Owls that hunt prey as large as rabbits and marmots sometimes take small dogs and cats as well. They may also attack larger dogs if they feel threatened at all.
Why Do Owls Attack Cats And Dogs?
You can divide down animal attacks into two separate reasons. Thinking of cats and dogs as just the same as any other animal – this makes sense on both counts. It doesn’t matter to the owl that these animals are pets to us, humans – they are either a threat or they are dinner.
Firstly, owls may well attack cats and dogs who are approaching their nests or their chicks. It goes without saying that a parent will defend their chicks from anything – even if that is a domestic cat stalking them in the tree or a family dog out on a forest walk. They don’t know or care ‘who’ they are – they just care ‘where’ they are. A bear or human would most likely get the same warnings.
Secondly – a large owl who usually hunts mammals as prey items to feed themselves or their chicks may well attack a cat or small dog. Even if they weren’t anywhere near their nest. Just like they would fly up silently on a jackrabbit or skunk – a hungry (and opportunistic) Great Horned Owl, for example, wouldn’t think twice about snatching a sleeping puppy in a garden or rooftop sun-bathing cat.
Predators don’t usually mind exactly what their dinner is – as long as it is easy to catch.
Will An Owl Eat A Cat Or A Dog?
Needless to say, if an owl is successful in catching and carrying off a cat or dog – and kills it instantly – it would eat it just like any other prey item. Many owls have a particular feeding spot and will carry prey there to remove the fur or feathers before eating. If they are wooing a mate or have chicks to feed then the prey may get carried around for longer or stashed somewhere short-term first.
Although owls have amazingly sharp and strong talons – and usually instantly crush the skull of their smaller (usually herbivorous) prey such as voles, rabbits, and ducks – they may have a fight on their hands with a dog or cat for sure if it was still alive or they couldn’t lift it too far.
Owls usually carry their prey in their feet until they reach a suitable eating spot – so if the cat or dog was able to bite or scratch the owl’s legs or body – the owl may have to let them go for its own safety. Obviously, if this happens low to the ground the cat or dog may be able to escape alive – but once in the air or in a tree, there may be no safe way out of this situation for them.
Can An Owl Give A Dog Rabies?
Luckily – although an owl could attack and kill a cat or a dog – it couldn’t give them rabies. Rabies is a viral disease that is only passed on between mammals. So from dog to dog, or bat to cattle.
It can’t travel from owl to dog or owl to cat – so although their injuries could be severe from an owl attack – at least they (or you) won’t have to worry about having contracted rabies after fighting an owl off.
How Do I Protect My Cat Or Dog From Owl Attacks?
There are several things you can do to help protect your cats and dogs from owl attacks – and they all revolve around not having your pets alone and unattended in your yard at night. Virtually all owl attacks on dogs happen at night and when the dog is alone. Obviously, this is considered normal for a cat though – so there need to be extra precautions in place if you are really concerned.
Using a collar or harness and leash in the dark is the easiest – but means you have to go outside too – even in the snow! Not always the preferred option. Using a covered patio or enclosed ‘run’ would work too if you have the space in your yard. But then I suppose if your pet is important to you – and the risk was high – neither of these things would be too much of a problem.
Although they are very rare – you don’t get a second chance to prevent an owl attack. Owls are totally silent – hunt in the dark – and can carry your pet off into the air without you seeing a thing. Prevention is all you have.