Pop quiz. You wake up in the night, and there’s a bat flying around your bedroom. You should:
A. Catch the bat.
B. Freak out.
C. Swing wildly at the bat with a broom.
D. All of the above.
If you guessed all of the above, you are correct! Next question. Having awakened to the bat in your bedroom, you should assume:
A. The bat has bitten you.
B. The bat has bitten your cat.
C. The bat has bitten your children
D. You all have rabies.
Once again—D for the win! And here’s the punch line—I’m not even kidding. Mostly. You don’t HAVE to swing at the bat with a broom. My husband came up with that move on his own. I opted to shut myself in the bathroom, block the crack under the door with a towel, and scream at him through the door while he hollered back, “Stop talking to me!!! GAH!!”
Here’s how it happened. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and when I opened the door to our bedroom, I saw a black THING flying circles over my sleeping husband. So I did what you do—screamed and slammed the door shut. I opened the door again, and it was still circling my husband, who was no longer sleeping. I screamed some more.
“What? WHAT???” he was scrambling in the bedsheets, half-asleep. And then he saw it.
I slammed the door again.
“Stay in there!” he yelled. (Like I would have done otherwise)
There was some banging around. I heard the French doors in our bedroom open. He was trying to shoo the bat out.
I remembered an episode of RadioLab with a bat in a church, and a teenage girl with rabies.
“No!” I yelled through the door. “You have to catch it!”
“Are you kidding me???”
I was on my phone, furiously Googling “there’s a bat in my bedroom.” Because the internet knows what to do.
“If you get rid of it, we all have to be treated for rabies!”
“This is ridiculous,” from the other side of the door. “It didn’t even—GAH! GET! Stupid bat!”
“It didn’t even bite me!” he finally spat out.
“YOU DON’T KNOW THAT.”
It’s true, you can’t know that. And in fact, the Center for Disease Control has a protocol of what to do if you wake up to a bat in your room: You can either capture it and have it tested for rabies; or, since you can’t prove you weren’t bitten in your sleep, you must immediately seek rabies treatment. See, bats have sharp, little needle teeth, and they can bite you while you’re sleeping without leaving a mark and WITHOUT YOU EVEN FEELING IT.
I’m not sure I can live on this planet anymore, now that I have this knowledge.
Long story short, my husband caught the bat and put it in a box on our back deck. He then pulled the blankets over his head and went back to sleep. I stayed up the rest of the night researching rabies and freaking out. The bat is now in the custody of the Public Health People (not their official title) for testing.
It looks good for us. Odds are, the bat doesn’t have rabies. The Animal Control Guy (not his official title) told me he often sends bats for testing and has never had one come back rabid. But one must take precautions because, well, rabies. It’s not a wait-and-see kind of virus—once you start showing symptoms, it’s all over for you. So if the bat does have rabies, we’re all getting the shots, including the cat. (My husband says he is not because the bat didn’t bite him, but I’m not listening to a man who has rabies.)
Turns out my 9-year-old daughter’s bedroom window was cracked (no screen, ugh), which is likely how the bat got into the house. So it was in my sleeping child’s bedroom, and ARGH RABIES.
If you take anything away from my experience, let it be this: sleep with one eye open, and ARM YOURSELF, PEOPLE. I’m talking—a broom, heavy-duty gloves and a box near your bed. With the proper precautions, we can live in a world with bats.
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)