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What Animals Symbolize in Dreams, Part 1: Alligator–Elephant

What Animals Symbolize in Dreams, Part 1: Alligator–Elephant

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As we all know, dreams can be very symbolic; recognizing what those symbols mean can help you interpret your dreams. Animals are some of the most commonly occurring symbols in dreams and nightmares. In these guides you will learn what each animal can symbolize in your dream.

Animals in Dreams

Animals represent your deepest emotions, instincts, and desires. When an animal appears to you in a dream, you are sending yourself an important message about who you are right now and where you are going. To dream of many animals together suggests your instincts have overcome your ability to be civilized. To see animals in cages suggests you’ve reigned in your instincts, perhaps too far. Sick or dying animals suggest you’ve lost touch with your instincts almost entirely.

Alligator or Crocodile

Animals represent some part of you, usually some aspect of your instincts or more primal side. Alligators usually signal distress or a conflict. 1. If you are attacked by an alligator, your problem is overwhelming and you must wrestle to get control. The stress is getting to you! You might even be in danger. 2. If you run from and escape an alligator, you are narrowly avoiding problems, but they are still after you and you need to address them before they catch up to you. 3. To befriend an alligator means you are in control of your problems. Congratulations! 4. To kill an alligator means you are threatened enough to consider drastic action in solving your problem.


If you dream of ants in nature, you are working hard and getting the job done. You are a team player, or you need to be. If ants come into your house, you are losing control of your home situation. If you don’t do something, it could all fall apart.


A beautiful habitat enclosed in glass, filled with creatures that breathe water instead of air …. Aquariums symbolize the small realities we keep self-contained within us: our fantasy lives, our dreams for the future, our separate worlds of work, family, and love. 1. Aquarium dreams celebrate these inner worlds, but also show us how we limit ourselves by our own rules and preconceived notions about the world. You can’t swim past that glass wall. 2. To break an aquarium means your neatly compartmentalized realities are breaking down. Time to integrate some parts of your life? 3. To dream you are inside an aquarium means you limit yourself, or someone else limits you. If you don’t like it, take a deep breath and step out into the open air.


Dark and scary, out-of-control flapping overhead, potentially blood-sucking … most people fear bats, and bats in dreams represent fear. We all have fears, and bat dreams can help you recognize the place these fears play in your waking life. 1. If you are attacked, bitten, or touched by a bat, you don’t feel safe. Your fears directly affect you right now. 2. If you see a bat but don’t feel afraid, or you have a bat as a pet, you are mastering your fears. 3. Seeing bats in a cave means you’ve put your fears somewhere for safe-keeping, but they still exist within you and could flap out, screeching, at any time. 4. To see bats flying overhead means your fears remain active in your life but don’t immediately threaten you.


Bears mean danger to some, the wild adventure of nature to others, but if a bear attacks you, you are grappling with a difficult issue. Did you conquer, or did the bear get the best of you? To see a bear from far away means you have avoided a problem so far, but keep paying attention so it doesn’t surprise you. Remember to treat all bears as individuals.


Hard work and team spirit produce the sweetness of life, and dreams about bees show your own ability, or desire, to emulate these qualities. However, if a bee stings you in your dream, you’ve been lax in your duties and other people are having to pick up your slack.

Big Foot

Saskwatch, Yeti, the Abominable Snowman—large apelike creatures walking on two legs have been spotted all over the world for many years, although nobody has ever proved what these mysterious skulking creatures really are. To dream of them represents a huge and hidden secret, either yours or someone else’s. 1. If you pursue Big Foot, you want to let the secret out or find out what it is. 2. If you run or hide from Big Foot, you aren’t ready for this secret to come out. 3. If you see Big Foot momentarily but then he is gone, you think you know someone else’s secrets, but you aren’t sure.


