Do Owls Eat Cats?

Do owls eat cats and small dogs? Surprisingly the answer is Yes. The Striped Owl or Hoot Owl has been photographed carrying off a full-sized domestic cat in its talons. This happened in Minnesota, USA. Astonishing. These owls are large but considerably lighter than an adult cat. They like to carry the cat into the air and then drop it. This stuns or kills the cat. If it does not work they might do it again. It is pretty brutal.

Hoot Owl
Hoot Owl Attacks Cats. Photo Wikimedia Commons. Photo taken by Mdf.
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The hoot owl weighs up to 2.3 pounds. This is about one quarter the weight of a domestic adult cat. Yet it is able to grab a cat and fly off with it. Its wingspan is up to 50 inches. This is obviously a very strong animal. The hoot owl’s usual prey is a vole. It has a wide range of prey from insects to cats! It is opportunistic.

Another species of owl that might attack a domestic or community cat is Great Horned Owl. This owl also eats small dogs.

I guess it is stating the obvious but neither of these owls like to attack cats as a preference. These attacks are possibly rare. Smaller mammals are preferred. However, I have a gut feeling that owl attacks are less rare than people believe. They also happen at night. If a person’s cat has simply gone missing this is one possible cause.

Apparently owls might mistake a cat for a rabbit. Rabbits are a favorite for the owl.

That fact that they can occur is a decent reason for keeping cats indoors or, my preference, keeping cats in a large enclosure with a protective roof. Also even if a cat is not killed by an owl it could be hurt. There is a story of an owl in a garage fighting with a domestic cat. The cat came off worst with several puncture wounds.

There is a story on PoC of a dwarf cat, a Munchkin, being grabbed from a balcony by an eagle. The person guessed that it might have a been an eagle. Perhaps it was an owl.

The Hoot Owl is found in woods in eastern United States and the southeast including suburban environments. They are spreading northwest apparently.

I don’t know of a cat being attacked by an owl in the UK. That does not mean it has not happened.

6 thoughts on “Do Owls Eat Cats?”

  1. We live in the city and there are not enough large owls to keep the cat population in check so i have to trap them instead. it’s rather annoying when the cats put up a fight

    • Wouldn’t it be better if the people ensured that there cats were all neutered and not able to breed? That would be preventative action rather than cruelly killing them which I presume you do.

  2. We live in SW OK, Choctaw, and have lost two cats. Reports and sightings of an owl and eagle have been made. Lots of dense woods in the area. Lots of trees on our property. Our first cat disappeared off the back porch. I heard sounds of a brief fight I put off to a cat fight but there was no sign of a fight. At the time I put it off to a Bobcat or pack of raccoons roving the neighborhood eating pet food outside. Please be aware.

  3. I have a big owl living in the oak trees in the back garden where Yellow Cat and Shadow live. I used to worry about it, but there is so much cover for the cats, the owl would have to maneuver its wings in too many strange ways to get at them, and the cats are too clever anyway. It is a noisy owl, but I love the sound coming in my bedroom window on the second floor. Bigfoot (my bedroom cat) wakes up, glances at the window then keeps on sleeping. I’m not sure if it is a barn owl or something else. You never know it is there during the day. Fortunately, there are enough moles, voles, possums and mice to feed a whole team of owls. They are just making a living! I’m glad it is rare for a cat to be the victim. This is another good reason to keep kittens in at night. They are perfect prey.


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