The Cat is the 4th animal symbol in the 12-year cycle of the Vietnamese zodiac and Gurung zodiac, taking place of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac. As such, the traits associated with the Rabbit are attributed to the Cat. Cats are in conflict with the Rat.
Legends relating to the order of the Chinese zodiac often include stories as to why the cat was not included among the twelve. Because the Rat tricked the cat into missing the banquet with the Jade Emperor, the cat was not included and was not aware that the banquet was going on and was not given a year, thus began the antipathy between cats and rats. It is possible domesticated cats had not proliferated through China at the zodiac’s induction.
Another legend known as “The Great Race” tells that all the animals in the zodiac were headed to the Jade Emperor. The Cat and Rat were the most intelligent of the animals, however they were both also poor swimmers and came across a river. They both tricked the kind, naive Ox to assist them by letting them ride on its back over the river. As the Ox was approaching the other side of the river, the Rat pushed the Cat into the river, then jumped off the Ox and rushed to the Jade Emperor, becoming the first in the zodiac. All the other animals made it to the Jade Emperor, while the Cat was left to drown in the river after being sabotaged by the Rat. It is said that this is also the reason Cats always hunt Rats.
There have been various explanations of why the Vietnamese, unlike all other countries who follow the Sino lunar calendar, have the cat instead of the Rabbit as a zodiac animal. The most common explanation is that the ancient word for “rabbit” (mao) sounds like “cat” (meo).