Dream symbols: Animals and what they mean

The biblical and spiritual symbolism of animals (cats, dogs, alligators, horses, lions, tigers, snakes, birds, fish and more) in dreams, plus infographics.

If you are interested in understanding your dreams, it is likely that sooner or later you will want to know what certain animals mean in them.

Why is there a dog in my dream, or an alligator?

In this article we will explore 7 things animals could represent generally – with real dream examples – then look at some specific animals.

I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.

If you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language to give you a foundation, plus my Beginner’s guide to biblical dream interpretation .

Firstly, if you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and my 3-step dream interpretation method to give you a foundation.

Secondly, remember that dreams are personal, so the meanings that I suggest may not apply to your specific dream. But please feel free to use my ideas as a springboard to thinking and praying about dreams yourself. Don’t take my ideas as gospel, but rather let them help you start to think metaphorically.

Picture of zebra, sheep, peacock, black bears, cat

Introduction to animals in dreams

Dreams are mostly symbolic, meaning they are like parables or illustrations – containing messages about our life. So, even if we dream about an animal/pet we own and love, it is not normally about the pet themselves, they are probably being used to represent something else.

Even if we dream about our own pet, it is still likely to be symbolic.

Like any dream symbols, animals can be used in a positive or negative context, and the meaning may change, depending on which it is. Read this article for more on positive and negative contexts of dream symbols.

  • Some animals nearly always appear in a negative context, like snakes or alligators.
  • Other animals (like dogs or cats) could be either positive or negative – depending on the context and what they represent to the dreamer personally. For example, a friendly dog or beloved household pet would probably be positive, but a fierce, frightening, or attacking dog would more likely be negative.

For more ideas on how to interpret dream symbols generally, see the following article: 10 simple clues for understanding dream symbols

Symbolism of animals in the bible

Animals are used symbolically throughout the bible, so it is a great place to start looking for ideas about what they could mean. Here are a few examples:

Bear2 Samuel 17:8, NIVThey are… as fierce as a wild bear.People who are fierce fighters.
SheepPsalm 100:3, NIVWe are… the sheep of his pasture.  People who follow God are like sheep following a shepherd.
DeerPsalm 18:33, NIVHe makes my feet like the feet of a deer.The ability to safely negotiate difficulties and find a secure path.
EagleIsaiah 40:31, NIVThey will soar on wings like eagles…The ability to rise up over a situation with renewed strength.

In these examples, sometimes the attribute of the animal is used to describe a person or group of people, and other times it is describing an ability.

Some of these animals are used to symbolise different things at different times. And there are many more examples than the ones I’ve listed. Wikipedia has a great list of animals in the bible with references:

List of animals in the bible – Wikipedia

7 things animals could be in dreams

So, you have a dream with an animal in it. What type of thing could this animal represent?

I have seen animals used in lots of different ways in my dreams, so over the years I have developed a mental checklist of potential meanings to try. I have found that they could potentially represent any of the following:

  1. The animal itself (literal)
  2. Reflecting an aspect of ourselves
  3. Other people
  4. God
  5. Angels and other spiritual beings
  6. A responsibility
  7. Anything and everything!

Let’s unpack each of these possibilities:

Picture of deer on a mountain, with text: 7 things an animal might mean in a dream

1. The animal itself (literal)

In any dream there is a chance that the animal could be literal, and the dream could be about them.

This would be when the animal is known to us personally and we have a relationship with them, for example if it was a family pet, or an animal we have responsibility for. The purpose would probably be giving insight to help us care for the animal, or about the relationship in some way.

I have never come across this personally (my pets are always symbolic in my dreams), but it’s a possibility to be considered. I know that some people have more literal dreams than I do.

In the bible, God spoke to Jacob literally about the goats he was looking after – and gave him a successful breeding strategy. You can find that in Genesis 31:10-13.

2: Reflecting ourselves

An animal in our dream could reflect ourselves, or an aspect of ourselves (like a character trait or ability).

If the animal is known to us, like a family pet, they may appear regularly in our dreams to represent ourselves. This is something we may realise after we have had several dreams with the animal in.

  • One of our cats regularly appears in my dreams representing myself; the things she is doing reflect things going on in my life. This is a general thing that varies from dream to dream. In one dream she was hiding because of a dog, and that was about a time when I felt threatened by another person (the dog).
  • My friend’s dog, Rosie, regularly appears in dreams to represent his relationship and intimacy with God. The dog’s character fits in well with that attribute, plus the name Rosie (Roses can represent intimacy with God).

