Having animals in dreams is very common. From lions and tigers of the wild to household pets, animals of all kinds, shapes, and sizes can populate our dreams. As with other dream symbols, like water or babies, discerning how the symbol functions in our waking life can help make the connection to what it reflects in the consciousness. Regardless of individual traits, animals mostly work from attention and memory. They tend to act in certain ways, eat a certain diet, and, overall, have the same routine from day to day. Until something new enters into their lives, memory and present conditions will continue to dictate their activities. Therefore, animals in dreams represent habits or habitual thinking.
When I was a child, my family used to visit my grandparents each summer in Colorado. One of my favorite pastimes was going hiking with my grandfather, whom we called “Poppa,” round his land in the mountains. On one of our hiking expeditions, I noticed a smaller trail going into the woods. I asked him what made that trail. He told me that it was most likely deer, elk, or cattle that went along that trail. He also told me that animals make trails also that they traveled often. This story comes to mind whenever I have animals in my dreams, stimulating me to look for thoughts I’ve had over and over again.
Characters and traits of animals can help determine the habits they reflect. Are the animals strong or nimble? Grotesque or well-groomed? Familiar or mythological? Asking questions like these can often clarify the picture of how an animal functions, crucial in dream interpretation. Additionally, looking at the interaction with the animals in question can illuminate the cause and effect relationship between the thoughts and waking life.
For example, many people have had nightmares of being chased by animals. The action of running away from anything in a dream connotes a type of avoidance of something in waking life. This can portray attitudes of feeling powerless or feeling out of control. In this case, perhaps it’s thoughts of worry, fear, or doubt that plague the mind, rendering the dreamer powerless.
This is not to say that all habits are detrimental. Just like there are good habits involving diet, personal hygiene, and finances, good mental habits can be helpful. Ideally, people as evolving thinkers and reasoners will increase their mental discipline to a point where the mind is fully present in all thinking processes. Animal dreams can therefore become a stimulus for seeking greater mental dominion, transforming even the slightest acts of mental “auto-pilot” into conscious awareness.
For an example of a dream interpretation that involves animals in a dream, read this article.