“An Eagle Probably Took Your Cat.”
Not only is this wrong, but if it was true, how would it possibly help the owner of the cat? The idea of an eagle taking a cat or small dog seems to capture the imagination of some people. When it is raised as a possible explanation for the disappearance of a cat, either they just didn’t think it through or they are trolling the cat’s owner. To have your cat or small dog taken by an eagle is one of the least likely events, and I know of zero instances where it was confirmed to have happened. You should always take precautions to protect your pets from predators, but worrying about eagles is not necessary or helpful. Even if it was remotely possible that an eagle could have taken the pet, there would be no way the pet’s owner could do anything about it. Talking about eagles taking pets can only discourage a pet’s owner from taking actions that are likely to find the cat or dog if any of the much more probable scenarios happened.
Whenever I try to combat the nonsense about eagles and pets, people come at me with three arguments.
1. It could happen.
2. I saw an eagle flying away with a cat.
3. My neighbor’s cousin’s barber said a tree was cut down and there was an eagles’ nest in it and the nest was full of collars of cats and dogs.
Could it happen that an eagle would kill a cat and fly away with him? Basically, no, unless there were several unlikely circumstances. The cat would have to be very small, less than six pounds. The cat would have to be on a roof top, or in the middle of a football field. The cat would have to sit still for a long time and wait patiently for the eagle to swoop. Eagles need a long runway to take off. Eagles eat fish, mostly, and after they grab a fish, it takes them quite a while to gain altitude with prey in their claws. Eagles can and do take rabbits from large fields, but it would need to be a smaller rabbit, or they would need to take just part of it. The average cat is ten pounds, and an eagle can’t just dip into the average suburban yard and fly off with a ten pound cat. While I have helped people find lost pets over the past 14 years, I have helped at least 10,000 people try to find their lost cats and dogs, and I have zero witness statements or evidence that any of those pets was taken by an eagle. It is also very unlikely that a bear would take your pet, but at least I have one verified instance of that happening. If you google “eagle takes a cat,” you will find basically one or two images of a cat taken by an eagle. Most likely, the cat was already dead, hit by a car, and the eagle picked up part of the remains from a quiet rural road with plenty of room to take off.
About once a month, someone posts on one of the lost pet pages that they saw an eagle fly off with a cat. Although it is possible that an eagle could fly off with part of the remains of a cat in the road, it is more likely that these reports of eagles carrying away cats are simply wrong. People are horrible witnesses, generally speaking. You can test yourself on this, and you will probably see how bad a witness you can be sometimes. The next time you are in the grocery store, after you have walked by a bunch of people that you weren’t paying much attention to, continue down the aisle away from the people and describe to yourself what one of them looks like. Then circle around and take a closer look at the person, and you will likely discover that you got many details wrong. If an eagle is flying away with a small animal in its talons, you likely will only have a brief instant to catch a glimpse before the eagle is out of sight. You might notice something furry. You certainly won’t have time to take out your iPhone and shoot a video of the eagle with its prey. People see a furry little animal and think it could have been a cat, and then their minds fill in the blanks and decide it was a cat. I keep track of what people say when they are witnesses, concerning lost cats and dogs, and it turns out that people are wrong much more often than they are right. It’s not that they are trying to be deceptive in these situations. Actually, they are probably trying to be helpful, usually, but being a good, accurate witness is very hard when you have no time to prepare. The next time someone posts that they saw an eagle flying away with a pet, you can bet they are mistaken most of the time.
For as long as I have been helping lost pets, I have been hearing about this eagles’s nest full of collars from dogs and cats. It always happened somewhere nearby, not within a couple of blocks, but maybe half a mile away, over there somewhere. The person reporting this eagles’ nest didn’t actually see it, but it was a friend of his uncle’s bowling partner, or his cousin’s mechanic. This mythical eagles’ nest full of pet collars is always assumed to be a fact, even though there is never a picture of it, and no one actually can pin down who was the witness that actually saw this. I think it may have actually happened, somewhere, once. I’m 100% certain it didn’t happen in every single neighborhood in Western Washington as people have reported. If it ever did happen once or twice, it is very likely that the eagles picked up those remains and collars from a local highway or busy street where pets are hit by cars frequently. Even if there was a nest full of collars somewhere, that would not be evidence or proof that the eagles snatched unsuspecting pets out of their yards.
If you think about it for a moment, there really is no evidence that eagles take pets on a regular basis. The trouble is that most people don’t think about it. The image of an eagle flying off with a pet is very dramatic and sticks in your mind. You can visualize it just as soon as someone mentions it. It is a powerful image. To debunk this myth takes some thought and analysis, which most people don’t want to bother with. It’s often easier to just go with the dramatic scenario of the eagle flying off with the pet. If you do try to debunk one of these assertions, either online or in person, people take offense that you would dare to disbelieve them, and people’s feelings get hurt. If you are missing your cat or small dog, there is really no point in even thinking about an eagle taking your pet. It is highly unlikely. If it was true, there would be no way of verifying it. Your time would be much better spent focusing your thoughts on the likelier scenarios, which you can actually do something about. No amount of logic or reasoning will stop people from bringing up these eagle stories. Please just take it from me that you can dismiss the talk of eagles with no further consideration. If I ever do find any evidence, real evidence, of an eagle taking a living pet even one time, it still wouldn’t make it a likely scenario that you need to worry about.