A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Happy New Year of the Rabbit …

… or maybe the Cat

A Year of the Rabbit exhibit at the Bellagio Hotel’s Botanical Gardens in Las Vegas

By Michael Mountain

I was all set to say something about the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, which begins today.

Then I discovered that if you live in Vietnam, it’s the Year of the Cat.

So which one shall we go with? Both calendars cycle through 12 years and 12 animals. Eleven of them correspond with each other, but when the Chinese celebrate the Year of the Rabbit – like this year – the Vietnamese go with the Year of the Cat.

Another overwhelmed person, with 167 rabbits in her backyard, told us that she “didn’t know you could get them fixed.”

You’d think that a Cat year and a Rabbit year would be quite different. Predator and prey; hunter and hunted. But most Chinese astrologers say that Rabbit years tend to be associated with a lot of conflict. (Monty Python’s Killer Bunny?) So they are predicting a year of terrorist threats, tensions between the United States and China, natural disasters, and see-sawing global markets. (As are those of us who read the newspapers.) They also foresee marital problems for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Side note to Brad and Angelina: They say you may be able to avoid this by wearing yellow and white clothes and eating yellow and white foods like oranges and white radishes. Carrying a dog pendant may help, too, since dogs and rabbits are astrologically compatible. (Side note to rabbits: Do not believe that you are compatible with a dog; that sentence was almost certainly written by a dog.)

One well-known Chinese astrologer disagrees with all the above: “The Rabbit is one of the most gracious personalities of the zodiac,” Laura Lau tells the Houston Chronicle. “It’ll be a time to nurture relationships at the many social events that will happen this year.” Ms. Lau adds that this will be a good year for diplomacy and also for fashion. (Skip the rabbit fur, please.)

Meanwhile, humane groups in several Asian countries are predicting that, as part of the general New Year celebrations, lots of rabbits will be bought at stores this week. The same rabbits will then be abandoned long before the year is over. (In Western countries, the same thing will happen over the Easter holiday.)

“Many people buy pets on impulse and do not fully understand the responsibilities of keeping an animal at home,” says Jacelyn Heng, president of the House Rabbit Society of Singapore. “The problem is particularly acute for rabbits because people wrongly assume that they are low-maintenance starter pets for children. Many pet shops in Singapore are also not well-informed about the care needed for a pet rabbit and often provide wrong or false information to the unknowing first-time owners.”

We can also predict that many of these pet rabbits won’t be spayed or neutered, and that they will, indeed, breed like rabbits. One big bunny rescue that I was involved in had more than 1,200 rabbits living in the backyard of a trailer home in Reno, Nevada, with several more being born every day. And another overwhelmed person, with 167 rabbits in her Las Vegas backyard, told us that she “didn’t know you could get them fixed.”

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese are celebrating the Year of the Cat.

Cat years fall into several different categories: This year is a Year of the Metal Cat (as was 1951), and metal cat people are determined and strong. There are also Water Cat years (1903 and 1963), whose people are cool and easy-going, and Wood Cat years (1915 and 1975), whose people are generous and self-sacrificing. Cat people are considered to be sentimental and empathetic, but have difficulty dealing with stress. Metal cat people handle stress a bit better.

One advantage of Chinese and Vietnamese astrology, compared to Western astrology, is that it doesn’t rely on constellations of stars. So you don’t have to deal with the awkward fact that the constellations slowly change position in the sky relative to the Earth. Someone who was born an Aquarius 4,000 years ago would have been born as a Capricorn 2,000 years ago and a Sagittarius today. Astronomers feel obliged to point this out from time to time, since most astrologers are working off a calendar that’s 2,000 years old and therefore off by a month, leaving most of us under a different sign from what we’ve been led to believe.

I’m tempted to say that astrology is obviously nonsense, but if I did that, your best response would be to point out that since I was born in the Chinese Year of the Dog, I can be quarrelsome and judgmental.

So, welcome to the Year of the Rabbit. And may it be a very good one for rabbits, cats, and animals of all kinds!