Animals in Your Dreams

The animals we dream of express the wealth of our own feelings and depth of our unconscious understanding of life.

Few of the things we do as an individual in today’s world are uniquely human. Like other animals we build dwellings, we eat, sleep and reproduce. We care for our young with the same passion and self sacrifice seen in other mammals. We follow leaders and develop hierarchy as do wolves and primates. Above all else, we share with our fellow creatures our existence in a physical body we have inherited from a long line of forebears and pre-human animals. From this long past we carry traits and urges, fears and dispositions that underpin our self aware human personality. In dreams, these largely unconscious responses to what we face in life are shown as animals. See Animals in your Brain

For instance some of these traits we know as the flight, fight or freeze response; as the new born baby’s instinct to suckle and bond with its parent; as our urge to find a partner and mate; and particularly we see it in the drive to survive and thrive. But there are many more subtle aspects of the animal inheritance we carry with us. Some of these we see in our social behaviour, as when we shrewdly asses a person’s character, or discover what we call the ‘chemistry’ that exists between us and another person. Such things arise largely from our unconscious intuitions and senses. Such senses and responses were developed over millions of years by our animal forbears. In fact we are like a small face on top of a long line of beautiful animals.

This ancient heritage that dreams portray as our animal is not simply a psychological belief. It is built into our body and is very evident in the fact that we have three interwoven brains. The most ancient brain, one we share with reptiles and birds is called the R complex – R for reptilian. This part of your brain deals with deeply instinctive behaviour such as flight or fight, swallowing, automatic reflexes, inbuilt mating behaviour, territorial defence and aggression. This R complex developed about 200 million years ago and is still an underpinning part of what influences your behaviour today. Dreams often portray these urges in you as snakes or lizards.

The second part of your brain is called the Limbic System. This is wrapped around the R complex, and is something we share with other mammals such as cats, dogs and horses. It developed about 60 million years ago and deals with your emotions, feelings responses to people and events, the subtler inner life you feel in love and sex, and it provides a deep wisdom about social and individual relationships. Dreams often use mammals or apes to portray the influence in your life of this part of your unconscious drives and intuitions.

Many people are frightened or terrified of their dream animals. That is rather like being terrified of a picture on a cinema screen, for dreams are nothing more than moving images on the screen four sleeping mind. Like a computer game you can be attacked or even killed many times but you are still whole and unhurt. Face up to the animals in your dreams and make friends of them, because they are really helpful assets to have. See Inner World

Useful questions:

Is there any concern about the animal’s health?

Is there an indication the animal has been injured?
Does love, caring or affection enter into the dream?

The third part of your brain is the Cortex. This is unique to humans and takes up five sixths of the brain mass. It deals with all the things that are distinctly human, such as logical thought, writing, analysis, self awareness and conscious movements.

An American advertising company, describing these three brains in its instructions to planning advertising campaigns says, “Our Reptilian Brain is more powerful than the Limbic (emotional) Brain, which in turn is more powerful that the Cortex (thinking) Brain. It is best to take all three brains into account when planning a marketing/branding campaign.” See Animals.

Meeting your dream animals

What has been said about your three brains and what sort of dream arises from them is of course a generalisation. When you are looking at your own animal dreams you want to know specifically how they refer to you. So we will move from the general to the specific in looking at the dream meanings of animals such as a dog, cat, snake, horse, tiger and elephant. Those are mentioned because they are, in the order given, the most frequently dreamed of animals.

As explained in an earlier chapter, these are not to be thought of as symbols. They are more like computer desktop icons that if you connect with them lead you to awareness of, and ability to work with, what are usually unconscious processes in you. To gain even the beginnings of insight into your dream animals, you first need to remember that you as a person are a tiny spark of consciousness. You are a little bit of self awareness riding an incredibly ancient animal you call your body. Remember that your body has formed from cells and genetic information that has gradually developed over millions of years. It holds that information in it unconsciously. To actually make a living connection with your dream animals see Acting in your Dream


To gain an understanding of your dream animals, it is helpful to imagine that you are the keeper of a prehistoric type of human being. As such you would need to be aware what the correct diet is for this big creature; what type of dwelling it needs; what are its sexual and emotional needs; what frightens it or causes it stress; what amount of exercise keeps it healthy, what its stages of growth are and how it can best develop through those stages; and what satisfies it in relationships with others of its kind? Your animal dreams are showing you exactly those issues. They are giving you insight into how to care for the instinctive, the spontaneous and natural in you.

Therefore ask yourself the following questions about your animal dreams, and write down any responses. If the answer is no to a question, move on the next one:

Is your dream animal struggling to survive?

