The story of how the rat came in first demonstrates its cleverness. The cat and the rat, who were friends, decided to help each other in the race. They asked the ox, an early riser, to wake them on the morning of the race, but when the sun rose they could not be woken. The ox decided to carry the cat and rat on his back and was crossing a river when the rat woke up. The rat pushed the cat into the river knowing the cat was a faster runner. Then the rat jumped off the ox as it reached the riverbank and ran to victory.
The ox finished second and was followed by the tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The cat was too late to be included in the zodiac and, according to the Chinese, is still chasing rats to this day.
As a cat owner, I had wondered why the cat wasn't in the zodiac. This story tells us one possible reason. Cats definitely sleep a lot and don't wake up easily!