Christine’s cats are staying with me for a week while she and her parents are out of Wisconsin for a vacation. Bert, the fluffy orange tabby, usually likes to sleep around his humans – right up next to us is common, and if not that, then at least in the same room. It was around 4:15am when suddenly I awoke suddenly because I could feel my bed vibrating. Knowing that Wisconsin isn’t too near any tectonic plate activity, I was bleary and confused as I became aware of the sound of Bert making his hunting chittery sounds, and also a high pitched chirping. I leaned over the side of the bed just as he shot out from under it, batting at a small black object which of course, I immediately knew was a bat.

Bert is declawed, and now with room to spread its wings, the bat quickly broke away from Bert’s playful paws and started circling the room – right under my ceiling fan which was whistling away at top speed (no air conditioning). I leaned over, switched on the bedside light, and watched the thing squeaking and flying around as adrenaline flooded my system. I’m not afraid of bats in the slightest, but I was certainly not interested in paying for super-expensive human-priced rabies treatment. I was very aware of the fact I was lying directly under a bat wearing nothing but boxer shorts, and I slowly pulled a topsheet over everything but my eyes, then rolled like a ninja off the bed and backed into the corner by the door, and quickly shut it. The last thing I wanted was the little fellow loose in the house.

A soft whop – the fan had finally been mis-echolocated and contact was made. The bat sailed off like a baseball, scrabbled along the top of my bookshelf, and then…disappeared. Too late I realized that I hadn’t put on my glasses; the bat had been easy to see when it was a black object silhouetted on a white ceiling, but now, it was…somewhere else in the bedroom. I got that weird feeling you get when an intruder is somewhere in your home – “the bat is calling from inside the house!” and immediately crammed my glasses onto my face and peered around at my feet to make sure he wasn’t easily squishable below me. I waited a bit to see if it would get up and resume flying; when it didn’t, I called to Bert, who emerged sheepishly from under the bed with a puzzled “mrow?” I shooed him out of the bedroom and closed the door, shoving a blanket against the crack. Not that this would necessarily do me any good; I knew the screens in the room were fine so for the bat to have gotten in, it must have crawled in the space between the top and bottom storm window and screen area, or something ridiculous like that.

I went down to the kitchen, put Bert in the basement, and equipped myself with a windbreaker with a hood and work gloves. I grabbed a little tupperware container, too. With the cat safely stowed and half of my body protected, I went back upstairs to the still-quiet bedroom and put on some trousers and shoes. Now fairly well covered from the possibility of a frantic scratch or bite, I picked up a shirt from the dresser and started methodically flicking it in front of me at the bookshelf and the closet next to it, hoping that it would cause the bat to at least scrabble about, and hopefully not launch itself into the only uncovered skin I had left, my face.

I really hoped it wasn’t in my closet, nestled between my clothes. But on a hunch, I pulled the closet door closed and there was the bat, huddled in the corner on the floor. They really are about the size and appearance of winged mice. He wasn’t moving but when I tried to nudge him under the tupperware, he jerked back to life and careened crazily back into the room, returning to his potentially suicidal “fly in circles under high speed blades” pattern. Yes, I had forgotten to turn off the fan. My mistake; cut me some slack – I was still not quite awake!

I crouched in a batter’s position (heh) with the tupperware in front of my face. With my last skin “protected” I realized my other free hand could go to work. I reached over and pulled a stiff poster off the wall, a laminated one with a firm snap to it. I felt a lot of pity for the obviously terrified, squeaking bat. He’d worked hard all night, most likely, storing up calories from the insects he’d eaten, and here he was wasting it all attempting to escape from this blindingly-lit bladed death chamber. He seemed to be flying fine so his previous collision with the fan certainly wasn’t fatal, but I had no idea how delicate their little bodies were. Also, had he scratched Bert? Were Bert’s shots up to date? Should I be trying to execute this bat rather than rescue him, and take him outside like you would with a wasp or hornet? The last and only time I had been in this situation was when I must have been 7-10, back at our old house in Janesville. My little brother’s closet had a trapdoor into the attic and apparently bats got into it occasionally. I slept through a few of them but once, Josh shouted loudly enough to awake me and I was able to witness my father’s capture and release of the bat that was circling around the room. I didn’t have to do a darn thing but watch; the privilege of being a kid is “that’s dad’s job!” Now it was my turn.

As I pleaded with the bat to calm down and relax (I’m sure my low frequency booming did a lot of good), I gently reached out and tried to push it out of the air, down to the ground where I could potentially trap it in the tupperware. I certainly grazed it a few times but, as bats do, it could see the poster moving before I’d even started and was able to careen out of the way just in time. Once again, I was filled with pity as I realized my most likely option to remove it was to wear it out enough to land, exhausted, on something, but that would pretty much doom the little guy if his cave or roost was far away. Already I could see the glow of the upcoming sunrise through the windows. I had to try to push him down and get him to stop wasting his energy. He flew over and rested on top of a wall mounted smoke detector. The angle and height made that useless to me, so I shoved him off with the poster. Then, finally, I got my break – he flew over to the window and landed on the top rail of the lower sash. He hissed weakly at me as I maneuvered the tupperware around him, but at last, I slid the poster under the tupperware and the little brown bat was caught.

Despite all his rage...

Despite all his rage…

I set him down on the dresser and quickly moved everything out of the way between me and the front door, switching on all the lights in the completely unscientific hope that he would want to go as far from the horrible lighted place as possible. I carried my little captive all the way down to the sidewalk, removed the tupperware, and stepped back. It took him a few seconds to realize he was free, but he quickly lifted off and disappeared into the night. I really, really hope that he didn’t have rabies and that he will be able to survive that interruption to his tight schedule of nighttime gorging.

I released the annoyed Bert from the basement and saw that his automatic timed food dispenser had opened, meaning it was around 4:30 or a little later. I settled off to sleep, but realized after some blinking up at the shadows on the ceiling that I had apparently forgotten to shut off the front porchlight. I got up and wandered back downstairs to flip the switch – and stepped in a pile of barely chewed cat food pellet vomit on the landing. Bert and I were probably both filled with quite a bit of adrenaline – him because it was probably the first time he’d actually “hunted” something in years since he was rescued from street-cat life seven years ago, and me because rabies treatment can cost $5,000 and “aww hell no” to that. Adrenaline, combined with cat food on a taut stomach, probably resulted in the regurgitated kibble chow which I scraped off my foot with a paper towel. Poor guy. I gave him a little more food to make up for the stuff he’d “lost” (otherwise I knew I’d hear about it, when he poked me in the face questioningly in his paw as soon as he rapidly became hungry again), and got a couple more hours of sleep.

Update on Wednesday, 12-Aug: Christine, perhaps leery of my potentially rabid mouth, recommended I contact my doctor anyway, and my friend Caitlin posted this link, which, really – I probably should have searched for before thinking that releasing the bat was the best thing. I’ve just had my first 5 shots (of 8) in the rabies treatment series. I need to get the last three throughout the next couple weeks. Now look sad, and say D’oh…

I hope that bat survived his traumatic night to make my brief, hopefully-entirely-insured discomfort worth his freedom! 🙂