The rat sitting on top of a precious clay pot cannot be killed.
To kill a rat requires special skills (those days). You don’t just try to hit it while it is sitting on a precious clay pot unless you have the money to purchase another one.
This means that one has to understand the consequences of certain actions before venturing to take them.
For instance; when you need to get something from a proud individual, you need to humble yourself to the level of kissing his or her shoe if it warrant that to get what you want. This proverb warns against taking actions without critical observations and also encourages humility.