THE MERCK VETERINARY MANUAL
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Nutrition in Bats

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Captive insectivorous bats frequently are fed diets consisting primarily of mealworms. Crickets, fruit flies, blowfly larvae, and other insects also are commonly offered. Because insects typically are low in calcium, they should be maintained on a calcium-enriched diet so that the bat will consume the insect's high-calcium gut contents. A suitable mealworm diet can be formulated using 35% wheat middlings, 35% ground dry dog or cat food, and 30% ground calcium carbonate. Alternatively, calcium and vitamin supplements can be dusted on the insects just before feeding, and vitamin drops can be added to drinking water. Gels containing water and a calcium solution can also be fed.

Often, captive insectivorous bats must be fed by hand when flying insects are not available. Some bats can be trained to accept insects from a food dish by being placed directly on the live food.

Many insectivorous bats can be maintained successfully in captivity using artificial liquid or solid diets (see Table 3: Exotic and Zoo Animals:Diets of Selected MammalsTables). Liquid diet can be placed in shallow plastic trays positioned near wire or branches for the bats to land on and hang from while feeding. Leftover liquid diet should be replaced daily. Solid diets usually include bananas as the major ingredient. Additional ingredients frequently offered include papaya, apple, pear, melon, grape, and cooked carrot and sweet potato. Canned cat or dog food, chopped eggs, and mealworms also have been fed with the fruit.

Table 3

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Frugivorous bats should be fed a diet that contains a low amount of iron to prevent iron storage disease. The diet could contain a low-iron pellet for birds mixed with apples, bananas, and oranges.

Last full review/revision July 2011 by Joeke Nijboer, PhD; Teresa L. Lightfoot, DVM, DABVP (Avian)

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