Do Owls Eat Cats? How To Keep Your Cat Safe

Although it’s very unlikely, there is some evidence to claim that owls do eat cats occasionally.

The larger owls, such as the European or Eurasian Owl can target prey that are relatively large, including cats.

Owls are predators and usually have a range of prey that they feed on, but they are also opportunists.  Owls may eat cats if their normal food supply is scarce.

What Should Cat Owners do?

  1. Don’t leave your cat out at night.
  2. Be vigilant.
  3. Take preventative measures.
  4. Learn about the feeding habits of owls in your area.
cat in the dark

Some General Information about Owls:

  •  Scientific Name: Tytonidae Strigidae
  •  Life span: anything between 1-30 years
  • Weight: from 1.4 ounces to between 4-5 pounds
  •  Wingspan: 13-52 inches, depending on the species
  •  Diet: carnivorous
  • Habitat: everywhere except Antarctica

Native British Owls:

Statistics from a Study in 2009

  1. The Little or Athene Owl: 6,000-11,000 breeding pairs. The population has declined in recent years.
  2. Tawny Owl: 19,000 breeding pairs.
  3. Barn Owl: 3,000 breeding pairs. 85% of its prey are voles.  
  4. Short-Eared Owl: 1,000-3,500 breeding pairs.
  5. Long-Eared Owl: 2,000-5,000 breeding pairs.
  6. European Eagle Owl: largest of the British owls. Only 25 breeding pairs recorded.

The Snowy Owl has become a frequent visitor over the years, but no breeding pairs have been recorded, only single birds. Check out these facts and learn more here

The Anecdotal Evidence Of Cats Being Eaten By Owls

The stories of cats being eaten by owls are probably due to someone with a missing cat looking for an explanation. If you live in a rural area or on the outskirts of one, then you will be aware that owls inhabit the surrounding countryside.

do owls eat cats

It is well known that owls prey on small animals at night and some also hunt during the day too. Combine that with the fact that cats are also nocturnal hunters and you have the possibility that it is true.

Kittens may well be an easy target for owls because of their size and weakness.

As owls normally swallow their prey whole and spit up the remains that can’t be digested, the only way to tell is to dissect the pellets they leave for cat remains.

Read more stories relating to owls and cats here.

Owls as Predators

It is known that the larger species of owls can attack and carry off animals as large as a small or baby deer. Due to their size, the smaller owls would be unlikely to attack a mammal that they can’t swallow, which is their normal feeding habit.

They may attack cats that stray into their hunting grounds or if they think their owlets are in danger during the breeding season. With chicks to feed on a regular basis, small cats, or kittens or even the smaller toy type dog may present an easy feeding option.

Their normal sources of food range from other birds, the smaller mammals, reptiles, and insects.

Be Aware
May through June is the time to be especially vigilant, as it is the breeding and hatching season. Owls need to feed their owlets and young owls are learning to hunt.

Cats vs Owls

When you think about it, both owls and cats are pretty much evenly matched when it comes to battle and survival. It may not seem so at first, as they are totally different species of the animal kingdom, but each has its attributes that have ensured its survival for thousands of years.

The big difference is that one is ground-dwelling and the other is a creature of the air. Both are expert silent stalkers. Some of the martial arts have sought to copy the fluid and silent stepping motions of cats.

Both owls and cats have excellent night vision and hearing. Both pounce by surprise and from concealment, and they like to ambush their prey.

The advantage the owl has, is that it can drop or dive from above. Its wings are specially adapted for silent flight. Owls also have amazing strength in their talons, which they use to grip and crush their victims. On the other hand, cats are fast and agile.

owl looking for something to hunt

Also Read:
Do Hawks Eat Cats?
Do Eagles Eat Cats?
Do Buzzards Eat Cats?


They can leap from a standstill and are armed with sharp teeth plus fourth sets of claws.

It is a toss-up who would win such a battle. Size would probably determine the outcome or whether or not an attack would take place at all. There are also other factors to consider such as hunger and the lack of an owl’s usual food supply and defence of its owlets or territory.

Kittens or injured cats may be considered suitable prey if they are weak and small enough.

Did you know..
75% of new-born owl chicks die. The main cause of death is starvation.

Cats at Risk

As mentioned above, kittens most certainly will be at risk of an owl attack if the bird is sufficiently hungry. Also cats that are old and infirm because of declining eyesight, hearing, and agility due to old age that may make them vulnerable too.

cat outdoors at night

Others at risk are curious or adventurous cats that get too close to nesting sites.

The terrain where you live will determine the species of owls that nest in the vicinity and help influence the risk of cats being preyed upon.

Owl deaths
Over 5,000 owl deaths a year are caused by collisions with moving vehicles.

How to Keep Owls Away

  • Owls don’t like bright light. Keep an outside light on or install a motion detector lamp.
  • They are territorial and they won’t hunt on another owl’s patch: use decoys, such as plastic or any other kind of owl decoys. Owls are smart enough to figure out they aren’t a threat if they don’t move so change the position of the decoys frequently.
  • Hunting owls perch and scan for their prey: you can install mild electric shock devices on any likely perch.
  • Owls don’t like loud noises: you can scare them away with noise makers, fireworks, or simply by shouting.
  • Learn the calls of owls to identify them: some owl species are more prone to attack cats than others. Owls like the European or Snowy owl have the size to seize bigger prey.
Remember:
It is a criminal offence to kill an owl – 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Other Pets at Risk

Other household pets that may be at risk are very small dogs, rabbits, hamsters, reptiles, or any other small or rodent-like animals. As most small pets are kept indoors and in cages or tanks they would only be vulnerable if you take them outside.

Any free-running fowl such as hens, ducks, or geese could be considered as likely targets.


Also Read: Do Snakes Eat Cats?


Take-away

It can be said that owls do eat cats, but when you look at the ratio of household cats to that of owls, the likelihood of that happening is quite small.

To avoid this worry you can take preventative measures by learning about owls and their habits.

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