September 7, 2012
Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
I spoke of this wildly imagined theory to Julian this evening and I want to spread the word to you cat owners.
This morning, as the sky was dark and moonless and the stars abounded, around 5:30 AM, I took out the compost pile from the kitchen and heard a cat in the treehouse. I heard a cat, but it wasn’t quite like a cat. It sounded vaguely birdlike, but definitely like a cat. I sat in the Adirondack chair in my robe and listened over the course of several minuets. During that time, the sound of the cat slowly evolved into a more birdlike raptor sound. Eventually as the call came to sound like a lone owl, a large bird flew off into the lightening sky, neatly silhouetted and bigger than a raven. I believe the bird was a Great Horned OWL.
Several weeks ago when my mother was visiting, we heard a pair of owls calling from the large pine over the roof. When I went out, I also heard a cat mewling on the ground, but I couldn’t see it. One owl flew into another tree and they had the forlorn cat between them. Later the owls were in the neighboring ash tree with the tree house where I heard the lone cat cry this morning. Below was the now pathetic meow of a harried cat.
I believe that owls have adapted to attack cats at night by attracting them through imitation.
Julian, upon hearing this, reported that he read that in an owl vomitorium, where pellets are deposited, there was a pile of cat collars. Julian did not say if that pile was in Mount Washington.
First, better classify your conjecture as a hypothesis rather than a theory–the latter being based on a set of facts, the former a supposition of a possible outcome.
Although I couldn’t find a specific documented instance of Great Horned Owls killing domestic cats, there are plenty of mentions of the possibility of owls killing small cats–but I could not find anyone who spoke from personal experience or observation (and I don’t want to spend more time searching on Daniel’s behalf).
There is a documented instance of an owl attacking a 4-pound Chihuahua (who escaped) at:
And, Daniel, you should check out the owl sound recordings at:
to see if any of them sound like what you heard.
An alternative hypothesis is that you really heard an actual cat and an actual owl, and saw one or more owls depart the scene and did not see the cat. The fact that you didn’t see a cat doesn’t mean that a cat was not present (Schrodinger, anyone??).
If we want to investigate this further, I suggest that we look for owl roosts and search the ground underneath for owl pellets and remains that might belong to cats, including cat collars (no, I couldn’t find the original source for that tale, and it wasn’t on Mt. Washington anyway).
Be safe out there,
During the first instance several weeks ago with two owls, there was definitely a cat involved. The morning call from Friday morning was definitely the call of a bird that sounded like a cat and eventually evolved into sounding like an owl. I did see the owl fly away and the call stopped.