Why is the cat, the most popular house pet, not included in the 12 zodiac animals?

Actually I have an interesting story to tell. For so many years in the past, from time to time I told this story and answered peoples question about the Chinese zodiac.  Although there are many versions of its origin, my favorite is a story from a long time ago.  It is about the one where the animals in China decide to go to India to celebrate Buddha’s birthday.

The rat, cat, dog tiger… all thirteen animals took the journey from China in a race to see who could be the first to arrive in India.  When they reach the Ganges river of India, they all slow down as many animals could not swim well. The water buffalo was the first one to happily jump into the river.  Upon seeing that, both the cat and rat jump on the back of water buffalo for a free ride.  In the middle of the river crossing, the rat manages to push the cat off from water buffalo’s back, which causes the cat to fall in the river and drown.  And since then, as revenge, the cat forever chases the rat.

I told this story for decades on different occasions to many different people and students. No questions were ever asked. Last year I told the same story to a charming little ten year old girl, Rose Li.  Since arriving in the United States twelve years ago, both her parents, who are professional dance teachers, have been good friends of mine.  After having heard the story, Rose Li asked, “If the cat already drowned in river, how could the rest of cats know the story and take revenge?” A good question! How come nobody has asked this question before?  I wonder.  Well, let me think… how do I answer this question…

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