Can You Have A Pet Bat?

Can you have a bat as a pet? Yes, depending on the precise species you choose (and the state you live in), it can be possible. But bats are wild animals and very demanding.

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Wouldn’t it be cool to have a pet bat? Only a few people have one and they are exotic and fascinating animals. As tempting as the idea of a pet bat is, most likely it would be better to opt for another pet. In this article, you will learn why and what it’s like to have a pet bat.

Can You Keep a Bat As a Pet?

You can keep a bat as a pet in some states. However, bats do not fare well in captivity. They can experience terror and boredom. And, if you keep them alone, they will waste away from loneliness.

It’s not difficult to find some bats like the bumblebee bat for sale online. Some people even keep vampire bats as pets. However, you may not be able to keep a certain type of bat, such as a fruit bat, in your state. And, some bats, like Honduran white bats, would never survive in captivity because it’s impossible to replicate their natural environment.

In the wild, bats often live for over 25 years. But every person I know who has owned a pet bat wasn’t able to keep it alive for more than a year. 

Is It Legal to Own a Bat?

Two bats hanging in tree

Whether you can legally own a bat depends on state laws. 

Many states only have laws about exotic animals if they prohibit them or require a special permit to own them. In Alabama, it is legal to own any native animal that they don’t specifically prohibit. 

The federal government regulates transferring bats, and some interstate laws prohibit transporting them between states without a special permit. 

Additionally, you may need a permit to be able to handle certain bats. If the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Fish and Wildlife Service lists a bat as threatened or endangered, even a veterinarian needs a special permit to handle the bat. If you want to rehabilitate a bat, you will need a wildlife rehabilitation permit.

States where it is legal to own specific types of bats as a pet includes:

  • Oregon (Old World fruit bats)

States where it is illegal to own any bat as a pet:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington

States where it’s illegal to own specific types of bats

  • Hawaii (flying foxes)
  • Illinois (flying foxes)
  • Kentucky (flying foxes and fruit bats)
  • Maine (little brown bats, northern long-legged bats, Easter small-footed bats)
  • Rhode Island (big brown bats, eastern red bats, fisher bats, hoary bats, little brown bats, northern long-eared bats, silver-haired bats, small-footed bats, tri-colored bats)

States where you need a special permit to own a bat include:

  • North Dakota
  • Oregon (except Old World fruit bats, which don’t require a permit)
  • Virginia

Why Bats Don’t Make Good Pets

Bats don’t make good pets because they carry diseases and have specific living and feeding needs.

1. Bats Carry Diseases

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about bats is the diseases that they can carry. Not only can they transmit diseases to their human handlers, but they can also transmit diseases to other household pets.

Bats can transmit their diseases through bites or their feces. 

Some of the diseases associated with bats include:

Since bats are the #1 rabies carrier in most states, you will need to take pre-exposure rabies shots before you get your bat. You will need four doses, and they cost about $200 per shot. A doctor should check your rabies titer yearly to ensure it doesn’t drop below 1:5. If so, you’ll need a booster.

2. Bats Need to Fly to Stay Healthy

Bats are the only mammals that are truly able to fly. Keeping a bat in a cage prevents them from being able to fly long distances to stay strong. 

Any enclosure that you use for a microbat bat should allow it space for flight. The enclosure should be 12 times the wingspan of the largest bat, squared.

If you have a pregnant female bat, it’s even more important that you allow her to fly—pregnant bats with space to fly have fewer birth complications.

3. Bats are Happiest with Other Bats

Group of sleeping bats in cave

If you want a pet bat, you need to be prepared to have more than one. You will rarely just see one bat alone in the wild. They roost together in colonies. And when they fly at night, you rarely see just one.

Bats may not always roost together, but it is not humane to expect a bat to live in solitude.

I’ve seen bats who have no roost mates suffer from extreme loneliness. Symptoms of loneliness in bats include:

  • Anorexia
  • Obesity
  • Vomiting
  • Fur loss
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Chewing their enclosure
  • Lack of self-feeding
  • Death

4. Bats Require Special Housing

Each type of bat has specific housing needs. Some items you may need to have in your bat enclosure include:

  • Furniture: Bats need washable roosting and enrichment items and places where they can hide. The objects should be free of sharp edges or small holes and have an opening large enough for you to reach into to extract the bat. 
  • Roosting items: If you have crevice bats, they will need dark crevices in which to hide. Pouches, vivarium foam, and reptile rocks are excellent choices.
  • Artificial and real foliage: If you have tree bats, they will need artificial plants, along with real leaves and branches.

You should have all objects in duplicate so that you can replace the objects while washing soiled objects.

5. Bats Have Special Feeding Needs

Fruit bat eating

Fruit bats eat fruit, nectar, and tree seeds. If you have an insectivorous bat, get ready to buy lots and lots of mealworms. 

Bats should be able to climb in and out of their dishes. You need at least four 5”x2”x2” dishes for every ten bats.

Be sure the feeding area is not under a roosting spot to avoid feces in the food.

Tree bats prefer to hang over their food. They also urinate while feeding, so be sure they can roost on something absorbent while they eat.

You should empty and wash all dishes daily with antibacterial detergent.

How to Get a Pet Bat

You can easily find some bats, like flying fox bats and fruit bats, for sale online. But if you want to buy a pet bat, expect the cost to be anywhere from $500 to $2500 per bat. That’s a hefty price for a pet you need to buy in multiples that may not live more than a year.  

FAQ

Here are some answers to common questions about bats.