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Home > General > Do Owls Make Great Pets? Legality, Ethics & FAQs

Do Owls Make Great Pets? Legality, Ethics & FAQs

owl in wild

Owls are one of the most iconic and fascinating exotic birds in the world. Hedwig, the snowy owl from the Harry Potter franchise, inspired many pet fanciers to think that these birds can make great pets.

While it could be true, owls are wild creatures, and keeping one in a typical home setting is not a good option. Yet still, it’s not impossible, especially since wild birds like parrots have been excellent pets for most households for ages.

But practically, can owls be as amazing as well? Keep reading and find out.


Can You Have an Owl as a Pet?

Long eared owl_Kevinsphotos, Pixabay
Image By: Kevinsphotos, Pixabay

You might have heard that owning an owl is illegal, which is partially untrue. The U.S., like many countries, has put up laws and regulations regarding the ownership of wild and exotic animals, a category that owls fit in.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a federal measure the U.S. put in place to protect exotic animals. This makes owning a snowy owl or any other native owl as a pet illegal in the country.

However, the law can allow you to keep a non-native owl only if you have a permit and it’s for education, falconry, or rehabilitation purposes. The law also requires you to undergo training and get a certification, or else you risk a hefty fine or a possible jail term.

So, instead of caging up an owl in your home, you can consider inviting them to nest in your backyard. But, of course, you can also build a house, especially if you live in a quiet neighborhood.

Owls That Are Legal to Own in the U.S.

Owl flyling_ElvisCZ, Pixabay
Image By: ElvisCZ, Pixabay

Non-native owls are perfectly legal to own in certain states. The most commonly available exotic owl to keep as a pet in the U.S. without a permit includes the Eurasian eagle owl. It’s among the largest owls in the world.

You can also keep the speckled owl, although it is a rare breed.

divider-birdThe 6 Reasons Why Owls Make Great Pets

1. They Have a Simple Diet

Owls are carnivores, and their diet is pretty much straightforward; day-old chicks, young rats, whole quails, and sometimes mice. Plus, you can feed them once a day, either in the afternoon or at night.

Owls don’t need cooked food, vegetables, or designated bird-friendly feeds like other birds. However, like other exotic animals, there’s not much information about an owl’s exact nutritional requirements.

Owl eating_Alexas_fotos_Pixabay
Image Credit: Alexas_fotos, Pixabay

2. Satisfies the Desire for Adventure

One benefit of owning this bird is that it allows you to satisfy the desire to own an enigmatic and interesting animal in the house. It benefits those who are adventurous.

3. They Are Solitary

Most pet birds are companion animals. For instance, pets like parrots demand constant attention from their owners, which may not always be available on standby.

Some of these pet birds also require you to pair them with a partner to bond with because they form close relationships with others in the wild. However, owls are solitary and do not depend on human affection. Therefore, you can leave them alone for days without worrying about potential separation anxiety.

Barn owls, which are naturally social, can also adapt to solitary living.

Great Horned Owl_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pixabay

4. They Are Sedentary

Owls require little physical activity. Those in captivity are usually complacent and still thrive sitting on a perch unbothered about expelling energy through numerous activities. You can notice this behavior even in the wild.

These birds also have minimal housing requirements, only requiring a few perching places and a small window to allow them to view the outdoors.

5. They Are Fascinating

These birds are unique and a joy to watch. This is because they can twist their heads up to 270 degrees to look in both directions without breaking their necks.

You can also find other “transforming” owls like the Northern White-faced Owl with incredibly bizarre shape-shifting abilities.

northern white face owl_Anthony King Nature_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Anthony King Nature, Shutterstock

6. Lifespan

Owls can be healthy enough to reach a substantial lifespan in captivity (depending on the species). For instance, a Eurasian Eagle-owl can live for 20-50 years with adequate care and food, compared to the 20-year lifespan in the wild.

The major cause of death for these birds is starvation.


The 7 Challenges You’ll Encounter as an Owl Parent

1. Owls Are Messy

First off, owls eat raw fresh meat and are notoriously messy eaters too. They tear their prey to shreds for them to eat in small bites and leave the mess for you to clean. Cleaning after leftovers or blood spills isn’t pleasant.

You also wouldn’t love storing rats and chicks in your freezer, alongside your family’s frozen foods.

Owls poop a lot, and it smells awful because it consists of digested meat. The stench can be unbearable for the owner, mainly because you need to regularly clean the aviary or cage.

2. They Need Constant Care

Owls might be solitary and lead a sedentary lifestyle, but they can get quite demanding. This happens if they get too acquainted with the same person as they’ll never allow any other person to approach them.

This means that you cannot call in a pet sitter to help you with it in case you are busy or traveling for days. You either take it along with you on your trips or don’t travel at all.

owl care_RitaE_Pixabay
Image Credit: RitaE, Pixabay

3. Owls Are Nocturnal

Owls sleep during the day and stay active at night. Unfortunately, this routine contradicts a typical human’s schedule, making it hard for anyone to cope.

This is because the bird will create problems for you and your neighbor at night when you should be resting, with constant hooting.

4. They Need Space

Owls are relatively large, so a typical parrot cage won’t just be sufficient. They require a huge aviary to live and exercise in.

These birds require various perching areas to fly and spread their wings freely, requiring a good amount of space.

owl cage_falco_Pixabay
Image Credit: falco_, Pixabay

5. They Can Be Destructive

Owls are fierce carnivorous raptors in the wild, a trait they possess even in domestic settings. This bird will destroy your furniture and tear your clothes and pillows apart using their large beaks and sharp talons.

It’s hard to contain this wild behavior because these birds can be hard to tame.

6. Limited Vets

Finding a vet for any exotic animal isn’t as easy as finding one for dogs and cats. Not many vets are familiar with this bird. Plus, owls can get aggressive if a stranger approaches them.

Great Grey Owl_christels, Pixabay
Image Credit: christels, Pixabay

7. Have Specialized Diets

Owls cannot eat regular bird food from the store. Bird seeds, veggies, small insects, and pellets are not an option for them. Instead, they require fresh meat such as chicks, mice, and guinea pigs, foods that aren’t so easy to find every day.



You can keep an owl if you are pretty sure you can overcome these challenges or still think you can handle one. However, owls are still wild raptors, and they belong to the wild, so keeping one in your home is never the best choice.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Georg Wietschorke, Pixabay

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