Is Catnip Safe For Birds?

Currently, there is no conclusive study claiming catnip being toxic to birds. But, owing to its recreational effects, avian experts have mixed feelings about giving catnip to their birds. Though small amounts of catnip have been found safe for bird consumption. 

However, I strongly advise you to avoid giving catnip to your bird.


You’re going to find out everything in this article

What are you going to discover?

  • Can catnip hurt birds?
  • What does catnip contain?
  • Why does catnip affect cats and not humans?
  • How does catnip affect humans?
  • Why catnip is not good for birds?

We got lots to cover!

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

Can Catnip Hurt Birds?

Conceivably, it can.

You see, catnip does not have much effect on humans.

However, it can make cats go woozy, even large cats like lions, tigers, or cheetahs.

Since drug dosage is associated with size, therefore, 

Odds are that a small bird can potentially get far more affected by catnip than a regular cat. 

Furthermore, foods safe for human consumption may not always be safe for birds.

For instance, avocados are healthy for humans.

However, the same fruit is toxic for birds as it contains persin.

Similarly, birds cannot metabolize chocolate or caffeine. 

That said, catnip has physiological effects on cats. 

Catnip is quite a doubtful substance to be given freely to any bird. 

Therefore, I strongly discourage its use on birds. 

What Does Catnip Contain?

Though native to Eurasia, catnip was brought to America as a recreational drug by the early settlers.

Biochemically, catnip consists of about 80% carbohydrates, 11% fats, and 8% proteins.

Being part of the mint family, it has a strong odor and is often called catmint.

And so,

It is rich in various acids, antioxidants, sterols, volatile oils, as well as tannins. 

Its most prominent elements include:

1. Nepetalactone

It is the aromatic compound responsible for most of the catnip effects.

When consumed it usually works as a sedative.

However, its smell can stimulate cats to become more playful.

Yet, it is considered one of the most potent insect repellents. 

How so?

Well, nepetalactone causes itching and pain to several insects.

Besides, its smell acts as aphid pheromones.

It attracts insect predators like lacewing fly.

Therefore, bugs and mosquitoes avoid this plant. 

Since birds often eat insects.

Nepetalactone seems unlikely to do them any good.

2. Thymol

Thymol is a monoterpene phenol that stimulates immunity.

Since, it has antimicrobial activity against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Tuberculosis, and Influenza.

Therefore, it is used for disinfection.

Thymol is considered the safest detergent for both kid toys and bird cages. 

However, there is no study confirming its safe dosage for birds.

3. Pinene

It is a bicyclic monoterpene that acts as a bronchodilator.

Consequently, it helps open airways for a temporary increase in inhalation. 

While it may be alright for several other animals.

However, birds’ respiratory systems are adept for maximum efficiency.

Additionally, the inhaled air sits twice as long in bird lungs than any other respiratory system

For Birds, pinene can double the impact of catnip, chemical fumes, or airborne particles. 

And so, it can be lethal for birds breathing through contaminated air.

Though pinene helps reduce THC-induced anxiety.

However, experiments have shown that starlings avoid perches containing pinene and limonene

If anything, pinene is a bird repellent. 

Now you may be wondering, “Is catnip safe for cats?”. 

It is. 


Why Does Catnip Affect Cats And Not Humans?

Because cats and humans have different bodily triggers. 

For cats, nepetalactone acts as an artificial sex pheromone.

When inhaled its travels through feline nasal tissue to neurons in its olfactory bulb.

There, it releases neurotransmitters that stimulate the cat’s following brain regions:

  1. Amygdala that regulates cat emotional responses.
  2. Hypothalamus – the master gland that controls hunger to feline emotions.

As a result, cats become happy and relaxed for about 5-15 minutes.

They often respond by drooling, rolling, rubbing, flipping, and even zoning out.

Or, more precisely,

It looks like a ball of fluff mashing its face on anything sprinkled with catnip. 

Since cats become playful with catnip.

It also explains why rats have modified their skin to release similar molecules.

Therefore, cats become playful around mice, giving them time to escape death.

However, only 70% of cats react to catnip. 

Others are genetically resistant.

Of course, human pheromones are different than cats.

Which means, humans don’t react the same way to catnip as cats. 

How Does Catnip Affect Humans?

Humans have been using catnip for its calmative effects, either as oil or as tea.

Native Americans used to apply catnip oil to soothe crying infants. 

Small amounts of catnip can help with:

  1. Anorexia and Indigestion
  2. Anxiety and Nervousness
  3. Cramps
  4. Insomnia
  5. Arthritis associated swelling
  6. Soft tissue injuries 
  7. Migraines

If catnip is relieving for humans and a happy substance for cats, then:

Why Catnip Is Not Good for Birds?

Because we don’t know its adverse effects on birds.

Besides, catnip affects differently to both cats and humans.

