Pet Bats: Bloodsuckers or Cuddly Playmates

Most people are scared of bats, but some desire to have them as pets.  It is essential to learn about these creatures before you begin to care for one.

The Bottom Line: Bats Belong Outdoors!
The most important thing to know about having a bat for a household pet is that you can't. Like most endangered animals, it's illegal to take a bat from the wild in the United States.

Bats that are kept as pets often don't survive for more than a year, even though they can live for up to twenty-five years in their natural habitat. Pet bats can't care for their young or reproduce and often suffer from loneliness and malnutrition. Bats are prone to rabies, which makes them a possible danger to your health. Because of these complications, even licensed rehabilitators are required to have a special permit from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Although you won't be able to keep a bat as your personal pet, it's still possible to care for one in your own backyard. Bat houses (similar to bird houses) can be bought online or easily constructed at home to attract bats to the area. Having bats around is actually beneficial, too.  A single bat can eat up to 1,000 insects every hour, making one a perfect addition to your garden.

Myths and Misunderstandings
Bats may not be "cuddly playmates," but they are easily one of the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. There are countless myths about bats that have been reinforced by scary stories and horror movies, but very few of them are fact. For example, many people believe that bats are vicious and prey on humans. In reality, only three species of bats drink blood and none of them ever intentionally bites humans for food. Instead, these  bats feed on small mammals, reptiles and, sometimes, other bats.

Another common bat myth is that they're blind, but they can actually see better than humans can in the dark. Bats are also sometimes called "rodents," when they are more closely related to primates.

Protecting Bats
Several bat species are endangered and many more are declining in population. This is due mostly to intentional killing, disturbance of their habitat and use of pesticide on insects. Many wildlife protection organizations encourage bat-lovers to stop using pesticides and to buy or make bat houses. In providing them with a safe and well-maintained environment, you can help keep these fascinating animals from extinction. 

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