The meaning of the dream symbol: Cat

1. The meaning of a dream about a cat may depend on what you associate with cats. If you are afraid of them in real life, they may represent in dreams things you are frightened of in yourself. But remember that a real-life fear of cats may be a symptom indicating a fear of some aspect of the femininity that cats generally symbolize: your mother, your own femininity (whether you are a man or a woman), your unconscious psyche, Nature’s energy or wisdom, the ultimate mystery of life and death and rebirth.

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2. The feminine in its various aspects may be experienced as both positive and negative. The cat may represent the positive, creative - fertile - aspect of the feminine. (In mythology cats are often associated with fertility goddesses.) The dream might be pointing to the possibility of new growth in your personality through a fuller integration of your anima, perhaps (if you are a man), or through a greater reliance on intuition or dream messages.

However, the cat may also symbolize the negative, ‘catty’ or destructive aspect of femininity. If feminine characteristics in you are repressed, they will probably present themselves, both in dreams and in waking life, in a negative way. For example, a man whose femininity is not integrated into his conscious life may behave in a destructively catty way towards other people.

3. A black cat may have associations of good luck and prosperity or of evil. (Cats are associated with witches, who - according to how informed your opinion of them is - are either priestesses of the Earth Mother and therefore represent the power and wisdom of Nature, or Satan-worshippers and therefore symbols of all that is bad.)

4. Cats’ eyes are moon-like, and, like the moon, they may signify either the anima, or the unconscious seen as a fruitful womb - a rich source of (new) life.

The cat is the symbol of mystery and independence. Because of these qualities, the cat has often been compared to mysterious, independent and sexual women. The author would argue that the cat is closer aligned to the Unconscious, which is mysterious, dark, silent and contains all the wildness of our natural selves, including our lustful sexuality and violent aggression. Accordingly, we need to follow the cat who stalks in our dreams in order to ‘see’ where it leads. If the cat kills, we must examine what exactly it has killed, and where has it ‘placed’ its kill? Is this place significant of our own guilt in some way? We must understand that the cat combines elements of our ‘wild’ self and our ‘calculating’ self. Are we planning an act of aggression? If the cat fights other cats, we must determine what color they are, and, who the other cats remind us of? Are these figures our enemies? The three most important questions about this dream figure concern gender and qualitative emotion. Is the cat male or female, and what are our feelings about this male or female cat itself. What is the cat illustrating about ourselves in its curious, yet coordinated, behavior?

Popular caricature in Vietnam used to portray cats as emblems of mandarins, the exact equivalent of the description of rapacious government officials as ‘fat cats’.

Celtic tradition views the cat in a far less favourable light than the dog or the lynx. Apparently the creature was regarded with a degree of mistrust. Cenn Chaitt, ‘Cat’s Head’, was the surname of the usurper, Cairpre, who seized the kingship and brought ruin upon Ireland. In The Voyage of Maelduin, a mythical cat punishes one of his foster-brothers who tries to steal a golden torque from a deserted castle in which the crew had feasted. The thief was turned to ashes by the flames which darted from the eyes of a little cat, which then went unconcernedly on with its games. At Tara, King Nuada’s porter, too, had a cat’s eye which proved most awkward when he tried to go to sleep, for the eye would open when birds called or mice squeaked at night. Lastly, in Wales, one of the three plagues of Anglesey, according to the Triads of the Islands of Britain, was a cat littered by the mythical sow Henwen (‘Old White’). The swineherd cast it into the sea but unfortunately it was saved and reared by people unaware of its nature. It is tempting to ask, however, whether all these stories might be referring to wild cats rather than to the domestic species.