Owls are famous for their razor-sharp talons, incredible vision, and precise hearing, and it is precisely these three characteristics which make them very skilled predators. Although owls usually eat insects, mice, and small birds, do owls eat cats?
If you live in an area where owls are frequent visitors, there might be a slight cause for concern since owls can eat cats. However, there’s no need to panic, as an owl eating a cat is a rare and unlikely scenario.
In this article, I will cover why an owl would attack a cat, why cats are not the number one food item on an owl’s menu, and how you can protect your cat from potential owl attacks, so make sure to stick around!
Do Owls Eat Cats?
Although cats are not a typical part of an owl’s diet, an owl can attack and eat a cat. This is not a part of usual owl behavior, as they turn to eating cats only in extraordinary circumstances, which I will get to in a second.
Owls usually eat insects, earthworms, snails, small mammals such as mice and rats, snakes, and small rabbits, but sometimes, small dogs and cats make it onto the list.
Although some might not believe it due to the owl’s size, it is possible for an owl to kill and eat an animal its size or slightly bigger, especially if the owl is large, such as a Great Horned owl.
Cats that freely roam in areas inhabited by owls are more likely to get attacked and eaten, especially kittens and smaller cats.
Do Owls Prey On Cats?
Owls don’t usually prey on cats, so cats are rarely attacked by owls.
If you live in an area with many owls (such as a wooded area), your cat has a higher chance of getting preyed on.
The International Owl Center states, “Great Horned Owls do, on rare occasions, attempt to catch and kill small cats and very small dogs. They are not always successful in attempts to kill them, but pets can wind up with significant injuries if they survive an attack.”
They further add that “Pets aren’t a normal part of their diet, but a pet outdoors becomes part of the food chain, and they can look like prey to a large, generalist predator.”
Why Would An Owl Attack (And Eat) A Cat?
As cats are not the usual meal of an owl, it can be concluded that an owl will decide to attack and eat a cat only in very specific and rare circumstances. What would those be?
1. The Owl Has Limited Food Options
Another reason an owl would decide to attack and eat a cat is if it doesn’t have a lot of other prey options.
If an owl doesn’t have many food options, it is forced to prey on species it wouldn’t typically consider. One of those animals is, unfortunately, cats.
2. The Owl Is Protecting Its Young
Owls are territorial, which is most noticeable during the mating season.
They fiercely protect the nest and a well-defined surrounding feeding territory from other owls, birds, and any potential predator that comes near them.
As a result, if they find a cat attempting to steal one of their owlets, they will not hesitate to protect them.
3. The Cat Has Something The Owl Wants
If a cat catches a rat, mouse, vole, or any other small animal, and a hungry owl sees that, the owl may decide to steal the cat’s prey rather than catch one for itself.
If a cat catches another prey, the owl can attack the poor cat, only to steal the cat’s food!
Luckily, the cat is not the owl’s intended meal in this scenario!
4. The Owl Is Protecting Its Territory
Many owl species are fiercely territorial and will go to any length to preserve their hunting territory and nests.
An owl can attack a cat that has come near their younglings or crossed into their hunting field.
In this case, owls do not attack the cat to eat the cat but rather to protect what’s theirs or what they consider to be theirs.
After all, more predators in the same area mean less food for the owls. Therefore, owls might resort to attacking cats to “make them go away and leave more food for the owls”.
Can An Owl Eat A Full Grown Cat?
Kittens are easy prey for owls, but full-grown cats are not.
Kittens cannot defend themselves and are pretty small, which makes them vulnerable to owl attacks. However, full-grown cats can defend themselves fiercely and are much bigger than kittens.
The size of the cat an owl chooses to attack matters, as owls cannot chew. Owls, like other birds, lack the ability to chew their food.
Therefore, their prey is usually animals they can swallow in one go. Anybody components that owls cannot digest, including bones and fur, are regurgitated in the shape of a pellet hours later.
Owls’ Inability To Chew Matters Because…
Because owls cannot swallow their food, bigger animals are not the most desirable prey for an owl, as the cat’s larger size means the owls will have to rip the prey with their beaks, which is a lot of work, no matter how strong an owl’s beak is.
Therefore, it’s not very likely an owl will go after a full-grown cat as its meal. However, if the owl decides to do that, the only way for it to eat the cat is to tear it apart into smaller pieces.
The Biggest Threat: Great Horned Owls & Barred Owls
Cats are more likely to be eaten by some owls than by others. Only the bigger owl breeds typically prey on cats, including:
• Barred owls
• Great horned owls
• Euroasian eagle-owl
• Northern hawk owls
• Great grey owls
These species are not only big, but they can also carry prey that weighs three to four times as much as they do. Their immense grip strength allows them to airlift both kittens and full-grown cats, making every cat a potential attack target.
Smaller owls don’t usually consider cats as prey, and those owl species would be:
• Northern saw-whet owls
• Northern pygmy owls
• Barn owl
This is not to say that smaller owls don’t attack cats because they do (especially the braver owl species such as the Western screech owl), but these attacks are extremely rare.
Can A Cat Fight Off An Owl?
Although cats might seem easy prey for owls, they aren’t. Worms and mice are small, and the owls that feed on them are often considerably larger than they are, making it simple for the owls to catch them.
However, cats can strike back, and they most certainly do. Many cats who get attacked by an owl “win the battle” and leave with only a few scratches.
However, kittens and senior cats cannot defend themselves as grown, fully healthy cats can, making them more likely to become injured in the attack.
6 Ways To Keep Your Kitty Safe
If you live in an area where an owl attack is a real possibility, you should take some precautions to ensure your cat is safe from an owl attack.
