Cat Scare, a Bat Scare is when characters who are exploring an apparently-deserted location — a cave, vacant house, abandoned barn, etc — unexpectedly disturb a colony of winged animals; bats are traditional, but any sort of small, potentially unsettling flying creature can do. As startled by the characters' presence as vice versa, the whole flock explodes into flight, fluttering en masse from their roosting-place and right at the explorers' faces. Both the characters and the audience get to jump out of their skins, but the animals don't actually hurt anyone, flying away as quickly as they emerged.
Moreso than a Cat Scare, this trope is often used to emphasize the forsaken and/or unexplored nature of the site itself. While a lone cat won't hesitate to wander around near people, a whole colony of bats (or birds, moths, pterosaurs, whatever) is unlikely to settle for long in a place where humans regularly venture. Sometimes combined with Hand in the Hole for added tension. Versions in which the animals turn out to be fleeing from something much more dangerous are common.
Variants with non-winged creatures also occur, but tend to lack the same in-your-face impact of flying ones and so usually rely on animals like rats or spiders that audiences would find creepy in any case.
This is occasionally used as a barrier in hidden object casual games, in which the flock can be dispersed by sound or bait.
Compare Disturbed Doves, in which doves take flight to symbolize a dramatic event. Contrast Wallet Moths, which also indicates a vacancy (of money), but isn't played for scares.
- Pokémon: The Series: Happens a lot whenever our heroes go into a cave and disturb a whole lotta Zubat, Woobat, or any other Chiroptera Pokémon. This also tends to lead to an Involuntary Group Split.
- Francisco de Goya: Bats and owls are seen in The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters.
- One of the more common origin stories of Batman is that when he was young, Bruce Wayne fell into a cave that seemed quiet, until suddenly bats appeared out of nowhere, scaring him. When he was thinking of the disguise he would use to fight crimes, bats fly near his window, reminding Bruce of the incident and concluding that he might as well bring that fear effect from bats against his foes. And thus, Batman was born.
- Clouds of bats often appear when Batman enters the Batcave. On at least a few occasions he has weaponized this, using bat-influencing ultrasound to set up a Bat Scare which distracts an opponent.
- In Batman: Year One, Batman uses this as a bookend to teaching Branden's squad that their services are no longer wanted.
- In Gotham by Gaslight, a Victorian-era Bruce Wayne survived his parents' fatal run-in with a bandit on the road because the shots the man fired stirred up a flock of bats, which came bursting out of the nearby treetops and scared the robber off.
- Robin (1993): In the first volume, Tim's far from Bruce in France for training but ends up working with Lady Shiva and a rouge DEA agent against King Snake. While fighting the Ghost Dragons in some old WWII era bunkers their gunfire startles a colony of bats awake and the bats fly through and freak out the gangsters, saving Tim's life as he'd been grabbed and was about to be shot in the head.
- Disney Animated Canon:
- Beauty and the Beast: While lost in the woods, Maurice wakes up a flock of bats, which spooks his horse and leads to him being left behind.
- The Emperor's New Groove: Kuzco and Pacha disturb a flock of bats when trying to save themselves from falling off a cliff.
- A Goofy Movie: Done by Goofy and Max while exploring "Carl's Butt Caverns" during a travel montage.
- Pooh's Grand Adventure: Played straight with Tigger. He finds a swarm of bats and runs away in a panic.
- How to Train Your Dragon: When the vikings approach the dragons' nest, they go inside expecting to fight hordes of dragons. All the dragons fly out, fly past the vikings, and flee, without a single one attacking. Of course this only leads up to something even worse coming out of the cave.
- Onward has a variant in a cave, but with winged unicorns in place of bats.
- Abandoned Mine: While the group (sans Jimmy) are crawling through a small tunnel, they somehow manage to startle a group of bats, who start flying right over them.