Survival is the most powerful and fundamental drive in your body and personality. Survival skills today are often linked with managing to remain alive in difficult terrain or harsh countryside, but we all live in the midst of challenges even in civilised surroundings. Your everyday social, work and political environments confront you with enormous difficulties. Also, every cell in your being is trying to survive. Your body and its systems are constantly involved in maintaining balance amidst powerful counter influences, or even against your own bad habits. Understanding what difficulties you face in surviving, and what resources you have to handle them is a huge step toward a better life. If you had the reptilian brain and the mammalian brains removed you would not function.

Therefore define if you can what your dream animal is struggling with or against in its efforts to survive. Look for connections with your everyday life. In doing so remember that the dream is putting into graphic form, perhaps like a mime, something that needs to be lifted into everyday words and perceptions.

We all have so many aspects to what we need in life to survive as a whole person. We might be doing very well in work or social recognition, but our need for warmth and love might be struggling. So it is helpful to list the facets of your own life, such as physical health, mental health and vitality, emotional needs, finance, acclaim, and so on, and asses their survival rating.

Is the animal domesticated or wild?

This illustrates the difference between urges within yourself that you have completely socialised or learned to cooperate with, and those that are in conflict with your conscious actions or what other people expect of you. An example of this can be seen in youthful rebellion, and in the difference between what is instinctive and spontaneous in a young person, such as aggression or fear, and what is expected of them by others. The rebellious youth might allow their unsocialised urges to express as criminal acts, or disruptive social behaviour. On the other hand they might express it in the form of music or art that, while it is still anti establishment, is rewarded, as with the Rolling Stones.

So the need here is to recognise what of your feelings or urges are involved, and ask yourself if the wild is healthy as it is, or does it need a better relationship with your social or work activities? On the other hand, sometimes social restraints or needs deaden the spontaneous and natural in oneself, and so need to be reduced for greater personal harmony.

  • Is there any concern about the animal’s health?
  • Is there an indication the animal has been injured?
  • Does love, caring or affection enter into the dream?

We have inherited and enlarged the great tenderness and care seen in other mammals.

  • Are sexual feelings involved?
  • Does the animal show unusual intelligence or ability to speak?
  • Is the animal giving advice or showing you something?
  • Are baby animals involved?
  • Is the animal attacking or being attacked?
  • Is there a herd or group of these animals?
  • Has the animal been neglected or mutilated?
  • Are you trapped by or running away from an animal?


-Sie 2018-02-08 14:46:37

I’ve had strange scary dreams for the last two nights. Last night I dreamt that I had been shot a couple of times, but I was still alive, as other people were being tortured. I kept thinking the final shot would be in my head, but I awoke long before it ever happened.
Tonight I woke up from an dream that I was defending children, but they weren’t mine. Some of the children were evil, and some good. I was amongst an group of people again, feeling that I was being held against my will. We were standing outside, and our captors had some sort of animal with them. Then an beautiful lion appeared, it’s mane blowing in the wind. Some new people joined our group, then the lion came amongst the group, and separated some people away from the group. Then the lion walked away, but now the lion had no mane, and it’s fur looked really matted, I thought the the lion looked like it had changed into an massive dog. Then I woke up.
During both dreams I felt extreme fear at the beginning of the dream, by the end of the dream, I felt very little fear, but woke up feeling framed out.

-Bety 2018-01-14 19:27:26

I my dream I find myself at this place looking for this woman but the door was close and I couldn’t get to the door because there were two dogs fighting in front of it.

-Aidan 2017-10-22 15:37:04

So i had a nightmare dream about my animal. I know its my animal cause i have never jad a dream about anyother animals. But basically i would walk down stairs and look out my french doors to my backyard and i would see a kid standing my the gate. But he was usually limp. And whenever i would look away there would be a giant lemur holding him in a sort of hiemlic hold and it would stare at me for a moment then jump away. And i would immediatly i would have to go to the bathrrom ( in the dream) and the lemur would be standing there with a knife manically. And i reoccurs the same way every time i have that dream.

-Ro 2017-03-16 11:03:23

I had the strangest dream that (cant remember who’s pet it was) we had to put an Ape to sleep. A lot of the dream was the ape having issues and acting strangely. Then came the day that we had to put it to sleep and I had such an intense feeling of sadness as if I lost a family member. Any help on interpreting this would be much appreciated

-Tina 2017-01-20 13:31:51

I dreamt of hamsters & guinea pigs reproducing & being told I need a running husky dog tattoo but I said no

    -Tony Crisp 2017-01-22 11:53:46

    Hi – I am going to halt from answering your posts – the reason is that in so many of your post I give the same information to many people. That is because most posts do not realise the difference between dreaming and waking life. /it makes a great difference.

