Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Every $10 we earn, we’ll donate a dollar to animal shelters in need.
Any avid fan of the Harry Potter series has dreamt at least once of getting a Hedwig of their own. Outside the box office, snowy white owls are not nearly as obedient as Mr. Potter’s. Any owl species is difficult to hold captive or domesticate. Wanna-be pet owl owners need to approach this decision with caution because of the challenges these feathery friends bring.
The thought of having an exotic and unique pet that fulfills your childhood dreams may be exciting, but think about the responsibility and legal limitations of domesticating an owl. Before you go looking for an owl to make your pet, hear out The Furry Companion’s stand that owls do not make good pets.
Challenges of Owning a Pet Owl
There are more than 225 species of owls in the world. They fall under one of two types: the Tytonidae family and Strigidae family. Barn owls make up the Tytonidae family with their distinct heart-shaped face. The rest of the owls belong to the Strigidae family. For hopeful owners, bear in mind that some laws prohibit the domestication of particular owl species.
In the United States, for instance, it is illegal for private individuals to make native owls their pet. An example of a native owl is the snowy owl, so say goodbye to your Hedwig dreams. They are under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. You cannot even possess a single feather of theirs without securing a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Owning a pet owl, especially native owls, means securing government-issued permits, even for educational purposes. Only licensed and trained experts are legally allowed to care for native owls, either for domestication or rehabilitation. Sometimes, when animals have disabilities, an expert caretaker temporarily adopts this creature until it heals. Based on the law, caretakers need to return it to competent shelters upon its recovery.
Owning non-native owls like the Eurasian eagle-owl and speckled owl is legal in the United States. In the UK, you can have a pet owl regardless if it is native or not. Nevertheless, as a responsible pet owner, you would still have to learn and train yourself in owl care.
Challenges in Living with a Pet Owl
Notwithstanding people’s fascination with the Harry Potter series, owls are magnificent creatures. They are wild animals that glide in the dim sky. With their sharp talons and tubular eyes, owls make excellent hunters among the bird species. Their camouflaging plumage helps them hide from attackers when they are vulnerable during the day.
Cartoons and stories portray owls as intelligent or wise animals. However, studies find other birds are smarter than owls. Given a simple cognitive test of pulling a string to receive a treat, other bird species discovered the secret of getting treats. On the other hand, owls found it a difficult task. This discovery does not make owls less fascinating creatures. They still hone particular charms.
Owls are raptors; they are carnivorous. Thus, having a pet owl is a lot of work. You can easily feed pet dogs and other domesticated animals. In any grocery store, you can immediately find the dog food aisle. In the case of a pet owl, they eat raw meat. They are hunters who strongly prefer rodents, the food you cannot find in any grocery. A pet owl’s diet may consist of mice, small rabbits, quails, guinea pigs, and little chickens. Persistent owl owners, however, typically trap and freeze mice for their pet’s lunches.
Imagine the time and effort spent on procuring owl chow. The owner needs to thaw out the carcass and cautiously feed the pet owl. Other owners feed them live chow.
Owls are wild pets designed to hunt and kill prey. If you think sourcing its food is a challenge, you cannot imagine the actual feeding. Owls swiftly glide in the sky looking for prey below. They will pounce at the opportunity for food. It’s an owl’s instinct to prey; it is part of their genetic code. Whether they are captive or not, their abilities never change. Be careful while feeding your pet owl. They might mistake your hand for a meal.
Owl’s Messy Habits
All birds are messy, but owls are the messiest avian. Since they only eat animals like rodents, owls have dirty eating habits. They tear their food to bits so that it will be easier to consume. Cleaning up after feeding time is part of a pet owl owner’s job, and it does not stop there.
If you are looking to own a pet owl, be ready for the poop. These birds are notorious for pooping a lot. Pet parrots have a strict vegetable-only diet, and vegetables are easier to digest. Due to a pet owl’s meat diet, owl poop usually emits a foul odor.
Moreover, keeping an owl’s aviary spotless is a demanding task. Owls regurgitate the indigestible bits of food. They also leave pellets, furry balls of bones and fur that need regularly clearing.
Owl’s Sleeping Habits
Nocturnal by nature, owls are more active during nighttime, which means they’re the noisiest during the quietest hours of the day. When you are about to rest from a full day, your pet owl’s daily life is just about to begin.
Unless you are the type of person who is more active in the night, a pet owl may not be the best choice. They will hoot all night, especially during the mating season. For owls living in sub-Arctic or temperate areas, their mating season occurs sometime during spring. It entails a lot of loud mating calls that are sure to disturb the neighborhood. Your neighbors will not be happy being awakened by hoots.
