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View Full Version : Could an owl conceivably kill and eat a cat?


Sampiro
12-11-2008, 12:44 AM
Weird question, but... my father once told me that when he was a kid his uncle, an "amateur vet", kept an owl he'd nursed back to health from a gunshot in a cage in his barn. Per my father (who wasn't that prone to exaggeration usually), one night a cat got into the owl's cage and the next day there was blood, feathers, and cat hair on the perch and on the ground, the owl was pissed and ruffled but otherwise fine, but the cat was never seen again.

I'm wanting to use this tale in a story (as a story a father tells his son) but first I wanted to find out whether it could happen. I'm positive that eagles and some hawks could do this (though in a cage they wouldn't be able to swoop), and horned owls can take on prey as big as rabbits, but a cat is a predator and a far better fighter than most rabbits or rodents would be. (So here's hoping someone knows something about owls.)

Babale
12-11-2008, 12:57 AM
The cat died? What a CAT-ostrophy!

Just joking, OWL try to help.


OK, I'm done! Hm... Yes, an owl COULD kill a cat-but not eat it all.

GusNSpot
12-11-2008, 01:08 AM
A big barn owl could for sure. the do it the wild here with outside cats unless they are really big cats..The get kittens and young cats all the time.

Eat it all? Not sure about that but those talons and the beak are more than a match for the average cat.

Danalan
12-11-2008, 01:20 AM
Yes. I've seen it done. Multiple times. Small cats, big owl. It got a hold of one of our bigger cats once -- the cat came back injured but alive a week later. The main injury seemed to be that he'd gotten his tail stuck in a blackberry bush, probably when the owl dropped him (he was a long-hair cat).

yabob
12-11-2008, 02:02 AM
For a large owl, sure. They'd probably eat it, too. Owls will basically eat anything they can kill, and take remarkably varied prey. The great horned owl is listed as one of the few natural enemies of the skunk - an animal about the size of a housecat - like most birds, they have little or no sense of smell, and apparently don't give a crap about getting sprayed. I should think the spray would be irritating, whether they could smell it or not, but apparently it isn't an issue. The prey taken by a successful swoop by a bird doesn't get much chance to fight back, so the cat's weaponry may not count for much.

I once knew a girl whose family had raised a pet owl. That thing was BIG. It also flew to another part of the house and sulked whenever I came over. They told me that it always got disturbed when there was a male visitor, but didn't mind women.

Harmonious Discord
12-11-2008, 06:27 AM
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE2D61E3AF934A25752C0A963958260
Note that the above dog of the article lived. The dog mentioned near the bottom of that article was killed.

http://missoulian.com/articles/2008/01/30/news/local/news03.txt
This attack case on a boy gives you a human interview on being attacked. The description of size and method of attack tell you why they can kill dogs and cats.

When I see the owls at the game farm I always am amazed by the size of those talons, because they shrink in my memory between visits. When you see one close up you have no problem comprehending how easily they can kill and rend after dropping silently from the sky and body slamming the victim with those claws.

rbroome
12-11-2008, 07:26 AM
around here we had a rash of "evil witchcraft" (I'm serious. folks were blaming teenagers for practicing satanic rituals in the woods) cases where people would find their cats dead and partily disembowled. The police got called in and it made the papers. Several vets told everyone to relax, owls are known to prey on cats. Apparently the owls like the softer parts....

Zabali_Clawbane
12-11-2008, 07:43 AM
Yes, a Great Horned Owl can kill, and eat a cat. I spoke with an older keeper at the Great Bend zoo as a teenager, asking if the legend about their Great Horned owl was true. The keeper confirmed, that they'd found the carcass of a stray cat that had ventured into the owl's cage, partially eaten.

Darwin's Finch
12-11-2008, 10:30 AM
From http://birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/owlp/ghowl/document_view:

Renowned for ferocity, Great Horned Owls kill and eat small to medium mammals of many kinds, especially hares and rabbits. They eat mice, rats, squirrels, opossums, woodchucks, bats, weasels, and the occasional domestic cat.

Elendil's Heir
12-11-2008, 10:43 AM
Crookshanks'd better keep an eye on Hedwig. Just sayin'.

Wile E
12-11-2008, 11:27 AM
Kill a cat, yes. Eat it all in one night with nothing left but some blood and fur, highly unlikely. Unless there were a lot of rats in that barn that carried off whatever the owl didn't finish. They might be bold enough to go in the cage if the owl was sedentary enough from his meal. But I still think there's be a bit more gore in the cage than was described.

