Rat Symbolism & Meaning-The Ultimate Guide

rat Symbolism & Meaning

Rats are common creatures you might have seen running around houses and building many times, searching for food. Rat symbolism meaning differs in different cultures and mythologies.

Rats are prominent figures in many cultures and mythologies. In many places, they are treated as messengers of God or trickster deities.

They symbolize mischief, fortune, prosperity, and negativity, all at the same time. Let’s see how rats are viewed in all cultures and how their spiritual meaning differs all around the world.

Rat Native American Symbolism

Just like every culture around the world, the Native Americans too, hold rats in a mixed view. They are both good and ill omens depending on the region or situation. Rats are a symbol of inspiration and wisdom, even though they are seen as hostile creatures due to their pest behavior.

The Northern American rat symbolism is of nimbleness, speed, cunning, dexterity, shrewdness, and wit. Muskrats are quite prominent in Native American mythology. Muskrats are semi-aquatic relatives of rats. They are huge and were fairly common in Native America. 

According to the legends of the Sioux people, muskrats were one of the four creatures who created the world. It is said that the muskrat dived into the muddy depths of the sea and brought up a lump of the earth to create Earth. 

Rat Symbolism In Celtic Tradition

Just like any other culture, there is a lot of rat symbolism in Celtic culture too. There are folklores surrounding rats.

According to the Celts, rats have a sixth sense that helps them predict the future especially if the future is about a fast-approaching disaster. Many stories support this claim too. 

One of the stories describes how rats abandoned a ship because it was going to sink soon whereas another story states that if all the rats flee from someone’s house, it is a symbol that someone is going to die in that house. It is also believed that a house won’t burn down as long as it is inhabited by rats because they can sense imminent disaster.

They have a sense of calamity and run away whenever they sense danger. There is a popular rhyme in Scotland that goes like the following:

“Ratton and mouse,

Leave the poor woman’s house,

Gang awa’ o’er’ by the mill,

As there, you’ll get all yer’ fill!”

Rat Symbolism In Various Religions

According to Bible, rats are evil creatures that have a destructive nature. The Hebrew word Akbar is used to refer to the wide range of rodents like mice, jerboas, rats, and hamsters. Rat symbolism is not common in Renaissance art and is only linked with St. Fina, who underwent terrible suffering, illness, and destitution without self-pity and complaint.

Though some Renaissance paintings show two rats, one white and the other black, eating each other, this symbolizes day and night. 

According to Leviticus 11:29- rats are one of those unclean creatures that humans should never consume. 

Moreover, while narrating the plague, Isaiah said that people who follow heathen practices live on rats and pigs.

In Hinduism, rat symbolism is prominent and rats are considered holy creatures. The ride of God Ganesha is also a rat named mooshak (means thief or plunderer in Sanskrit). In Hinduism, a rat symbolizes greed, and God Ganesha, the one who rides a rat vanquishes greed and desire. He teaches you to only consume the amount that is required to suffice your hunger.

You should not waste food and cherish it. You also need to have control over your desires and not be greedy. The rat, mooshak that God Ganesha rides was a demon named Gajamukha. God Ganesha defeated the demon and cursed him to become a mouse. Later he mounted the demon and made him his ride.

Since rats destroy everything by nibbling and are the creator of problems, it is only natural to call upon the destroyer of all problems to solve this problem. Thus, rats are seen in both a positive and negative light in Hinduism.

Rat Symbolism In Africa

In some regions of Africa, people believe that their deceased loved ones visit them in the form of rats, lizards, and snakes. Thus, for these people, rats are sacred creatures that should not be killed whatsoever.

Rats were a symbol of absolute destruction and wise judgment in ancient Egypt. Apart from this rat symbolizes knowledge, death, spirituality, enmity, meanness, destruction, plague, knowledge, evil, slander, infirmity, and the passage of time.

Rat Roman symbolism

Rats were associated with the ancient Roman deity, Arimanius. Arimanius is said to be similar to the God of destruction in Zoroastrianism. Plutarch even linked Arimanius with the God of the underworld, Hades. 