    So, most of what I put in answers is my attempt at explain what dreams are really about. It would help you to understand your dreams, if you would read – it would help me, and hopefully you too.


-Gab 2017-01-06 4:37:23

Hi .. I’ve just had this golly awful nightmare. I was trying to transport my two horses and while I was away getting my other horse my main horse (who is so precious to me) after getting it on the float broke its legs in half…. I panicked and bawled for about it for ‘days’, the owner of the horse (that I lease) did not reply to calls and did not seem to care. Somehow the horse was up running about on these stumps of legs he had left but I knew I’d have to put him to sleep…. I walked to school (I don’t go to school anymore too old) for some comfort in my friends, I was helping set up bunny cages and they kept blowing away, very annoying, there were 6 rabbits…somehow I ended up tested for speed the drug randomly (I don’t do drugs) and they saw how upset I was and while I was on the treadmill (why a treadmill??) they talked about sending me home to rest. I woke up crying. Craziest dream I’ve had in ages… I feel crazy even saying it. Please help with what it might mean??

-Alyssa 2016-12-29 22:51:36

Hi my name is Alyssa and my dream is a bit strange so bare with me. I’m in the same house that I’m living in now. I find this average size jar/animal cage on top of the pantry. There of 4 levels of different animals/insects inside. The bottom cage is puppies, then a completely closed layer of these weird beatles, then a cage full of hamsters, and then on top is a cage full of ladybugs. It’s strange though because all the animals inside are babies, super tiny, and that no one is taking care of them. The puppies and the hamsters keep trying to escape and a couple do but they stay near the cage. I gently capture them and give them some food and water and put them back in the cage because I intend to take them somewhere and save them. One of the dogs that had escaped has this weird bloodsucking work attached to it. I get it off and kill it but then they start appearing all over the house. One room have been entirely cover by insects. I don’t enter this room. But i hear my friend screaming and i put the animals back on top of the pantry. I get to her and i help her remove the worms from her back and we start killing any around us. There were also a couple snakes we killed in the process of trying to get back to the kitchen to get the animals and get out of there. It takes awhile, but when we finally get back to the animals, all of them are dead except for the puppies which look to be on the verge of death. My dream ended with my friend and I in the car going for help. This is the third dream I’ve had with a little jar of animals I’m fighting to help them survive and in the end very little or none of them do. Please help me understand what this means. I’m very tired of dreaming of animals dying.

-Stella casali 2016-12-13 21:39:01

Hello,my dream was standing beside a swimming pool and seeing a baby dolphin a baby shark and a baby seal swimming around I knelt down and touched the dolphins nose cause it came to me .then I saw that the seal had a patch of damaged skin on his back.oh I thought I wonder if the shark did that.then the whole pool was full of green frogs hundreds of was on my finger and I shook him off,feeling a little spooked out.then I woke up.I have just started doing ho oponopono.thank you.

    -Tony Crisp 2016-12-14 11:52:48

    Stella – I have given a long reply twice and they were both wiped out. So, again, your dream responded greatly to your practice of ‘ho oponopono’.

    Among the islands of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, people believe that illness usually is caused by sexual misconduct or anger. “If you are angry for two or three days, sickness will come,” said one local man.[2] The therapy that counters this sickness is confession. The patient, or a family member, may confess. If no one confesses an error, the patient may die. The Vanuatu people believe that secrecy is what gives power to the illness. When the error is confessed, it no longer has power over the person. Quoted from wikipedia

    The dolphin is the contact and relationship you have with the deeply unconscious natural forces within. Such dreams suggest life is not simply operating blindly, but reaches out to us if we reach out to it; powerful unconscious energies in us; conscious awareness of one’s link with all life; contact with the one life within all things. See

    The shark is the actions or way you responded to life within you that slightly injured your relationship with Life. See

    The frogs are about your response to the enormous creativity you hold within you, which at its lowest level is sexuality, which if met lovingly transforms into higher levels of awareness. You felt a little spooked out by it.