If you realise this is happening, make a note of what you think it means in your personal dream dictionary – so you can remember for future dreams.

Any unknown animal could also represent ourselves if the attributes or actions of the animal match up to our own life in some way.

  • My mum dreamed there was a blackbird singing at dusk, with the most amazing song. The blackbird represented herself – and the song was her life message that would encourage others.
  • I dreamed I had a pet alligator which escaped and hurt someone. An alligator has sharp teeth (symbolising words said), and this dream was telling me to watch what I said as I could be hurting someone. The alligator represented my words.
Picture of an alligator, with mouth open, and text: the character and features of an animal could match up to an area of our own life in some way.

3: Other people or groups

Sometimes, an animal is used in a dream to represent someone else we know. Normally, there is something about the characteristics or ability of the animal that reminds us of the person.

  • Dogs often represent friends, as dogs are known as ‘man’s best friend’. It is very common for a dog to represent another person in a dream.
  • One of our cats regularly appears in my dream to represent my husband.
  • I dreamed about a bear, which represented a person I knew who tended to have unpredictable grumpy outbursts (bears are known for unexpected attacks).
  • I dreamed of a shark attacking me. It represented someone who was criticising me at the time (sharks have sharp teeth, representing verbal attack).

Sometimes, an animal in a dream might represent a whole group of people. I haven’t had this in a dream myself, but it could happen – as it did to Daniel in the bible:

In Daniel’s dream of four beasts in Daniel 7, each of the beasts represented an empire that would arise, one after the other, in the coming period of history (a lion, a bear, a leopard, and another beast). The characteristics of each beast reflected the characteristics of that empire in some way. They were all fearsome beasts!

An animal could represent a church, business, organisation, or other group of people such as followers of Jesus. And don’t forget – a group could easily be an online group. It doesn’t have to be a physical group.

Jesus used the illustration of sheep to symbolise all his followers.

4. God

Another option to think about is whether an animal in a dream could be God in disguise! I always look for God in my dreams and have discovered that He often appears in covert ways.

In particular, there are certain animals in the bible which classically represent God:

DoveMark 1:10, NIV  He saw… the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him.  The Holy Spirit.
LionRevelation 5:5, NIVSee, the Lion of the tribe of Judah… has triumphed.   God, or Jesus in the role of conquering king.
LambRevelation 5:6, NIV  Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne.Jesus Christ, laying down his life for the world.

Please note that these animals are not always God in our dreams, but they could be, and it’s worth considering! A dove is likely to be the Holy Spirit. A lion could be God, but in a negative context could be the enemy (described as a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8) or some other threat.

The context of the whole dream, and whether it is a positive or negative context, will help determine whether it is God or not. As we get to know God personally, we get to recognise his presence. I have found that discernment is pretty good in dreams, and we often know it’s God during the dream itself.

  • I dreamed Jesus said he was going to come out in the form of a lion – and then I saw the lion come out. This was fulfilled some time later, when God intervened and changed a situation in my life (we might say the lion roared!!).
  • I had a dream where a lion was watching everything going on. In the dream it just seemed like a normal lion, but afterwards I realised it was God letting me know he was watching over me.
Picture of dove, with text: He saw the Spirit like a dove descendign upon him, Mark 1:10

5. Angels and other spiritual beings

Angels don’t all have wings and halos! Heavenly beings do appear in our dreams to help us and bring us messages – and they can appear in disguise. They mostly appear as people, but sometimes they come in the form of animals.

  • I know someone who has seen an angel in the form of a horse.
  • I have heard of people dreaming of an angelic companion in the form of a dog.

The heavenly beings described as living creatures in Ezekiel 1 had faces of a man, lion, ox, and eagle, plus wings and legs like a calf.

The bible tells us that our battle is against the unseen forces in the spiritual realms (Ephesians 6:12). Animals are one of the ways negative spiritual beings (aka ‘the enemy’) can appear in our dreams.

  • The colour white can represent a religious spirit. I dreamed of a polar bear: These are always white in colour, and in my dream it did represent a religious spirit. Also see Snow and ice in dreams.
  • Big cats are commonly used to represent the enemy, as they are fierce and powerful (although they can be other things too). I dreamed of a leopard, which represented an undetected religious spirit operating in leadership (leopards hide in trees, and trees can symbolise leaders).
  • I dreamed about a dragon, which represented a powerful spiritual being, like a principality or power. This is similar to dreaming of a ‘giant’.
  • Spiders are often linked to enemy activity.
  • Snakes can be an enemy stronghold of the mind (i.e. a lie we believe).

