There are a lot of people who are looking into owning a pet bat. Who can blame them? Bats can be cute too. But is it the best choice to get yourself a bat at home? It might not be. As cute as bats can get, seeking out a pet bat may be a bad idea.
If you’re curious about the possibility of a pet bat, let The Furry Companion help you with your decision.
Is It Legal to Have a Pet Bat?
Fortunately, pet bats are not overly prevalent when it comes to the exotic pet trade scene. However, it is challenging to collate actual statistics on this type of business. The trading scene toes the thin line between what is legal and illegal. Additionally, much of the business happens in private.
In the United States, however, there exists a listing of Egyptian fruit bats for sale. Several Vine videos of pet fruit bats originating in Japan are also trending. In many counties, the United States included, keeping pet bats is illegal. But it is legal in several states to import non-native species, specifically fruit bats. This article by The Furry Companion will focus primarily on the needs of fruit bats over that of insectivorous bats.
The appeal of fruit bats is undeniable. A lot of fruit bats are cute with their foxy faces and big eyes. Called as the Chihuahuas of the sky, it’s no wonder why a lot of people want their own pet bat. But the issue is, even if bats are as cute as Chihuahuas, they aren’t dogs that fly. “While bats are essential for our ecosystem and most bats are harmless, we need to remember that in some situations, bats can be a threat to our health,” Susan Nelson, DVM says. Bats are intelligent, social, and very fascinating features, but that does not mean you should have a pet bat in your living room. Here are three straightforward reasons why:
1. Bats can be gross.
If you’re thinking of getting a pet bat, let us tell you that they will most probably be rubbing their urine all over themselves. Yup, you read that right: your “future” pet bat will most likely exhibit a “urine wash” behavior. That is not the only natural behavior of pet bats that you will find unsanitary, but this might be one of your least favorites.
Bats do this to keep themselves fragrant, or so they like to think. They also have very odorous scent glands located on both sides of their neck, which they use to mark things liberally. This scent lingers and is highly potent. So if you do get a pet bat, get ready to clean smelly gunk off of some corners of your home.
The sense of scent is critical for bats. It is a big part of how bats communicate with one another. For this reason, expect your pet bat to stay stinky almost all the time. It isn’t too much of a problem when your pet bats are going to stay outside. But when you do bring them inside, it’s a whole new problem altogether. Even transporting them to the vet in your car will be a huge problem since their scent might linger in your car for weeks.
Bats are the only flying mammals, which is why they need to process food quickly so they can keep their energy up. It also means that you should expect your pet bats to eat a lot.
Pet bats will also urinate and poop frequently. Unfortunately, unlike traditional domestic pets, pet bats cannot be potty-trained. It just isn’t possible. It is going to come out unexpectedly anywhere your pet bat likes. Approximately 20 minutes after your pet bat has eaten, everything will get processed.
Look forward to urine, poop, and spat-soaked fresh towel papers or containers every time.
Wondering what spats are? Let us explain. When a fruit bat consumes fruit, it is only after the sugary juice, not the pulp. It means that when your pet bats take a bite of fruits, they mash it up against the roof of their mouths to squeeze out as much juice as they can.
When satisfied, your pet bats will spit the rest out just like that. In other words, any space where you will keep your pet bat will be dirty with mashed-up bits and pieces of fruit.
Their spat will also attract other insects who like to eat fruit, like cockroaches and fruit flies. It only means that where there are bat spats, insects like these are sure to follow. In a natural ecosystem, it can be a great thing. But you do not want to create this kind of ecosystem inside your home.
Aside from their eating and digestive behavior, bats are also responsible for doing other activities that might be frowned upon by people. Bats are known to be very sexually active. Multiple masturbation a day, engaging in a sexual act with both male and female bats, and getting erections—these are all normal for them. Some wildlife centers even have training sessions to explain these activities to children specifically.
If you’re considering owning a pet bat in your home, you may also want to think about how your children (if any) would react to them. They (or you) may not be comfortable with the idea of witnessing bats do their thing.
That’s the strong first point of why you should probably rethink getting a pet bat. Ready for more? Here’s the next one.
