By Michele C. Hollow for Pet News and Views
I wrote the story below a few years ago. Well, we had another bat visit us this past weekend. We came home from a wedding, and my son was outside waiting for us on our front porch. This time, the bat in our house was much bigger and quite active.
Our two cats, had their rabies shots, were chasing it around. We called animal control and are now waiting to find out if it is rabid.
In all truthfulness, I thought it was quite impressive looking. I like bats–out in the wild–because they consume mosquitoes. Following is the story of our first bat encounter.
My husband, Steven, was telling our son, Jordon, a bedtime story. Steven looked up and did a double take. He saw a brown bat on a wall in our bedroom. He calmly had Jordon go downstairs and called animal control. I wanted to catch and release it.
When the animal control officer caught it, he also wanted to let it go. However, he said it needed to be tested for rabies since we have a small child and a cat living in the house. Within the last two weeks, eight bats were found in homes in South Orange and Maplewood, NJ. One in Maplewood came back positive for rabies.
Rabies is found in the brain of an animal. So, it has to be destroyed in order to find out if it is positive or negative. A few days later, we got a call, and were told the bat tested positive, and that we were the first family living in South Orange to have a rabid bat in our house. I really didn’t believe it. I also did’t want to go for rabies shots, and I was sad that the bat had to be destroyed.
First, I took Earl Gray, our cat, to the vet. He was due for a rabies shot. Then it was our turn. Steven and I picked Jordon up from camp, and told him we needed to head to the emergency room.
A Series of Rabies Shots
The staff at Saint Barnabus Medical Center in Livingston, NJ, is great. The nurse who administered the shots was painless. Steven and I had to get a Tetanus shot. Jordon recently had one. Next was the rabies vaccine. While we waited, we played games and entertained Jordon. I felt so bad that he had to get three shots. I had three shots (plus the Tetanus). One in the arm and one on each butt cheek. Because he’s a big guy, Steven had to get five shots–plus the Tetanus–one in each butt cheek, his arm, and his thighs.
That marked day zero. Three days later we went back to the hospital for one additional shot. Tonight, which is day seven, we each get one more shot. And on day 14, we get our last shot.
We felt so bad for Jordon that we let him eat dessert for dinner. He ordered an ice cream Sundae.
Bats and Bites
I was almost going to nix the shots. However, the animal control guy said we needed them. I was certain we weren’t bitten. As a rule, bats don’t bite people, unless you handle them. The majority of bats eat insects and some eat fruit. The vampire bat, which this wasn’t, feeds on the blood of animals–mostly cattle. Vampire bats are mostly found in South America.
The bat in our house was a brown bat. Brown bats are not endangered, but many are being decimated by White Nose Syndrome. This disease is spreading rapidly throughout the northeast, and is killing bats in large numbers. I like bats. Any animal that eats its weight in mosquitoes is good.
How Is Rabies Spread?
According to the Center for Disease Control, “rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. The rabies virus can be passed to humans via the bite of a rabid animal, its saliva, or feces.” This means that you have to touch the rabid animals’ saliva or feces. I don’t know how anyone would not know if they were bitten or came in contact with saliva or feces.
Every doctor, nurse, and the animal control officer all said that if you are sleeping you would not know if you were bit. Apparently bats’ teeth are quite sharp; the puncture holes are tiny, and because they are so small, you don’t feel it.
We were also told that a bat can brush up against you, and if you had a cut on your body and that cut came in contact with the rabid animal’s saliva, you could get rabies. It seems a bit of a stretch to me, but that is the truth.
As I said, I like bats, and I don’t want to start a bat scare. According to the State Health Department, each year between two and three people in the U.S. contract rabies.
Protecting You and Your Pets
If you see a bat in your home, call animal control, and have the bat tested. If the tests come back positive, go for the series of rabies shots. The odds of getting rabies are slim to none; it is best to make sure, and also make sure that your pet’s rabies vaccinations are up-to-date.
If you want to read a story on avoiding wildlife encounters, and what to do if you come into contact with wildlife this summer click here.