To dream of an insect, spider, or other creepy-crawly bug means something has been bothering you and you’ve been trying to ignore it, but this is only making the problem worse. Face it or risk an infestation. 1. To dream a bug crawls on you means something you don’t like has invaded your life—a bad habit, an intrusive person, a disturbing situation. 2. To be bitten by a bug means you’ve been obsessing over something and you can’t seem to let it go. It isn’t good for you. 3. To keep a bug as a pet means you see the details others miss. 4. To dream of huge numbers of bugs symbolizes great anxiety and fear about what has infiltrated your private life.


Dreaming of a bull means you have tapped into your masculine energy. You have strong personal power and charisma right now, and the result is a swelling of material wealth. You are a success. To fight a bull signifies an excess of masculine energy. Men will admire you, but women may find you remote.


Cages in dreams are metaphors for feeling trapped. 1. If you are in a cage, that’s just how you feel in your waking life—locked into a relationship, a job, or a situation. 2. If you see someone else in a cage, you have inadvertently put someone in a difficult situation, or you are aware of a difficult situation that you might be able to do something about. 3. An animal in a cage represents something you’ve tamed—an instinct, an impulse, a bad habit? 4. An empty cage represents your recent freedom.


You can’t get across the desert without a camel. The dry, mundane parts of life may not seem worth dreaming about, but camel dreams tell you that you’ve found an effective way to get through those dry spells in your life. You’ve got inner resources, and you know how to use them. You’ll survive.


Dogs symbolize devotion, but cats symbolize independence and your mysterious, hidden side. In dreams, cats represent secrets and autonomy. Only you can solve a current dilemma, but first you will need to figure out something you already know, but don’t know you know. This will take some creativity.


Caterpillars don’t look like much, but they have the potential to become amazing butterflies, and dreams about caterpillars represent potential. You have yet to achieve your full glory, and your dream urges you to start spinning that cocoon in preparation for your transformation.


Chameleons symbolize the adaptive ability to change in order to blend in with any environment. To dream of a chameleon means you need to do this. Something in your life demands that you adapt to it right now.


Chickens might represent cowardice. But seeing a chicken in your dream can also signify a craving for rural life or a more simple life. Are you spending enough time at home? 1. If you see chickens contentedly pecking at the ground, your life is getting too complicated or materialistic and this makes you uncomfortable. 2. If chickens chase you or run wildly around, you’re afraid or nervous about something. 3. Sick or dead chickens mean you are losing money. 4. If you dream of eating chicken, your body may be telling you to scale back to a more basic diet.


To see claws in your dream means you feel threatened by something. To have claws means you are on the defensive.


The cow is a powerful and ancient symbol for fertility and nurturing. 1. If you see a cow in your dream, you need nurturing or you have the impulse to nurture others. 2. Cow dreams can also symbolize a desire for pregnancy. 3. Dreaming of a herd of cows tells you that you have been following the crowd instead of making decisions for yourself. Are you being a passive follower? Are you sure the group is doing what’s best for you? 4. Dreaming of a very large cow means you are enjoying material wealth or have it coming to you.


Coyotes symbolize the need to be alone, isolated, and in close communion with nature. To see a coyote in your dream means you’ve begun to compromise your principles and only a withdrawal from the civilized world, no matter how temporary, will help you to find your path again. To be chased by a coyote means your need to change direction has become urgent.


Dreaming of a crab represents excessive materialism, saving money, even hoarding resources. Your dream may be telling you that you’ve become too materialistic, or it may be that you need to be a little more thrifty.


Dreaming of a single cricket chirping symbolizes good luck and a happy home life. Dreaming of lots of crickets symbolizes the subtle infiltration of an idea into your life. Something has changed you so gradually you don’t even realize you’ve changed.

Dead Animal

1. You’ve thoroughly squelched a troublesome instinct, or you’ve lost a more innocent part of yourself, when you dream of a dead animal. 2. Seeing a dead animal can also represent separation from the natural world, or the end of something meaningful, like a relationship or a dream. 3. If you killed the animal in your dream, accidentally or on purpose, you’ve taken control of something in your life that required your mastery, but you aren’t entirely comfortable with this change just yet. 4. If someone else kills an animal in your dream, you feel disillusioned with the world. 5. If the dead animal is your pet, you are in mourning for an important loss, even if you don’t fully realize it in your waking life.


