I'm a Vietnamese Chinese (越南華僑). Now I live in the U.S. Back in Vietnam, we used to speak Chao Zhou (潮州話）。My grandmother would teach me how to remember the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Bull, Tiger, rabbit, etc. But in school, the teachers would teach us how to remember the zodiac in Vietnamese: Rat, Bull, Tiger, CAT, etc. I am wondering why the Cat replaces the rabbit in the Vietnamese zodiac. I have google searched this issue but have not come up with a definitive answer. In some articles they say becuase cat and rabbit sound alike in Vietnamese. To my understanding, this is not true. Cat is meo, and rabbit is tho. Completely different sounds! Is there another pronunciation for rabbit in Vietnamese that I'm not aware of? Another explanation in some articles is that there are more cats than rabbits in Vietnam. I am just curious because I want to explain it to my son who has asked me this question.
According to this Chinese source at http://zhidao.baidu....n/96094540.html, no-one actually know the real reason why cat has replaced rabbit in Vietnamese animal Zodiac.
The most plausible theory proposed was that when the 12 Animal Zodiac was introduced into Vietnam from China, the "Mao 卯" in the Zodiac year "Mao Tu 卯兔" (Mao Rabbit Year) has the same Chinese pronunciation as "Mao 猫" (cat). Because the "Mao Nian 卯年" (Mao Year) sounds the same as "Mao Nian 貓年" (cat year), the Vietnamese had made a mistake in the writing and recorded it as "cat year" (mao nian 貓年）.