Owls are high maintenance
December 11, 2013 5:31 PM   Subscribe

Top Ten Reasons you Don't Want an Owl for a Pet

With a particular focus on Alice the Great Horned Owl, who currently resides with Karla Bloem, director of the Houston Nature Center and executive director of the International Owl Center.
Through a series of baby steps, Alice eventually moved into Karla's home. This involved all kinds of modifications to make the situation safe and healthy for Alice. It also allowed Alice to freely interact with Karla, and presented the unique opportunity for Karla to conduct the first-ever vocal study on Great Horned Owls. It has also given Karla a very unique perspective on why owls don't make good pets.
posted by Narrative Priorities (70 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
(Warning: vivid descriptions of owl poop.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:34 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


burrowowlburrowoburrowowlburrowowl ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:35 PM on December 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


But owls are the cats of the sky!
posted by kersplunk at 5:35 PM on December 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


You know that Johnny Werzner kid - the kid who delivers papers in the
neighborhood? He's a fine kid. Some of the neighbors say he smokes
crack, but I don't believe it. Anyway, for his 10th birthday, all he
wanted was a burrow owl, just like his old man. "Dad, get me a burrow
owl. I'll never ask for anything else as long as I live". So the guy
breaks down and buys him a burrow owl. Anyway at 10:30 the other night I
go out into my yard and there's the Werzner kid looking up in the tree. I
said, "What are you looking for?" He said, "I'm looking for my burrow
owl." I say, "Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick! Everybody knows that a
burrow owl lives in a hole in the ground! Why the hell do you think they
call it a burrow owl, anyway?!"

posted by louche mustachio at 5:37 PM on December 11, 2013 [20 favorites]




If people are suddenly yearning for pet owls, I'm going to have to blame it on Harry Potter. And on preview, I'm right.

If ever I had a yen for an owl-about-the-house, Wordshore's tale of woe would have cured me.
posted by gingerest at 5:40 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


The first 8 reasons are "claws".
posted by brundlefly at 5:43 PM on December 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


You misheard me, I'd didn't say "pet" , I said "familiar."
posted by The Whelk at 6:03 PM on December 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


we are honored by your attention but just continue to spread grain and nuts near open fields to attract field mice and other small mammals, that is thanks enough.

Also if you could wear hats with eyes painted on them it would save us both a lot of trouble.
posted by The Owls at 6:06 PM on December 11, 2013 [45 favorites]


Yeah, I have seen barn owl talons up close. They have ridges so that they cannot be pulled out without tearing flesh.

Owl facts.

More Owl Facts
posted by louche mustachio at 6:06 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can I still want to eat them?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:07 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


According to old English folklore, if a woman feeds her husband roast owl, he will become completely subservient to her every wish.

-Source, somewhere on the internet trying to find a description of how owls taste.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:10 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just like chicken, duh.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:11 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Top reason you don't want an owl as a pet:

1. It's illegal under the Migratory Birds Act. You need a Federal permit just to possess owl feathers.

Do you need other reasons?

Via redditor RAVENous410

People were interested in the owl research I do. Here's more info!
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:12 PM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


#11 They will bring you breakfast in bed.
posted by the_artificer at 6:15 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]






I posted this on my Facebook page and a retired teacher friend (and avid birder) offered Wesley as a counterpoint.
posted by rossination at 6:38 PM on December 11, 2013


#12 Their attitudes re: Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pops


Also Owls are huge. They built my high school (in the consolidation craze) on the outskirts of town in the woods. Where the owls are. So you could be sitting in class and look out the window and see some weird creature the size of your torso staring back in at you. Is it some kind of goblin? The Mothman maybe?

No it's just an owl

Don't worry it's not the same owl that watches you from the trees when you walk to your car

probably
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:40 PM on December 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


The first 8 reasons are "claws".

