Thursday, November 17, 2022

Can cats hear bats?

Can domestic cats allowed outside hear bats. The answer according to a specialist bat group in Essex, UK is that they can. They say that cats can hear most bats' calls. And it seems that because they are able to pick up their sounds they may sit on a wall or a roof beneath a bat roost and catch them when they emerge which will be between dusk and dawn.

The hearing range of the cat for sounds of 70 dB SPL extends from 48 Hz to 85 kHz. Bat calls can range from 9 kHz to 200 kHz. Humans can hear from 20 Hz to 15-20 kHz depending on age

The question in the title occurred to me because we know that domestic cats have an extended hearing range to a much higher frequency than that which is afforded humans. It therefore seemed natural to me that they might be able to hear the high frequency echolocation sounds emitted by bats.

Endangered bat attacked by cat in New Zealand but made a full recovery remarkably
Endangered bat attacked by cat in New Zealand but made a full recovery remarkably (being fed a grub). Image: Peter Drury.

This is another problem for bats because they are active at a time when indoor/outdoor domestic cats are also active.

Also, the kind of movements that bats make - quick and jerky - are the kind to which domestic cats are very responsive.

Therefore, cats attack bats as any other prey animal. Some people might not recognise this, but the Bat Conservation Trust in the UK say that bat carers estimate that over 30% of bats that they rescue have been attacked by cats and that only 14% of bats injured by cats are released.

Over half (56%) don't survive a cat attack while 30% cannot be returned to the wild.

New Zealand are particularly sensitive about their wildlife and predation by domestic and feral cats. There is a story on the website about a bat titled "Cat victim flies free after three months recovery at Hamilton Zoo".

A cat attacked a critically endangered, native long-tail bat. They say that the bat made a miraculous recovery.

"The bat had made a remarkable recovery from its injuries and had reached the point where it needed to be returned to a suitable natural environment to live out the rest of its life".

The bat was delivered to a veterinarian who contacted Hamilton Zoo where the bat could be treated. The membrane between the right leg and her tail was torn and they were concerned that it would not reattach and therefore that she would be unable to fly.

However, their concern appears to have been unfounded because through their special care in ensuring that the membrane recovered, and in allowing her fur to regrow (because she had been injured such that she had lost her fur over parts of her body), she was able to fly and be released.

The Bat Conservation Trust state that cats do not eat bats but like to play with them. And apparently, a small amount of cat saliva in a bat's blood stream can result in an infection requiring urgent treatment without which they are likely to die.

Once a cat has learned where bats roost, they can endanger the whole colony. People concerned with the conservation of bats would like cat owners to keep their indoor/outdoor cat indoors half an hour before sunset and kept in all night when bats are most active between April and October.

If owners are reluctant to do this, they can keep their cat in half an hour before sunset and keep him or her there for an hour after sunset.

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