More on this theme…

6. A responsibility

If the animal is one we have a responsibility for in the dream, like a pet or one we are looking after, it could symbolise a responsibility that we have in real life – or one we will potentially have in the future.

It could be something like a business, project, task, or ministry.

  • I dreamed I had a tiny kitten in a red bag to keep it safe. The red colour represented leadership, so this kitten was a future leadership responsibility that I needed to keep on hold (protect in the bag) until the right time. 
  • I dreamed I had a little dog I had to leave for a while and was worried about it having enough water while I was gone – but it had a silver bowl running over with water. This was about a leadership responsibility I had to hand over for a while. The silver bowl told me that God’s grace would be enough to carry it through.

This kind of meaning of animals is like dreaming we have a baby or child to look after. It’s the same principle.

Picure of a puppy, with text: An animal we are looking aftre could represent a responsibility.

7. Anything and everything

I know this one sounds like an opt-out! But my point is that animals in dreams can represent all kinds of other non-personal things. The best way to illustrate this is with a few examples:

  • A horse can represent leadership or power.
  • A bird can represent revelation from heaven.
  • A snake can represent a lie.
  • A cow can represent provision.

Here are some other examples from real dreams:

  • I dreamed I was hoping to see a black bear while on holiday – and suddenly I saw one! This was a positive context of a bear. The black colour indicated that this bear represented a mystery, a truth that would suddenly be revealed to me.
  • I dreamed I was reluctantly getting a zebra and could see its leg sticking out. The zebra represented a prophetic gift and speaking out in a clear ‘black and white’ way (which I was reluctant to do!!).

The bible uses animals in visions in a similar way.

The horses the visions in Zechariah and Revelation represented things like famine, difficult times, and peace. The colour of each horse defined its meaning.

In Pharaoh’s famous dream of the ten fat cows and ten thin cows (in Genesis 41), the cows represented years of plenty and years of famine respectively.

What does this animal mean in my dream?

So far, we have explored the type of thing animals could represent in our dreams. But how do we work out which one they are?

To help with this, I have identified five clues in the form of questions we can ask about them. If you use these questions to help you think about the specific animal in your dream, you may not need to go to a dream dictionary for help.

The main thing is to take notice of what stands out to you most about the animal – and think about the action surrounding it in the dream.

Note what stands out to you about the animal – and what it was doing in the dream.

I have previously written a general article on how to understand the symbols in your dream. You can read that here:  10 simple clues for understanding dream symbols. The following questions build on that and are tailored to animals.

Picture of leopard, with text: what does this animal mean in my dream?

1. Is it in the bible?

It’s always worth searching to see whether an animal is used symbolically the bible – as a starting point. This can be done through an online search or using a site like BibleGateway.

Joshua Media Ministries also has some biblical research into animals in dreams on their website.

2: Does it have a personal meaning?

Animals can have personal or cultural meanings that are specific to the dreamer. For example, is it a type of animal that you really like? Or is it one you are afraid of?

  • For example, tigers would generally be negative in dreams, but my son loves tigers (he has a tiger soft toy), so tigers are a positive dream symbol for him.

3: What is its appearance/colour?

Some animals have striking physical features – which we associate with that animal. For example:

  • Giraffes have a very long neck, so could represent perseverance.
  • Sharks have sharp teeth, so could represent verbal attack.
  • Leopards have spots. The bible uses them to represent people unwilling to change (Can a leopard change its spots? Jeremiah 13:23).

Sometimes the specific colour of an animal (like a white horse) stands out in a dream, or colour could be a defining feature of that type of animal. Colour is very important in dreams, and often determines the meaning:

  • I dreamed of a golden Labrador. This dog represented me going through a time of testing (the colour gold can be testing).

4: What is its character/behaviour?

Some animals stand out because of their personality, or because they behave in a certain way. For example:

  • Cats are known for their independence, so could represent doing things our own way.
  • Birds fly in the sky, so could be something from heaven.
  • Butterflies transform from caterpillars, so can represent transformation.

5. What is its name?

Also, be on the lookout for wordplays and name meanings.

  • If animal has a more specific name (like a Red Admiral butterfly), the name could be the important thing. In this case, both red and Admiral suggest leadership, so this might be some kind of transformation process to prepare for a leadership role.
  • If the animal has a name, its name might be the most important thing. You can look the meaning up if necessary, for example in The Name Book by Dorothy Astoria.

Dream dictionary: Animals

Here are some potential meanings of commonly occurring animals. It is not exhaustive – but will hopefully give you a starting point and help you think metaphorically. Use the general pointers in this article to think about the animal in your own dream.