2. A pet bat is expensive and time-consuming.
If you do not know yet, a pet bat is exotic. And exotic pets… well, let’s say they come with a costly price tag. If you are well-off, then the money may not be an issue for you at all. Still, there is no getting away with the special accommodations needed to house your pet bat properly—that is if you do want to house your pet bats appropriately.
The first issue here is that bats fly. Flying is perhaps the most significant part of your pet bat’s life. So, it does not matter how small the specific species of your pet bat is; they are still going to need a vast space. The ideal one is an open space where your pet bat can fly freely, even if it is relatively small.
Should you restrict their flying area, expect your pet bat to become overweight. Additionally, they might attempt to fly despite restrictions which could lead them to harm themselves. You also cannot clip their wings just as you would a bird, so an escaped bat poses a danger.
If you are still keen on owning a pet bat, then take note of the proper housing for these mammals. A suitable bat enclosure is about the same size as a bird flight cage.
If you’re thinking of just putting them in a nighttime cage and letting them free in your house in the day, here’s why that might not be the best technique. Bats naturally look for the highest points in a place. Most probably, this area will be your ceiling, on top of your cabinets, or anywhere inconvenient for you to reach.
If your pet bat is particularly small, expect them to slot into tiny crevices. So, imagine finding your pet bat situated in a very odd and unexpected place like in your stack of dishes. If your pet bat is on the larger side, however, know that they will most likely be clumsy fliers. For them, a closed environment like your home would risk them always crashing into something.
Bats are also nocturnal or crepuscular in some cases. “Bats are nocturnal animals that are not usually seen at ground level,” Lee Schild D.V.M. adds. Should you be unavailable to supervise their outside time during the night (most likely), then they would spend their active periods cooped up in a small cage. You would need an outdoor flight cage for your pet bats to ensure they don’t mess up your house while you sleep.
Okay, so it might take you a lot of space and materials to house your bats. Maybe that isn’t so bad. Well, perhaps not. You see, almost all types of bats are highly social. They don’t prefer having companions of their kind; they need it.
Although they might need some solitary time for health reasons, it is just as critical to allow them to spend a part of their day with other bats. If they do not get this time, your pet bats can then get extremely anxious about it. That intensifies if they are not comfortable being alone.
Bats’ social structures vary. Fruit bats, commonly held in captivity, have developed a social behavior like primates. Your pet bat will need large groups of about ten or more bats to fulfill its social needs.
You must know what this means next. Large groups equal large enclosures. If you’re even thinking of housing them in an inadequately sized cage, your pet bats are sure to become depressed. Once depressed, they can also become lethargic, lose appetite, and die. If they do not have enough space, your pet bats are more prone to fighting with one another, which might cause too many injuries.
And what’s next to pet bat injuries on top of the usual pet bat maintenance? Veterinary bills. Before even getting yourself a pet bat, you’re going to have to find a vet who is willing to treat bats. Rest assured that finding this type of vet is going to be tricky, especially if you live in an area where pet bats are uncommon. Should you ever find one, it also means you probably must pay a lot of money for their service.
Even then, you’re not too assured that the vet specializes in pet bats specifically, although they might know about primary care. You see, bats are physically unique mammals with equally unique problems. Your vet should be very knowledgeable about the subtlest signs of whether your pet bat has issues or complications. If not, then your pet bat may end up suffering more or, worse, being euthanized.
On the topic of euthanasia, it also poses a risk with pet bats. Bats are rabies vector animals. Even if your pet bats are vaccinated, Animal Services still has to come in and euthanize your pet bat if they are reported to scratch or bite someone. Sam Westreich, PhD explains that “rabies is a virus that targets the central nervous system. It’s usually spread through saliva and sexual secretions.”
Even with all these things considered, you would still have to deal with the daily cost of feeding your pet bat. If you have a fruit bat, you should maintain a carefully balanced diet consisting of different types of fresh fruit and veggies per day. Aside from that, you will also need to have vitamin supplements to make up for the poor nutritional value of commercial fruits. Fresh fruits over canned fruits are a must since the latter is high in sugar and low in nutrition.