9th and 10th: NATURAL KILLING INSTINCT

holy crap people this is not a complicated decision
posted by Sebmojo at 6:45 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


#scaredpotter
posted by klangklangston at 6:49 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Next you're going to tell me that wouldn't want a falcon for a pet, and that I wouldn't want to name him Cicero, and that I wouldn't like watching pigeons explode.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:49 PM on December 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also Owls are huge. They built my high school (in the consolidation craze) on the outskirts of town in the woods.

Yeah, but those were union owls.
posted by mittens at 6:49 PM on December 11, 2013 [58 favorites]


So what you're saying is, the owls are not what they seem?
posted by Random Person at 7:06 PM on December 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


This feels to me like an enterprising dad trying to get ahead of kid requests.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:06 PM on December 11, 2013


#scarredpotter
posted by Ghidorah at 7:24 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Harry Potter didn't get his scar from Voldemort, he got it from the postal owls TRYING TO RIP HIS FACE OFF.
posted by littlesq at 7:29 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also Owls are huge. They built my high school (in the consolidation craze) on the outskirts of town in the woods.

Was your high school made out of hair and bone fragments?
posted by louche mustachio at 7:29 PM on December 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


13. They insist upon using old-fashion typewriters, like the kind with CLACKETY-CLACK keys that are really loud and annoying, and that are constantly going DING at all hours of the night. Because apparently a computer—which is nearly silent and perfectly functional by the way—"degrades the writing process" or some such nonsense. It's just pretentious, is what it is.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:30 PM on December 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


I would NOT want to run into a huge construction owl on a consolidation craze, if you know what I mean.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:30 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Don't worry it's not the same owl that watches you from the trees when you walk to your car

I would be more worried if it were a crow. Crows remember you. They plot. They scheme. They talk to each other.


Mostly what they talk about is how hilarious it will be watching you freak out when one of them shits on your head.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:33 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


#14 - Owls will totally read your email. And believe me, do NOT leave yourself logged in to Facebook because they will send inappropriate messages to your coworkers and family members on your behalf. Which leads me to..

#15 - Owls are huge perverts and are particularly notorious underwear thieves. If you wonder why all your dainties are full of tears and mouse bones well that is what you get. If you call them on it they will pretend they do not know what you are talking about even when you point out "Dude, you have a shred of black lace hanging from your beak."

#16 - Owls have terrible taste in television. Did you know they hate The Golden Girls? FACT. Don't even think about taking the remote during Dr. Drew or Vanderpump Rules or they will puncture your hand with crushing force.

#17 - Owls never buy toilet paper. It's like against their religion or something.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:50 PM on December 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yeah, but those were union owls.

UNION OWLS! FIGHTING FOR WORKERS' RIGHTS

"Look I'm sorry but this so called living wage increase is impossible and will hinder our ability to-"

"SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

"OH GOD THE OWLS"
posted by The Whelk at 7:58 PM on December 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


Also Owls are huge. They built my high school.

Yeah great. Whoop-de-do. But can they say, "Hello? Hello?" No? Then my cockatoo is better!
posted by Splunge at 8:02 PM on December 11, 2013


#18 - Owls are Communists. All of them.

#19 - Owls are always telling you about the inherent superiority of their diets, especially while you are eating. "Ew, I can't believe the GARBAGE you put in your body! That is disgusting! The only wholesome and natural way to eat is raw and whole. I mean, I that whole chewing thing is why you have that weight problem, because you are not working your system properly."

#20 - Owls can only stand to listen to one kind of music, and only the same five albums, repeatedly, at top volume. Most owls really like Foreigner. You might think that sounds OK, but after the 20th time you hear Agent Provocateur it's not cute anymore.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:02 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]




Ok, but even in Harry Potter, they didn't really keep the owls in their rooms. There was an owl room? And Hedwig got all temperamental whenever she couldn't fly? None of that says, 'Hey, good idea for a pet.'

