Here’s a question I’ve never, in a billion years, thought I would be asking and wondering about. I believe you haven’t either. Today we are determined to find out, do owls eat cats?
It’s always immensely hard to think that there’s a possibility of something bad happening to your kitty. No one’s trying to be negative, but there’s always, at the back of your mind, that little voice that slowly but surely makes you go crazy from worrying.
And rightly so! Since there are a hundred things in your fluff’s day that can go wrong. Especially if she’s known to occasionally explore the great outdoors.
There’s the dangerous traffic outside with all of its racing cars and loud horns. Or the vicious neighbor’s dog whose sole mission is to scare your kitty away.
There’s the possibility of her being stolen (she’s so sweet and fluffy, who wouldn’t want to steal her?!) or the possibility of her being bullied by bored teenage boys.
So many things pose great dangers to your cat, even those you never would have thought about. Like owls, for example. Who would have thought that cute little owls can be so detrimental to our feline friends? I know I wouldn’t.
But, our buddies, owls, are not as cute and innocent as we all believe. They have their bad side, for sure. So, do owls eat cats? I’m sure you’ll be surprised when I tell you that unfortunately, cats can appear on their menu.
Keep reading to find out more about this fascinating (but potentially dangerous) fact before the next time you let your cat roam outside at night.
Do owls attack cats?
All owls are predators which means that it’s in their nature to capture other animals. They have strong, arched talons and a sharp hooked beak beneath their feathers. And the majority of them can fly almost completely silently, which is a good advantage to have in the world of predators.
The largest owl is said to be the Eurasian Eagle-owl which can be up to 29 inches long with a wingspan of 5 to 6.6 feet. And the smallest is the Pygmy Owl, a tiny fella that grows no more than 7 inches.
Most owls hunt at night, but some can be seen hunting at dusk and dawn. Which, as we know, is the time when our feline friends are the most active. And they are known for being very territorial and will chase away and attack any animal that invades their space, even other owls.
As we are able to see, our furry friends have much in common with their feathery enemies. They are both predators by nature, active during what most humans consider to be sleeping hours, and their hunting skills are based on stalking and surprising their prey.
Depending on their size, owls can take a wide variety of prey as their target. They can attack smaller animals like rodents, squirrels, and small birds, or even bigger ones like rabbits, small foxes, deer, and others alike.
So, it’s no wonder that they attack cats, as well.
Why do owls attack cats?
One thing is certain: an owl won’t attack your cat out of boredom. They hunt intentionally.
If an owl attacks a cat, it might be because a cat caught a rodent or a squirrel which happened to be a prey of our feathery predators, as well. It’s hard to determine who saw it first, the owl or the cat, but animals usually don’t care about justice while hunting. It’s all about survival.
And since a cat is usually fairly small in comparison to owls, they can easily become their prey, as well.
Another reason why an owl might attack a cat is if the cat finds herself in the owl’s territory. We all know that saying, “Curiosity killed the cat…”, right? Our feline friends are notorious for sticking their noses in someone else’s affairs, which usually gets them in trouble.
A cat could prey on baby owls, wanting to hunt them for herself, which is something a protective mama owl won’t let happen. In that case, an owl is internally motivated to get rid of the furry burglar, attacking him with her sharp talons and beak on his way out.
When do owls attack cats?
As we have already mentioned, most owls hunt during the night, and some of them experience the peak of their hunting at dusk and dawn. Only some owls, like the Little Owl and Short-Eared Owl, are said to be daytime hunters.
It’s a truly unfortunate coincidence that the owls are hungry for blood at the exact time cats are known to experience the climax of their energy. It’s like a disaster waiting to happen, especially if a cat is a part of a family that lives in a house and can freely go outside whenever she desires.
The time of their attack also depends on how hungry owls are. Or how much they’re provoked by cats.
Many factors inevitably determine the reason and time of their attack. If, for example, you have a cat and live surrounded by nature, the chances of your cat encountering an owl are very high.
Do owls eat cats?
If we have said that owls are predators and that they don’t attack for fun or out of boredom, then the answer to the question, “Do owls eat cats?” is unfortunate but a resounding “Yes.”
Even though the answer is positive (evoking totally negative connotations in every cat parent), cats are not a preferred treat for owls. Owls would rather eat earthworms and beetles, along with some small mammals like rodents.
