Weird things pop up in your dreams all the time — things you’d think have no business being there: people you’ve never met, activities you’ve never undertaken, abilities you’ve never had (raise your hand if you’ve ever gone full superhero and flown in a dream). Sometimes, though, your nightly wanderings play host to more… mundane things. Like, for example, cats. But what does it mean if you dream about cats? People tend to assign personality traits or characteristics to animals, so when animals pop up in your dreams, they offer a fantastically rich dream decoding opportunity. This is especially the case when the animal is as familiar to people as cats are.
Like any other dream theme, cat dreams may be your sleeping mind’s way of sending you a message. And that’s why experts suggest looking for common throughlines within your dreams. “Whenever you wake and can remember your dream, quickly write down as much information as possible,” says Danielle Massi, LMFT, a therapist and owner of The Wellness Collective. “Do this for a number of weeks and what you might find is that some patterns emerge from your dreams.”
From there, attempt to look behind the cat symbolism. According to mental health clinician Josiah Teng, MHC-LP, it may help to think of the feline as the puppet and the dream meaning as the strings. “Look at its function,” he tells Bustle. “What role is the cat playing in your dreams? Does it guide you through the dreamscape or create chaos through its actions? Do you feel comforted by its presence or threatened whenever it appears? The cat’s actions are echoing that of a force in your real life.”
Every dream symbol is a chance to understand yourself better and what you might need to address or change in your waking life. With that in mind, here are different interpretations of cat dreams, according to experts.
A History Of Cats In Culture
When interpreting this particular dream theme, it helps to be aware of the long history of mythology and symbolism associated with cats. For example, it’s possible you learned about Bastet, the Egyptian goddess of protection who was traditionally depicted as part cat, and now that history has found its way into your dreams.
Then there’s the long list of legends and folklore associated with cats. Some believe cats take the breath from babies or cause both good luck and bad. Some say cats can predict the weather, too. Depending on what you’ve heard, it could help explain why a cat popped up in one of your dreams and what the appearance might mean for you.
Then there’s the psychological side to consider. While some schools of thought — like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s — ascribe to the idea of universal dream symbols, other researchers don’t agree. In a 2012 Psychology Today article, Stephanie A. Sarkis, Ph.D., wrote, “Your chipmunk is not someone else’s chipmunk. The meaning you apply to a chipmunk is what your experience has been with chipmunks in day-to-day life.” So, if your experience with chipmunks has been largely negative, any dreams you might have about chipmunks probably will be, too — but someone who’s had generally positive experiences with chipmunks will probably dream different dreams about them.
The same goes for cats: If you dream about cats, the best way to interpret that dream is to look for themes and ways to connect your dreams to waking life, and also to think about your own thoughts, feelings, and associations with cats. Figuring that out might help you land on the cat dream meaning that’s specific to you.
What It Means If You Dream About Cats
1. You Want More Independence
Have you noticed that cats are often off sleeping on their own, playing alone, or stalking through the night alone? If so, are you a little bit jealous?
According to licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Holly Schiff, Psy.D., cat dreams often represent a desire for more independence. “You may feel that you are too dependent on others, or that you yearn to be strong enough to stand on your own,” she tells Bustle.
To figure it out, consider the different elements of your dream. “If you dream that you cannot find your cat and they are lost, this can be a metaphor for your own independence and you feel like something is holding you back,” says Schiff. “If you save a cat’s life in your dream, this can be symbolic of you reclaiming your independence.”
2. You’re Tapping Into Your Feminine Energy
Historically, cats have represented the divine feminine, Massi says, so consider how that might apply. According to Massi, if the cat is happy, it might mean your divine feminine energy is in balance. But if the cat is unhappy, it may mean that aspect of your energy is out of balance.
A cat dream could also indicate that a feminine energy in your life — like a friend or partner — is throwing you out of balance or needs more attention.
3. A Spirit Guide Is Trying To Get Your Attention
Some believe the Egyptian deity Bastet will send a cat via a dream as a message or invitation to come work with her, especially during moments when you need protection. To interpret this type of dream, Massi suggests researching what Bastet symbolizes to see if any of those elements pertain to your life.
4. You Feel Uneasy
If you’re the cat in your dream, consider how you think and feel as you move through the dream world, suggests Teng. If you’re constantly hiding from dogs, for instance, it could indicate that you don’t feel safe or that there’s a threatening presence in your waking life that needs to be addressed.
