The internet is full of cute animal videos, most notably cats, and now this one features owls that a surprising number of video-makers keep as pets. These owls dance or sway to music, chase toy mice, take baths and even make friends with a big black dog.
As they are nocturnal birds of prey, owls have a sinister reputation in some quarters, but they are still beautiful birds. Ironically, the same traits that make them effective night-time hunters also make them appear cute to humans. For example, they have ultra-soft feathers that enable them to fly with utter silence. Those same feathers are probably a delight to stroke and pet.
Owls have large, forward-facing eyes that give them stereoscopic vision and a cute, vaguely human appearance. Cats, the rulers of the animal videos, have similar eyes. There’s even a breed of cat, the Scottish Fold, that is often described as “owl-like.” These cats have ears that fold down and make their head appear as rounded as an owl’s. The wizard Harry Potter had an owl familiar. In the 1980s, a biologist, Stacy O’Brien, adopted an orphaned barn owl she called Wesley. There is definitely precedent for keeping a pet owl.
People who want a pet owl need to keep a few facts in mind. First off, it is illegal to keep an owl as a pet without a permit. Owls need a lot of space; they do not do at all well in small cages. Owls are predators and have the built-in weaponry that implies; the bigger species can actually be dangerous to humans. They are obligate carnivores, and that means they eat meat and nothing else. Experts recommend that people who want pet owls should visit a wildlife care center. There they can learn both about proper care of an owl and alternatives like volunteering at the center or sponsoring one of their owls.