*Pours some tea*
*Slips tea* mmm.....perfect. Have a seat. I'll tell you a story between a cat and a mouse. This is a Chinese folkcore passed down from generation to generation.
They decided to ask the water buffalo for help since he always wakes up before sunrise and before anybody else did. With luck, they might even be able to ride on his back. So they did, and the kind Buffalo took them on his back and took them across the river early in the morning of the race. From far away, the Mouse saw the Emperor standing at the finish line and he wanted to win the first place all by himself. So the clever Mouse thought of a plan. "Look at all the tasty fish swimming in the water!", he told the Cat. The fish was surely irresistible. The Cat leaned over for a closer look and the Mouse gave him a little push. "Opps!", said the Mouse *evil smile*. The Cat fell into the river.
The Buffalo turned around to see what made the splash, but he saw other animals following closely behind him. No time to waste, the Buffalo sped toward the Emperor. Just when they were close to the finish line, the clever Mouse jumped from the Buffalo's head and crossed the line in the first place.
So the small but smart Mouse won the race and the hardworking Buffalo won the second place. The Tiger took the third place and Rabbit dashed across the finish line taking the forth place, just before the Dragon came from the sky, who took the fifth place. The Snake was number six and the Horse was seven. The Goat came next (eighth) and the Monkey was behind him (ninth). After a little while, the Rooster finally made across the river taking the tenth place. The Dog was number eleven because he was having too much fun in the water.
Well, what happened to the Cat? The Cat hated water. He had a hard time struggling through the river. The Cat tried to climb up to a log but it wasn't too successful. He tried to swim as fast as he could and as best as he could, but the other animals that were originally behind him at the beginning of the race caught up with him and ran him over (oh...that hurts! ^_~ well, don't forget this is "The Mouse Corner"....).
Oh, the Cat was huffing and puffing and the finish line was just right ahead of him. Who would be number 12? Would the Cat make it? Oink! Oink! The Pig rush across the finish line in front of the Cat. The Cat finally arrived at the finish line all worn out. "How did I do?", the Cat ask the Emperor. "I'm sorry, Cat, but all twelve places have already been filled. You are a little too late.", replied the Emperor. "You little rat...er....Mouse! (hehe ^_~)", the Cat extended his claws and tried to catch the Mouse. The Mouse squeezed under the Emperor's chair just in time and no way he would come out to the angry Cat.
So... from that day, cats and mice
became enemies. The end.
So now you know why the Mouse (or Rat for that matter) comes first in the Chinese Calendar and how the Mouse became one of the twelve animals in Chinese zodiac (and why Cat is not one of them...).
Oh, mice are so smart and we are natural winners. Does that give you more reasons to worship us? ~(8:>
You can find the above story with pretty illustrations in the picture book, Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac, by Ed Young. The above story is rewrote following this book, but as I said, this is a traditional story, so nobody really has the copyright. I knew the story before I found this book ^^.