Are bats dangerous to my pets?
February 17 2022 – Emily Stanford
If I put up a bat house, will my cats or dogs have any issues with the bats?
In this article, we will go over practices to help prevent pets and bats from interacting, discuss how to deal with bat droppings, and guide you through what to do if your cat brings an injured bat into the house.
WILL MY PETS CATCH THE BATS?
One of the reasons we need to hang our bat houses high up is because bats require space to exit. Bats need to drop down several feet before they have enough air to catch flight. If your bat house is hung low to the ground, a cat could potentially catch them as they exit. But, if you hang your bat house at least 15 feet high, (as is recommended) bats are unlikely to be caught by cats, as the bats will be too high up for them.
Additionally, all dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies, as is standard practice, regardless of whether or not bats are present.
IS BAT GUANO (POO) DANGEROUS?
According to an article published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the main health risk associated with bat droppings is histoplasmosis (Shapiro 2017). Histoplasmosis is a type of lung infection caused by inhaling Histoplasma capsulatum fungal spores. These spores are found in soil and in the droppings of bats and birds (Deepe GS, 2000, Schwartz J, 1981) and are frequently found in city parks.
Because the spores that cause histoplasmosis can be found in both bird and bat excrement, they should be treated with the same level of caution. If you plan to stir up or interact with bat or bird droppings, wear a tight fitting mask to help prevent inhalation of the spores (Lyon et al. 1999).
Most histoplasmosis infections are asymptomatic or so mild that patients do not seek medical attention (MSD Manual). We recommend hanging your bat house in a low-trafficked area to help keep the droppings out of the way. According to Dr. Merlin Tuttle, “bat droppings pose no greater threat to pets than bird droppings do — very little.”
To learn more about guano, please see our bat droppings video & blog.
WHAT IF MY PET BRINGS A BAT INTO THE HOUSE?
As we mentioned earlier, if you hang your bat house at the recommended height, it’s unlikely that cats or other pets will be able to catch the bats. However, it’s not impossible. If your cat does bring a bat (either alive, injured, or dead) into the home, call an animal control specialist to help you manage the situation. Never handle the bat yourself.
ANY OTHER SAFETY TIPS?
It’s important to treat bats with respect, as we do all wildlife. Bats should never be handled (except by vaccinated wildlife professionals) or treated as pets, and in no scenario should a bat ever be approached. If a bat ever does seem injured on the ground or near your house, call an animal control specialist to help you manage the situation.
The risk of contracting a disease is very small for people who do not handle bats or any other wild animals. The 1.5 million Brazilian free-tailed bats living in the center of Austin, Texas is an excellent example of how bats and humans, and our domestic pets, can safely coexist at great mutual benefit.
Visit BatBnB’s Bat Education Zone to learn more about the value bats bring us!
Image above: Bats living in harmony with people at the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. Photo by Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation.