Do owls attack cats and eat them? You may be asking this question if you have a pet cat that likes to spend time outdoors. You may also live on a piece of property or in a neighborhood with lots of owls!

Do owls eat cats? Yes. If a hungry owl’s usual food source is scarce or a cat crosses its path, the cat could become its next meal. The chance of an attack will increase if the cat approaches the owls territory or its nest. However, owl attacks on cats are not common.

In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between cats and owls, and if owls attack cats and eat them. We’ll also examine the types of prey that owls eat and how they hunt. Finally, we will discuss what you can do to protect your cats from these nocturnal predators.

So read on, and discover what you need to know to keep your cats safe from owl attacks.

Do owls eat cats? This Tawny owl sitting on a tree root just might!
Do owls eat cats? This lovely Tawny Owl might attack and eat a cat if it was hungry and a cat crossed its path.

What Do Owls Eat?

Before we jump into the question of whether owls eat cats, let’s first understand their typical diet and how they capture prey.

What an owl eats depends on its size, where it lives, and the availability of prey in their habitat. They are super adaptable and will eat what is most available. They have fantastic hunting skills, and can take down prey that are larger than they are.

Do Owls Eat Cats?

Graphic of owl on a bike. Trees are on either side and lampost and city scape are in background.

Owls will sometimes attack and kill cats, even though this is not common. Owl attacks on cats can occur when a hungry owl cannot find its preferred prey and sees a vulnerable cat.

However, owls are not the only animals that eat domestic cats. So, what eats cats? Coyotes, foxes, other birds of prey, bobcats, wildcats, snakes, and large carnivorous mammals may also eat cats.

Domestic tabby cat walking on grass through a field
Might an owl eat a cat? This domestic cat would be no match for a hungry owl.

What Kinds of Owls Eat Cats?

While some species of owls prey on cats, not all owls have a taste for felines. It also depends on the size of the owl, as well as how determined it is.

For example, large owls like the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, eat cats of different sizes. Smaller owls with lots of determination may only go after smaller cats.

Do Great Horned Owls Eat Cats?

Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) are large, ferocious, and powerful predators.

Great Horned Owls will sometimes kill cats, as well as kittens. Do these owls eat dogs? Yes they do – though only small dogs and puppies.

Do Barred Owls Eat Cats?

At least one Barred Owl has attacked a cat.

The stocky Barred Owl (Strix varia) is not as large as a Great Horned Owl. Yet, it is still strong enough to capture, lift, and kill small mammals like cats.

Do Barn Owls Eat Cats?

Barn Owls (Tyto alba) don’t usually go after cats. They are smaller owls and tend to prefer smaller size prey, like mice, voles, and other small mammals.

Do Northern Pygmy Owls Eat Cats?

The little Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium californicum) does not eat cats. They are too small to take down an animal like a cat or dog. The Northern Pygmy Owl is also diurnal. This means that they hunt during the day when most cats are not on the prowl.

It is worth noting that the Northern Pygmy Owl is quite confident and brave! This owl will go after prey that is much larger than they are, sometimes even pursuing chickens!

Will an Owl Attack a Cat Only at Night?

Graphic of owl on a bicycle surrounded by flowers

Owls are nocturnal, which means they are active at night. Many owls are also active during dawn and dusk. If a cat crosses a hungry owl’s path during nighttime, dawn, or dusk, the owl will attack. But are cats active at night, or during dawn and dusk, like most owls are?

Yes, cats are crepuscular which means they are most active in the early evening and dawn. Since both owls and cats rely on the cover of darkness to hunt down their prey, their paths may cross. When they do, cats may become prey to owls.

A cat hunting at night as it leaps towards prey in field
Cats hunt in the dark, like owls do.

The likelihood and time of the attack can vary depending on the owl species and the behavior of the cat.

Some owls, like the Great Horned Owl, may start hunting at dusk. Other owls may be most active at both dawn and dusk, and some owls occasionally hunt during the day. They may even switch up their hunting routine according to the season. For example, the Barred Owl daytime hunts in late winter.

Since owls have excellent night vision, they can detect their prey in the dark. Even a dark slinky cat, moving through the dark night, cannot hide from an owl.

Why Do Owls Attack Cats?

Graphic of owl on bicycle

While owl attacks on cats are not common, they do occur, and there are several reasons why this might happen. Here are some possible explanations:

Lack of Food: Owls are opportunistic hunters and will eat whatever is available to them. If their usual prey is in short supply, they may turn to other sources of food, including cats.

In the following video, we can see that an owl prefers eating a rabbit instead of a cat!

Owls may attack and eat cats when their preferred prey is not available -in this video, the owl eats the rabbit instead of the cat.

Competition: When we talk about competition, we need to ask the question, “What do cats eat?” It turns out that owls and cats are both hunters that prey on small animals such as mice and squirrels.

Therefore, cats and owls may compete for the same food. In some cases, an owl might attack a cat that already has prey in its grasp to steal the meal.

Protection: Owls are fiercely protective of their baby owls. The owl will attack if a cat comes too close to the nest or tries to harm the owlets.

Territory: Owls are also protective of their territories. They may attack cats that they perceive as a threat to their space.

Opportunism: Cats are not a preferred prey for most owl species. Still, some owls may still attack cats if they are available and easy to catch.

Close-up of Eurasian Eagle Owl headshot.
Might an owl eat a cat it spotted? The huge Eurasian Eagle Owl eats both small and larger cats.

Can Owls Pick Up Cats?

Despite their size and weight, cats are not always too heavy for owls to attack. It depends on the size of the owl versus the size of the cat.

The average domestic cat weighs about 8.8-11 pounds. Cats and kittens that weigh 5 pounds and under are definitely at risk of an owl attack. But there have even been reports of owls attacking 10-pound pets.

The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl species in North America, weighing up to 4 pounds. They can carry prey up to 2-3 times their weight (and so 8-12 pounds).

This means that if the right owl decides to attack the right cat, it is certainly possible for them to be carried away.

How Do Owls Hunt Cats?

Graphic of an owl chasing a cat

Owls have a specific hunting technique, and hunting a cat is no exception. The owl skeleton and owl bones are designed for silent flight and stealth, quick maneuvering, and capture and kill.

Owls typically scout for prey from high above the ground. They have an excellent sense of sight and can easily spot a cat from a distance. Once they see a potential target, they will swoop down with incredible speed to attack the cat.

Owls also have strong and sharp talons that they use to catch their prey. When attacking a cat, an owl will likely use its talons to grab onto the cat’s back or head.

Once the cat is in the owl’s clutches, it doesn’t stand much of a chance. Owls tend to use their talons to dig into the necks and spines of their prey to immobilize them. They then carry the cat to a safe place where they can consume it.

How To Keep Your Cat Safe from Owls

Owls pose a real danger to cats. But there are ways you can protect your furry friends. Here are some tips on how to keep your cat safe from owls:

  1. Keep your cat indoors, especially at night.
  2. If you let your cat outside, supervise them, especially if they are young or elderly.
  3. Install bright lights in your yard to deter owls from coming close.
  4. Consider building a cat patio or “catio” to provide a safe outdoor space for your cat.
  5. Switch out your cat’s old collar for one with a strobe light to confuse owls.
  6. Keep windows and doors closed around nighttime.

Final Thoughts on Do Owls Eat Cats

While it’s true that owls can be a danger to cats, cats are not their preferred prey.

An owl is most likely to attack and eat a cat if the owl cannot find anything better to eat. The chances of an owl killing and eating a cat also go up if the owl and cat share the same habitat. However, owl attacks on cats do not happen very often. Still, letting your cat outside, unsupervised, is not worth the risk.

If you are a cat owner, you can easily protect your cat from owl attacks. You can keep your cat safe by keeping it indoors. You can also provide your cat with a safe outdoor space like a catio, or use decoys to keep owls away.

With proper care and attention, our pet cats stay safe while still enjoying the outdoors.


Do owls eat kittens?

Yes, larger owls may eat kittens, as well as small cats, dogs, and puppies. But kittens and other small pets are not a main part of the owl’s diet.

Owls are opportunistic predators. This means that if their preferred food is not available, they eat whatever is, including kittens.

Will an owl attack a cat?

Owls attack cats though it is not common. It also depends on both the size of the owl and the cat, and if the cat is easy to catch.

Larger owls, like the Great Horned Owl and Eurasian Eagle-Owl, may attack and eat cats. Barred Owls also attack cats. Smaller owls may go after smaller cats.

Will an owl eat a cat?

Owls are more likely to eat cats if their primary food sources are not available. If the owl is hungry and its preferred food sources are not available, it may attack a cat in its vicinity.

Can an owl carry off a cat?

Larger owls, like the Great Horned Owl and the Eurasian Eagle Owl, can easily carry small and even some large cats.

For example, the Great Horned Owl weighs up to 4 pounds and can carry prey that weighs 2-3 times as much.

That means that the Great Horned Owl can carry a cat that weighs up to 8-12 pounds. Smaller owls can carry small cats and kittens.

Are cats afraid of owls?

Many cats are afraid of owls. One of the ways we know this is because fake owl decoys keep stray cats away. However, some cats ignore these decoys and do not appear to perceive owls as a threat.