Their food choice depends on their size, too. Some smaller ones, like Scoop or Screech owls, will mostly eat insects, while bigger ones, like Barn owls, will eat animals like mice or voles. Other larger owls will, therefore, feed on bigger animals.
But, if their preferred meal of choice isn’t available, our dear fluffs could make a delicious alternative for these flying predators. All in all, owls are pretty indiscriminate eaters.
So, your kitty, upon encountering an owl, might think, “Oh, finally! My Hogwarts letter has arrived!” but her guess would be so far away from the actual truth.
Aren’t cats too heavy for owls?
It’s important to point out that the frequency of owls eating cats is not that high. Even though our furry friends are for the most part small and petite, they actually make a big and challenging bite for owls. Especially some bigger cat breeds, like our dear gentle giants, Maine Coons.
Owls, like other birds, don’t have teeth to chew their food. These skilled hunters use their talons and beak to tear their prey’s flesh apart, while also crushing their skulls and other bones. They are able to swallow some smaller animals whole, usually head-first. But, for the most part, they swallow piece by piece.
Animal body parts that owls are unable to digest, like bones and fur, get regurgitated hours later in the shape of a pellet.
Because of this, our feline buddies don’t appear on their menu that often. And, of course, because they are expert hunters themselves and for the most part are able to defend themselves and run away, with minor to no consequences.
What about kittens?
Kittens, however, make an easy target.
Now you can say that any owner who leaves kittens outside overnight is actually a bad cat parent, but the situation doesn’t have to be that simple. An owl can catch a kitten during the day, take it to its owlets, and feast on it in the evening.
Now, don’t be fooled by this. It’s not like you can save your kittens until they grow up and then let them freely roam outside without any supervision. Even though most owls are not likely to go for adult and senior cats, there are some owls who have no problem with the feline’s size.
For example, The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl in North America whose average size is around 3 pounds. But, it’s said that this owl can carry up to 3 times their size. Which is approximately the size of an average domestic cat.
So, if all the circumstances coincide, if the right owl finds itself in the same environment as the right cat, and if it is hungry enough, it is very likely that the owl will catch the cat.
How to protect your cat from an owl attack?
You probably never thought you’d have to ask “Do owls eat cats?”, let alone find out that the answer to your question is positive. It’s a weird world we’re living in, and keeping up with nature’s hierarchy is truly challenging and surprising.
I know it was a hard pill to swallow, but don’t worry. There’s something that can be done in order to prevent an owl attack.
If you live in a place surrounded by forests or mountains, I first suggest you determine whether you have owls as your neighbors or not. You can try consulting with your local animal shelter or vet station or even a forest protection association if you have one nearby.
If you found out there are owls around you, you can then proceed with the cat protection mission.
Never let your kitty roam outside at night, no matter how sleepless your nights are. There are other things you can do to control her night zoomies, without letting her out and risking her life by doing so.
If your cat does go outside during the day, try to keep an eye on her as much as you can. I know it’s impossible to supervise our furbabies 24/7, and I also know that going outside can be beneficial for them. But, just make sure they don’t spend the majority of the day out.
You can try installing an outside light, preferably a motion detector lamp since owls are said to dislike bright lights. They also don’t like loud noises, so you can scare them away by shouting or by using some horns. Just keep in mind your kitty won’t like those sounds either.
Some people also suggest installing small electric shock devices in the places where owls perch. However, if your fluff is famous for climbing, this might not be a good idea.
What should you do if your cat gets attacked by an owl?
If an owl attacks your cat and wounds her, take her to the vet immediately. It doesn’t matter if the wound is big or small, a thorough vet examination is a must! Sometimes when our cats get hurt the wound can be invisible to us because of their fur. But the expert eye of the vet will not miss anything!
If, however, an unfortunate thing happens and your cat falls into an eternal catnap, you could call your local animal control agency and inform them of the death.
Your initial reaction might be to kill the owl, especially if you exercise your Second Amendment rights regularly. However, I strongly suggest you don’t do it! I know emotions might overtake you, but killing an animal simply because being who she is is not acceptable.
You should also know that owls are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This act prohibits killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transporting protected migratory birds without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Killing an owl without a permit will result in criminal charges and Court-ordered fines, probation, and community service.