Do Owls Eat Cats?

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Cynthia Demers

Do owls eat cats? This is a common question for people who are worried about their pets. Some say that it does happen but not often, and when it does, there’s nothing you can do to protect your pet from the owl. Others believe this myth to be false. So what exactly happens if an owl eats a cat? And how much of a threat is this really? Let’s take a look at both sides of the story and see what we find out!

owl catches cat

What do owls eat?

The owl is a nocturnal bird of prey – that means they eat other animals. They hunt at night and their food sources are usually small rodents, reptiles, and birds – not necessarily cats! They tend to have big eyes with a wide field of vision which allows them to see clearly in the dark. Their ears are located in the center of their heads (so they can pinpoint noises) but do not move unlike the ears of other birds. The feathers on an owl’s wings and tail are soft like fur so they can fly silently while hunting for food. If an owl sees a potential meal it will dive down towards its target (often from extremely high up), gripping whatever snack it has chosen with its feet and killing it with its powerful talons. Then the owl will fly back up to a branch or high perch (which they do extremely well) and devour its prey.

Do owls eat cats?

Like most predators, the owl will usually leave alone creatures bigger than itself – especially when its hunting ground is being invaded. Owls are very territorial and have a strong sense of self-awareness which means if there is another creature around that seems larger or equal to themselves they will not try anything – it doesn’t matter whether that creature is another bird, a human, or even a dog!

If an owl was to attack and kill something as small as a cat it would do major damage to their wing muscles and it would take lots of energy for them to get back up in the air. Plus, if an owl became too used to eating smaller animals then what’s to stop it from trying to kill bigger things too? There is a reason why owls do not usually eat cats (but sometimes do)!

Another point to consider is that cats are too big for an adult owl bird. Owls swallow their food whole – there’s no chewing involved so even though it seems unlikely, if you think about where the owl would have picked up your pet, perhaps your cat was snagged by an owl earlier in the day and it’s now being consumed.

Kittens are prey to owls, but adult cats are rarely prey to anything but larger land mammal predators like coyotes and wolves.

Probably you also need to differentiate between pet cats and ‘barn cats’. While they often act like any pet cat and will rub your leg for attention, they are actually a lot more wild than you might think. Even though you feed them, they get a substantial portion of their diet from the small animals that invade the barn and are much less likely to get attacked by a barn owl (or any other owl, like do barred owls or great horned owls).

I have heard first and second-hand about cat fatalities from owls, so it certainly happens. Though almost undoubtedly very unusual! Larger owls such as Great Horned Owl or Eurasian Eagle are known to take animals even larger than adult cats (eg., great blue herons, small alligators), though they’re unique in that they’re well equipped to fight back unlike their prey which includes red foxes and raccoons).

owl threat to cat

How much of a threat are owls to cats?

Do owls eat cats? Not too often, no. There have been instances where an owl swooped down and caught or attacked a pet cat (one such story from Canada) but it is very rare for the cat to be killed by the bird. Most of these “attacks” happen when a cat strays outside and into the territory of the owl on its hunting route. It isn’t that big of a deal if your cat escapes in one piece – just make sure it doesn’t do anything silly like this again! In some cases, however, people do get concerned because their pets have disappeared without explanation. This can be quite frightening as anyone with any experience with owls will tell you how powerful and intimidating they can be. (Check out our post about the cat symbolism and the white cat meaning)

Do other birds of prey eat cats?

The truth is that an eagle or a hawk would rather eat something larger and more threatening than a cat (like a small dog or other large prey).

Birds of prey are predators that hunt and eat small animals, including cats. Some birds of prey do not have a preference for what they eat, but others will only eat certain types of food sources such as rodents or fish. The owl is one type of bird that has been known to occasionally consume house pets. 

A variety of factors come into play when determining whether or not an animal will be eaten by a predator; the size and weight difference between the two animals are often crucial in deciding who eats whom. For example, if there was a fox hunting mice and it came across a cat, chances are good that the mouse would be consumed before the cat because it’s smaller than the cat in size and weight. However, some large mammals like the barn owl have no problem-consuming prey that is bigger than it.

Cats don’t stand much chance against an attack from an adult eagle or hawk even though they are sometimes considered pests by some farmers!

[Video] Most Vicious Hawk and Eagle Attacks On Kittens

Do owls eat dogs?

Now an average dog is much bigger than a cat so we know that an owl would not just be picking up and swallowing it whole! Owls do hunt dogs in some cases but there’s no need to worry – like cats, however, the dog doesn’t usually die. They can pick up or attack larger animals (such as foxes) which do have them concerned for their safety, so the best thing you can do is keep your pets indoors at night. If they’re scared of being out in the dark then you’ll just have to come to terms with that – it’s safer for the birds too if you leave them inside.

What happens when an owl eats my pet?

This isn’t something any pet owner wants to think about, but it happens more often than you would think. Birds of prey are notorious for snatching small pets – either out of a yard or off the street. In most cases, these animals escape with their lives and only have minor injuries (a leg here, an eye there) to show for their misfortune. BUT…there are some sad instances (some documented on film) where the animal has been killed by the predator, even after being dropped.

The best thing to do if this happens is to put it behind you as quickly as possible and not let it ruin your relationship with other birds of prey. It’s just what they DO!

protect cat from owls

What can I do to protect my cat?

If you are still not comfortable with the idea of your pet being eaten by a wild bird (even if it’s just a matter of time) there are some things you can do. Here are several suggestions to protect your cat from owls:

  • Keep cats inside at night and during dawn/dusk when hunting is most common. However, this isn’t much fun for them or you!
  • Cats left outside will be free to roam more safely, but they should wear identification tags in case they get lost or snatched. This will also help you find them again once they escape from an attack or long-nosed predator such as weasel. There is also an electronic device that emits intermittent ultrasonic noises which deters squirrels and small birds from getting too close to your property.
  • Install an outdoor device, a motion-activated sprinkler that sprays water when animals (owls or mice) come within range of it. – Move the bird feeder to a location more than 20 feet high where it will be less accessible to owls and other predators such as raccoons. The same method can be used with your cat’s food bowl if you believe it presents a danger in an area of the yard. – Make sure your pet has proper identification tags on his collar OR attach bells or reflective material so it is easier for birds to see before they swoop down at him. Of course, this won’t work in total darkness, but it will improve his chances of escape.
  • Don’t let your dog run free without supervision and always keep cats indoors at night or in the evening if you can do it safely.  – If possible, seek out a wildlife rehabilitation facility that treats birds of prey for injury and disease. You may be able to get some tips on how to prevent attacks in the future as well.  It is best NOT to try treating an owl yourself because they are very sensitive to stressful environments: besides, they actually should not be handled by humans much more than necessary anyway! (this means you don’t want them living in your house!) Instead, seek out a local rehab center and see what they have to say about adjusting your cat’s area or keeping them.
owl attacks kitten


Owls are raptors and do eat small animals including cats. However, the cat usually does not die from this act (though they can be injured). The best way to prevent a pet attack is by keeping your pets inside at night or dusk when owls hunt most often. If an owl does capture one of your pets, it’s unlikely that you’ll see them again because they’re too shy to live in captivity like other birds. You should also have identification tags on all of your pets so if anything happens you know who has been taken away.

In another post, we also compared the owl vs eagle and the owl vs crow.

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Cynthia Demers
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Cynthia is dealing with animals' symbolism and all things spiritual for many years. She wants to help readers achieve balance in physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband.

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