Do cats attack bats?

Alternative questions to the title are (1) do cats hunt bats? – and (2) do cats eat bats? They are different questions but they overlap. But the answer will be different in each case. I am referring to domestic, stray and feral cats, by the way. Given the opportunity, cats will attack bats because their movements provoke the predation response. There are anecdotal stories online of cats sitting in gardens jumping up at bats flying overhead. And there’s one story on the website by a woman living on the 3rd floor of a building with a balcony overlooking a grassy yard. Her cat would sit on the ledge of the balcony and “snatch bats out of the air”. If he knocked the bat out, he would drag it into her apartment where they would recover consciousness and start flying around.

It is instructional to note that there are no available photos of domestic cats catching bats or with bats in their mouths as is the case with birds etc. It is rare for a cat to catch a bat.

A bat
A bat – photo: Pixabay
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

She speculated whether her cat would have eaten them if he was not so well fed. In other words, he did not eat them. I suspect that domestic cats do not eat bats normally because they aren’t as palatable as a mouse and if they are good hunters, as many indoor/outdoor cats are (but not all), then they will prey upon and eat the easiest animals to catch and the tastiest.

So, we can say for certainty that cats attack bats when the opportunity arises. We can also say that they don’t normally eat them. Do they hunt them in an active and determined way as they do with respect to mice?

A study tried to answer that question which was published on February 15, 2021 on the Wiley Online Library website (Cats Felis catus as a threat to bats worldwide: a review of the evidence). The researchers reviewed previous studies “on the incidence of bats in cat dietary samples”. In other words, the studies were looking at whether bats formed a part of the diet of domestic free-roaming, stray and feral cats.

They concluded that the remains of bats were found in either the stomach, guts or in the faeces of these cats 0.7% of the time. That is less than 1%. In other words, in less than 1/100 cats they found the remains of a bat. Obviously, a very small percentage of feral, domestic or stray cats either have the ability to catch bats or have the opportunity to do so.

However, it does provide the answer to the question whether cats hunt bats. They do, when the opportunity arises, but clearly it doesn’t happen that often probably because they are very hard to catch. Domestic cats are not stupid. They will prey on the easiest item to catch and work upwards from that point. Birds are not high on the menu because they’re much harder to catch than mice and I would suggest that bats are harder than birds to catch.

The website says that cat attacks are one of the most common causes of bat casualties. This gives the impression that lots of cats are killing lots of bats. I don’t think that’s true, but it does confirm that indoor/outdoor cats attack them, which is to be expected as most bat species are the right size to be a prey animal.

THE CONVERSATION website reports on a worrying development as of October 26, 2022, which is the declining bat populations in America. They say that some bat populations have had their numbers reduced by as much as 90%.

Population numbers have been declining for decades for various reasons including loss of habitat due to deforestation, urbanisation and the conversion of land to agriculture. Pesticides also kill insects upon which bats feed.

Further, a fungus is fatal to bats. It is called Pseudogymnoascus destructans. It causes white-nose syndrome. It is responsible for the deaths of over 6 million bats in North America.

And finally, predation by cats, domestic and feral is a perennial problem. It appears that cats prefer to kill female bats in relatively good condition. This may be because they are in maternity roosts which are attractive to cats.

Clearly, preying on female bats giving birth too few young each year has a disproportionately negative impact upon the bat population.


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