Oh, and did you know that bats can live for up to 30 years in captivity? Yup, that means decades of all these upkeep and maintenance.
3. Keeping a pet bat is unethical.
All the issues mentioned above may not be an issue for people who have all the resources needed to keep a pet bat. However, once you do get to the point where you have them in your home, you will slowly realize that they aren’t your conventional idea of pets.
Generally, your pet bats won’t be too interested in interacting with you unless you’re a bat like them. You can give them treats occasionally, but it’s still going to be a big help if you don’t hang around them. They’re going to think you’re a predator if you keep on staring at them. So, think of your pet bats as for display only.
Most people wouldn’t want this type of pet, unless you are an avid exotic pet owner. If not, you would most likely want to feel a connection with your pet. You would want them to depend on you or socialize with you on some level.
However, for this kind of relationship to happen, you would have to intervene in ways you should not even be doing. You would have to take the baby bat away from its mother and hand-rear the bat. If your pet bat grows up to be hand-reared, then it is probably not going to end up well.
Most hand-reared bats may never learn how to fly. Your hand-reared pet may also develop nutritional deficiencies, or it may not know how to socialize with fellow bats. You are then isolating your pet bat. Take note that you cannot fill the social needs your pet bat requires. Isolation will only add to your pet bat’s stressors since bats are already anxious animals.
Unlike dogs and cats who have been humans’ companions for thousands of years, bats have never taken to domestication. Dogs can depend on you, and that’s why they make excellent pets. But if you want to build that type of relationship with an animal, a pet bat is not for you.
The Verdict: Should You Own a Pet Bat?
Bats are already suffering because of humans. We are responsible for cutting down trees and taking over caves by turning them into tourist spots. Because of these, bats have no room to hibernate and procreate. We’ve already made life extremely difficult for bats, which is why the answer to whether they make good pets is obvious: no, pet bats are not a good idea at all.
We shouldn’t keep bats as pets. When we do that, we start to change the natural way of the ecosystem, and things can get worse. Wild animals, such as bats, are not meant to be caged. If we force it, they do not cope very well with it. Panic will take over a pet bat just to be a source of entertainment or “statement pieces” for human owners.
Cats or dogs are the best choices because taking them home does not pose any ethical issues. You may have all the resources you need to get yourself a pet bat, but it does not necessarily mean you should. Boundaries must be kept when it comes to wildlife. Just as The Furry Companion always advocates, being a responsible pet owner comes with being a responsible human first. Make the right choice!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I own a bat as a pet?
Yes, you can own a bat as a pet but it is important to read up first on information about bats. Bats have a low survival rate as a pet. In some places, bats are protected by laws and it is illegal to keep them as pets.
Can you keep a bat as a pet UK?
No, it is illegal to keep bats as a pet in the UK. In special cases wherein there is an injured bat, you are allowed to look after them and take them in for the sole purpose of restoring them to health, then eventually releasing them.
Do bats drink blood?
Yes, there is a specific type of bats, called vampire bats, that does. They usually target horses and cattle in the middle of the night. They feed on their prey for around 30 minutes. Vampire bats don’t drain the blood of their host, but still, they leave possible diseases and infections on them.
Why bats are bad pets?
It is bad to have bats as a pet because it carries diseases like rabies and SARS. Also, bats are difficult to be kept in captivity because they are predatory by nature.
What happens if you touch a bat?
If you touched a bat, it is best to bring yourself to the nearest medical facility to get proper medical aid. You could be at risk of contracting rabies, which is fatal, or other infectious diseases.
Are bats aggressive?
Bats are not aggressive unless they are provoked. Be careful to not touch or get bitten by a bat because it can be fatal since they are known carriers of rabies.
Why are bats important?
Bats are one of the primary pollinators of the planet. Without bats, there are around 300 fruit species that could go extinct. These include avocados, mangoes, cacao, bananas, figs, and others. They also spread alternative sugar sources such as agave. Keeping bats in their natural habitat is essential for our environment.
A fitness junkie and a cosmopolitan traveler, Kathy is the mom of peppy baby Malaya and mixed beagle Holly. She’s a capable businesswoman who balances work with living a wanderlust life with her hooman and fur babies.