    Try being the dolphin, shark and frogs –


-Tatinee 2016-10-12 23:59:58

I had a dream where I’m walking along the road along a beach that I frequently visit. It is night time and the street lights arent light with just the pale moonlight lighting up the scenery. I look towards the beach and see people crowding and running towards some things near the water. I walk down to the beach and see people desperately trying to push back three or more beached whales into the water. The whales were all in a line along the shore with considerable running space between them.
The first whale was on the verge of death and the people weren’t able to push it into the sea. I remember feeling a lot of pain for the animals. I went up to the massive whale and joined in the effort. Surprisingly with my strength we were able to push it back into the water. It didn’t move for a while and all of us thought that we were too late. But soon it started breathing again and we saw it blow water out of its blowhole.i felt relief and immense joy and so much love and strength pouring out of me. I moved on to help the second group and this time we managed to push it in with more ease and it survived. And i moved on to the next one but my sister happened to wake me up so I couldn’t see what happened to the others. But i felt hopeful and balanced after I woke up. I personally feel the whales represent how everything in my life was on the verge of death like my career, studies, my relationship and my will to live with a meaning. And that with this new strength in my self that I find in my dream, my life has gotten a second chance and like the whales, begun to thrive again.
Any feedback would be appreciated.

    -Tony Crisp 2016-10-14 13:39:07

    Tatinee – The message is that if you go forward feeling the immense joy and much love and strength pouring out of you, you will do better than you first expected.

    The whales are enormous power that you hold within unconsciously. Feeling you were i=on the verge of failure was the beached whales but you found your resources – so go for it.


-Lola 2016-08-31 6:28:27

I am reading the inner work- Key to the Inner Kingdom (I believe that’s what it translates to) by Robert A. Johnson, to have a grasp of and idea of my dreams. I have found that interpreting my dreams is quite difficult, I dream everyday and every night I am so eager to sleep to experience my dreams. I had a simple dream last night.

I am in a friends has and she owns a tarantula, it’s out of the I point it out and she grabs it and puts it back in its cage. I look to the cage the spider is viciously trying to get out, I look away not a pretty site, I look again to find a cramped monkey in the same cage. He has a third eye right in the middle of his forehead wide open and he is looking straight at me with the most beautiful golden innocent eyes. He seems sad in the cramped space. I tell my friend to let him out but she say no, I feel overwhelmed by his eyes of pain of not being in his natural environment.

-Anji 2016-06-17 12:42:41

Dear Tony,

I have been having a hard time zeroing in on a recurring dream that I’ve had on an off since I was a child. It always involves large animals such as tigers and lions around that house that no one can see except for me. I’m usually frightened that they are dangerous but confused why no one else gets it. Recently I’ve begun to have variations in these dreams, For example in one dream I was no longer at home but around a college campus where the animals were out in the open. People noticed them and slowly began to walk up to them. I thought how can they do that, aren’t they dangerous? Then I saw a girl petting a polar bear and thought wow! That’s interesting. I called my mother to see if there was any news to explain it and she said that the electrical circuits in the zoo shorted out and the animals escaped.

Then last night I had a dream where we had arrived at home and realized the animals that were normally locked away had gotten out. There were kids around so we nkmew we had to find and kill them. My mother and I got knives from the kitchen and began walking around. We couldn’t find the lion downstairs so we went upstairs to what appeared to be the childhood bedroom that I shared with her. We tried to turn on the lights but they wouldn’t come on. We heard to police officers downstairs and at first thought ah, it’s over. They taken care of it. Then for some reason I didn’t trust that they had. So I closed the door since the downstairs lion could still be roaming. Then we noticed a black panther under the bed. He was very beautiful butt we very steadily went in to stab it. My mom was on the ground and I was on top of the bed. Her stab was not very effective then I went straight for the top of the skull in between the eyes. I felt bad about it but knew it had to be done. I remember telling the animal I’m sorry and petting it to ease its pain. I then sat on the floor and held it caressing it with affection until it suddenly turned into a small brown furry thing rather than a big bold black panther. It wa cute and I had compassion for it. When I woke I felt concerned about the violent nature of stabbing the thing, yet I don’t think it was as violent as it was focused. The animal didn’t fight back.

Any feedback you can offer would be greatly appreciated as this dream has puzzled me for a quite a while.

