If you’ve ever seen any cute pictures of baby bats on the Internet you know that bats can be quite adorable. Those cute, cuddly little ears and puckered snout combine to make a downright loveable creature that some might even want to keep as a pet.
Is there anything wrong with keeping a bat as a pet? Can bats be domesticated to the point where they’ll follow an owner’s commands or pee in a small box of litter? We’re answering these questions and more in this article, where we’re going to be tackling the topic of bat-keeping.
Let’s go ahead and address the question head-on: “Are bats good pets?” The answer is clear. No, bats are not good pets.
Here are a few reasons why trying to turn a bat into a pet is a horrible idea.
History of the Bat/Human Relationship
Putting all jokes about Bruce Wayne to the side, let’s talk about how long the bat and human beings have been coexisting.
We know from studying the age of the oldest bat fossils on record that bats have been around for at least 23 million years. Comparatively, modern human beings have only existed for about 200,000-300,000 years, an estimate widely debated among evolutionary biologists.
Considering how long bats have successfully lived on Earth before humans entered the picture, it’s no surprise that we would have to contend with them eventually. Remember that bats prefer to roost in dark, isolated places like caves and abandoned buildings. We know that early hunter-gatherer humans also liked to frequent caves, where they’d establish a kind of homestead.
The first humans to encounter bats probably didn’t take very kindly to them, as common bat living environments are not necessarily clean or suitable for humans.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Many bat colonies can grow to be multiple millions of bats in size, and the accumulated guano from such large groups of bats can result in high concentrations of ammonia and saltpeter. Living around these substances isn’t ideal for human beings.
- Bats are nocturnal creatures that hunt or forage in the early evening throughout the early morning hours (they’re voracious eaters, and they’re known for consuming as much as 1,000 insects an hour, each!). This lifestyle would like result in a conflict of schedules with humans.
- Bats are social creatures that rely on their colonies for protection, warmth, and breeding. Because they prefer quiet, dark places in which to mate and breed, having humans around would completely disrupt their life cycle.
Beyond the obvious logistical issues involved in living with a colony of bats, let’s examine the problems related to domesticating bats outside of their natural environment.
“Can We Take Him Home?”
There is a host of reasons why it’s unlikely that a bat is going make for a good pet, especially if it’s pulled from its natural environment and immediately subjected to domestication. As we mentioned earlier, bats have evolved over the past 20 million+ years; they are some of the wildest animals to ever exist.
Bats have needs that would be nearly impossible to meet without a team effort (imagine scheduling feeding times for your bat, requiring containment in an area where mosquitoes were swarming—something that would need to be done daily). It’s not a stretch to suggest that keeping something like a Fruit Bat as a pet is a bad idea entirely.
By the way, it’s also illegal to do. That’s right: keeping fruit bats as pets is against the law in the United States, Australia, and a multitude of other countries.
Bats as Pets: More Than Just an Inconvenience
Setting aside the issue of administering daily feedings, other complications make bat pets an unreasonable idea. For one, it could be argued that bat-keeping is cruel to the animal, and don’t forget about the long list of diseases that bats carry, many of which can be transferred to humans quite easily (even though the risk of these infections is fairly low).
After all, It’s been shown that domesticated animals can play central roles in major spill-over events of zoonotic bat-borne viruses. Also, if you’ve ever heard the common warning that bats carry rabies, it’s technically true, though most bats alive today do not have the disease.
Another feature about bats that would make them more difficult to care for is their need for a well-maintained microclimate. Because caves, subterranean canals, and rocky crevasses—places where bats prefer to roost—have stable temperatures, the same would be required for the bat if it lived in a cage in your home. Some bats, like the common Fruit Bat mentioned above, need a steady ambient temperature right at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to maintain proper health.
Speaking of Health
What would happen to a pet bat if it were to fall ill? Unless there was a veterinarian in the area that was specifically familiar with bats, chances are good that getting adequate care for the bat would be quite difficult indeed.
Many bats also succumb to something called White Nose Syndrome, an especially destructive fungal infection that kills millions of bats every year in North America. White Nose Syndrome mostly affects bats in hibernation, which brings up another point: what would be done with the pet bat when the time came for hibernation?
When bats hibernate, they sink into a significantly slowed metabolic state. Their bodies enter a state of ‘torpor’, during which they are especially vulnerable to environmental changes. It would be very challenging to maintain a strictly quiet, temperature- and humidity-controlled environment that was also antifungal and antiseptic, so the bat could hibernate in peace.
Conclusion: Don’t Get a Bat
If you’re disappointed that you can’t go out to your local pet store and get a bat to call your own, don’t be too down. Bats are inherently wild creatures that can still be appreciated from afar, whether that’s at your local zoo or by watching documentaries about them like this one.
Remember, too, that bats play a critical role in our ecosystem. They should be protected and respected. Bringing a bat into your home would mean putting it into an unsafe environment not suitable for its well-being, while also perhaps endangering yourself in the process.
Still want to feed your craving for more bat-related articles and information? We encourage you to learn more about these amazing creatures by exploring the other resources listed on this page.