- Batman Begins: Used as a plot point when a young Bruce Wayne falls into a disused well and disturbs a colony of bats that live there. This causes him to develop a phobia of bats that he conquers when he becomes Batman. He later weaponizes it by including in his gadget repertoire a bat swarm lure, which he unleashes to escape from Arkham Asylum when surrounded by a mass police response to his appearance.
- Batman Returns:
Penguin: Rats with wings, do your thing!
- A swarm of bats shows up at various points, including the title screen and inside the Batcave.
- During Batman's attempted rescue of the Ice Princess, The Penguin releases a swarm of bats from his umbrella at her, causing her to fall off a building to her death; after her body slams on the button, the Christmas tree lights up and unleashes a bigger bat swarm on the Gotham City citizens.
- Batman later uses the same trick against The Penguin in their final fight at Arctic World; The Penguin eventually falls into the toxic pool.
- The Birds: While the evil avians are a recurrent threat, their final attack, as Melanie enters a room and finds that it's filled with them, must fit.
- Cat's Eye: In "The Ledge", a disturbed flock of pigeons takes off while Norris is partway round; startling him and almost causing him to lose his balance and fall off.
- Cloverfield: In a non-winged example, a horde of rats runs toward, then right past, the main characters when they venture into the subway tunnels. The rodents don't attack, but they are running from something else...
- Daylight: In a non-flying example, a swarm of rats frightens the collapse survivors when it invades the chapel. Subverted when the rats actually lead them to a route to safety.
- The Descent: Early into their spelunking foray, the ladies startle a large flock of bats into flight. Once the animals have passed by, one of the cavers does a Count von Count impression to ease her companions' tension.
- Dracula Untold: Happens early in, when the cave is about to be searched. This doesn't scare the searchers very much, and mostly serves to startle the audience.
- In The Goonies, when Brand removes a rock blocking further passage into the tunnel leading to One-Eyed Willy's hideout, he calls out to see if anybody's there, and a swarm of bats come flying out of the hole, scaring the Goonies.
- James Bond: A few of the Disturbed Doves in the 1980s films are this (such as in For Your Eyes Only, where Bond is climbing the mountain and the doves come out of a hole).
- Man in the Attic: While searching the roof for Jack the Ripper, a constable hears a noise and peers round the side of a doorway, only for flock of pigeons to fly out at him.
- A box in the attic from Mousehunt, labeled "mothballs", unleashes a torrent of hundreds of large moths when opened.
- Jumanji: The first denizens summoned by the game are bats which swarm at a traumatised Sarah moments after Alan is taken into the game. A solitary bat descended from the flock provides a scare for Peter 26 years later.
- Nightlight: Picking her way through a cave , Robin disturbs a flock of bats which fly past her to escape, shrieking and striking her with their wings in their confusion.
- Pitch Black: Subverted, as the flock of small flying aliens that gets disturbed and flies around frantically actually turns out to be very dangerous.
- In Raiders of the Lost Ark, a flock of birds emerges from the mouth of a statue in the jungle, scaring one of Indy's porters.
- In Spiders 3 D, a flock of bats gets disturbed when the city facilities-worker hero escorts someone into New York's vast network of seldom-traveled drainage tunnels.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: In a non-flying example, huge crawling masses of spiders flee from Hogwarts. They do no harm, but badly frighten Ron, an arachnophobe.
- H. G. Wells: The Chronic Argonauts has a rare multispecies example in which a vast swarm of swallows, owls, bats, moths, and other creatures explodes from the attic of a creepy house.
- Lumbanico The Cubic Planet: As exploring a tunnel, the protagonist trio suddenly feel something loud and massive falling on their heads and throw themselves on the ground, believing the celing is collapsing. Ustrum looks up and realizes they have disturbed a colony of bats. He tried to reassure his partners that they are safe, but to his disgust they are too scared of the bats to rise up.
- In a Nancy Drew book, as Nancy is enjoying a picnic with a new friend, a flock of birds abruptly take off from a tree. Nancy suddenly remembers something that the friend told her — that the birds get spooked by people — and realizing that someone is in the tree, watching them. Sure enough, seconds later, someone starts shooting at them.
