Why is the Cat not in the Chinese Zodiac?
Chinese zodiac is consisted of twelve animals which are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Except the legendary creature Dragon, all the other 11 animals are quite familiar to us in daily life. Cat is also very common in our daily life, but why is it excluded in the 12 Chinese zodiac signs? Why there is no year of the Cat? It is said that cat is an ominous creature in Chinese myths and legends. Definitely, the ominous creature cannot be listed in the zodiac signs. But is this the real reason?
About the reason why the cat not in the Chinese Zodiac, there are too numerous folktales to mention.
Related Folktale One:
As a legend goes, in the chaotic world of prehistoric times, the Jade Emperor decreed to select 12 animal signs from the creatures all over the world according to the twelve branches (Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen, You, Wu, Hai) in twelve Heavenly Stems and Earthy Branches. The news was heard by cat and rat who were good friends and they decided to go together. The cat was afraid that he would get up late, so he told the rat to wake him up next morning and the rat readily agreed.
In the next morning, however, the rat went back on his word - he got up stealthily, left without saying goodbye, and was selected as the first animal in the 12 signs. The cat was so angry that he ate the rat. Since then, cat and rat became enemies for generations. That's why cat is not included in the Chinese zodiac.
Another folktale goes, that the Jade Emperor selected the 12 animals, including cat other than rat. The Jade Emperor appointed the cat to notify the other 11 animals. When the cat informed the ox about the news, the rat overheard their conversation and decided to take the initiative, so he came to the Heavenly Palace to check in first. The Jade Emperor failed to distinguish between truth and falsehood and arranged the seats immediately. When the cat finished passing on the message, he came back and found no seat, thus started a feud with the rat.
Related Folktale Three:
There is another legend about cat and dog. Once upon a time, animals gathered together and had a massive argument on their ranking in 12 animal signs, so did the cat and the dog. They argued about who made more contributions. The cat thought the dog ate too much but did no work while he could catch mice and made more contributions. Finally, the Jade Emperor judged that the cat made more contributions than the dog. On the way back, the dog was so angry that he scolded the cat while the cat was scared and ran way since he was smaller than the dog. The dog took the chance and joined the ranking for animal signs. Since the dog came late, he was ranked the 11th while the cat missed the opportunity. Hence, cat and dog became enemies: dog would chase after cat while cat would run away from dog.
In the legends above, cat started a feud with rat or dog. However, the truth is not a myth as there was no cat in ancient China.
As a creature native to Egypt, cat was brought to China in the era of Emperor Ming of Han Dynasty (57 AD -75 AD), which was about 1,000 years later than the formation of Chinese zodiac. Therefore, it's no surprise that the Chinese zodiac has no cat.
In fact, zodiac is not unique to China. India, Egypt, Vietnam and other regions also have 12 zodiac animals with different rankings. Cat is included in the zodiac signs of Egypt and Babylon. Vietnamese zodiac is similar with Chinese zodiac but it replaces rabbit with cat.
Although there is no cat in the Chinese zodiac, the animal is still quite popular among people. Tiger, ranking the third in the Chinese zodiac, is a big cat which comforts the cat slaves to some extent!