You may have heard stories about huge owls attacking and carrying off cats. Is there anything to these stories? Should you be worried about letting your cat outside if there are owls in your area? In a contest of cat vs. owl, who would win? Keep reading to find out more.
What You'll Learn Today
Do Owls Attack Cats?
Owls are birds of prey who eat a wide variety of other animals. But what about cats?
Most owl species are fairly small and try to avoid getting into fights with cats. But there are a few species that will attack cats in certain scenarios.
The barred owl, eagle owl, and great horned owl are some of the largest owl species and the ones most likely to attempt attacking cats. These especially large owls are not only big enough to rival even large cats for size, but they can also carry off prey up to four times their own size.
That said, even these large owls will not attack a cat without reason. Some common reasons why an owl may take on a cat include:
- The cat steals an owlet: If the cat makes its way into an owl’s territory and manages to steal one of its babies, the owl will not let the cat get away without a fight.
- The cat has a rat or other prey the owl wants: Sometimes, an eagle and a cat may be stalking the same prey. If the cat gets to it first, the eagle may attack the cat and attempt to steal the prey.
- The owl sees the cat as a meal: On rare occasions, an owl may hunt a cat for food. This is usually the case only during times of food shortage if the owl is particularly desperate.
According to the Owl Research Institute, most owls prefer to eat small rodents, though they will hunt and eat a variety of other animals as well. Since cats also hunt small animals, this can lead to competition between cats and owls in the same territory.
Also, both cats and owls do most of their hunting at night, which may frequently lead them into some of the same areas searching for the same prey. Because they will eat nearly anything if they are hungry, the owls may turn to hunting the cats if they can’t find their preferred food.
Can Cats Fight Owls?
Because of their silent flight patterns and ability to attack without warning, owls typically have the edge when it comes to a fight between owls and cats. That said, cats can be highly aggressive when they need to be.
A cat’s quick reflexes can help it respond instantaneously when an owl attacks. Its sharp claws and teeth can prove to be formidable weapons if it is able to twist around and use them against its attacker.
So yes, cats can fight back when they are attacked by owls.
As you can see in the following video, owls and cats don’t typically make the best of friends, even when they’re separated by a window.
Can an Owl Kill a Large Cat?
If attacked by an owl, a cat will fight back if it’s able to. But what if the attack comes too suddenly and the cat is not able to react in time?
Owls don’t usually attack cats with the intention of killing them unless food is scarce and they are desperate for a meal. When they attack, it is usually in an effort to get an owlet back or to steal the cat’s prey, which usually results in the owl attacking then getting away as quickly as possible.
If the owl is trying to kill the cat, it may do so in a couple of ways. The owl’s talons may deliver a killing blow, or it may pick up the cat, carry it into the air, and drop it, letting the fall from a great height kill the cat.
Owls typically stalk cats as they would any other prey, and they have the advantage of flight and the ability to sneak up silently on the cat. These advantages often give the owl the ability to kill the cat, but again, it rarely does so.
What Animals Can Kill Owls?
As noted, owls can hunt and kill a number of animals, including cats. So, what animals can kill owls?
Despite being predators themselves, owls do occasionally find themselves being preyed on by other predators. They are most frequently hunted by other birds of prey; for example, larger owls often kill smaller owls, and eagles and hawks sometimes kill owls of all sizes.
There are no predators who hunt owls exclusively, and adult owls that are uninjured are a force to be reckoned with, so most predators leave them alone.
Some predators may prey on young or injured owls though. Young owls especially may sometimes end up in harm’s way, and other animals may be able to sense their inexperience and take advantage of it.
Wolves, bears, and cougars are just a few of the many land predators that may prey on young or injured owls.
Owls rarely attack cats, but when they do, they may have a slight advantage over the cat because of their ability to fly silently and attack without warning. That said, cats react quickly, and their sharp claws and teeth can make life miserable for the owl even if the owl ultimately wins the fight.