Remember that dreams are personal, so these might not apply to your specific dream.

Alligator or crocodile: An alligator attacks with its mouth and teeth, so can represent verbal attack such as gossip or criticism. It twists its prey, so this could involve twisting the truth (like leviathan, Isaiah 27:1). Plus, it has a long tail – which can represent lies, or spreading lies about someone.

Bear: In the bible bears represent fierce (and often unexpected) physical attack (Lamentations 3:10). In dreams they could symbolise any kind of unpredictable/aggressive behaviour or spiritual attack. The colour/type could be important, for example:

  • A grizzly bear could be someone being ‘grizzly’ or grumpy.
  • A polar bear could be a religious spirit, as it is white.  
  • A black bear could represent mystery in a positive context.

Bird: Birds fly in the sky, and the sky often represents heavenly things. So, they could represent moving in the spiritual realm (flying), or something being released from heaven. The meaning varies greatly, so the colour and type of bird is important, for example a blue bird could be revelation from heaven, and a red bird could be spiritual wisdom.

  • A dove can be the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:10) or peace.
  • An eagle often represents the prophetic (they see a long way and rise in the Spirit, Isaiah 40:31).
  • An owl could be wisdom (‘wise old owl), teacher/understanding, the prophetic (big eyes) or an evil spirit (creature of the night).
  • A peacock makes a huge, beautiful display of tail feathers. This could symbolise pride or drawing self-attention. But in a positive context it could mean displaying the glory of God.

Bull: A bull could represent some kind of aggressive or bullying behaviour (Exodus 21:28) ; it could be a person or group of people, a general atmosphere of bullying, or a strong/controlling spirit.

Cat: Cats are known for their independent character, so could symbolise being self-willed. A pet cat or kitten could be a responsibility. Note how you feel about the cat. Cats vary greatly – so colour, name, and appearance could determine the meaning. In a negative context, black cats are sometimes associated with witchcraft.

Chicken or hen: Chickens are known for caring for their chicks (Matthew 23:37) and for laying eggs. So, they could represent a motherly character in a person or church. In a negative context, the word ‘chicken’ is associated with being cowardly or fearful.

Cow: Cows generally represent wealth/provision in a positive context, or poverty/famine in a negative one (Genesis 41). A ‘sacred cow’ is an idiom for an idea that is held to be above criticism. Cows can have cultural and religious associations too.

Deer: In the bible, deer are described as sure-footed – symbolising secure foundations in our walk with God (Psalm 18:33). They could also symbolise gracefulness (gazelle), shyness, or timidity.

Dog: Dogs are known as ‘man’s best friend’ and commonly represent a real person in a dream – often a friend. A pet dog or puppy could represent a responsibility. In a negative context they can represent some kind of attack, e.g. verbal attack (if biting), or threat (if barking); Psalm 22:16. Dogs vary greatly – so colour, name, and appearance could determine the meaning.

Elephant: Their main feature is that they are big, so could represent a big issue, or an unspoken one (‘the elephant in the room’).

Fish: Fish swim in water, which generally represents the spiritual realm. Fish can represent spiritual truths or revelation. Fish vary greatly – so colour, name, and appearance could determine the meaning.

Frog: In the bible, frogs represented false gods/idols (Exodus 8) and the evil spirits behind them. The colour, name and appearance could determine the meaning.

Giraffe: The main feature of a giraffe is its long neck and height. The neck can symbolise stubbornness or endurance – so the long neck suggests being stubborn or enduring for a long time, or highlighting that attribute. It could also represent pride (thinking we are above others).

Hen: See chicken.

Horse: In bible times, horses represented power and strength (Isaiah 31:1). In dreams they can symbolise leadership or spiritual power/authority. Horses vary greatly – so colour, name, and appearance could determine what powerful attribute they represent (Zech 1:8).

Kangaroo: Kangaroos could symbolise someone with energy (‘bounce’). A baby in a pouch could represent something/someone being hidden/protected during a time of preparation.

Lamb: See sheep.

Lion: A lion in a dream could be God/Jesus (Rev 5:5). They can represent great courage and boldness. In a negative context they can be the enemy (1 Peter 5:8), or some kind of strong threat (verbal if it involves teeth).

Leopard: The bible uses leopards to describe unwillingness to change (Can a leopard change its spots? Jeremiah 13:23). They are also strong-willed (like all big cats), so can represent a strong independent spirit. They hide in trees (trees can be leaders), so could be a strong spirit of control operating in leadership (Jeremiah 5:6).

