Bats are known to occasionally bite or scratch humans, usually when they feel threatened. Bat bites don’t leave obvious marks and are often hard to identify, but you should always seek medical advice if you are bitten by a bat (or any other animal). So, what do bat bite marks look like, do they hurt, and what should you do if you get bitten?
How common are bat bites?
Bats do sometimes bite or scratch humans, but only if they are provoked or feel threatened. Bats are generally shy creatures and will instinctively avoid human contact, but will bite in self-defense. For this reason, you should never attempt to capture or handle a bat.
What do bat bites look like?
Bats have very small, sharp teeth, so their bites are often small and difficult to recognize.
If they leave any marks at all, they will probably look like tiny pinpricks.
The absence of any obvious bite marks may make it hard to know if you have been bitten or not, but there are some situations in which you should seek medical help anyway. These include:
- Waking up and finding a bat in your room (as it may have bitten you while you slept)
- Finding a bat in the room of a young child
- Seeing a bat near someone who is incapacitated (for example, by illness or intoxication)
Bat bite size
Bats have tiny teeth that leave minuscule puncture marks less than 1 mm in diameter. Their scratches are also very small, and are usually no more than 1 cm long.
Do bat bites hurt?
A bat bite is usually painful and feels like a sharp, needle-like jab. If you are bitten while you are awake you will almost certainly notice it, but may not if you are sleeping or intoxicated.
Are bat bites dangerous?
Bats carry a wide range of diseases, including rabies. Rabies is a fatal disease so, if you are bitten by a bat (or any other wildlife), seek medical advice immediately.
Fortunately, your chances of catching rabies from a bat are very slim. Only around 6% of bats submitted for rabies testing (i.e., those that were obviously weak or sick) were found to have the virus, so the percentage among the general bat population is likely to be even lower.
Do bat bites need treatment?
You may be unlikely to catch rabies from a bat, but you should definitely seek immediate medical treatment if you are bitten.
Rabies is a fatal disease, and you will need a vaccination within 24 hours even if there is only a small chance you have contracted the virus. Bats also carry a wide variety of other viruses and bacteria, which can cause diseases such as:
- Nipah virus
- Hendra virus
- Ebola virus
- SARS coronavirus
If you are bitten by a bat, wash the affected area with soap and water and seek medical help immediately.
How can you tell if a bat has rabies?
The vast majority of bats do not have rabies. Even if a bat does have rabies, you usually can’t tell just by looking at it. However, the following warning signs could indicate that a bat has the virus:
- Activity in the daytime
- Activity in unusual areas (for example, in your home or on your lawn)
- Weakness, disorientation, or inability to fly
If your cat or dog catches a bat, this could be because the bat was weak or sick. In these cases, you should submit the bat for rabies testing. Most of the time, bats will only bite in self-defense so the safest option is to never approach or attempt to handle bats.
What should you do if you find bats in your home?
If a bat finds its way into your home, try to encourage it to leave on its own. To do this, you can:
- Trap the bat in a single room by closing the doors
- Open a window and turn off the lights
- Leave the room and close the door behind you
- Wait for the bat to leave
If the bat will not leave, you may have to capture it. Take the following steps to minimize your risk of being bitten:
- Put on thick, protective gloves
- Trap the bat with a sturdy container, for example, a Tupperware box
- Slide a piece of strong cardboard or a lid under the container to trap the bat
- Poke air holes into the container if necessary
- Place the container in a dark, quiet place
- Disinfect your gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water
- Call your local wildlife protection service for advice
If you find a sick or dying bat in your home, you should report it to your local wildlife protection service for rabies testing and rehabilitation. If you think there may be bats roosting in your attic, contact a wildlife removal specialist for help and assistance.
Bats are known to bite and scratch humans, though they will usually only do so in self-defense. Bats have tiny, sharp teeth and small mouths, so their bite marks are not always easy to identify. In some cases, they may not leave a mark at all; in others, they may leave a series of tiny pinpricks less than 1 mm in diameter.
If you wake up to find a bat in your room, or see a bat near an accompanied child or unconscious person, you should seek medical advice even if there are no apparent bite wounds. This is because bats are known to carry a wide variety of potentially fatal diseases, including rabies.