Recently the patchy cat came shooting down the passage. There is a distinct difference to her ‘bounding just for the sake of bounding’ and ‘I am a fearless jungle predator and I am predatoring’, so we knew she was up to something. She ended up in the bathroom, so I ejected her, shut the door and commenced a search-and-rescue operation.
The major benefit of S&R in the bathroom is that there aren’t a lot of hiding places. If the victim isn’t behind the toilet or in the bath, that only leaves the washing basket. One of the joys of resident cats is the finding of nasties, so what with one thing and another, I have a fair amount of experience. Mostly mice, baby birds, and lizards with stubby tails (I don’t think there is a lizard within three blocks that has a complete tail). However, this time she had outdone herself. The victim turned out to be a bat.
Having had said experience with nasties, I can take most of them more or less in my stride. Don’t like it, but I can cope. However, there is one thing guaranteed to make me scream like a Victorian heroine. It’s using a paper kitchen towel to pick up a corpse, and having the corpse move in my hand. And what in heaven’s name does one do with a possibly injured bat?
Naturally enough, these stirring events were taking place at around one in the morning over a weekend. A quick scan of the Internet recommended taking the bat immediately to a vet (only open again on Monday morning) or a bat carer (never even knew such a thing existed and I didn’t think the British organization I came across had any local branches).
My normal Search-and-Rescue equipment consists of a shoebox and an old birdcage. The first to keep the victim in and the second to keep the cat from having another try. The bat didn’t seem to be moving much, so I scooped it into the box to give it a chance to recover. (The website did warn against touching the bat with bare hands).
The website suggested releasing the bat if it had been seen flying. I was pretty sure I had seen the cat chasing something, not carrying it, but although the bat was moving around more as time went on, it didn’t seem to want to fly. We had two attempts, with no success, but the third time my son suggested tipping it out. So we gently slid it out of the box onto the garden path. It walked (they look really funky when they’re walking, in case anyone is interested. Like a mouse with stilts) to the edge of the path and launched itself into the air. All it was short of was a kilt and blue face paint (Okay, Mel Gibson might have been a bit cuter).
A later Internet search did turn up a reasonably local organization (at least on the same continent), and they said quite clearly that the bat needs some height to be able to take off. Live and learn, although I should have realised that they’re not set up for leaping into the air.
What really bothered me about the incident was what happened afterwards. Almost without exception anyone I mentioned it to went “Euww! How horrible! Why didn’t you kill it?” And out comes the old story about them getting caught in your hair. Well, they don’t. That is a certified myth.
There can be health risks, as with any wild animal – particularly in areas where rabies is endemic – so don’t ever try handling a bat without protection. But if you do find an injured bat, or have a problem with bats roosting in a building, see what local resources there are, and don’t be too quick to fall for an old wives’ tale.