Owls are demanding pets in need of constant care. They require high maintenance. In the wilderness, they are free, and nobody is responsible for them. Inside the home, however, they need to be regularly cleaned up after. Therefore, it is difficult to go on vacations when you have a hungry pet owl, and no rodents are running around.
A typical pet sitter does not usually accept pet owls, and owl kennels are not abundant. Only experts are suitable sitters for such wild creatures. It is also challenging to look for a veterinarian. Owls demand specialized care, and veterinarians are usually not trained with owl health and care. Pet owl owners need to look for doctors who are comfortable working with owls.
As a caregiver, you would also need to know how to care for your pet owl properly. Owners need to identify signs indicating health problems like normal poop and changes in behavior. Aside from that, they need to provide adequate space for the bird to fly around and prepare healthy food for their pet. After sufficient training and lessons, people may apply for a permit.
Compared to other birds, owls are often independent and live alone with their offspring and mate. They are antisocial birds that can fend for themselves, unlike macaws.
Interestingly, owls lack the flock mentality that parrots have. Due to this mindset, parrots integrate more quickly in the family setting compared to owls. Owls view other birds or beings as enemies or prey and will most likely attack others on sight. As a hopeful owl owner, be careful when you are around owls. Better get on their good side before deciding to adopt them.
If you are looking for pets that are loving and expressive, do not expect that from a pet owl. Birds are not the most affectionate animals, even more so for owls since they are wild creatures. Even captive birds do not want to be hugged or cuddled or taught tricks, unlike parrots. Falconers have special gloves to wear so that owls and other birds can rest atop their arm. This action is practically the closest act of affection a falconer can get.
Pet owls expect high demands of care but do not return the favor. They are not the type to perch on your shoulder and nuzzle your neck. They scratch and prey instead. If you are looking for an animal to keep you company and pet, do not get an owl. It is best to adopt a playful dog. Even held captive, owls maintain their cold instincts.
A Pet Owl Is a Long-Term Commitment
Caring for an owl is an extremely long hooting commitment. For example, a great horned owl in captivity has a lifespan of 30 years or longer if handled well.
Meanwhile, smaller species could live up to 10 years. The commonly captive Eurasian eagle-owl can live up to 50 years! Owners need to consider the amount of commitment this length of time entails. If it were not for their primal instincts, owls might be good life companions.
There is also a set of rules for owls in captivity. For example, setting a human-imprinted barn owl free after years of captivity is illegal in the UK. Releasing them into the wilderness is practically a death sentence. Finding a new home for them in sanctuaries could be difficult since they are usually at overcapacity.
Creating a Sanctuary for Your Pet Owl
When it comes to creating a living space for pet owls whose natural habitat is the wild, no litter box or cage will suit them. Owls are freedom-loving creatures and need their space. They cannot live in a standard-sized parrot cage. The best place to house pet owls is a substantial aviary setting with protective bars and a stand to perch on.
If you do not want your home covered in bird poo, then an aviary is the way to go. Giving them ample space also protects your furniture and pillows from being ravaged by sharp talons and beaks. With their killer instincts, they attack anything. They can target your clothes, blankets, and stuffed toys.
Since pet owls keep their destructive instincts intact, it is best to create an aviary with sturdy wire instead of wood. Owls have incredibly sharp talons that can scratch wood to the core. It is best to situate this aviary in a spacious, open area. Owls need exercise too! They need to stretch their wings and fly around your backyard. Giving them an expansive lawn to live and stay in is expensive and a burden to maintain. Owners can opt for large cages to house their pet owls.
Making owls more high maintenance is the accumulation of dust and dirt on their wings. An owl’s wings caked in mud make noise in flight. This whistling and bustling sound makes it hard for them to hunt. Therefore, providing a large bathing pan is ideal for pet owls.
Now you have discovered what it takes to become a proud owner of a pet owl. It is a challenging feat. Although you may want to realize your magical dreams, having a pet owl is not the best decision. We at The Furry Companion believe these majestic creatures should be free in their natural habitat unless incapacitated.
However, there are alternative ways to see owls in action.
Adopt an Owl
Existing nonprofit organizations around the world allow individuals to own owls symbolically. Through adoption, people donate to the center. In turn, this will give donors a pass to visit and interact with owls. These donors will also receive a certificate. This option will allow you to support the animal you love.
Volunteer at an Owl Sanctuary
Another way you could show support for owls is by volunteering at a nearby owl sanctuary. Through this, you can get to learn more about them. Owl sanctuaries are under the management of expert bird caretakers so that you will gain first-hand information and techniques from the experts.
As a Marketing graduate, Stephenie believes in the beautiful fusion of science and the arts. When she isn’t rewatching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. for the umpteenth time, she writes, volunteers for different outreach programs, and attempts to exercise. Steph aspires to be a Persian or ragdoll cat mom in the future.