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Home > Cats > Do Owls Attack and Eat Cats? Vet-Reviewed Safety Information

Do Owls Attack and Eat Cats? Vet-Reviewed Safety Information

Long eared owl_Kevinsphotos, Pixabay attack cat

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Large owl species can target surprisingly large species of prey, including small baby deer, and most owl species are also fairly indiscriminate eaters, often eating whatever they can find. But what about cats? Will an owl attack and eat a cat if it gets the chance?

The answer is yes, although it is unlikely and fairly uncommon, there is anecdotal evidence of cats being carried away by large owl species. Both cats and owls are most active at night. If an owl’s regular food source is in short supply or they simply see a good opportunity, there is a chance that your cat could be attacked.

In this article, we’ll look at the likelihood of an owl attacking your cat and the steps you can take to avoid it.

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When Do Owls Attack Cats?

While cats are not on the menu for most owl species, some owls are large enough or desperate enough to consider taking on a domestic cat. Owls will not simply attack a cat out of boredom or as a perceived threat. The reasons are usually that their regular prey is in short supply, your cat may have caught a rat or small animal that the owl wants to steal, or your cat has managed to get one of the owl’s young or come near their nest.

Owls have a wide variety of preferred prey, including rodents, fish, other small birds, or almost any small mammal, including occasionally: cats.

Even though owls have a preferred menu, they are opportunistic eaters who will eat whatever is available, and if your feline is in the wrong place at the wrong time, an owl will surely see them as a potential meal.

cat hunting prey from the bushes at night
Image By: Paul W Thompson, Shutterstock

Aren’t Cats Too Heavy?

While it’s true that most cats are too large and heavy for most owl species to attack and carry away, owls can exert a tremendous amount of force with their talons and can cause serious injury to an unsuspecting cat. Even though a large cat will be too heavy to carry away and eat for most owls, they will still certainly attack one for various reasons. Certain large species of owl have been known to carry away small baby deer, so a cat will be no issue!

The Great Horned Owl, for example, is the largest of all the North American owl species. The average weight of one of these owls is around 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms), but they can carry weights far larger than themselves, up to 9 pounds (4 kilograms) at times! The average domestic cat weighs around 9–10 pounds (4–4.5 kilograms), but some breeds, like Siamese cats, are generally smaller. So, if the right owl decides to attack the right cat, it is certainly possible for them to be carried away.

How to Keep Your Cat Safe From Owls

Keeping your cat indoors at night is the best way to keep them safe from potential owl attacks. Additionally, bright lights in your yard will help deter owls because they don’t like bright lights, but your cat may still wander into darker areas. Keep an eye out for owls in your area, and if you see or hear any owls close by, make sure to keep your cat in at night.

If your cat has been attacked by an owl, they should go to the vet immediately, even if they seem uninjured.

Remember that killing or hurting an owl is illegal in most areas and can result in a hefty fine and even criminal charges. As horrible as an attack on your cat by an owl is, you should never resort to harming the owl.

Siberian Owl in flight
Image Credit: ElvisCZ, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

While it is highly unlikely, especially if you do not live in a rural area, an owl attacking your cat is still a distinct possibility. The best method is avoidance, and if you see or hear any owls in your area, it’s best to keep your cat inside at night.

Featured Image Credit: Kevinsphotos, Pixabay

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