A
posted by Eyeveex at 8:34 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


#21 - They are flying carnivorous dinosaurs.
posted by brundlefly at 8:38 PM on December 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


#22 - They're assholes.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:47 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eh, six of these are true of my wife. We get along just fine.
posted by Naberius at 8:54 PM on December 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Your wife is a flying carnivorous dinosaur with vicious barbed claws? Whoa awesome.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:59 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


#23 - They laugh at you behind your back.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:01 PM on December 11, 2013


#24- Owls are drunks.

#25 - And racists
posted by louche mustachio at 9:14 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This thread is everything I could possibly have hoped for.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:30 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hear Tyrell is coming out with a new model that will address most of these concerns.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:02 PM on December 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh dear. It appears we're going to have to let little "Owsley" go out on his own. Very sad.

On the other hand, we think our cat may come out from under the bed at some point.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:14 PM on December 11, 2013


Best bit of the article for someone whose mother keeps trying to explain antique furniture on them: Talons are also really bad for woodwork. They bring out the natural grain of the wood really well as they strip off the finish.
posted by maryr at 10:15 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


People in the vicinity of Sacramento, CA (and I see they now have an affiliate somewhere around San Diego) may be interested in an up-close "Owl Encounter" (scroll down to bottom) offered by West Coast Falconry in Marysville. We did the Owl Encounter and the basic falconry class, last year. We did get to hold their Eurasian Eagle Owl on our wrists, but the current description says they're not doing that any more. We had a great time and probably would have had a great time even without holding the owl personally. Learned a lot and were thrilled to stand within a couple of feet of death-on-wings.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:33 PM on December 11, 2013


One night I was swimming in Barton Springs when I saw a gigantic owl perched on a pecan tree branch which overhung the water. That owl looked to be about three feet tall. Another swimmer swam up and said in an awed whisper, "That is the 747 of owls."

"Indeed," I concurred.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:16 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


#19.5 - Owls don't fart and they will lord this over you on a regular basis, like it's your fault you have a long digestive tract.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:07 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Ma, my new neighborhood is so weird. It's like a couple houses? and then just redwoods and blackberries? but at night, someone in the distance really likes to scream. It's a college town, I guess?"

"Sweetie, those are owls. owls scream like people. That's one reason they're so cool. I'm so glad you moved to a nice neighborhood with trees."

(first housing not in the dorms)
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:09 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The first 8 reasons are "claws".

I dunno, you could make up a really long list out of "Holy buckets! The poop!" and a couple of "Oh hell, more vomited dead things."
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:34 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Sweetie, those are owls. owls scream like people. That's one reason they're so cool. I'm so glad you moved to a nice neighborhood with trees."

I thought owls were mostly hooters.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:36 AM on December 12, 2013


I was all "awwww, that's sweet" when I read the first bit about how Alice the owl has imprinted on her caretaker. Then you get to this:
Remember, owls are active at night, so that's when they'll be hooting and calling during mating season. Since she thinks she's a human, Alice directs her hooting at Karla, and Karla is expected to hoot with her. Alice can get quite crabby if Karla doesn't spend time hooting with her several times a day (early morning and late evening) during this time of year. If you have neighbors nearby, they won't be very happy about the noise.
It would be interesting if someone were to do a study on this sort of thing with other animals... I know my chattier cats definitely need their meowversations as well, they get antsy and increasingly vocal if I don't respond. With introverted cats it's more physical: "hey, I have decided that NOW is when I want to snuggle. Please to be removing anything and everything on your lap ASAP."
posted by fraula at 1:37 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any time I even vaguely entertain the slightest hint of a thought of owl ownership, I am going to whisper This discharge is the consistency of chocolate pudding. It will get some looks, sure, but it will suffice.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:37 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


No. Just, no.

This thread needs less owls and more Iowa.
posted by Wordshore at 1:46 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. Owls are wild animals and pets are domesticated animals.

