Cats symbolize intuition, feminine power, feminine sexuality, vulnerability, and creativity. When someone dreams of cats, the symbolism of the dream reflects the dreamer’s unique personality and life issues, while still retaining the ancient universal symbolism of the cat. Dream interpretation requires an openness to enter the dream on the dream’s terms and suspend logic until the right understanding ‘clicks’.
Dream dictionaries need to be taken with a grain of salt. Just as each cat enjoys a personality all its own as well as certain features shared by all cats, so too a dream of cats delivers its own message to the dreamer in addition to the standard symbolism listed in a dream dictionary. The dreamer should consider what cats mean to her personally.
Does the dreamer like cats or fear them? What about cat allergies? What was the cat in the dream like? Was the dream cat friendly? Healthy? Sickly? Did the cat scratch or bite in the dream? Did the cat have a name? A sense of what the dream itself attaches to the cat helps the dreamer tune into what the dream is trying to say.
What Does a Cat in Your Dream Mean?
In a man’s dream, cats represent women or the feminine side of that man. In a woman’s dream, cats represent sexual power, intuition, and vulnerability. Dreaming of kittens or sick cats, cats that are crying, or lots of cats at once can mean a woman is feeling vulnerable or confused.
If a man dreams of being scratched or attacked by cats, he may feel the women in his life are ‘out to get him’. When a woman has a similar dream she may fear that other women disapprove of her and are ‘catty’ behind her back. The more menacing the cats in a dream appear, the more the dream is trying to warn the dreamer about some problem in daily life that the dreamer may not be seeing clearly.
Dreams often speak in visual puns, much like those puzzles that add up a line of separate illustrations to equal a phrase or a sentence. The most obvious visual pun a dream may use about cats is a play on the word ‘catty’, but puns can be much more sophisticated than that, so be open to the possibility that a a dream about cats has an additional layer that is a play on words.
Archetypal Cat Symbolism
The symbolism of cats extends back into prehistory. The Egyptians worshiped cats and also associated cats with the feminine principle. Bastet, the Egyptian goddess of protection, first appeared as a fierce mother lion, but over time Bastet evolved to take the form of a female body with the head of a domestic cat.
Egyptian cats protected fields of grain from mice and other vermin, hence the evolution of the goddess of protection as a female cat. By killing vermin, cats also protected the Egyptian people from the spread of disease. Mummified cats appear frequently in the tombs of Egyptian kings, queens, and nobles.
Black cats portend good luck, not bad luck, in Ireland and Britain. In Japan and China, the cat also signifies good luck. Maneki-Neko, a ceramic figurine of a cat with an upturned paw, occupies a prominent place in many Chinese and Japanese households. The appearance of many friendly cats in a dream may well portend the coming of a positive phase.
Although the stereotype of cats as aloof, selfish beasts is well-known among people who do not love cats, cat owners know that cats have a sort of sixth sense about other people and are intuitively tuned into their owners. Cats will sit quietly beside sick owners, seeming to keep watch over them until they are well. The appearance of such cats in dreams suggests the dreamer needs to pay attention to her intuition and take better care of herself.
Dreams by Men About Cats
Carl Jung, a student of Sigmund Freud who developed his own theories about symbols and dreams, believed that every man’s and every woman’s psyche contains a symbol of his or her opposite-sex self. In men, this archetype is called the Anima. In women, the archetype that embodies their male energy is called the Animus.
When men dream of cats, the cats may symbolize the man’s own feminine energy and his relationship with that energy. If a man dreams of being pursued by cats he may fear this energy. The dream may be telling him to stop, turn around, and let this energy into his life instead of running from it.
If a man has positive dreams about cats, but dislikes cats in real life, the dream may again be telling him that getting in touch with his feminine side helps him enjoy pleasure and calm in his waking hours. Most likely such a dream has very little to do with actual cats he encounters while awake.
Women’s dreams will not usually choose a cat to symbolize her Animus archetype (or male energy.) If she dreams of a powerful male cat the dream is more likely telling her that in waking life her feminine power and intuition is her greatest strength. Even though the dream cat is male, it is more likely to represent her own power.
Another Jungian archetype that appears is cat dreams is the Shadow. The Shadow consists of all the personal qualities the dreamer manifests but pushes away from consciousness. Some people think the Shadow is completely negative, but it actually contains enormous power. Shadow dreams can be frightening, but they are actually an invitation to integrate a part of oneself that previously was ignored or pushed away.
If a man has a nightmare or a frightening dream about cats, his Shadow may be inviting him to embrace his feminine side. The dream telegraphs to the sleeping self that the way to a more powerful personality is through integration of the feminine, even though in waking life a man be ignoring this part of himself because he thinks it is ‘unmanly’.
Which feminine qualities might a man’s cat nightmare be referencing? Archetypal feminine qualities symbolized by cats include vulnerability, intuition, emotion, sensuality, and even the supernatural. Women who have nightmares about cats may also be pushing away these qualities in their waking lives.
Dreams by Women About Cats
A popular myth states that men like dogs and women like cats, but this isn’t true. Men and women enjoy both animals in waking life. The myth points to symbolic truths not actual ones; the symbolic fact that cats in dreams and mythology are associated with the feminine, dogs with the masculine.
When women dream of cats they are most often dreaming about some aspect of themselves or their relationship with other women. A dream of too many kittens, some sick and some not, may be signalling to a woman that she needs to pay attention to her anxiety level. Kittens tend to represent vulnerability.
A dream of cats may also be trying to tell a woman about the health of her sexual and sensual side. Sick cats, thin cats, old cats: all these may be telling a woman her waking life has become starved of pleasure and warm feelings. Such a dream also points to a life so ordered and logical it has become barren and sad.
If a woman dreams of feral cats, the dream may be showing the woman something about her wilder side. One woman had recurring dreams of waking and finding a bobcat hanging on her window screen at night, seeming to want to be let inside. Bobcats are extremely private and are rarely seen, ever, even though they are frequently lurking near people, pets, and yards.
The recurring bobcat dream warned the woman about the need to keep her own counsel and maintain a safe space. Even though the bobcat is wild, its ways of protecting itself are passive and stealthy. This bobcat was saying, “Be quiet, watch others, protect yourself, like I do in the wild.”
The Spirit of Cats
Even people who do not believe in the supernatural have had odd experiences with their cats. Cats display a sense of the uncanny. When a cat wants to tell someone it loves them, it gazes directly at the person and slowly blinks its eyes. This gesture essentially says, “I trust you enough to blink when looking at you,” the ultimate compliment from a predator.
When someone dreams about a specific cat, a known pet or a pet that has passed on, consider the possibility that the spirit of the cat is, in fact, sending love and care, letting the dreamer know it is looking over that person and looking out for that person. Cats have been known to alert their owners to spiritual disturbances in a home, and many true stories chronicle a cat’s journey of a thousand miles or more back to an owner who lost the cat in a move.
So when a dream-cat seems to be an old friend, it just might be. Certainly, the Egyptians believed such things were possible, and that cat-worshiping civilization lasted for over four thousand years.
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"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett