A suburban family is thankful for their pet cat after it alerted them to a bat in their home, which then tested positive for rabies.
Julianna Cucci was asleep in her family's Arlington Heights home last Thursday night when the commotion began. Wilson the cat saw a bat.
"He woke me up," Cucci said. "He was jumping in the blinds after the bat, which alerted my husband."
She thought her husband was joking, but when he screamed to get the cat and shut the door, she did just that, leaving the room as her husband tried to contain the bat.
"My husband had the light on and was swinging the pillow wildly in the air," she said. "It sounded like the bat had taken on a human form and was arm wrestling my husband in the room. There were things banging into walls."
Her husband was able to contain the small brown bat in a box, and she called Animal Control. The bat tested positive for rabies, and now the whole family, including the couple's three children, have to get a series of preventative booster shots.
"I'm not afraid of wild animals, but rabies... that's a little bit scary," Cucci said.
For now, they're on alert, and thankful for Wilson.
"We want to rename him Bruce Wayne, because he is our bat cat," Cucci added.
Another rabid bat was found hanging behind some wine corks in an apartment in the Morgan Park neighborhood on Chicago's Southwest Side, and a third one was found in Beverly on Monday. These are just three of the 15 bats that have tested positive for rabies so far this year in Illinois.
Officials say that number is higher than usual, and are warning Illinois residents to stay alert. Experts say it’s rare for humans to contract the disease, but when it does occur—it’s devastating.
“Once symptoms start, rabies is almost uniformly fatal,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, adding that “Any wild animal that would let you or your child come close enough to touch it is probably the wild animal you should stay the furthest away from.”
Experts warn that it can be difficult to tell if an animal is infected, so they advise calling Animal Control immediately. Pet owners should also keep their pets on a leash at all times outside the home and be sure they have up-to-date vaccinations.