Dreaming about rats isn’t as uncommon as you might think. In this article, we’ll go into the symbolism of rats and how rats appearing in your dreams may be interpreted.
Rat Dream Summary
Rats are known to be intelligent creatures who can learn from their experience. That’s one of the things that made them perfect candidates for lab conditions. However, when we think of rats in our conscious minds we more often associate them with their infectious qualities or, at the very least, treat them with an hint of mistrust. That’s what makes rats such an interesting figure to turn up in your dreams. The many possible interpretations seem at first to be contradictory, but read on to get a better sense of the overall symbolism of this archetypal figure.
Common Rat Dreams
Rats are common to nightmares and non-frightening dreams alike. Rats sometimes feature prominently as individual characters and other times become part of the background of an altogether eerie scene. However, with rats as with all animals, the relevant contextual details will help determine how your rat dream should be interpreted.
Common rat dreams discussed in this article include:
- Dreams about a white rat
- Dreams about being chased by a rat
- Dreams about giant rats
- Dreams about rat infestation
- Dreams about lab rats
- Dreams about dead rats
What Do Rats Symbolize?
Intelligent, logical, clever
Something we rarely think about when rats are called to our conscious minds is just how intelligent and clever they really are. They can solve complex puzzles and remember what they’ve learned. In fact, they have developed the ability to navigate the world not so much by instinct as by learning. They are infinitely teachable, which is a sign of their intelligence and also what makes them one of science’s favorite experimental subjects.
Quick-thinking and resourceful
One of the idioms to have survived in English from yesteryear has to do with rats fleeing a sinking ship. Modern movies have applied the rather hackneyed idea that you should follow the rats in order to escape a sinking ship (or flood) yourself. Whether these notions are grounded in reality could be argued, but they merely represent the myriad ways in which rats are thought of as quick-witted and resourceful enough to survive dangerous situations.
Problem-solvers, survivors, fearless
What makes these animals such quintessential survivors can also leave a bad taste in our mouths, so to speak, where rats are concerned. It’s their problem-solving skills and fearless nature that make them not just respectable archetypal animals but also truly formidable human foes. When we are in competition with rats for survival, they can be ruthless enemies, reminding us that our reverence fittingly ends where the archetype turns into a living, breathing being.
Lack of trust
Some of the qualities discussed above can already help explain why humans would regard rats with a distinct lack of trust. However, popular culture in movies, comic books, television, etc. have memorialized the image of rats as being turncoats against the mob or other organized crime outfit. Therefore phrases such as, “I smell a rat,” which come to mean the speaker senses there’s someone untrustworthy about, have come to symbolize the untrustworthy quality we associate with rats.
Packrats are a different kind of rat archetype altogether and have to do with our tendency to save things of little objective worth or value. The animals known by the same name happen to be fans of shiny looking objects and like to bring back such “treasures” to help build their nests. By calling humans packrats, we are saying that whatever objects they consider treasures really have no intrinsic value. However, humans typically store such treasures away because of their sentimental value. If you are dreaming about a packrat, you’re making the association between sentimental objects and their value.
Rat Dream Interpretations
Dreams about a white rat
White rats are special to us humans because they symbolize trust and honesty, in contrast to most other rat symbols. Perhaps that is because they are most often used in science experiments or are perceived as being cleaner or more honest than their darker, and therefore dirtier, counterparts. White is symbolic of purity because any marks on the surface are readily revealed. However, there might be cases when a white rat symbolizes the purity of its color on the outside and its other rat like traits found on the inside.
Dreams about being chased by a rat
The visceral fear of being chased by a rat needs no dream interpreter to find its meaning, but since you’re here reading, let’s dive into it. The rat could represent a real-world foe who is intelligent and resilient to adversity, 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, the way you would if you were being chased by a giant rat.
Dreams about giant rats
If the rat in your dream grows to outsize proportions, then we’re looking at one of two different interpretations. First, it could be that you are dealing with a problem that’s much bigger than you feel like you can handle, or maybe it’s a situation that’s getting the better of you right now. Either way, you’re not feeling too good about your odds. The other possibility is that your subconscious mind is aware of a betrayal by someone close to you. This is where that, “I smell a rat” concept comes into our dreaming subconscious sometimes. Check in with yourself to find out what that giant rat represents because it’s getting the better of you at the moment, and you don’t want to let that continue.
Dreams about rat infestation
If you’re dreaming about a rat infestation, it means your subconscious mind is aware of a matter of corruption or deception, something that’s happening underneath the surface that undermines whatever you’re trying to do on the surface. It could be that you are literally living with vermin, or your dream could be telling you that you are surrounded by untrustworthy people. On the other hand, the rat infestation could symbolize you, not some outside force. In that case, these dreams represent your fear of hidden inadequacy or internalized corruption. You may have a subconscious belief that you’re no good or that there’s something irredeemable about you. If that’s the case, your dream is trying to get you to confront those feelings of inadequacy before they cost you too much in life.
Dreams about lab rats
Dreaming about lab rats could mean that you feel “stuck in a maze,” whether at work, home, or somewhere in between. Perhaps it’s the daily commute that has you feeling this way, or maybe you’re not getting ahead in your career and feel like the proverbial rat in a maze. On the other hand, the maze concept could represent your primary romantic relationship. In this scenario you would probably be feeling like you do everything that’s asked of you and you still don’t get what you were expecting or wanting out of the relationship. That’s probably exactly what those lab rats are thinking every day they don’t get the reward in the maze, too, right? Any time you’re dreaming about lab rats, you’re probably feeling either trapped by a situation or simply not in control of it.
Dreams about dead rats
If you’re dreaming about dead rats, it could be a sign your subconscious is screaming a warning at you. The dead rat is a symbol of betrayal, corruption, the death of the flesh and transmutation into something putrid. Consider all of the details surrounding the dead rat in your dream to determine what its meaning might have been. For instance, if there are many dead rats and you are alone, your subconscious feels it is surrounded by death and disease. There is nothing but corruption where you are. You must find a way out of the situation. On the other hand, maybe there is just one dead rat, and no one can figure out where it’s hidden. In that case, you have a subtler warning (and perhaps more time to sort the problem out).
Just because you’re dreaming about a frightening creature doesn’t mean you necessarily need to be alarmed. The rat is an intelligent and resourceful mammal that demonstrates many positive character traits. The negative ones may have come to take over our conscious mental associations with this lowly animal in recent decades.
However, we do well to remember that when we dream we’re interacting with the subconscious mind, which has a much longer memory than the conscious mind. Its associations run deeper. Therefore, don’t rely solely on your conscious mind’s visceral negative reaction when it comes to interpreting rat dreams. To do so would be to mean most, if not all, of the potential meaning.