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Why no year of the Cat?

Jan 16, 2009

Storyteller: According to Chinese lunar calender, the Chinese new year is coming soon. In 2009, Jan 25th is the new year eve; Jan 26th is new year’s day.We are going to say goodbye to the awful 2008 (the year of rat) and hello to a brand new 2009 (the year of ox).  If you have some impression about Chinese zodiac 12 animals, probably you have a question in your mind: where is cat, why is cat not on the list?  Don’t Chinese people love cat?  Yes, we do.  Since the domestication by ancient Egyptian, cat has become a worldwide house animal and one of the best friend of human beings. Chinese people love cats too.  So why cat is not on the list? There are many explanations.  Let’s start with folktales first.

No year of the Cat, why?



Folktale 1:

One day, the Jade Emperor initially selected 12 animal, and told the cat to inform the rest 11, in which the rat is not included.  The rat heard this information by eavesdropping when the cat told the ox. The rat secretly came to the heaven palace and registered for the first position before everyone else. The stupid Jade Emperor didn’t even check the authenticity of the Rat’s registration. Then the first informed Ox only got second position. Finished informing everyone and came back for his own position, did the cat only to find that no position left for him anymore. So rat is the first and no cat. From then on, cat and rat became life enemies.

Folktale 2:

Once, the Jade Emperor thought it’s better to assign an animal for each year so people can remember the Zodiac cycle easier. So he decided to hold a meeting with all the animals and he will elect 12 of them to be the Zodiac animals in the meeting. At that time, cat and rat are close friends, just like brothers. They are very excited for the meeting and decided to go together.  The cat is a sleepyhead, hardly woke up before noon. Night before the meeting, he ask the rat to wake him up the next morning.  The rat agreed: No problem, take it easy, I will wake you up for sure! The cat felt assured and had a sweet dream. The next morning, the rat got up early and quietly, washed and brushed, left for the meeting alone.

When the cat woke up afternoon, he knew it’s too late.  The news about newly selected 12 animals were everywhere; and the rat is the first of them.  Felt betrayed by the rat, from then on, the cat turned into rat’s enemy. So that’s also why cats are always chasing  after rats.


The two folktales above are the most typical and most funny ones. I like them. But probably you will doubt that’s the truth.  12 animals for the Chinese zodiac must have been developed in the early stage of Chinese civilization for hundreds of year until it become the current edition; and it’s very hard to investigate the real origin.  As to the absence of Cat, most historians agree that Chinese zodiac 12 animal were formed before cats were introduced to China from India with Buddhism.  So the answer is clear: There is no cat on the list because Chinese people never knew a cat at  that time.



Vietnam’s edition has Cat:

Just some additional information on this topic, although Vietnam adapted 12 animal zodiac from China, their edition is a little different. They have Cat in it, while Rabbit is dropped off. Why? Not sure. One explanation is that the “Rabbit” pronunciation in Chinese sounds like “Cat” in Vietnamese, so they made a mistake.  (As the picture left shown.)

Ok, so much for the Cat and Zodiac, wish everyone a happy new year 2009, the year of ox (or bull).

[Recommended Reading on Amazon]
1. A story book about 12 animals: The Great Race

2. A book about Chinese Astrology: Chinese Astrology: Exploring The Eastern Zodiac

[Chinese Keyword]
猫年 十二生肖

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  1. Mengding
    February 24th, 2009 at 11:26 | #1

    Nice stories. I did not konw the Folktale 1, hehe. But some words are covered by the pictures. Is that because I use Windows Internet Explorer?

  2. Storyteller
    February 24th, 2009 at 11:34 | #2

    Thank You. It is an IE issue. However, it seems to be limited to this post only. I will figure it out.

  3. lora sophie
    April 1st, 2009 at 12:06 | #3

    I don’t want my sign to be a dog ,I want my sign to be a cat(but that’s impossible) because it’s realy unfair that the cat is one of the 12 and the mouse was not……..but the mouse was included to the 12 zodiacs and became first of them all while the cat did’nt…(its really unfair T_T)…it somehow feels like you were betrayed….I think i understand what the cat feels when it’s chasing a rat……(i wrote all this because i really really love cats the most…also others too).


  4. April 1st, 2009 at 12:24 | #4

    @lora, Maybe we can ask mouse to share the position with cat, so they can be friends again.

  5. Bluburd
    June 21st, 2009 at 13:01 | #5

    I will never accept the fact that the rat took over the year of the cat. The year of the cat is very much alive – I fit all of the traits of the year of the cat. The rat sucks – I will never accept it.

    Surely there is a site where I can get a pendant of the cat. I will NOT but one of the rat.

    Does anyone know where I can find such a pendant?

  6. June 21st, 2009 at 13:58 | #6

    You can find lots of cat pendant on ebay.com or etsy.com. Lots of great designs for you to choose.

  7. August 9th, 2009 at 23:21 | #7

    ya me yo i was born in the year of the tiger but i really do wish that there was a year of the cat and i was born in the year of the cat. one thing i really love cat and i really dont now why there is no year of the cat ,but i was born in chain so i really wish i did know why there is no year the cat 🙁 @lora sophie

  8. May 5th, 2011 at 17:02 | #8

    ill i know is that the cat told the rat that the cat was going to take a nap to be in top form for when he goes to the banquet.the rat told him he will wake the cat up when it is tome.BUT the rat thought “I wont be chosen if the cat comes.Cause hes bigger than me and im the littlest of all the animals”so the rat just left the cat sleeping and gone to the banguet himself. 😥 so thats the real story.and so the rat tricked the cat. i know this cause im chinese

  9. May 5th, 2011 at 17:05 | #9

    oh did i meantion i was born between the cat and the rabbit year
    thats all folks.one more thing my full name is Xioh Tai Con Yu

  10. May 5th, 2011 at 17:09 | #10

    @lora sophie
    cats are the most awsome creature in the world.
    im actually part cat.
    hmm.i have all the skills a cat can do
    i can climb trees really fast. when i fall i land on my hands and feet.
    andwhen i fall backwards a high distance i twist and land on my feet&hands.

