Bats as Pets

Try to imagine what this feels like…

Two Egyptian fruit bats owned by an exotic pet collector. They spent 10 miserable years in this cage before they were finally rescued.
Two Egyptian fruit bats owned by an exotic pet collector. They spent 10 miserable years in this horrible, barren cage before they were finally rescued.

Someone takes you captive, you don’t know why. You don’t speak their language and you are powerless to escape. You have no idea what they want of you, and you are terrified. Your captor locks you into a bathroom. This bathroom has a window covered with a shade, but you are not allowed to open it to get fresh air, or even look outside. There is a sink, but only your captor knows how to turn the water on. There is a toilet where you can eliminate, but only your captor decides when it should be flushed. You get the same thing to eat day after day after day after day. When you don’t feel good no one knows how to help, so you suffer in pain. There are no pictures on the walls, no TV, no computer, no phones, and no friends. You have absolutely nothing whatsoever to help you pass the endless days and nights. If you are lucky you might have a companion, but otherwise you are completely alone, and this is where you will spend every single day for the rest of your natural life.

This is what a wild animal feels when we take it into captivity. It has lost all control of its world. As captors, we control everything about that animals’ daily life. What it eats, when it gets fresh water, when its cage is cleaned, whether or not it gets fresh air, has companions, and whether or not it has enrichment to brighten its caged life.

You can see why it is not a good idea to own wild animals as pets. It might make you feel cool, but people who know better (and most of them do) feel that it is a horrible cruelty and they cringe when they see people keeping a wild animal as a pet.

Bats are beautiful and something we all love, but the act of keeping one as a pet will cause it to experience great terror, inappropriate and damaging nutrition, loss of its right to enjoy reproduction and rearing if its young, and terrible loneliness and boredom. Wild bats are capable of living over 25 years. Bats kept as pets rarely survive more than one year.

Additionally, bats are protected by law at many levels. Regulations govern the taking of bats from the wild, and any exchange between individuals or organizations. The transfer of bats is carefully regulated by the CDC. USDA permits from the Animal Health Inspection Service are required, and special permitting regulations now apply at the state level. Interstate laws also prohibit transport of these animals without special authority. To keep bats in captivity one must have the necessary state and local permits for native wildlife. Bats cannot be transported within the USA without a CDC permit. And even then, bats can only be transferred to an institution that is bona fide sanctuary, zoological or scientific organization or registered establishments that have approved facilities and/or certified education programs.

Although the rabies virus is maintained at a very low frequency of infection in wild bat populations, bats and other wild animals are considered to be a rabies vector species and special administrative codes under the Departments of Health and Zoonosis Control address this issue. Valuable information is also provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for biohazard regulations as they pertain to bats.

If you truly love bats and would like to get involved in helping them, please consider becoming a wildlife rehabilitator. We offer information free of charge on our Bat Rehabilitation page. There are also wildlife rescue centers in almost every state that give classes and offer volunteer opportunities in wildlife rehabilitation. Contact your state department of wildlife for more information.

Please note: If you already have a “pet bat” and want to better its life by placing it into a sanctuary, please contact us at sanctuary@batworld.org. We will be happy to help, no questions asked.


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