I had an advice call the other day about two cats that were found with a dead bat. One cat was vaccinated against something (not sure what or when) while the other cat was unvaccinated. This is a situation that, if managed properly, can be very minor, but if handled improperly, can be a major problem, even resulting in death of the animals.

Bats are notorious rabies vectors. The odds of this bat carrying rabies are probably low, but they are not zero and a rabid bat is going to be more easily caught than a healthy bat. Any contact of an animal with wildlife in areas where rabies is present is considered a possible rabies exposure unless proven otherwise. The only way to do this is to have the bat tested.

If the bat is tested and is negative, then everything’s fine. If it’s positive, then the vaccinated cat would need a rabies booster vaccine and would have to be observed at home for 45 days. The unvaccinated cat would need a strict six month quarantine or would have to be euthanized. So, it’s clear that the rabies status of the bat and the vaccination status of the cats are crucial.

Here’s what to do in a case like this:

  • Get the bat. The bat needs to be tested so you have to maintain control of it. Don’t let the cat eat it or run off with it. Don’t leave it outside where a person or animal could walk off with it. Put it in a bag or container, without having direct contact with it (e.g. use gloves or a scoop to pick it up). Be very careful if it’s not completely obvious that the bat is dead, because an injured bat might look dead but still be able to bite.
  • Submit the bat for testing. In Canada, that’s done through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Make sure they know that an animal has been exposed to the bat. They would not likely test the bat if there was no exposure. They can be contacted directly or through your veterinarian. There is no charge for testing.
  • Find out the vaccination status of the cat(s). You need to know when the last rabies vaccine was given and what type of vaccine was used (1 year or 3 year). You need to be able to demonstrate that the pet is current on its rabies vaccination if the bat is positive and you want to avoid the long quarantine.
  • Figure out why/how/where the cat(s) caught the bat, and whether that can be avoided in the future.

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