Do Red-Tailed Hawks Go After Small Dogs or Cats?

red=tailed hawk perched

Red-tailed hawks can attack and kill small pets. Sometimes, small breeds of dogs or cats may become easy prey for a red-tailed hawk. In falconry, although red-tailed hawks develop a relationship with small pets, they should never be left unattended because red-tailed hawks may snap and attack any pet that is small enough. I have had first-hand experiences with this, and I wish to share this with you so that you can protect your pets and raptors or even teach them to co-exist.

Factors That Influence Hawk Behavior

What factors influence the behavior of red-tailed hawks when it comes to attacking small pets? Prey size plays a crucial role in a hawk’s decision to attack. Red-tailed hawks typically target smaller prey than themselves, making small pets like cats and small dogs potential targets. Habitat type also influences hawk behavior. Hawks are commonly found in open areas like fields, meadows, and parks, where small pets may be more exposed and vulnerable to attacks.

The time of day is another significant factor. Red-tailed hawks are diurnal hunters, meaning they are most active during the day, increasing the chances of encountering small pets. The disturbance level in the environment can affect hawk behavior, as they may be more likely to attack when there is minimal human activity. Additionally, prey behavior, such as a small pet running or displaying erratic movements, can trigger a hawk’s predatory instincts, leading to an attack.

gyrfalcon on a perch

Risks Posed to Small Pets

Understanding the potential dangers that red-tailed hawks pose to small pets is crucial for pet owners living in areas where these birds of prey are present. Urban wildlife, including predatory birds like hawks, pose a significant risk to the safety of small animals such as cats and small dogs. To enhance small animal safety, pet owners should consider implementing hawk deterrents around their properties to discourage predatory birds from targeting their pets.

While hawks are a natural part of the ecosystem, pet supervision is key in minimizing the risks they pose. Keeping a close eye on pets when outdoors can help prevent potential encounters with predatory birds. By being aware of the presence of red-tailed hawks and other similar species, pet owners can take proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of their beloved furry companions in areas where these birds of prey are known to frequent.

Tips for Pet Safety Outdoors

To ensure the safety of small pets outdoors, pet owners need to be vigilant and proactive in implementing preventive measures against potential threats like red-tailed hawks.

  • Outdoor Supervision: Always closely monitor your small pets when they are outside, especially when red-tailed hawks are most active.
  • Leash Training: Teach your pets to walk on a leash to improve their control over their movements and prevent them from wandering into potentially dangerous areas.
  • Secure Fencing: Install secure fencing around your yard to create a physical barrier that should help keep red-tailed hawks out and your pets safe inside.
  • Hawk Deterrents: Utilize hawk deterrents such as reflective objects, noise-making devices, or scarecrows to discourage hawks from coming near your property.
  • Pet Recall Training: Train your pets to come to you when called so that you can quickly and effectively bring them to safety in case of danger.

Accustomizing Small Pets with Your Hawk from a Young Age

Introducing your small pets to your hawk from a very young age requires a thoughtful and gradual approach to ensure the well-being of both animals. Begin by allowing your small pets to become accustomed to the presence of the hawk in a controlled environment where physical barriers are in place. This helps reduce initial anxiety and fosters a sense of familiarity. You might start by using a secure cage or aviary for the hawk, allowing the pets to observe and smell each other without the risk of direct contact.

Over time, as the animals grow more comfortable, you can begin to facilitate brief, supervised interactions. Always keep a close watch during these meetings, as hawks’ instincts can be unpredictable and may pose a threat if they perceive the pets as prey. Gradually increase the duration and proximity of these interactions, rewarding calm behavior with positive reinforcement to encourage peaceful coexistence.

gyrfalcon black feathered

Constant monitoring throughout this process is crucial. A lapse in vigilance can lead to dangerous situations as hawks revert to their natural hunting instincts, especially without regular human interaction. It’s essential to continuously reinforce positive experiences and maintain control over your hawk and small pets. Building a trusting relationship takes time, but with patience and careful supervision, your pets can learn to co-exist safely with your hawk.  

In conclusion, while red-tailed hawks are powerful predators and may pose a risk to small pets, there are steps that pet owners must take to ensure their safety. Understanding the factors that influence hawk behavior and taking precautions when pets are outdoors can help mitigate potential risks. By being informed and proactive, pet owners can co-exist peacefully with these majestic birds of prey. Awareness and preparation are key to keeping our furry friends and raptors safe.


Welcome to my falconry website! My name is Richard, and I have been practising the art of Falconry for over 15 years. My fascination with birds of prey began at a young age when I visited a falconry sanctuary as a kid. The experience was truly captivating, and from that moment on, I knew I wanted to learn more about these majestic birds. So my dad and I started to adventure towards the possibility of one-day becoming falconers, and that's how my journey in Falconry began. I find birds of prey to be remarkable at hunting prey. Their strength, speed, and intelligence are truly remarkable, and I've always been fascinated by the relationship between a falconer and their bird. The first bird I started my falconry journey with was a Harris Hawk, as I knew these were the easiest birds to start with. Unfortunately, I lost my Harris Hawk during the early days of training, which was devastating. However, this loss only made me want to try harder and do better in perfecting the art of Falconry to ensure I never lose a bird. Over the years, I have mentored many apprentice falconers and shared my knowledge and skills along the way. I have experience with a variety of birds, including different species of Hawks, Falcons, and Owls. Although my Best choice of bird to hunt with has always been my Peregrine falcon Jules. I have also worked with many experienced falconers and bird trainers, greatly expanding my knowledge and skill set while observing and learning. Unfortunately, due to a lack of information on the web, I struggled to find what I needed when I started in Falconry. Thus, I created this website to make learning about Falconry easier and faster for those interested. Now with the information and experience, I will provide throughout this site, understanding Falconry should be much easier than when I started out.

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