Cat vs Owl: Why Do Owls Attack Cats? Who Would Win?

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

cat vs owl

Imagine looking out your window one night and seeing an owl attacking a cat. If you are taking care of a feline friend, this sight may frighten you, as you may think that it could happen to your pet one day.

But why would a cat and an owl attack each other? Who would win in a cat vs owl fight?

The reason an owl may attack a cat is that it sees the latter as prey. The attack can also happen if the cat has prey that the owl wants to steal.

Why Do Owls Attack Cats?


Owls attacking and preying upon small animals are a common sight for people. However, what is uncommon is seeing an owl carrying a cat in the air with its talons.

If you own a cat, you may wonder, “Can owls kill cats?” The short answer is yes.

However, cats are not a usual menu for owls, so it’s unlikely they will attack your feline friend for no reason.

So, what may provoke owls to attack cats? Below are a few common reasons:

  • The owl sees the cat as a prey

Some large owl species cannot satiate their hunger with small prey. So, they look for larger animals that they can feed upon.

If an owl is hunting for food and it sees a small cat, it may attack the feline and turn it into a meal.

  • The cat stole one of the owl’s young

Cats are excellent hunters, and they may climb trees while trying to look for food. If your feline spots an owl’s nest and steals one of its young, the bird will try to retrieve its owlet by fighting the thief.

  • The cat managed to hunt for food that the owl wanted to steal.

Sometimes, an owl may spot your cat holding a small animal. In this case, the owl will try to steal the feline’s food by attacking it.

Who Would Win in a Cat vs Owl Fight?


If you see owls attacking cats, it is evident that the owl has an edge. The reason is that it can quickly avoid the feline’s attack by flying out of its reach.

An owl also has the ability to fly silently and attack when the cat least expects it.

However, it is worth noting that the result of a cat and owl fight will vary on factors like the animals’ species, size, and strength. For instance, in a barn owl vs cat or great horned owl vs cat fight, the feline does not stand a chance, as these owls are among the largest of their species.

Felines are generally agile predators with great hunting skills. So, if a cat unknowingly attacks an owl using its sharp teeth and claws, it could easily injure it. In an injured owl vs cat fight, the latter will also undoubtedly win due to its physical advantage.

But if the attack happens while the feline is on a tree, owls are a danger to cats, as they can easily hide in branches and leaves.

What Kind of Owls Eat Cats?

It is extremely rare for owls to attack or eat cats as they are not a typical prey item for most owl species. Owls are opportunistic hunters and typically feed on small mammals such as rodents, rabbits, and other birds.

However, there are some instances when large owl species may feed on cats.

1. Northern hawk owl


This large owl can see its prey from half a mile away. It can carry prey that is up to four times heavier than its overall weight.

So, in a kitten and owl fight, the baby cat has no match against the latter’s strength.

2. Barred owl


Barred owls are among the largest species, which usually stand 16 to 23 inches tall. They have a wingspan of 38 to 45 inches.

They usually feed on squirrels, birds, young bunnies, and chipmunks. However, they are also the types of owls hunting cats for food.

3. Great horned owl


The great horned owl is the largest owl species. If you are wondering, “How big of an animal can an owl carry off,” the answer would be three to four times the size of their body.

Even worse, great horned owls can live in backyards and cities. So they can quickly spot your feline friend and attack it.

Tips to Protect Cats From Owls


While the sight of owls catching cats is rare, it does not mean that it could not happen. That said, here are some tips to keep your feline friend safe from an owl attack:

  • Don’t let your cat out at night

The most effective way to keep a cat safe from an owl attack is to keep it indoors. Providing a secure and comfortable environment for your pet is also crucial to prevent it from seeking an outdoor shelter.

And as owls are nocturnal hunters, it’s especially important to keep your feline friend indoors when the sun is down.

  • Install outdoor lights

Owls prefer hunting in the dark. By installing outdoor lights, the owl will avoid your backyard, thus keeping your pet safe.

  • Provide your cat with hiding spots.

Bushes, shrubs, and other hiding spots will provide secure shelters for your feline in case of an owl attack.

Animals That Can Kill Owls and Cats


A cat can kill an owl, much like how an owl can kill a full-grown cat. That said, despite their excellent predatory skills, there are larger animals that can quickly defeat and devour felines and owls.

Among these animals are dogs. As everyone knows, dogs are the nemesis of cats, so they will try to catch and kill the latter if given the chance.

However, dogs, especially the wild ones, have hunting skills that can bring an owl down.

Apart from dogs, coyotes and foxes are opportunistic predators that will prey on cats and owls.

While owls prey on cats, some large owl species can also attack and feed on smaller owls. Other birds of prey that can attack cats and owls are eagles and hawks.


Cat vs owl – this is an uncommon yet possible scenario every feline owner dreads. So, if you own a cat and you live in places where owls are known to live, taking precautions and protecting your pet from a possible owl attack is crucial.

However, the thought of an owl carrying a cat in the air should not bother you, as these birds usually feed on smaller animals. But if you still want to take precautions, we hope that the information above will help you keep your pet safe.

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