JohnM
12-11-2008, 11:44 AM
When we picked up our Thanksgiving turkey at the farm we've been buying from the last few years, the owner told us that he has been losing full grown turkeys to owls this year. Apparently they really like the brains (fat content I guess), and will take the head and spine and leave the rest of the turkey behind. Pleasant, no?

Edited to add: No, I don't think they are zombie owls, but you never know.

jayjay
12-11-2008, 11:54 AM
Yes, an owl will eat a cat. But only with a runcible spoon.

jayjay
12-11-2008, 11:56 AM
When we picked up our Thanksgiving turkey at the farm we've been buying from the last few years, the owner told us that he has been losing full grown turkeys to owls this year. Apparently they really like the brains (fat content I guess), and will take the head and spine and leave the rest of the turkey behind. Pleasant, no?

I can't think of a whole lot of medium-sized animals that could possibly have a lower return-on-investment if you're going for brains than turkeys. Stupidest birds alive...

Elendil's Heir
12-11-2008, 12:10 PM
Yes, an owl will eat a cat. But only with a runcible spoon.

Ewwwwwwwwwwwww! :eek:

Edward Lear would not approve.

Tom Tildrum
12-11-2008, 12:30 PM
Conversely, can a cat kill an owl?

Sampiro
12-11-2008, 12:38 PM
I can't think of a whole lot of medium-sized animals that could possibly have a lower return-on-investment if you're going for brains than turkeys. Stupidest birds alive...

I wonder if it's true what I've always heard- that turkeys are so stupid they'll drown in rainstorms by looking up until the water fills their throat.

Crookshanks'd better keep an eye on Hedwig. Just sayin'.

JK Rowling said in one interview that... I guess I should spoiler just in case...

of all the deaths in Harry Potter, Hedwig's seems to have hit fans the hardest. [Personally I thought, eh, it's an owl--- better than Dumbledore or Sirius

Thanks for all answers. I've held owls a couple of times in highly controlled owner-breeder-standing-right-there settings- and I remember the talons hurt even though these were actually trained from hatchlings to be gentle with humans. Also like parrots and other big birds it's always amazing how light they are, which was one reason I wondered if they could eat a cat (they rarely weigh more than a Pomeranian).

So if my father's story is true (and as mentioned, he was the member of the family least prone to embellishment), it sounds like the cat probably wandered into the cage, attacked the owl, got the holy bejeezus beaten out of him, and then wandered off and died or else found new territory, otherwise there'd have been cat carcass everywhere. But it is highly possible the owl whipped some feline arse.

yabob
12-11-2008, 12:39 PM
Conversely, can a cat kill an owl?
Smaller owl, like a screech owl, sure:

http://dnr.state.mn.us/snapshots/birds/easternscreechowl.html
Great-horned owls, hawks, dogs, cats, minks, weasels, skunks, otters, and bobcats have all been known to kill screech owls. Sometimes snakes rob their nests.
I wouldn't be surprised if some mid-sized owl species could also fall prey to cats.

Telemark
12-11-2008, 12:55 PM
Conversely, can a cat kill an owl?
Sure. Pieces of the cat could get stuck in the owl's throat and choke it to death.

:)

carnivorousplant
12-11-2008, 01:39 PM
I wonder if it's true what I've always heard- that turkeys are so stupid they'll drown in rainstorms by looking up until the water fills their throat.


Nah, else you would see owls hanging around barnyards in the rain waiting for a free meal.

Hari Seldon
12-11-2008, 03:28 PM
A bit off topic, but your next door neighbor's dog, a small terrier, was twice attacked by a crow and killed (and partly ate) the crow. After that, they left him alone. Nature red in tooth and claw.

JohnM
12-11-2008, 06:58 PM
I can't think of a whole lot of medium-sized animals that could possibly have a lower return-on-investment if you're going for brains than turkeys. Stupidest birds alive...Maybe that makes the brains especially tasty, kind of like how many people prefer white meat from a chicken or turkey; never been used, you know.

Elendil's Heir
12-11-2008, 08:35 PM
A bit off topic, but your next door neighbor's dog....

How do you know what happened to my next-door neighbor's dog? :dubious:

Wile E
12-12-2008, 12:44 AM
I can't think of a whole lot of medium-sized animals that could possibly have a lower return-on-investment if you're going for brains than turkeys. Stupidest birds alive...

Perhaps they were dieting and went for a light meal.

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