Bat(s?) in the Basement
April 5, 2020 2:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm pretty sure one of my cats just killed a bat in my basement. I have an old house (ca. 1901), and it's not airtight. I'm used to the occasional mouse or two, but this is my first time dealing with bats and I'm freaking out.

My cat loves to run downstairs whenever I throw laundry in, but will come back up when you call him. This time he didn't come to the stairs, so I went down and he was crouched over what looked like a mouse in a curved piece of metal, but it moved and was making high-pitched chirping noises. The lighting is not good, so I didn't get a great look. Gaaaah. I left him down there to finish the job, took a few deep breaths, and called my boyfriend to see if he'd come over and dispose of it for me because I don't think I can. The cat is now back upstairs, with no signs of injury. Bat is still downstairs, assumedly deceased.

My questions:
1 - how much do I need to worry about the cat?
2 - is 1 bat in the basement indicative that I have a much larger problem? The attic entrance is like 2 ft x 2 ft, so I could pop my head and a flashlight up there, but that's it. And I am kind of scared out of my wits to do that.
3 - will normal pest companies deal with bats, or is that a specialty thing? I think this is the straw that broke the back for me to hire someone to find and close up all of the holes around the house where critters can enter, fwiw.

Any stories where you had a stray, one-off bat and never saw another one in your house ever again are welcome.
posted by Sparky Buttons to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
I’m no expert but in my experience (question 2), no, one bat is not necessarily indicative of a larger problem. I grew up with bats living near my house, they very rarely ever got in and when they did it was only one at a time, never more. I think over the almost 20 years I lived there, a single bat got in two or three times and we never had any other issues with them.
posted by sillysally at 2:14 PM on April 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

(Adding - and this was where you could go in the back yard at night, toss up something small into the air, and multiple bats would swoop at it thinking it was a bug. So if that’s not descriptive of where you live I’d say this could very likely be the only time this ever happens.)
posted by sillysally at 2:16 PM on April 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Had a one-off squirrel, if that helps. Did seal the entrance after that.
posted by amtho at 2:18 PM on April 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you’re in a place with rabies, you might want to check with your vet about a rabies shot for the cat. Bats can be carriers.
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:21 PM on April 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes to rabies, but I think cat has been vaccinated. We do have bats in our neighborhood (not uncommon to see them swooping around, but not to the point where you could bait them)
posted by Sparky Buttons at 2:24 PM on April 5, 2020

Pest companies won't deal with bats (it's illegal.) Animal control will tell you what to do.

It's probably one bat that made some poor choices, not a whole bunch (you would have noticed.) Call your vet to double check your cat had a rabies shot, and wear gloves when you throw out the dead bat.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:36 PM on April 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bats flying into the house is a known source of human rabies. This should be taken seriously.

Cat needs an immediate post-exposure revaccination shot and 30 days of isolation. Details of protocol is location dependent.

Don’t touch the bat with bare hands and save for possible testing. Call your vet for next step.
posted by dum spiro spero at 2:39 PM on April 5, 2020 [9 favorites]

We found a single bat in our basement last year, and it seemed like a one-off, but then later we heard bats in the wall. At that point we had a pest control company come out (not illegal in the state where I live), they looked around and suggested that we seal off the part of the eaves of our house, so we had them do that. We haven’t had any problems since, at least not yet.

(Also, I called the public health department after I found the bat in the basement, and they determined that since none of us (adults, kid, cats) had, in their words, “had contact” with the batn and the kid/cats hadn’t been in the basement unsupervised, it didn’t need to be tested for rabies and none of us needed vaccination or immunoglobulin)
posted by insectosaurus at 2:57 PM on April 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

1. Ask your vet
2. No, but a good idea to get entryways closed up. I had a bat in my HOUSE somehow a few years ago. Scared the pants off of me (it was alive and healthy-seeming flying around, I scooted it outside with a broom) never had another one. I also grew up in a house that had a backyard silo that turned out to be full of rabid bats and we were okay and our pets were okay (in case that helps). Worth taking it seriously, but also not overreacting.
3. As you've seen, some do and some don't. Calling your local animal control officer (if you have one, public health depts likely to be a little overworked right now) is a good way to start. Many pest companies CAN close up entry holes for critters which can help
posted by jessamyn at 3:05 PM on April 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I had the exact opposite experience of Insectosaurus, when my cat killed a bat, the state lab 100% wanted me to bring it in and have it tested for rabies. When tenants of mine had a bat in their unit, all 5 had the rabies shots because they said that they could have been bit and not known it. I am unsure how Covid-19 effects how concerned they will be in your area, but the best bet is to double bag the bat and stick it in your freezer until you find out for sure.
posted by momochan at 3:18 PM on April 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update - the boyfriend came over, and the bat was nowhere to be found. Lovely. I'll call the vet and animal control tomorrow, and go from there. Thanks for all of your help so far!
posted by Sparky Buttons at 3:33 PM on April 5, 2020

I am a biologist who occasionally works with bats. Some species of bats in Illinois (southeastern bat, big brown bat, etc.) are known to hibernate in structures over the winter if they can access them. Depending on the species, its about the right time of year for them to emerge. Given that it was in your basement, it may have been a solitary bat who got lost. That's happened in my house before, a little brown bat ended up flying down our chimney. We caught the bat and let it go outside. Never happened inside again, although I have rescued a couple stray bats since then and brought them to a wildlife refugee (injuries). I'd definitely call your vet and see what their advice is for your cat is they happened to ingest the bat.
posted by snowysoul at 7:06 PM on April 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I also grew up in a house that had a backyard silo that turned out to be full of rabid bats and we were okay and our pets were okay

I'm sorry but this just begs to be elaborated upon. Did the rabid bats just stay rabid in the silo and go on living there or were they removed? I assume removed. It's not entirely irrelevant to ask that, I think, given I assume all rabid animals are always ready to attack at all times, and to hear otherwise would be interesting.
posted by Crystal Fox at 12:02 AM on April 6, 2020

Seconding making sure the cat is given a post-exposure rabies booster. Plus, in California, if you have been asleep in a room occupied by a bat, the health department recommends you get the series of rabies shots due to the outside chance it could have bitten you, as bites are tiny and difficult to see or feel.

The good news is, if you're recommended for the same four-dose series that I was, each dose is just a single upper-arm injection from a tiny needle. Unlike just about any vaccine I've ever had, they were completely painless. YMMV, of course.
posted by Lycaon_pictus at 4:19 PM on April 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

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