- The Shattered World: Beorn is dropped off at Darkhaven's partially-collapsed Spire of Owls, from which he's tasked to sneak into Pandrogas's laboratory and rob it. The Spire lives up to its name, as a large flock of owls are disturbed by Beorn's arrival and flutter past him in the stairwell, verifying that he's starting out in a long-abandoned part of the castle.
- Solomon Kane: Solomon disturbs a swarm of bats while exploring a tunnel in "The Moon of Skulls". Normally this wouldn't have phased him, but it happens in complete darkness, so it takes him a moment to realize they're harmless.
- In the Warrior Cats book The Blazing Star, Sun Shadow explores a cave in the mountains, and is spooked by a colony of bats flying around him out of the cave.
- Doctor Who: In "The Chase", this trope is invoked with animatronic bats in the haunted house.
- In the Here Come the Brides episode "The Soldier," Jeremy goes into a cave to search for the grizzly bear that mauled Captain Clancey and is startled by some bats.
- On The Walking Dead, a flock of birds bursts out of a bush when Tyreese investigates a rustling sound, scaring Mika who runs deeper into the forest.
- CarnEvil: Swarms of bats appear from hiding places throughout in the Haunted House level.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, swarms of bats are scripted to fly at the player character in response to certain triggers, such as when they enter the final chamber of Bleak Falls Barrow.
- Ghostscape: In the second game, clicking on the caves or the crates hidden inside them will cause bats to fly out.
- Haunting Starring Polterguy: Poltergeist Polterguy has to dodge a swarm of bats that emerge from a coffin in the underworld.
- Last Half of Darkness: Several examples occur, often involving cockroaches.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, if Link is out in the open at night, he may sometimes get attacked by large swarms of Keese from out of nowhere. They can be scared off with a good attack that takes out a few of them, though. Tears of the Kingdom (which adds spelunking as a gameplay mechanic) also have Keese swarms fly out of unexplored caves to alert the player of their location when Link approaches them.
- Mario Kart:
- Mario Kart DS: Starting from this game, the series has featured tracks with Swoopers, bats that can form a hazard for racers to avoid. In this game proper, they appear on N64 Banshee Boardwalk (its original version only had regular bats).
- Mario Kart Wii has two tracks where the Swoopers are hazards: at the entrance to the mine in Wario's Gold Mine and the entrance to the temple in Dry Dry Ruins.
- Mario Kart 7 has Swoopers on Rock Rock Mountain, as well as a glider that resembles them.
- Mario Kart 8 has Swoopers as hazards in the cave portion of Mount Wario, as well as tunnels in N64 Yoshi Valley and Wii Wario's Gold Mine. In the Hyrule Circuit, Swoopers are replaced with Keese to fit with the Legend of Zelda crossover.
- Mario Party 10: In Haunted Trail, landing on certain Unlucky spaces will result in the current Captain getting attacked by Swoopers that steal five of their Mini-Stars.
- Mega Man 8 has one of these at the start of Sword Man's stage.
- Metroid Prime 2: Echoes: Early on in the game, as soon as Samus walks into the Great Temple for the first time, she is immediately greeted by a swarm of sand bats right to the face. While it does come as a shock at first since the player would be lulled into a false sense of security, the bats do signal where the next Save Point is by flying out of the crack where it's hidden.
- Minecraft: It's possible to kick up a handful of bats whenever you start lighting up a cave with torches. Normally they're pretty harmless, unless they distract you while hostile mobs are nearby. This used to be a bigger issue before bats were tweaked not to cause pushback when they run into you — when they did, then the swarm you just disturbed would be jostling you around in random directions every time a bat ran into you, which in dark, irregular caves filled with holes and ledges leading to hard landings very far down, pitch black and monster-infested holes and/or molten lava, isn't terribly desirable.
- Mystery Case Files: A swarm of bats explodes out of the abandoned well in Escape From Ravenhearst when you lean over to retrieve its bucket.