 With the God of the underworld, Hades. According to Aesop’s tale, “The Lion and the Rat,” a mighty lion once caught a rat. 

Though the rat was scared, he somehow convinced the lion to release him, saying that if the lion spared his life today, he would someday help the lion too. The lion was amused by the antics and words of the rat. But feeling merciful, he spared the helpless rat. 

A few days later, the lion fell into the trap of a hunter. He thought that his fate was decided, and he would die in the hands of the hunter. He suddenly heard rustling from the bushes and thought the hunter was finally here to take his prey. 

However, it was not the hunter who emerged from the bushes but the very same rat whose life he spared a few days ago. The rat started gnawing at the rope holding the tiger and soon freed the lion. The lion was very grateful for the rat’s help and for saving his life. 

Rat Symbolism In German tradition

There is a legend in Germany about the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Once the city of Hamelin was flooded with rats. Thousands and thousands of rats could be seen running around in the city and the houses. The people of Hamelin were desperate and hired a mysterious piper to lure the rats away from the city. The piper agreed to get rid of the rats for a heavy price. 

The people of Hamelin agreed to his terms and asked him to lure the rats out first. The piper played an enchanting tune and as he walked out of the city playing the tune, all the rats too followed after him. However, once the rats were gone, the people went back on their words and refused to pay the piper. Instead, they scorned him and told him to get out of the town. The piper was furious and started playing a gloomy and haunting tune. 

After hearing the piper’s tune, the children of Hamelin started acting strangely and followed the piper to deep mountains, all lively and dancing. There they enter a cave that the piper later seals, never to be seen again. It is said that there are historical records that indicate the story might be partially true. 


Rat Eastern Symbolism

The Chinese link rats with money. They believe that if a rat is searching around your house for food at night, it is counting money. This is also the reason why the term money-rat is used to refer to a miser.

There is also a Chinese fable that describes the wedding of a rat’s daughter. 

Once a rat wanted to marry his daughter to the most powerful being around. At last, the rats concluded that the cat was the most powerful since all rats feared cats. So, they decided to marry the female rat with the cat. However, when the wedding procession reached the cat, it ate up all of the rats.

In Chinese tales, rat symbolism is also of demonic presence. They believe that just like fox demons who can turn into females, rats too have the power of transformation and they can transform into males. Moreover, the rat is the first zodiac sign in Chinese culture, symbolizing trickery.

According to the Japanese, rats are auspicious creatures who brought ice to humans. They symbolize intelligence and industry.

In India, rats are linked with the God of good fortune and wealth, God Ganesha, and are the ride of God Ganesha.

Many temples in India take care of large colonies of rats and treat them as holy symbols. Karni Mata Temple in Deshnoke, Rajasthan, is one such temple that treats rats as holy beings. 

Also known as the rat temple, the Karni Mata Temple houses thousands of rats that roam around freely on the temple premises. Karni Mata, a Hindu warrior in the 14th century, is considered an incarnation of Goddess Durga. There is a tale that tells the reason behind the rat worship in this temple.

It is said that Karni Mata had a son named Laxman. When he was trying to drink water from a pond in Kapil Sarovar, he fell into the lake accidentally and drowned. Karni was devasted by the death of her son and begged the messenger of death, God Yama to revive him. 

God Yama couldn’t do that and refused at first but after the constant begging of Karni Mata, he finally decided to let Laxman reincarnate as a rat. The same was for all the male descendants of Karni Mata’s family. Thus, the people believe that all the rats, or Kabbas as they call them, are the reincarnated descendants of Karni Mata’s family.

It said that the estimated number of rats in the temple never goes over 25,000. The pilgrims who visit the temple feed these rats to incur the blessings of Karni Mata. It is believed that if a rat runs over your feet while you are visiting the temple, it is a good omen. People also believe that eating the offerings nibbled by rats is a blessing. 