Monkey: Monkeys are known for being mischievous, so in that context they could represent lack of seriousness or fooling around. They could be a harassing/mocking spirit, or an attempt to make you look like a fool or feel silly.

Pig: In the bible, pigs were considered unclean and they could symbolise unclean/evil spirits (Mark 5:13) or unbelievers. They could also represent going away from God, and living on ‘scraps’ rather than the best God has for us (Luke 15:11-32). Pigs can have cultural and religious associations too.

Rat: Rats are usually negative in dreams. They feed on rubbish and spread disease, so could represent gossip or spreading lies/rumours. They can be any negative/destructive influence (1 Samuel 6:5).

Shark: A shark commonly attacks with its jaws (see teeth), so could represent verbal attack. It could be unexpected if the issue is unseen (‘below the surface’) and suddenly breaks out. Culturally, ‘shark’ is used to describe a sexual or financial predator – and could represent any kind of enemy attack.

Sheep or lamb: Sheep can represent people or followers. In the bible, they represent followers of God/Jesus (Psalm 100:3). They could symbolise having no sense of direction or being lost. A lamb can represent innocence, new believers – or Jesus, laying down his life (Revelation 5:6).

Snake: A snake or serpent is usually negative in dreams, and most commonly represents a lie or deception (or a stronghold of the mind). The colour of the snake can indicate what type of lie. In a positive context, a snake sheds its skin and could be about change and renewal. See Dream symbols: Snakes.

Spider: A spider is usually negative in a dream, and can indicate witchcraft or occult activity, or an enemy stronghold – either in our own life or coming against us. A web could be something designed to entangle us, such as a ‘web of lies’ or other trap from which it is hard to escape (Job 8:14). The colour, name, and appearance could determine the meaning.

Tiger: Tigers are fierce and powerful big cats. They are strong-willed (like all big cats), so can represent a strong independent spirit or self-will. They could also symbolise a powerful enemy stronghold/principality. In a positive context, they could represent Jesus (by his stripes we are healed, Isaiah 53:5).

Wolf: A wolf looks like a dog, and could appear friendly, but they are really predators. They could be false/predatory leaders who pose a threat to the ‘flock’ (John 10:12). They can represent false spiritual authority or deception (a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’).

Zebra: A zebra’s main feature is the colouring. It looks like a horse but is not a tame animal. It could symbolise being clear and assertive (being ‘black and white’).

Make sure to consider what stands out most to you about the specific animal in your dream, and what the main action/context involving it was.

Picture of polar bear with text: What stands out to you most about this animal? What is the action surrounding it in the dream?


We have considered seven general possibilities of what animals might represent in dreams. We can use this as a mental checklist to work through if we are stuck. We have also considered five questions for identifying which one of these they could be.

I have included many ideas to think about – but the chances are you can quickly narrow down the options. Something will probably stand out to you about the animal – or what it was doing in the dream.

Once we start to identify what certain animals mean in our dreams, we can start to build our own personal dream dictionary. If we do this regularly, as time goes by it will really help speed up the process.

Some closing thoughts:

  • Animals in a dream could represent any number of things. The above pointers should give you a good starting point. 
  • I believe that only God can tell you what a particular animal means in a specific dream, so you can try praying through the dream.
  • Consider the atmosphere and context of the dream to see whether the animal is being used in a positive or negative sense.
  • In addition to the meanings that I have shared, remember that it could mean something personal or culturally significant to you, that isn’t mentioned here.

And finally… have fun investigating the animals in your dreams! If this article has helped you interpret a dream, please leave a comment!


The main points in this article are summarised in the infographics below:

Infographic: 7 things animals could mean in dreams
Infographic: 5 questions to ask about animals in dreams
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Dream interpretations

The purpose of this blog is to provide biblical foundations for interpreting dreams and encourage others to make their own dream journey. I am primarily a writer and bible teacher – who loves dreams, and I hope you will be inspired to learn to interpret your own dreams.

It is not currently my aim to routinely engage in dream interpretations or provide training, except through writing blog posts. You can read my most up to date position on interpreting dreams here: Requests for dream interpretations.

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Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Jennifer Needham disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.

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2 thoughts on “Dream symbols: Animals and what they mean

  1. Wow wow wow! Jenny I just sent you an email asking about 3 topics and one was birds! As soon as I hit send, I saw the email you posted about animal meanings and birds were mentioned! Wow and now it makes total sense!!! God is awesome!!!! Thanks Jenny!!


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