I knit a miniature owl cable as rib on a mitten and it looked quite nice. In this case I used a rather thick yarn , so with thinner yarn you might want to stack several owls or use each stitch as two (in this case: Double width of owl and purled rib, double height of all "white" rows, and cable with two stitches over rather than just one). Rib should be about an inch wide or wider to avoid curling.
Owl is 4 stitches wide and there are two purl stitches between each owl. That means that your number of stitches has to be dividable with 6. With my thick yarn for mittens that meant only 5 owls (30 stitches).
Red arrow down = stitch goes to the left on back of work (crossing with the green)
Green arrow right = lift stitch over to the right on front of work (cable)
Green arrow down = stitch goes to the right (crossing with the red) on back of work.
Blue = purl stitch
Black diamond = the stitches you start on (in my case the CO stitches).
Tip: If you want a slightly less chubby owl, add one row to head and two rows to body.