So, at most, it is a psychoactive and unpredictable herb.

Birds are small and have a high metabolism.

Consequently, it can act faster and can easily turn toxic for birds. 

Giving catnip to your bird is not safe.

If your birds and cats share the same space.

And several of your cat toys are infused with catnip.

Then you may already be unintentionally exposing your bird to catnip. 

Which is why, it is best to restrict your pets to certain areas.

Besides, cat saliva is extremely dangerous for birds.

Also, cats can pounce on any bird out of instinct.  

Can Birds Get High?

They surely can.

Birds get high by eating fermented berries.

This occurs usually by the end of winter when the melting of frost triggers the yeast to ferment these berries.

Consequently, these berries contain ethanol making birds drunk and hungover.

However, birds can also get tipsy by eating pickles.

Drunk birds have woozy looks and wobbly flight.

They often fall from losing balance or hit different things.

Perhaps, they also lose all senses. 

Intoxicated birds are extremely vulnerable. 

A decline in bird population has been observed around such fermented fruit trees, indicating how drunkenness may have led to several bird deaths.

So, giving birds alcoholic substances is abusing those birds and is now illegal. 

Perhaps catnip gives hallucinations to a bird.

But it cannot vocalize its concerns. 

An overdose of such substances can be lethal. 

But birds are naturally vulnerable to a lot of substances and situations.

So, you may also wonder:

What Kills Birds Instantly?

There are several such things, including:

1. Suffocation

This may result from blockage of the respiratory canal by either:

  1. Mite infestation
  2. Inflammation
  3. Excessive mucus

2. Poor Air Quality

Owing to their efficient respiratory system, birds are vulnerable to air quality. And so, they are extremely sensitive to fumes from:

  1. Aerosols like air fresheners, perfumes, pesticides, and insecticides.
  2. Volatile substances like varnish remover, paints.
  3. Heated non-stick materials especially Teflon.
  4. New carpets.
  5. Scented candles.
  6. Marijuana or cigarette smoke.

3. Predators

Birds are prone to all kinds of predators, from domestic pets like cats and dogs to wandering raptors such as hawks, owls, and eagles

4. Ingestion of Toxins

This may involve an overdose of the following:

  1. Apple seeds containing cyanide.
  2. Avocados with persin causing cardiac arrest.
  3. Chocolate with caffeine causing heart rate fluctuations. 
  4. Excessive salt causing kidney failures.
  5. Residue pesticides on fruit skins, affecting the nervous system.
  6. Alcohol causing multiple organ failures.
  7. Poisonous mushrooms causing paralysis.
  8. Lead poisoning from paints causing nerve damage. 

5. Diseases or Injuries

Birds tend to hide illness to avoid becoming prey.

Therefore, even with chronic illness, they seemingly die quite quickly.

But instant deaths may result from:

  1. Stroke and paralysis
  2. Heart attack 
  3. Kidney failure
  4. Internal bleeding from trauma.

6. Home Appliances And Devices

These include:

  1. Ceiling fans.
  2. Curling rods and irons. 
  3. Uncovered fish tanks, water buckets, or food containers.
  4. Heated materials.
  5. Electric cords.
  6. Mirrors causing injuries by sharp edges.
  7. Temperature fluctuations

But if you only wanted to give catnip just to add herbs to your bird’s diet.

Then, you may be wondering:

What Are The Alternatives To Catnip?

Instead of using mind-altering catmint, try the regular mint.

The regular mint can relax a self-mutilating bird during molting.

Also, it is a natural remedy to bird bowel issues.

Other alternatives include:

  1. Anise
  2. Cilantro
  3. Basil
  4. Parsley and bay leaves
  5. Chamomile flowers
  6. Dandelion leaves
  7. Cinnamon
  8. Cumin
  9. Turmeric
  10. Dill
  11. Fennel
  12. Oregano
  13. Rosemary
  14. Sage (Unburnt)
  15. Thyme
  16. Turmeric

As a rule of thumb, anything with psychological effects must be avoided.

Therefore, I suggest you avoid other such herbs like silvervine or valerian root.


When in confusion, always contact your vet. 

You should always speak to your avian vet before adding any new diet or trying new food to give your birdie

Always seek their advice – Very important!

Wrapping Up 

While small amounts of catnip have shown no side effects.

Still, giving a bird catnip is not a good idea.

It’s because catnip is a recreational herb with known effects on cats and humans.

So, potentially it can cause irreversible damage to a bird.

Besides birds are naturally quite vulnerable.

They even get high by consuming fermented berries.

It’s best to NOT give catnip at all to your birdie

Best to be safe than sorry


We at write about bird health and diet however it should not be taken as medical advice. For advice on your bird you need to seek out an avian vet. The information you find on is for educational purposes only. At we are not liable for any information that you may find on here. Birdcageshere is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice about your bird.