Chinese New Years are named after a cycle of twelve animals that go in the order of Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog and Pig. This coming year is the year of the Rabbit and it officially begins on February 3, 2011.
The legend of the Chinese New Year includes a story on why the Cat never made the zodiac list.
Once upon a time, the Jade Emperor thought it would be better to assign an animal to each year so people could more easily remember the Zodiac cycle. He decided to hold a meeting with all the animals so that he could choose twelve of them to be the Zodiac animals. At that time, Cat and Rat were close friends. They were very excited about the meeting and decided to go early; however, Cat was a sleepyhead. He hardly ever woke up before noon. On the night before the meeting, he asked Rat to wake him early the next morning. When morning came, Rat got up early and quietly left for the meeting alone. When Cat finally awoke in the afternoon, he knew it was too late. Feeling betrayed, he vowed that henceforth Rat would be his enemy. This is probably the main reason Cats are always chasing after Rats.