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Dreaming of Cats: Symbolism and Meanings

Woman asleep with cat
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For many pet parents and lovers of cats, dreaming of your favorite feline might not seem so unusual. It’s when things get a little strange that we start questioning what is really going on and what it could all mean. Cats changing color? Cats talking? Do you even know the cat in your dreams? 

It’s not unreasonable to ask what does it mean when you dream of cats? Experts say when you interpret your dreams, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and solve a few life problems along the way. Here’s what a dream researcher at Harvard had to say about cats in dreams. 

Dreaming of Cats: General Meanings and Symbolism

Dr. Deirdre Barrett is a lecturer of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of “The Committee of Sleep and Pandemic Dreams.” Her ragdoll cat Morpheus (appropriately named after the Greek god of sleep) pops into her dreams from time to time to help her sort out emotions and pressing life problems. 

Dreams are a way for our brains to assign visuals for things we might not have a visual for. As a result, we (subconsciously) pick something else to stand in for fears, worries, or hopes – like a cat, if you’re lucky. Not to influence your dreams tonight, but Barrett observed an up-tick in reported dreams about bugs during the COVID-19 pandemic, a placeholder for the virus. 

“Dream interpretation, in the sense of foretelling the future or discerning the will of gods or ancestors, is as old as human history,” Barrett says. 

The fascination with and recording of dreams can be traced back to the first civilization credited with developing writing. There’s debate if cats were first domesticated in the homeland of this civilization some 10,000 years ago or if they were domesticated later in Egypt, about 4,000 years ago. Personally, I like the idea that even the earliest dream journals depicted strange dreams of the family floof. 

Cats as Symbols

The feline species has been a spiritual symbol for thousands of years. Just look at the Egyptian goddess Bastet (Bast) who had the head of a cat and the body of a female. Like the feline friends that protected ancient Egypt’s crops and communities from disease and rodents, Bastet is the goddess of protection, pleasure, and the bringer of good health. 

But a cat’s mysterious attributes wouldn’t go unnoticed for long. Cats became the symbol of magic, sorcery, the moon, and witchcraft in Greek mythology and European folklore. Perhaps it was these connotations that pegged cats as being associated with Satan and witches by early Christian churches. 

Today’s symbolism of cats in dreams ranges from bad luck and cautioning of a two-faced friend to representing femininity, independence, or a curious nature. But, Barrett cautions, today’s ethical dreamwork relies on the dreamer’s association with the cat and the context of the dream. 

Sure, she says, a dreamer could associate cats with folklore or religion. But more often than not, the interpretation of a cat dream is usually tied to the dreamer’s own history with cats. 

Cat Dream Symbolism: Specific Types and Meanings

cat sleeping

“The more you work with your dreams, the more familiar you will become with your personal images,” Theresa Cheung writes in her book “The Element Encyclopedia of 20,000 Dreams.” “You’ll probably find that you dream the most about the things that you are familiar with every day: your family, your colleagues, your friends, and your pet. Each time you dream about these familiar things they will have personal significance to you alone.” 

The symbolism and meaning of cats in dreams are meant to be a kicking-off point for the dreamer, a little push to discover their own thoughts and feelings around the content, imagery, and actions in a dream. 

Dreams About Black Cats

If you feel connected to Egyptian mythology, there’s good news about your dream of a black cat meaning. The goddess Bastet wasn’t just a cat with a woman’s body, she was a black cat with a woman’s body. So, consider this dream an omen of good luck and the feeling of safety. 

But if it’s Greek mythology and European folklore you feel more connected to, you might be struggling with an inner demon, temptation, or urge, disguised as a cat.  

Dreams about White Cats

Cheung writes that if you dream of the color white, ask yourself if your dream is encouraging you to see the truth about someone or something in your life. Or, your dream could indicate your thoughts about starting fresh—in life or perhaps a project. If you know the white cat in your dream, you may be thinking of their innocence and goodness (aww).

Dreams about Kittens

Have you been thinking a lot about your childhood or your own desire to have a child? Cheung writes that baby animals in dreams can refer to your younger self, vulnerabilities, or the want for parental bonding. Kittens in dreams represent your inner child and playfulness. If the kitten is injured, Cheung suggests exploring if there is something about adult responsibilities or maturing that you’re struggling with. 

Dreams About Cats Attacking

Wondering, why am I dreaming of cats attacking me? It’s said that you may be punishing yourself or feeling guilty about something. You may also feel a rage that you fear will be unleashed. Parts of the cat’s body also have meaning. For example, is it the claws of the cat that stuck with you the most? This could represent hidden aggression or spitefulness. Is it the sound of cats attacking one another in your dream that felt impactful? Cheung says to consider what emotions these sounds provoke in waking life. 

Dreams about Multiple Cats

Has there been relationship strife in your life? Multiple cats in a dream point to a hidden or secretive side of a person’s nature. Your dream could unveil dangers or jealousy in a relationship. 

Dreams about Cats in the House (or Trying to Get in the House)

If you dream of cats in the house or trying to get into the house, Cheung suggests asking yourself what aspect of you the house represents. If cats are inside the house with you, you could have a desire to break free from restraints in life. 

Dreams About a Dead Cat

Cheung cautions that taking dreams literally can be harmful. You can relax knowing your dream of a dead cat doesn’t mean a cat will die. Instead, seeing a dead body in your dream – cat or otherwise – could indicate the loss of passion in your waking life. Because symbols and imagery are unique to you, your dream could be sparked by your fear of losing your furry companion or even another death you haven’t quite come to terms with. 

What to Do If You Dream About Cats

Cute cat sleeping

If you’re having recurring dreams about cats, Barrett says this could indicate a long-term issue or concern. “Some clinicians emphasize recurring dreams as especially important to explore the meaning of, as they are likely to concern core issues for the person,” Barrett says. 

Here are some ways to help you better understand and explore your dreams about cats:

Keep track of your dreams. If you want to dive deeper into dream exploration and use your dreams to solve life issues, reduce anxiety, or relieve depression, Barrett says first, keep a dream journal. Upon waking, write down everything you can remember about your dream. 

Work with a professional. Then, enlist the help of a professional trained in dreamwork like a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. There are also peer-led dream groups you may want to explore. Speaking to someone may help you unravel the meaning behind your dreams. 

Try “dream incubation.” Do you want to have more dreams about cats? Barrett has a solution for that too. “Dream incubation is making a request of your dreaming mind for content you’d like to dream about,” she explains. 

Before going to bed, write down the thing you want to dream about (obviously cats). Once you’re in bed, visualize this thing or look at a picture related to whatever it is you want to dream about. As you’re falling asleep, tell yourself that you want to dream about this thing. When you wake up from your dreams, don’t move. Instead, think about the dreams you had, replaying them and inviting more detail. Then, jot down the details in your dream journal. 

Conclusion

With a little creativity and forward-thinking about symbolism, decoding your dreams can be fun and insightful. Being equipped with the tools to remember your dreams and understand the symbolism means more insight into the things that matter most to you—even if you didn’t realize their importance in waking life.

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