You’ve probably seen photos or videos on social media showcasing adorable interactions between owls and cats, but out in the wild, their relationship can be far more dangerous. Owls have a wide variety of prey, but in special cases, they take on larger animals, such as the raptor Osprey.
Now, do owls attack and eat cats? The chances of it happening are low, but yes, there have been records of owls preying on cats and it can happen for a variety of reasons, such as when trying to protect their young.
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The Truth About Owls Attacking and Eating Cats
Though rare, owls would sometimes go out of their way to attack prey besides their usual rodents. Would owls eat cats and dogs? Yes, there’s a chance this will happen if your pets are particularly small.
1. Why do owls eat and attack cats?
- Owls are trying to take your cat’s prey
Owls are hunters that aren’t afraid to fight another predator for their meal. If they see delicious prey, like rats, smaller birds, or fish, in the jaws of your pet, owls attack cats in an attempt to steal it.
Owls attacking cats would not be their first intention in this situation, it would be getting the smaller prey already caught by your pet. However, to get to their prize, they may need to win a fight against the feline.
- Owls are protecting their young
Just like many creatures living out in the wild, owls get serious when it comes to protecting their territory and their family. If, by chance, they happen to see your cat prowling about the area near their home, this is when owls kill cats.
There are even cases when cats take their young. Baby owls are small and defenseless – the perfect snack for hungry animals. If an owl catches a cat trying to eat their babies, they won’t hesitate to throw hands. Or, in this case, claws.
- Your cat is the perfect prey
Owls usually aren’t picky about their prey. Given that cats are nocturnal creatures, they may wander outside when it’s owls’ hunting time, thus presenting the perfect opportunity for a hungry owl.
Owls that eat cats usually pick felines that are old, frail, and have difficulty moving. And if your cat is small, let’s say, still a kitten, owls eat kittens.
Depending on the size, an owl will attack a cat or even a dog. As long as it’s small and easy to eat, there will be cases where owls eat cats and dogs. Owls tend to prefer hunting dogs because, unlike cats that have claws, dogs aren’t able to scratch.
- The owls’ usual prey is gone
It’s not easy out there when you have no one to take care of you but yourself. Food is scarce, and sometimes there is no food at all. Usually, owls would hunt for the occasional lizard or tiny vermin, but if they’re all gone, they’ll resort to bigger prey.
Owls eating cats may be an act of desperation born from hunger.
2. When do owls eat and attack cats?
You will usually see owls hunting cats in the dark hours of the night. After all, owls are a nocturnal species, this means they sleep during the day and then hunt at night.
Coincidentally, cats also hunt during the same hours as owls do, meaning more often than not, they will cross paths.
So, if, by chance, your pet stumbles upon the route of an owl’s path, they’d get caught in the crossfire. Many times, when an owl attacks cats, it’s because the latter wanders into the bird’s territory or hunting grounds.
If the owl hasn’t caught anything during the early night, you would still see them hunting at dawn.
Be on the lookout during May and June, since this is the season when budding owls fresh into their hunting spirit are learning how to scavenge for their food.
3. How do owls eat and attack cats?
An owl picks up a cat to eat only when the pet is below 5 pounds, any more than that, and they’re gonna have a hard time, especially during feeding time.
The eating style of an owl includes swallowing their food whole without even a second of chewing, right after owls kill their prey. So, it would make sense they’d pick sizeable prey.
In a fight of cat vs owl, who would win? Well, owls have a higher advantage in a fight with a cat. After all, they fly silently and erratically. However, cats can be fierce, and they have impressive reflexes, so they definitely can and will protect themselves.
List of Owls That Kills Cats
It’s very rare that owls eat full-grown cats or cats in general, but here are the owls that will try.
- Barred owls
- Great horned owl
- Hoot owl
- Eagle owl
- Northern Hawk owls
- Great Grey owls
Tips to Keep Cats Safe From Owls
Owls and cats have similar hunting patterns in the sense they lie in wait for a surprise attack. As a cat can’t predict a swift attack from above, you must do what you can to protect your pet.
To keep owls away from cats, you have to ensure your cat won’t be anywhere near them in the first place. Keep your cats safe inside when night arrives. It’d also help if cats wore reflective collars to scare off the owls.
You can also add bright lights around your house since owls are averse to them.
But remember, no matter what happens, you mustn’t kill or hurt an owl since it’s against the law in many areas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all owls like to eat cats?
Eating cats is already a rare occurrence, and most of the time, only large owls are capable of this feat. Under normal circumstances, smaller owls wouldn’t attempt to attack something as big and ferocious as a cat.
Owls like Northern Saw-whets, Northern Pygmies, and barn owls won’t include a cat in their menu for the day, considering their size. However, it comes down to an owl’s environment and its conditions.
Other prey of owls
An owl’s diet usually consists of easier and smaller prey compared to cats, and this includes rodents or other small mammals like gophers, mice, rabbits, and squirrels. Sometimes they’d target fish, snakes, and even other birds.
However, it depends on the type of owl. Some like to target tiny pests like insects, frogs, or toads.
So, do owls attack and eat cats? It’s not something that happens every day, and it usually happens under special, dire circumstances. However, it’s a possibility, and it has happened before.
You may want to take the necessary precautions if you have a cat and are aware that there are owls in the vicinity. After all, the laws of nature aren’t always merciful.
George and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.