    -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2016-06-23 10:15:32

    Dear Anji – The variations in your recurring dreams show that things are changing in your mind.
    Did you do any inner work that might have caused this change in perception?
    Did you leave home recently to study at university and so are you becoming more independent?
    See also
    A first change in perception is seen in the dream where you are in a college campus and where you have moved from being frightened for your inner animals towards curiosity; “Then I saw a girl petting a polar bear and thought wow! That’s interesting.”
    You then ask your Inner Mother for an explanation;
    To get a deeper understanding of the influence your mother has on your life, you can read and please also read the comments at the end of the page.
    Now back to your dream:
    How does your dream figure in your dream respond to the message of your mother?
    What arises when you explore “Being the polar bear”?
    Please use;
    The way I see this “short out” or “short circuit” that your mother is talking about is reflected in the Concise Oxford English dictionary; short circuit:
    ▶noun an electrical circuit of lower than usual resistance, especially one formed unintentionally.
    In other words this means that something that was repressed before, was now able to arise in your dream because there was less inner resistance;
    Your last dream gives you an idea why you must have decided to kill your inner animals – to stop expressing them – in the past.
    Your dream suggests that as far as the animals in your inner world are concerned, that you were influenced by your mother; “we went upstairs to what appeared to be the childhood bedroom that I shared with her.”
    To understand your dream or inner animals, it is helpful to imagine that you are the keeper of a prehistoric type of human animal.
    As such you would need to be aware what the correct diet is for this big creature; what type of dwelling it needs; what are its sexual and emotional needs; what frightens it or causes it stress; what amount of exercise keeps it healthy, what its stages of growth are and how it can best develop through those stages; and what satisfies it in relationships with others of its kind? Your animal dreams are showing you exactly those issues. They are giving you insight into how to care for the instinctive, the spontaneous and natural in you.
    In the last part of your last dream you manage to bring about an inner transformation by caressing the black panther with affection.
    Perhaps you can relate to this inner change already as far as your waking life is concerned?
    It may help you to use “Being the person or thing” to switch back and forth between the black panther and “a small, brown furry thing” and explore the differences in thoughts, feelings and anything else that may arise.
    I feel the brown, furry things shows that you are in touch with your animal side!
    Another wonderful step!
    See also and
    Anna 🙂

-Holly Nordeck 2016-05-10 0:46:37

Hi my name is Holly a and I am art student making work about roadkill. I have always loved animals since I was kid, and have found myself fascinated and upset about phenomenon of roadkill. I have taken photos of many roadkill and view it as sympathy and tribute towards the lost

Recently though, for the past months a raccoon has appeared in my dream. Everytime in the dream I am taking care of the raccoon. It is my pet, but I am still sort of hesitant and a little scared, but I still love and care for it.
I know this has something to do with the artwork I have been making but what does it mean?
why am i see a raccoon vs. a bunny or squirrel?
is taking photos of roadkill manifesting some spirit in my dreams?

-Emma 2016-04-21 8:31:19

Last night I had a dream about being in a hotel room (dingy room) with the huge cages, wall to wall used to store animals ready for meat produce. I was outside the cages. Close to the only door of the room. There were one cage of sheep/lamb, one of cows. They were crowded, very dirty and badly treated. They screamed. A lot. I managed to free some of the smaller animals. I am a meat eater. However it’s majorly put me off meat. I feel like this has another meaning… Any thoughts?

    -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2016-04-25 11:34:19

    Dear Emma – Your dingy hotel room may reflect a feeling state that you have to pass through on your way to take better care of the needs of your inner animals;
    To understand your dream animals, it is helpful to imagine that you are the keeper of a prehistoric type of human animal. As such you would need to be aware what the correct diet is for this big creature; what type of dwelling it needs; what are its sexual and emotional needs; what frightens it or causes it stress; what amount of exercise keeps it healthy, what its stages of growth are and how it can best develop through those stages; and what satisfies it in relationships with others of its kind? Your animal dreams are showing you exactly those issues. They are giving you insight into how to care for the instinctive, the spontaneous and natural in you.
    Mammals – and so sheep and cows – have markedly developed ways of working as groups, special cooperation in mating, social awareness and a hierarchy of roles. In particular they have an expanded range of what we call emotions. The word emotion comes from the Latin ‘e movere’ meaning to move, and in the case of emotions means to be moved, to have our feelings, and therefore our responses changed. Such ‘moving’ experiences are very important in connecting us with another person, such as our mate or children. Without emotions life may feel empty or meaningless.
    To eat is to continue involvement in the fundamental processes of life, a celebration of interdependence. It is an expression of the desire to take in nourishment, whether physical, emotional or nourishment of the mind. Experience itself is a form of food because we take it in and digest it.
    Eating is also taking something in you that need to be digested. This is mostly about our life experiences;
    In opening to life and allowing it to express through us – as happens in using LifeStream – it expresses as various sounds; “They screamed. A lot.”
    Sometimes this is a way that Life exercises us and leads us to be more mobile in vocal expression. But sometimes it is a way of healing old difficulties from childhood, where certain sounds or words were difficult.
    Anna 🙂

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