What Do Dreams of Rats Mean?

7 Min Read | By Nicholas Barber

Last Modified 24 May 2024   First Added 24 May 2022

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

What Does It Mean to Dream of Rats?

Rats are divisive. You either absolutely love them, or tend to think that they’re disgusting. Some are neutral, but more often than not you’ll find yourself in one of the two camps. But what happens when the rats make their way out of the waking world and into the land of slumber?

The answer to this question depends. It all hinges on your personal opinion of this small furry creature. So, the appearance of rats in a dream can either be considered a blessing or a curse. Some people consider rats adorable and enjoy keeping them as pets. Others have a strong fear of rodents (musophobia).

Most interpretations of rat dreams revolve around anxiety, obstacles in life’s path, and insecurity surrounding finances or personal relationships, according to Sleep Bubble. For example, dreams about a rat infestation signify feelings of helplessness, and catching rats suggests you’re overcoming some difficult issues affecting your life.

But the big question is, just how significant could they be to your waking life? Let’s find out.

The Dream:

Today you’re working from home. With a mountain of work to do, you’re determined to avoid any distractions. You log on and immediately the squeaking starts.

The high-pitched sound is coming out of a small gap under the stairs to the side of your desk. You try to crack on, but you’re soon disturbed again.

Using your smartphone as a torch, you crawl under the desk and shine it into the darkness. There’s something moving around and, on closer inspection, you almost jump out of your skin.

It’s a gigantic brown rat, busily gnawing away on an electricity cable.

Then boom! Sparks fly, the lights go out, and you’re left in the dark facing the rodent, who’s even more shocked than you.

You wake up. It was just a dream, but it was so vivid you’re left wondering what it could mean.

Variations of the Dream

A rat climbs out of its log and sniffs around.

Depending on the setting in your dream, rats can symbolise a host of different things in our waking lives.

Each type of dream, along with the emotion it evokes, can provide information about your subconscious mind.

Meaning(s) of the dream:

Thankfully, you can rest assured that dreams of rats don’t always have negative connotations for your life. It could simply mean that you are worried or anxious, especially if you’re conscious of your ill health.

Dreaming of rats can be a bad omen of jealousy or envy and of people stabbing you in the back, according to Dreaming Guide. A good way to respond is to take caution in your life and to be on the lookout for people who want to do you harm.

See our article on dream meanings.

Common meanings behind rat dreams

There are various different situations in which rats can appear in your dreams and all of them have very different meaning to your life. From dreaming of being chased by rats, or being bitten by them, to catching or killing them. Here we explore the meanings behind the most common of these dreams.

Dreaming about being chased by rats

Rats can represent a real-world adversary who is intelligent and resilient to adversity, according to The Symbolism. someone who could outwit you and represents an existential threat. The rat could also simply be a stand-in for something that makes you feel completely overwhelmed or outsmarted, as you would if you were being chased by a giant rat. When a rat steals food from you it can indicate the need for survival, says Aunty Flo.

Dreaming about rats eating

The spiritual meaning of rats is connected to the unexplored areas of yourself. Perhaps it’s time to challenge yourself with a new hobby or new job that you always wanted to try but never had the courage. Rats that appear in your dreams are connected to your spirituality. To see rats gnawing signifies life goals related to your inner issues, says Aunty Flo. This leaves an important question. Will your inner issues solve if you accomplish what you always wanted?

Dreaming about a rat biting you

If you ever have a nightmare about a rat biting you this is said to be an indication of someone close to you betraying you. This dream can signify negativity and may mean that someone might soon backstab you. This is a warning sign that you might need to be more careful about who you trust and share your secrets with.

Dreaming about a dead rat

Seeing a dead rat in your dream could reveal you’re feeling overwhelmed or afraid about a situation in your real life, according to Aunty Flo. It may also indicate the end of a relationship, particularly one that involves betrayal. A dead rat can also signify that you have a fear that your secrets might be exposed, or you’ll be caught for a recent wrongdoing.

Answering the dream:

Dreams can be a remarkable pathway into the subconscious, revealing our hopes, fears, and desires for the future. Dreams such as those about rats are symbolic of something happening in your life, projected onto your mind’s mental canvas. In waking life, rodents tend to shock and scare people. In dreams, they can symbolise something sinister and dark, but depending on the circumstances, they can also be a sign of good luck.

Generally, your perceptions of rats during waking hours will influence their meaning in your dreams. Do rats scare the living daylights out of you, or do you think they’re cute and friendly? Because so much depends on how you feel about rats, it’s tricky to pinpoint an interpretation that fits everyone.

Notable appearances in popular culture:

Rats have long suffered a bad rap, likely due to their portrayal in popular culture which has often been historically inaccurate and negative. Rats are seen as unclean, vicious parasitic animals that steal food and spread disease. However, a surprisingly large number of people keep rats as pets and find them to be tame, clean, intelligent, and playful.

Rodents, particularly rats and mice, feature heavily in literature, myth and legend. One of the best known and most historic tales about rats is “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”, in which a rat-catcher leads away an infestation with enchanted music. In books, the rat plays a villain in several mouse societies; from Brian Jacques’s Redwall to Robin Jarvis’s The Deptford Mice.

Their bad reputation hasn’t been helped by rats often being used as a mechanism in horror; representing evil in stories like James Herbert’s The Rats, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Rats in the Walls and in films like Ben. Another terrifying depiction of rats is as a method of torture, for instance in Room 101 in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum.

The rat has a place in wider culture as the first of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. It’s said that Buddha summoned all animals to him, and only 12 appeared. The first one was the rat. Therefore he gave the rat the first year.

People born in 2023, 2011, 1999, 1987, 1950, and so on, are expected to possess qualities associated with rats. These include intelligence, creativity, ambition, and a quick temper. People born in a ‘year of the rat’ are said to get along with “monkeys” but may not be able to interact well with “horses”.

For more, check out the meanings of another common dream about teeth falling out. Or, another embarrassing moment is dreaming of being naked

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