“Dreams about cats are often less about the cat itself and more about your relationship with the cat, its actions, and your response,” he says. “By looking for strings linking these elements and finding its counterpart in real life, you can find the meaning of the cat in your dreams.”
5. You Suspect Someone Is Lying To You
Cats are said to be strongly linked to curiosity, stealth, and independence, but also hidden knowledge, bad fortune, and deception of some kind. It’s why a dream about cats might mean you suspect someone is deceiving you, or you might be deceiving yourself about something. As you jot down these themes in your journal, consider if there’s any shady behavior going on in your day-to-day life that needs to be addressed.
6. You Need To Listen To Your Intuition
If a cat appears in your dream, it could be a powerful message to listen to your intuition. Like a cat, your intuition is always there, but it’s often hidden and you aren’t aware of it.
Alternatively, depending on how you perceive cats, it could also represent something about yourself you don’t want to reveal, either because you are ashamed of it or because you lack confidence in fully expressing yourself. Think about a cat hiding in the shadows.
Like cats themselves, your intuition is not predictable. It surfaces when it feels like it and isn’t easily trained or contained. So again, paying attention to how the cat appears in your dreams is important, as it will tell you how well you are tuning in to your own intuition.
7. You Feel Overwhelmed
Cats are a dream symbol of self-reliance, but there is an exception to this rule. If they appear in the form of a helpless kitten — which represents innocence, purity, and an openness to the future — you may be feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed. If so, make it a point to take better care of yourself or ask for help when you need it, and you might notice that this type of dream resolves.
And, depending on what’s going on in your waking life, dreaming of a kitten or a cat giving birth may suggest a new project or relationship or something or someone that you aren’t yet sure of or which needs nurturing to establish itself. And if you dream of many cats in your dreams, you may be feeling overwhelmed by chaos or confusion.
8. You’re Lonely
Had a dream about a cougar or bobcat hanging out in the woods or a windswept mountain top? Wild cat dreams could suggest that you’re feeling free and independent or that you feel lonely. There are also often themes of survival, power, cunning, and ferocity to pay attention to.
Whether it’s a lion, tiger, leopard, panther, or jaguar, a wild cat could suggest that you feel like you’re in a dangerous place but that any difficulties can be overcome with courage and a roar. You need to face your fears. If you can clearly identify what wild cat is chasing you, there’s a whole new world of symbolism and associations for you to delve deep into.
9. You Need To Trust Yourself More
If you have lost a cat in your dream or are trying to find one, this suggests that in real life, you’re aware that you need to trust yourself more but you aren’t there yet. It might be high time now for you to prioritize your own emotional needs over others. If the cat is abused or neglected, reflect on your close relationships. Are there toxic patterns of codependency? Remember, people treat you as you treat yourself.
10. You Have To Face An Unresolved Fear
Although some people only dream in black and white, most dream in vivid color, so you need to research the color associations and see if they speak to you. Is it a white cat? You might be facing “difficult times.” Is it black? You might have an unresolved fear about something. Black cats are often incorrectly considered to be signs of bad luck so this could suggest that you’re not trusting your intuition enough. If you dream of an orange cat, this is a sign of rampant creativity in your life.
11. You Need To Embrace Your Uniqueness
Remember, what the cat is doing in your dream might also affect its symbolism. If the cat is chasing a mouse or toy, your unconscious might be telling you to embrace your independence and uniqueness, no matter what anyone else thinks. You might also be seeing an interpretation of your own playful side, which could be a hint that you should let that playful side out more often.
The Bottom Line
According to Freud, cats represent erotic tension, but Jung believed cats were an archetype, a source of internal inspiration and guidance. Cats can certainly be linked to your sexual energy or be a sign that sexual adventure is on your mind or might just be on the horizon. The way forward is to express and love yourself like a cat: be quietly confident, listen to your intuition, pick your moment. Then don’t be afraid to explore and ask for what you want, just as a curious cat is prone to do.
In conclusion, whether or not you are a cat person is going to determine whether dreaming of cats feels like a dream or a nightmare. If anything about the dream upsets or confuses you, try to pinpoint what is going on in your waking life to make you feel that way. Your dreaming mind is urging you to shine the spotlight on that issue and to use your feelings about cats and the lessons they can teach you as a way to help you understand and heal from whatever is holding you back.
Seen in this light, cat dreams — like their real-life counterparts — really can become your best friend and your familiar lucky charm.
Danielle Massi, LMFT, therapist
Dr. Holly Schiff, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist
Josiah Teng, MHC-LP, mental health clinician
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