The Cranberries’ “Animal Instinct” Lyrics Meaning

The history behind the sentiments expressed in “Animal Instinct” is that The Cranberries’ lead singer Dolores O’Riordan (1971-2018) had given birth a short time prior and basically given up on her music career due to the mental issues which resulted. However, she ultimately rediscovered the joy to get back in the game from the selfsame son she had given birth to. And her energizing rapport with the child and what she is apparently referring to as the titular “animal instinct”.

Addressee of this Song is her Son

Indeed it would appear that her son Taylor Baxter Burton (who would have been approximately three-years old at the time) is actually the addressee of the song. And what Dolores is telling him is that at first he ‘made her cry’.  This statement would allude to the aforementioned depression she experienced after his birth. However, as time progressed she had apparently come to truly appreciate him and love him. 

Thus by the time the second verse rolls around she is instead expressing her concern and hope that he will never come to harm. Indeed her interest in his safety is arguably the overarching sentiment in the song. Moreover she seems to understand that to some extent the mental issues she experienced as part of his birth will never fully go away.


So all things considered, this track can perhaps be defined as one that is intended to encapsulate both the joys and anxieties of motherhood. It is in fact being recited by a new mother who is clearly alarmed about the overall wellbeing of her child, perhaps even her ability to raise him properly.  Yet via his coming, she has also found a new lease in life.

Lyrics of "Animal Instinct"

Release Date of “Animal Instinct”

“Animal Instinct” was released on 5 July 1999 as the lead single from The Cranberries’ album “Bury the Hatchet”. And the label behind that project is Island Records.

This song along with such hits as “Zombie” and “Linger” also appears on the band’s 2008 compilation project titled “Gold”.

Writing Credits

The song’s writer are two members of The Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan and Noel Hogan. And the track was produced by Benedict Fenner.

Did “Animal Instinct” chart?

Yes, it did. The tune charted in six countries, including the UK and Brazil.

1 Response

  1. Doloresfan says:

    Maybe I’m the only one who sees a connection with terrorism (IRA) it that way, I’ll explain my point of view: im from Spain, and some years ago, the TV news at 15.00 o’clock (after lunch, when we were drinking the cofee /tea…) shocked us with the sad news of a bombing/shooting of the terrorist group ETA (I suppose same happened to people in ireland with IRA)
    “suddenly something has happened to me while I was having my cup of tea, suddenly I was feeling depressed I was atchfully and totally stressed”. Then Dolores sings about the fear of losing somebody close to her (a boyfriend, brother or friend) she wants to take his hand and leave far… A place without that fear (we all felt that scary rush at that time) ” So take my hand” “they won’t take you away we will change reality” . ” the animal instinct ” is that need to fight killing others to impose out thoughts. “The thing that freaks me out is always be in doubt” Its the saddest thing and difficult to explain to someone that didnt live that… In some way the terrorist made people push them to be thankful to them because they “fight for our ideals” in a “courageous” way “the thing that freaks me out is i always be in doubt”
    A double pain: first because the loss of life , second: because terrorists make a fast statement talking about how they did that in our name to impose the ideals [they thought] the habitants of the affected areas had.

    But of course it can be also read as a love song. Absolutely a masterpiece.

    Pd: i love even her dances in the video haha.
    Love you Dolores.
    I hope we meet in the next life.

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