM on February 28, 2012

In case anyone remains in suspense, my roommate will be fine: "I never touched it. I used one box to shovel it into another box."

Fin. :)
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:31 PM on February 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

Good! I was also told, if you're gonna try catching the bat, wear thick gloves, and catch it with a paper bag or a box -- generally, take redundant measures to remove your skin from any chance of contact with the bat. Bat bites are very hard to see even if you're looking for them, and as Eyebrows McGee says the chance of being bitten is low but if you contract rabies it is a death sentence pure and simple, so they err on the side of caution.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:46 PM on February 28, 2012

Just as a heads up, some municipalities with rabies epidemics will destroy pets that come into contact with bats if you call public health. Not to say that you shouldn't call if someone's life is on the line, but those are the possible consequences.
posted by Jairus at 4:25 PM on February 28, 2012

When a previous cat (with up-to-date rabies vaccination) caught and killed a bat in the middle of a bright winter day, we called Animal Control. They warned us not to touch the bat and asked us to save it for a few hours until an officer could come collect it. They analyzed it in some unknown way and then called us later to let us know there was no risk.
posted by carmicha at 5:32 PM on February 28, 2012

Been through this multiple times thanks to old house=bat magnet and avid hunter kitties. In Michigan the bats get sent to the state. My understanding is that the test involves looking at their brain so inevitably fatal for the animal being tested.

If your cats are current on their shots you've got no worries. Any bat acting strangely should be tested though. I have a friend who had a bat hit her ceiling fan a few summers ago - it was rabid and she and her husband had to get rabies shots. FWIW she said the shots weren't a big deal but the weird neurological side effects were quite unpleasant.
posted by leslies at 6:17 PM on February 28, 2012

My episode of this happened with a dog and a raccoon rather than a cat and a bat, but my vet told me that my dog should get his booster ASAP even though it wasn't time for it yet; we did it that same night.
posted by cairdeas at 8:03 PM on February 28, 2012

As an aside on the topic - this is why you always get and keep your pets vaccinated, even if they're indoor only. You never know what can happen. Had these cats not been vaccinated, it is likely the vet would have been required to at least quarantine them in office for some time at the owner's expense. (My wife has had to deal with many quarantines, and they aren't fun for either the hospital employees or the animals.)
posted by azpenguin at 6:48 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

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