Deer have acute senses, startle easily, and are hunted by many animals, including humans. 1. To see a deer in your dream can mean you should tune in to your environment. Pay very close attention, and you’ll pick up subtle cues about what’s really going on. 2. To chase a deer on foot symbolizes a desire to escape society and develop a more intimate relationship with nature. 3. To dream of communicating or having some interaction with a deer represents a recent awareness of your own sensitivity. You might be surprised by how strongly you feel an emotion, or how quickly you reacted to something you didn’t realize you feared. 4. To dream of shooting a deer and feeling triumphant or excited about it represents a mastery over nature or instincts you’ve struggled to control. It can also symbolize your self-sufficiency. 5. To feel guilty or sad about shooting a deer represents guilt and anxiety about the way you’ve treated someone. Maybe you didn’t realize someone was quite so sensitive. 6. To dream of hitting a deer with a car symbolizes a major obstacle in a plan. You might have to change direction.


Loyal and faithful, dogs symbolize devotion. 1. Dreaming of a good dog, or your own dog, means you have fans and high self-image. 2. Dreaming of scary or attacking dogs means you feel anxious and unsafe in your environment. Is something tracking you? Don’t be so obvious. Stay downwind. 3. Hearing a dog barking means someone is trying to tell you something and you aren’t hearing them.


Considered by some to be the wisest and most spiritual of animals, dolphins may appear in dreams to deliver important messages about your spiritual life. Dolphins also represent freedom, passage into another realm, nurturing, and personal power of a spiritual nature.


Symbols of peace and pacifism, spiritual messages, and freedom, doves in your dream may be delivering a message to you. You are forgiven, or set free, or deeply loved.


Dragons represent danger, adventure, and the opportunity to display courage. 1. To dream of fighting a dragon symbolizes a major challenge you are facing. If you win, you feel confident about your ability to meet the challenge head-on. If you run away or get captured by the dragon, you aren’t sure you can handle the challenge. 2. To dream of seeing a dragon flying overhead but not interacting with it signifies your instinct that something perilous or exciting is about to happen. 3. To dream you are a dragon symbolizes a position of authority you are in. You feel powerful—perhaps too powerful. Are you intimidating or undermining others?


Ducks represent passion, fertility, and a happy home life. 1. If you see a duck in your dream, you may be fertile right now, or you feel contented at home with your family. 2. If you dream of shooting a duck, you are doing something to put your happy home life at risk. 3. If you dream of eating duck, you lust after someone.


This long, skinny bug with the pinschers on its rear end doesn’t actually burrow into your brain via your ear canal, but people have believed it does since probably the year 1000 C.E., according to some sources. That means people sometimes dream about earwigs (or other bugs) going into their ear and causing no end of madness and distress. But a dream about an earwig can represent more than a fear of close encounters with the insect world. It can indicate an insidious or irrational fear that plagues you.


This lumbering and highly intelligent giant mammal symbolizes rationality, a long memory, or a force too great for you to control. 1. To dream an elephant charges toward you symbolizes your anxiety about an imminent event you couldn’t stop if you wanted to. You feel like closing your eyes and hoping for the best. 2. To dream of riding an elephant symbolizes your ability to see a complicated situation with serene good sense. People ought to ask you what to do because you’ve got special insight right now. 3. To watch elephants from a distance in their natural habitat suggests you are going through an introspective time right now. You have been looking back over your life and surveying your many memories and experiences to understand what they mean and how they have influenced the person you are today. This is an important time to spend some time alone rummaging through your trunk of life.

For more animal dream interpretations, check out our quick guides What Animals Symbolize in Dreams, Part 2: Feather (Bird)–Mouse and What Animals Symbolize in Dreams, Part 3: Owl–Zoo.

From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dream Dictionary by Eve Adamson and Gayle Williamson (a.k.a. Dream Genie)