Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bat Story

Although the picture to the right isn't of the best quality, it does show a strange creature in the left corner of the triangular eave on our house. This is our resident bat. He or she lives in the eave at the very top of the roof on the outside of the house. A screen keeps it from entering through the attic. Jay happened to spot "Batty" this past weekend peering out from its vantage spot. It was difficult for my camera to zoom in close enough to get a good shot. The rest of photos which follow are taken by professionals.

The point? I'm not afraid of bats or creepy critters that cause fear in most people. I try to recognize the purpose and uniqueness of all the creatures, even snakes, many insects, bats, rodents, lizards, spiders, moths... you get the picture. The animals I can't stand are cock roaches, mosquitoes, horse flies, ticks and other parasites. The bat living in our belfry is encouraged, knowing how useful they are at eating mosquitoes. Did you know that some species of bats consume an average of 500 to 1000 mosquitoes an hour? I want more bats around my house!

Speaking of bats, this brings up a negative aspect of this amazing creature.....they can easily carry rabies. So it's not just the average human fear of a blood-sucking, ugly, skin-covered creature that flies at night and sparks vampire movies, there's the fatal disease factor which is a real concern should one get bitten. The reader should note that only Vampire Bats drink blood; they live in South America and tend to prey upon livestock.

Last summer I was away at a cat show in New York and talking to Jay on the phone that evening. Suddenly, Jay said, "I gotta go, there's a bat in the house!" About 15 minutes later, Jay called back to report that he'd been bitten by the bat. Now, how often have we pet owners said that there's no need for us to vaccinate our cats against rabies because they never go outside? Bats and raccoons don't go in houses, right? Well, this bat did. Apparently, when Jay had opened the back door to let Chardonnay, our dog, back in the house, the bat slipped in unnoticed. Either it was flying around the light getting bugs and flew in or it was nestled in the corner of the doorway and the suction of the door opening pulled it in the house. Either way, Jay noticed the cats and the dog going crazy then he saw the bat.

Someone else holding a bat - don't try this at home!
Being home alone, Jay couldn't tell someone to go into the basement to get the fishing net, his first thought. He was afraid to leave the bat unwatched for fear that he'd lose sight of it. The bat flew down the length of the hall to the dining room, cats and dog in frenzied pursuit. As it came back toward the kitchen where Jay stood, it went toward Jay's head. He instinctively put his hand up to deflect it and the bat bit him on the finger. Well, that was the bat's mistake. Jay grabbed my raincoat of the back of the nearby chair and swung it, bringing the bat to the floor underneath the jacket. I don't know quite how he killed the little guy and I don't want to know.

Once I found out what happened, I questioned Jay several times about how close the cats had gotten to the bat, was there any chance one had been bitten? The dog is up to date on rabies shots, but I'd allowed the cats who had retired from showing to lapse. A bat's teeth are so sharp and its bite can be so small, it can go unnoticed. Jay teased me later about being more concerned about the cats than I was about him. Yeah, well humans don't have to have their heads cut off to test them, animals do.
Jay ended up in the Urgent Care on a Saturday night. The doctor recommended that since it could take until Tuesday to get the rabies test back on the bat, it would be dangerous to not to begin the rabies series of shots right away, just in case. Jay was given a schedule of when he would have to come back in for follow-up shots, at least four more times. The fact that the bat came in the house was not good as a healthy wild animal normally won't do that. Jay got 6 shots, including one in the bitten finger.

I called our vet in a panic on Monday morning to get a list of our cats whose rabies vaccinations had expired and brought those cats in immediately. I learned that many professionals who work with animals are vaccinated against rabies, including my vet. Every year she has to have her rabies titer tested to make sure it is still high enough to protect her. She says she prays each year that her titer level will be good enough so that she doesn't have to have the painful booster shot. This was why the vet wasn't too worried about my cats as she figured their titers were still high enough even with out a recent booster to protect them.

Animal Control came to the house to pick up the bat on Sunday. The officer called back on Monday to report that the bat was healthy. What a relief that Jay didn't have to go through the whole series of shots! As a matter of fact, the Ledyard Animal Control officer was so professional and concerned that Jay sent her supervisor a letter of commendation.

We feel badly that the bat died needlessly, but it left us little choice after it bit Jay. So Jay is now Batman and the designated wild animal wrangler should the need ever arise. We figure he has a good resistant rabies titer now. All of my kitten buyers are advised to have their cats vaccinated for rabies, regardless of the fact the cat won't be allowed out. Before opening the back door at night in the summer now, we look and call out a warning for any bats to move out of the way. I still appreciate the bat, but we really prefer them to stay outside.

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