There, I think that's all the list I need. Seriously, who thinks that a vicious predator is going to want to cuddle with them? I don't understand people.
posted by medusa at 2:07 AM on December 12, 2013


Seriously, who thinks that a vicious predator is going to want to cuddle with them?

Cat, dog, and ferret owners? Not saying an owl is a good idea for a pet (repeat "discharge is the consistency of chocolate pudding"), but most of our top pet choices are predators.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:28 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Back in the day, when I was about 14 years old, my biology teacher sister was still living at home. Her job consisted of traveling to the various schools in the district that didn't have a science/biology teacher on staff, typically taking some sort of critter with her. In the summer she was the director of a local nature oriented summer camp.

As a result, she became pretty well known and the go-to person in our small town when some animal was discovered and deemed orphaned, injured, or suddenly in need of human care-taking. Truth be told, usually they could have been left along and would have been fine, but by the time they arrived at our door, they probably couldn't be safely returned to where they were found.

That was the reason we ended up with owls. The small one's were fun, a little Saw Whet owl was cute as a button, friendly, and not TOO dangerous. The baby Great Horned Owl we ended up with when it was about 9 or 10 inches tall looked like a ball of down with two eyes and a beak.

The Great Horned Owl lived in a big box, next to the couch in the living room at that point, it got a lot of attention and became pretty well socialized. Initially it's world was the bottom of the box, then, one day, while we were watching TV, the owl, now significantly bigger, was able to jump up to the edge of the box, stepped over to the arm of the couch, swiveled it's head a couple of times, looked at me and then saw the TV set. The owl was fascinated, and from that point on would spend most evenings standing on the arm of the couch watching whatever was popular back in 1962.

One of my jobs, and my friends, was to harvest road kill. While riding our bikes any fresh squirrel, possum, small bird or chipmunk found on the pavement would be picked up and brought to my house to be fed to the owls or hawks that happened to be in residence at the time.

The owl eventually became full size and was a magnificent animal. Although it was still very socialized, it's size alone made it difficult to allow it to remain loose in the house, the wing span on a Great Horned Owl is impressive, flying caused significant damage!

A pen was built outside, about 20 feet long, 10 feet wide, 12 feet tall. The pen was home to a number of large birds over the years.

Everything the article says is true, although I was never injured in a serious manner by our birds, I received my share of accidental scratches and bites.

And, yeah.... poop.
posted by HuronBob at 2:47 AM on December 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's all the rotation that puts me off. Even if it *is* for science.
posted by regularfry at 3:40 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Owls are murderous bastards, best run out of town at every opportunity. So say the crows.
posted by tommyD at 4:24 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got my owl from the shelf over there at the top with the other birds that are used for science.
posted by raena at 4:47 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Strixophobes.
posted by Segundus at 4:57 AM on December 12, 2013


Owls are murderous bastards, best run out of town at every opportunity. So say the crows.

Even crows will get harassed out of the sky by angry starlings or sparrows. No one fucks with the owls.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:45 AM on December 12, 2013


My bunnies are pooping machines. But the thing is they're not pooping, flying, killing machines.

It's an important difference.
posted by tommasz at 7:02 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't have to keep them as pets to be in peril. Just live in the right neighborhood.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:32 AM on December 12, 2013


The worst part about having an owl for a pet is that you don't know how much to tuck them in because you don't know where their necks are.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:40 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


#26 - Their friends keep coming over at all times of the day or night to get advice; and they're all sorts of weird creatures, like really small bears, or pigs, or tigers with ADHD, or some kind of morbidly depressed donkey thing.

#27 - The advice is uniformly terrible, but when you try to tell it that, it gets all huffy and passive-aggressive.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:17 AM on December 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


If you're not prepared to thaw and cut up dead animals every night of your life for 10 years or more, you aren't up for having an owl.

That about seals the deal for me.
posted by Chuffy at 11:33 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


11. They are Ke$ha fans.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:50 PM on January 7, 2014


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