This might make you feel appalled and disgusted like how can someone eat something nibbled by these disease-carrying creatures, it would surely lead to death. But surprisingly, to date, no one has ever died or incurred any kind of disease after eating the rat-nibbled offerings.


Rat Dreams Meaning

If you dream about a rat, it symbolizes the unwanted and ugly emotions that a person harbors on the surface. Though the awake mind is not able to sense these, the sleeping mind portrays these emotions through dreams. These emotions include jealousy, pride, guilt, hate, and many more negative emotions that a human heart may harbor.

If you dream about dead or swarming rats, it symbolizes anxiety and the fear of contamination. It means that you are afraid of something or someone in your real life and never wish to confront them. It is also possible that you’re planning on severing a relationship or leaving your job. No matter the situation, you’re stuck in a hard place and torn between situations.

Thus, the dream about the dead rat is an indication that you need to let go and move on. Whatever the issue was will soon come to an end and you too, need to move past it. A dream about rats may also be an indication of your lack of trust in others. This is because rats are often compared to betrayers and deceivers. 

If you dream about rats roaming in your house, the interpretation of the dream is based on whether you believe rats to be a good omen or bad. If you think the presence of rats is a good omen, then the dream is a sign of prosperity and wealth. It means that you will soon have good fortune and luck. But if you think the presence of rats is a bad omen, then the dream is a sign of destruction and symbolizes household problems. 

Do you tend to overthink situations and be dragged down by unnecessary thoughts? Do you think too deeply about situations even though they might not have any deep meaning and just be mere coincidences or simple gestures? Well, if you dream about a fat rat, then all these possibilities are probably true.

The appearance of a fat rat in your dream means that you are investing unnecessary time and energy in worthless things that don’t require your attention. Let go of the past and focus on the future. Let go of the stale feelings plaguing your heart and move on.

If you dream about a rat giving birth, it is considered a bad omen. It signifies an upcoming problem in your or your partner’s life. It is a warning that you need to be careful around acquaintances and be vary of them. Don’t trust anyone easily as they might backstab you.

Though it is also possible that dreaming about rats may represent a treasured goal since rats are creative and industrious creatures. Thus, if you dream about rats, it might also be a symbol that you need to focus on your work and pour your heart into the task at hand.

Rat Spirit Animal

The people whose spirit animal is the rat are clever and dexterous in mind, spirit, and body. Such people have a powerful sixth sense, a keen sense of opportunity and danger, and excellent intuition. 

Though they are curious and sociable, by nature, they are slightly shy and introverted too, especially when thrown out of their comfort zone. It takes them some time to adjust to the changes. The people who have the help of rat spirit animal puzzles and problem-solving exercises are an irresistible challenge. They itch to solve such problems due to their agile minds.

If your spirit animal is a rat then you are thrifty and resourceful by nature and make as much as possible out of every situation. You only feel comfortable when you can make the best of a situation and gain benefits. Though it is also possible that you might overstay your welcome.

People with rat spirit animals are often unable to notice if they have overstayed their welcome. They are quite generous and believe that everyone is so. Due to this, they might come off as rude at times. Thus, you need to pay attention to the people around you and learn to read signs that might tell if you have overstepped any boundaries.

Conclusion-Rat Symbolism & Meaning

Depending on the culture and region, seeing a rat in real and in dreams can have different meanings. It can symbolize mischief, dishonesty, fertility, survival, resourcefulness, creativity, intelligence, and vigor.

Though rats are usually perceived in bad light they can be excellent spiritual teachers. 

More Read: 

Rabbit Symbolism & meaning

Sparrow Meaning & Symbolism


"Smith is an outdoor enthusiast and Just loves everything about binoculars. Since his childhood he has been a fan of optical gadgets & going into the Jungle with his uncle was his favorite pastime. Besides, He loves watching & studying birds & animals. He is a mechanical engineering graduate and New Jersey Resident. He loves to review binoculars and related optical Instruments and loves testing each one of them." When he is not fiddling with one of his binoculars, you can find him playing his favorite sport Pickleball."

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