  11. Justsaying
    June 20th, 2011 at 03:45 | #11

    I read this ‘folktale’ in a book.
    Once upon a time, God told the animals,” I’m inviting you all to my banquet tomorrow, don’t be late!” So, the mischievous rat lied to the cat and told him the banquet was the day after tomorrow, and the cat believed him. All the animals went to the banquet except the cat, who had been tricked.

  12. October 2nd, 2012 at 01:29 | #12

    The Cantonese word for rabbit is “Tou”. The Mandarin word for rabbit is “Tu”. The Vietnamese word for cat is “meo”. They don’t sound similar.

  13. October 21st, 2012 at 20:06 | #13

    @Jesse, in Chinese Zodiac, rabbit is called 卯兔。卯 pronounces “mǎo”, which is pretty similar to “meo”.

  14. November 3rd, 2012 at 03:18 | #14

    @Jensen Liu

  15. Tin-chi
    December 6th, 2012 at 15:24 | #15

    The Cat is part of the zodiac, as the Tiger is a type of Cat.

  16. Nectaria
    January 15th, 2013 at 13:02 | #16

    Yes, both cats and tigers are feline. I was born in the year of dog but I like both dogs and cats.

  17. Frost
    February 11th, 2013 at 17:07 | #17

    The cat must be so alone…But, I’m proud to be a rabbit.

  18. Amaya
    February 13th, 2013 at 06:19 | #18

    I know that its not fun being left out…but because the cat wasnt included this particular animal is one beloved by many. I love all animals but the cat holds a special place in my heart because when i was little i didnt have any friends until my mom got me a cat. Then everyday it would follow me to the bus stop and wait for me to leave and when i got home it would be there waiting and walk back with me. The cat doesnt need to be part of the zodiac to be loved. The cat just needs to be itself, it is the one who understands me better than people and wont laugh at me because of my oddly colored eyes. They are very light green and when it rains they are closer to yellow. that is why the cat will always be special.

  19. Rachel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 23:10 | #19

    I’ve also heard this one: The Emperor told the rat to invite the twelve animals (plus the cat) to a banquet where they would be registered as animals of the zodiac.Emperor told Rat to tell everyone the banquet was tomorrow. Rat told all the animals, but he had told Cat the banquet was the day after tomorrow. He slept soundly in his bed the night of the banquet, looking forward to it, completely unaware it was happening already. Cat showed up at the palace the next day and sat there, waiting, but the other animals never came. And so the cat has been excluded from the zodiac ever since.

  20. Rachel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 23:14 | #20

    The cat will always be one of my favorites. I was born into the sign of the Tiger, so I’m a kind of cat ^-^ I’d love to see a year of the cat fanclub.

  21. chris
    July 26th, 2013 at 01:12 | #21

    I have never heard the folktales. On here but the on I heard was once god told the animals that there was going to be a banquet, and the rat didn’t like the cat so he told the cat it was the next day that god was going to hold the banquet, so as the rat hoped on the cows back wanting to be the first there and all other animals followed the cat slept dreaming on how the banquet was going to be not knowing on how the rat had tricked him so from then on all the animals that attended were part of the zodiac but the cat is left out and that’s why the cat isn’t part of the zodiac and why the rat and cat always fight because the cat thinks if he can beet the one who tricked him into not going he one day might be accepted as part of the zodiac

  22. Linda
    September 17th, 2014 at 03:11 | #22

    Tigers are best matched with cat zodiac. (Chinese consider them as rabbit zodiac) They are considered in other cultures, as cat zodiac. They are part of the feline family, so the tiger feels more comfortable with them. The cat is a yin and the tiger is a yang. Which makes them complement to one another. What one miss, the other fill in. They are opposite but the same. No wonder a lot of tigers are single, such as Tom Cruise and Ryan Phillipes. ( especially the males) Tiger are extremist and they need moderation and that why the cat is a perfect match for them. An example of a tiger and cat relationship is Victoria Beckinham (Spice Girl) – tiger and David Beckinham ( world famous UK soccerplayer). It’s their first marriage and they are still going strong. Two tigers are a NO-NO, just complete madness. An example, Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimiggio, divorced, and Angelina Jolie’s parents, divorced also. No wonder the rabbit/cat zodiac follows behind the tiger in the Chinese Zodiac 🙂

  23. Linda
    September 17th, 2014 at 03:18 | #23

    Tigers zodiac should marry cats zodiac because they are related to each other, unlike the dog zodiac. The tiger feels more comfortable with the cat then the dog. Also the cat is a yin to the tiger yang. So, this is a very harmonious relationship with balance. Something the tiger needs. The dog only has a yin with the tiger, but no relationship to it. While the cat has a yin and relationship to the tiger. The cat is like an auntie to the tiger. Tigers will follow cats where every they go. If you look at the Chinese zodiac, you can see the cat/rabbit follows behind the tiger, not the dog zodiac following behind the tiger.

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