- Stardew Valley: Happens during Abigail's 0-heart event. She's attempting to brave the mines for the first time, and gets startled by a single bat flying out of the mine shaft, startling her. Then a massive swarm pours out, terrifying her into fleeing and cowering in the corner. The Farmer shows up a moment later and consoles her, leading to a Big Damn Kiss.
- Surface The Pantheon: Happens with a flock of birds and a flock of bats.
- Uncharted: Drake's Fortune: Happens when entering the ancient jungle temple in one of the early levels of game, with the bats flying in Nate's face after he disturbs them with his torch. This is given a tip of the hat in the sequel where Nate once again enters an ancient jungle temple in one of the early levels of the game and disturbs some bats with his torch (this time a fire torch rather than a flashlight).
- Becomes plot-relevant in Graven: The Purple Moon Prophecy, in that dropping a coin in the wishing well causes a flock of bats to fly out of the well shaft, dislodging a needed item from the ivy that's overgrown the well.
- Unsounded: When Will is examining a preserved ogre head in the Uneasy Mines a bunch of roosting Varpies fly out screeching at him and give him a good scare. The Varpies attack the group but are fought off without causing much damage.
- War and Peas: A questionably-SFW strip shows a gynaecologist getting one of these while examining a witch. When he jokes that it "must have been a while" she casually reveals that that was just her boyfriend.
- Codys Lab: This happens here on Cody's Mine Episode 6, where they are mining in an abandoned mineshaft on his property. And now captured on thermal imaging camera.
- Amphibia: In "Mother Olm, Anne and friends journey inside Mother Olm's head to rub salve on her brain (It Makes Sense in Context). Mother Olm had been complaining of severe headaches and constantly hearing the sound of thousands of tiny flapping wings. Upon finally reaching the inside of Mother Olm's cranium, they're startled to find that it's infested with a huge swarm of bat-squitos.
- In Central Park, Season 1 "Live It Up Tonight", Zoom brings his tour group to the part of the park where there are bats and Cole gets so freaked out by them when a flock of them flies through them and he abandons the tour guide and Molly has to go after him.
- King of the Hill: In one episode, Dale plans to collect bat guano to sell, so he, Bill and Boomhauer go into a cave. Inevitably, they run out screaming after waking up the bats.
Dale: We've awaken a sleeping, pooping giant!
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Winter Wrap-Up", Twilight Sparkle tries to help wake up hibernating animals. After being startled by a nest of snakes, Twilight backs into a cave... and is chased out again by a flock of bats.
- In "Inspiration Manifestation", Spike's entrance into the locked chamber where the titular spellbook is kept startles a large flock of vampire fruit bats, which briefly obscure the screen as they fly past. Subverted and Played for Laughs — the bats are one of several glaring visual cues that indicate that something very weird and unnatural is going on, but Spike's just as oblivious to them as he is to every other unsettling thing in the scene. Regardless, the bats still serve to highlight the unsettling nature of the place and that the chamber has been abandoned for a long time.
- In "Gauntlet of Fire", Rarity and Spike are prospecting for gems, and when Spike starts mysteriously glowing, he accidentally wakes up a flock of bats that swarm over Rarity.
Shaggy: Every time, we stay in a place with freaky bats!
- Several versions of the opening credits include a swarm of bats emerging from a spooky house's attic window or front door.
- "Nowhere to Hyde": Shaggy unleashes a swarm of bats when he opens an old trunk in the attic.
- Lampshaded a few times in Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?.
- The Simpsons:
- In "The Seemingly Never-ending Story", the Simpsons get stuck in a cave. The obligatory flock of bats appears, and everybody is scared but baby Maggie, who waves enthusiastically at the bats.
- Bats fly out of the card catalog drawers at the public library.
- Talesfromthe Cryptkeeper in the intro and 1st episode.
- The Wild Thornberrys: Inverted in an episode where Eliza tries to greet a bat, only for the bat to scream "Eek! A human!" frightening all the other bats into waking up and flying away.
- Samurai Jack: Done with yellow moths in "Jack and the Haunted House".