Do Owls Make Good Pets?

great horned owl
© iStock.com/makasana

Written by Crystal

Published: February 28, 2023

Share on:

Advertisement


Do owls make good pets? It’s a question a lot of bird lovers find themselves asking. Afterall, Harry Potter experienced a lovely relationship with his beautiful and loyal snowy owl, Hedwig. But is it wise to own an owl in the muggle world? Follow along as we discover the truth about what it’s like to own one of these birds, and whether or not it is legal.

Owls do not make good pets. In the United States, keeping owls is illegal unless you have special permits. The same holds for most other countries.

In special situations, owl permits can be issued to individuals with the proper facilities and training. However, private individuals aren’t allowed to keep native owls as pets. You won’t be fostering an owl if you don’t have the proper licensing and permit.

What Would Having a Pet Owl Be Like?

Little owl (Athene noctua)

Owls aren’t naturally affectionate towards people, so they don’t make cute and cuddly pets.

©WildlifeWorld/Shutterstock.com

It’s illegal to own a pet owl in the United States for very good reasons. But what if it was allowed? Do owls make good pets?

Human-imprinted owls behave differently than wild owls. Once they bond with their handler, it’s possible that they might show affection, but it’s not likely. Owls aren’t naturally affectionate towards people, so they don’t make cute and cuddly pets. Instead, they’re a lot of work, time, and money.

Human Imprinted Owls Are a Lot of Work

Owning an owl is a full-time job. These birds are high maintenance and require daily attention, cleaning, and feeding. In the wild, owls might be self-sufficient. But when one of these birds lives in captivity, they need a lot of human help.

Constant Food Prep with Dead Animals

Your pet owl will rely on you every day to bring it food. And it’s not like you can go to the local pet store to get a bag of owl food. You’ll have to do all of the food prep yourself.

Owls are carnivores, and they need to ingest whole animals to stay healthy. Rehabilitation centers have freezers filled with mice, rats, and rabbits to keep their owls happy. Owning a pet owl means having to thaw and slice dead animals every single night!

Owls Require Daily Exercise

Human-imprinted owls also need to fly regularly. If they don’t get enough exercise, they’ll become cranky and possibly ill. If an owl does get cranky, you’ll know right away. They have sharp beaks and talons that they’re not afraid to use.

Dealing with Messy Destructive Behavior

Even when they’re not cranky, owls are destructive birds. Their natural killing instinct drives them to tear apart anything you might put in their cage. Stuffed animals, clothing, pillows, and blankets are all fair game in an owl’s world.

Lots of Feathers and Poop

When you’re not cleaning up after your owl’s destructive outbursts, you’ll be picking up feathers and poop. Lots and lots of poop.

In addition, owls molt thousands of feathers yearly. These majestic birds also hack up pellets of bones and fur. And did you forget about the poop?

With their regular stinky droppings, owls empty the end of their intestines once a day. Cleaning the bad-smelling pudding-like feces will become a daily part of your life!

Extremely Long-Term Commitment

A pet owl is a long-term commitment too. We’re talking decades of intense bird care. If well cared for owl could live for 30 years! Large owl species like the great horned owl live for over 30 years in captivity, while smaller species tend to live around 10 years.

Mating Season Brings Noise Complaints

Owning an owl as a pet also means dealing with noise complaints. When the mating season rolls around, there will be a lot of hooting. If the owl imprints on you, he’ll expect you to hoot with him regularly. What a fun Saturday night!

Research shows human imprinted owls have the same vocalizations they do in the wild. And an owl’s natural sounds are usually very loud. Not only will you be tired in the morning, but the all-night hooting sessions won’t make your neighbors happy.

Owls Require Expensive Specialized Care

Another downside to owning an owl as a pet is that they’re expensive. These birds need specialized care that normal veterinarians can’t provide. You’ll also need quite a bit of knowledge about owl health to monitor their daily behavior. There’s a lot to learn about owls, and without the proper training, your pet will likely suffer and die.

Final Thoughts on Whether Owls Make Good Pets

The answer couldn’t be clearer: owls do not make good pets. It’s illegal to own owls, and for good reasons too. These amazing birds belong in the wild. When they’re living in their natural habitat, owls are solitary creatures. But the moment you put an owl into captivity, its life strategy changes.

Human imprinted owls are needy, destructive, messy, and often mean. It’s not the owl’s fault though! These birds aren’t naturally affectionate towards people. The only people who should be handling owls are animal experts with proper licensing and permits.

Up Next


Share this post on:
About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.