I have my six best pieces of advice listed and explained below!
1. Don’t Let Your Cat Go Outside At Night
Owls are nocturnal creatures and hunt during the night, which is a characteristic cats share as well, meaning the two are likely to meet during the night (however, a day encounter is possible too).
Therefore, if you usually allow your cat to go in and out of the house whenever it pleases, then make sure your cat stays inside during the night.
2. Keep Your Cat Inside Your Home At All Times
If you want to be 100% sure your cat will not get attacked by an owl, the most straightforward solution is to keep your feline inside at all times.
This is by far the most effective way to eliminate any potential attacks, and it’s recommended to do so during the owl breeding season, as that’s the time owls are the most territorial and aggressive.
3. Try To Keep Your Outdoor Cat Confined To The Yard
Outdoor cars tend to wander off from the yard and roam large areas. This is a potential issue, as roaming a larger area means more potential encounters with an owl.
Owls are territorial, and the owl may attack if they feel the cat has somehow endangered them or their younglings.
Therefore, ensure your outdoor cat doesn’t leave the safe grounds of your backyard too often.
4. Create Noise If You See An Owl Lurking
Owls usually avoid all interactions with people. Make noise if you observe that an owl is hiding out on your land and potentially getting ready to attack your feline.
Owls are frightened by yelling, shouting, and applauding. You may set up your DIY noisemakers. Try tying together some aluminum tin cans with one loose end, and whenever you notice an owl nearby, make some noise!
5. Keep The Outside Light On
Owls are sensitive to bright light, which you can take advantage of.
Keeping an outside door light on or installing garden lights (which can be motion-detected) might be a good idea, as owls usually get away from bright lights, especially at night.
This is a popular technique for deterring owls, and many people recommend buying a strobe light, as owls seem particularly sensitive to it. Luckily, the strobe light is an easy find and should not be expensive.
6. Get Rid Of The Bird Feeder From The Backyard
An owl’s preferred meal is a small, helpless bird.
If you have a bird feeder installed somewhere in your backyard, it most likely means your yard will have more birds than most yards, which means your yard will attract more attention from owls, increasing your cat’s chances of being attacked by an owl.
Therefore, removing the bird feeder also means removing the “hey, food here, attack here” sign from your yard too.
An Owl Tried To Eat My Cat, What Do I Do?
If your cat survives an owl attack, that doesn’t mean it didn’t sustain some battle injuries.
Closely check your cat’s fur and neck for potential signs of an injury. If you notice any deeper scratches, I recommend you seek veterinary assistance, as even minor wounds can develop an infection.
You need to see a vet if your cat shows any signs of injury, such as limping or pain.
If you’re worried about an attack happening again, I recommend you employ the six pieces of advice I gave in the section above; and try contacting the International Owl Center or the neighborhood wildlife services to see what more you can do to prevent it from happening again.
Important Note: Never Try To Kill An Owl
Keep in mind that it is illegal to kill or injure owls and that doing so might result in a costly fine or maybe even criminal charges.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 USC, 703–711) and state legislation protect all owls.
Without a license, killing owls or other raptors is against the law, and violators face legal repercussions such as fines, probation, and community service.
Even though an owl assaulting your cat is terrible, you should never hurt them.
Can Owls Pick Up An 8-Pound Cat?
Owls can lift and transport prey that is much heavier than they are. (For instance, a 3 lb. owl can carry 8–9 lb. prey (that’s the size of a Chihuahua and an average cat weight). Therefore, some species of owls, especially large ones, can pick up an 8-pound cat with no problem.
What Kind Of Owls Eat Cats?
Cats are easy targets for large owl species, such as the Great horned owl, Northern hawk owl, Eagle owl, Barred owl, or Great grey owl. However, it’s important to note that owls are not very likely to attack and eat a cat, as it’s not their preferred food choice.
How Many Cats Does An Owl Eat In A Year?
I don’t think cat owners should worry about cat-eating owls eating their pets. They attack cats only in special circumstances, such as food scarcity or territory protection. So the answer to this question is: in most cases, the number of cats an owl eats yearly is (close to) 0.
What Are Some Other Animals That Owls Eat?
Owls eat insects, other birds, small mammals, and fish. To be more specific, owls can eat mice, rats, shrews, gophers, voles, spiders, worms, beetles, snails, lizards, snakes, rabbits, squirrels, young foxes, etc.
As you can see, an owl’s diet is carnivorous. However, an owl’s diet depends on its species, geographical location, and food availability.
Do Owls Hate Cats?
Although owls and cats are not the best of friends, they’re also not the worst of enemies. Some small owls and cats can coexist together in a home!
However, owls will not hesitate to attack cats when needed (such as being hungry and not having other food choices, and the cat is a threat to their younglings).
Owls are powerful birds of prey capable of attacking and eating a cat. Kittens are in greater danger of getting struck by an owl, as they’re smaller and cannot defend themselves as efficiently as large cats can.
However, it’s important to remember that although larger owls can eat our domestic cats, those instances are very rare! Owls will attack and eat cats only in special circumstances, such as not having other food sources.
If you live in a wooded area with a lot of owls, keep your cat safe by not letting it roam around, especially at night, as that’s when owls hunt.
Owls are repelled by noise and bright lights, which you can use to your advantage when making your garden owl-proof!
If you have owls in your surroundings and want to keep your kitty safe, try the six ways to keep your cat safe I described in this article, and I’m sure you won’t have owl issues again!
If you liked reading this article, you might find this interesting as well: Do Raccoons Eat Cats? Are The Rumors True Or Not?
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