What to Do if a Bat Gets in Your Home

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on June 28, 2022
4 min read

In the wild, bats are a tremendously beneficial species. Without bats, you wouldn't be able to eat avocados, bananas, or mangos. Bats pollinate over 300 types of fruit. They're also natural pest control. Every night, a bat will eat its weight in pesky insects. However, as wonderful as they are, you don't want one in your home, since they're vectors for disease and can damage your house. 

Bats are global citizens. You'll find them all over the world, except in Antarctica, the Arctic, and some small islands. They make their homes in almost every biome, from forests to deserts to suburban and urban neighborhoods. They live in roosts that can be found in many different types of structures, including caves, trees, crevices in rocks, abandoned mines, and old buildings. 

As more of bats' natural habitats are being destroyed, they've started roosting in human-made structures. Unlike squirrels and some other animals, bats won't chew through your house, but they only need a small opening to get into your attic. Bats can enter your home through a hole as small as three-fourths of an inch. 

The bat population is declining, and though you don't want them in your house, bats are important to humans in many ways. They pollinate many plants, including over 80 types that are a source of medicine. They help protect crops from damage from insects. Studying bats has led to advances in vaccines and the development of navigational aids for people who are blind. 

There are about 45 species of bats that live in the U.S. It's important to know what type of bat is in your house because some species are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. If bats have roosted in your attic, you also need to know when they have babies. Locking a mother bat out of your attic could trap the babies inside. Not only is this illegal, but it can also cause you more problems later. 

You'll also need to check your state and local laws and regulations before you try to remove a bat. Some state and local governments may have laws that are more stringent than federal laws. Some states prohibit you from trying to keep bats out of your house or shed during the maternity season. Some require that you use licensed professionals if you're trying to get rid of bats during their maternity season. 

If a bat flies into your house through an open door or window, it will be much simpler to deal with than if a colony is roosting in your attic. Close off all entry points into the room and open a window. Be aware that bats can fit in tiny spaces, so you may need to put a towel under any interior doors to seal them. The bat will probably fly around a few times and fly out the window. 

If you can't find the bat, it may be hiding in a curtain or another small hiding space. After closing off the room with one window left open, turn off all your lights. When it's dark, the bat may be more comfortable leaving. 

If you do see the bat crawling around, grab a jar. Cover the bat with the jar and then gently maneuver it inside. Cover the jar and take the bat outside, unless: 

  • The bat was in a room with someone who was sleeping
  • You have small children or animals who were in the house with the bat
  • Someone in your house had direct contact with the bat

In these cases, take the bat to a vet to be tested for rabies. 

If none of those conditions apply, take the bat outside to release it. Place it on a high surface or near a tree so the bat can climb out. Bats are the only mammal that flies, but they can't take off from the ground. They need to start from a surface at least six feet off the ground to get enough air under their wings. 

Wear gloves and a face shield if you're attempting to capture the bat. If the bat is on the floor, cover it with a box. Then place a sturdy piece of cardboard under the box. Secure the box and tape it with duct tape. After dark, take the bat outside and release it as above, as long as no one has had any direct contact with the bat. 

Bats are the leading cause of rabies deaths in the U.S. Rabid bats have been found in all states except for Hawaii. While most bats don't have rabies, you should take precautions if you are near a bat. 

Bat bites can be tiny. If you've had contact with a bat, even if you don't think you were bitten or scratched, ask your healthcare provider if you should be vaccinated. 

Bats that are active during the day or are found in places where they normally wouldn't be, such as crawling on the ground or in a home, might be rabid. If you see a bat that is lying on the ground, unable to fly, or easily approached, it may be sick. Call animal control or a public health agency for assistance in following bat safety guidelines.