Illustrated by: Jean Cassels

Published by: Holt, 2006


Copyright © Marilyn Singer 2006

Cats to the Rescue


There are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. The cat is not one of them. Here’s a legend about how this came to be. Cat and Rat were friends. So when the Buddha announced a contest to assign each animal an hour and a year, the two made a pact: Whoever got up earliest would rouse the other, and together they’d win the competition.

But the next day when Rat awoke he did not keep his word. He left Cat sleeping and hitched a ride with Ox. Just as they arrived at the Buddha’s gate, Rat jumped off and dashed in to gain first place. Cat slept on through the whole morning. When she finally did awaken, she let out a yowl and raced to meet the Buddha. But it was too late. The whole zodiac had been filled. That’s why there is no Year of the Cat and why cats and rats are now sworn enemies.