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Updated on May 6, 2014

This multiple-award-winning family game is a favorite in our house

About 9 years ago my husband's coworker told him about a game her kids were obsessed with. Best of all, she enjoyed it as much as they did.

We put it on our family Christmas list and had soon started our own long-term love affair with Gamewright's Rat-a-Tat-Cat.

Rat-a-Tat Cat won an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Best Toy Award and (in '96) a Mensa Best New Mind Game Award. More importantly, it snagged a Coolest Card Game designation from my crew of discerning kiddos :)

(image via amazon ~ info below)

How Do You Play Rat-A-Tat-Cat?

The object of the game is to end up with the lowest total number of points. Cat cards (with low point values) are good; rat cards (high points) bad. My kids still talk about the time I got all 4 zeros: 4 happy cats done up as Statues of Liberty.

Players start the game with four cards each, face down, and are only allowed to look at those cards if they draw a "Peek" card, if they trade the card for a drawn card, or at the end of a round. That's where the memory part comes in.

There also are "Swap" cards where you can swap a card (or not) with another player. Memory is again involved, as it helps to remember where players have put the good (low-point) cards they've previously drawn, within their array of four.

Players take turns drawing and replacing cards until someone gets a hand he or she is confident about. That player calls "rat a tat cat," and all points are tallied. Lowest total wins the round.

RATS! Another 9.

What Makes Rat-a-Tat-Cat Rock?

It's virtually all-ages. Although the packaging says ages 6 and up, all you need is basic number recognition, so most 5-year-olds and some 4-year-olds can take part. At the same time, it's still fun for older kids: Last week when my 12-year-old's best friend was over, he asked to play Rat-a-Tat-Cat. And for parents, the game's a dream: It moves quickly enough that you can sit and play with your kids without committing to a marathon that will--sorry Monopoly fans--derail your attempts to make dinner, mow the lawn, or whatever you need to accomplish within the next millennium.

It blends elements of chance and skill so that anyone can win. The game works on number sense, memory, developing a poker face...but still draws largely on good old luck. Much rests on the hand you're dealt and the cards you draw. This levels the field, and what 7-year-old wouldn't love a game that lets her occasionally school her mom, dad, or big sib? That unpredictability adds to the game's appeal.

It's a painless math booster for young kids. I think that one speaks for itself.

It's cute. The colorful, whimsically drawn cats and rats cavorting on these cards make them easy on the eyes.

It's flexible on time required. If you only have 5 minutes, you can play just a round or two. Looking to kill 30? Just keep playing, tallying up each round. Really, it's hard to get tired f this game.

It's compact and portable. Rat-a-Tat-Cat has traveled all over with us, even outside the continental USA. Like many Gamewright games, it's only about 5x5 inches and weighs next to nothing. It's got a place of honor in our kids' travel backpack, next to the sketchpads & mini markers. We even bought it for my sister-in-law in NYC, and space is at an ultra-premium in her studio apartment.

It's cheap. No small feat to pack this much entertainment into a box that retails for under $10.

My kid who shuns most games loves this one. This is probably the most sparkling endorsement I can offer. One of my boys isn't the world's biggest board game fan, but he's always willing to play Rat-a-Tat-Cat. And he never minds when he loses a round--not always the case with other games.

WHERE did I put that 0????????

Gamewright Rat-A-Tat-Cat
Gamewright Rat-A-Tat-Cat

A sampling of what other fans have said:

"Gain an intuitive appreciation of probability and gaming, and have fun at the same time."

"I don't have to 'let' the kids win, they usually beat me! We sometimes turn it around and try to be the one with the highest score. That adds more addition challenge."

"The best [birthday] party favor we've ever gotten."

"Has quite a 'positive' emphasis--you are more focussed on how good your own hand is, rather than how badly everyone else is doing.

"We were snowbound this winter break and only had tv and this game. To my surprise, despite 250 channels, the TV stayed off and this game won most of the time for six kids aged 14, 13, 12, 10, 7 and 5."

"I've never met anyone who isn't crazy about this game."


It's a snap to make

the game easier or

harder! Here's how...

Easier: Just deal out one, two, or more of each player's four cards face up instead of down. The more cards face up, the less memory is involved in playing the game. If you're playing with young kids, I recommend starting with a "training" round (or two), where everyone has all four cards face up and you talk each other through the moves. Watch out, though: They'll learn quick and kick your butt in a flash.

Harder: Deal out five or six cards instead of four, all face down, to increase the memory demands.

This promo video provides a visual on how Rat-a-Tat-Cat is played...although they've sped up the footage so it looks like much more a speed game than it actually is. Gamewright has a number of speed-focused games on the market, but this isn't one of them. You can play at any pace you wish.

Lost your Rat a Tat Cat instructions? Forget 'em? Go here for the how-tos

Have you played Rat-a-Tat-Cat? What's your fave all-ages board or card game? How's your day so far? ;) Thanks for commenting!

Play a Round?

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, this sounds like fun. I am considering buying it for a little time waster for the hubby and I!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      8 years ago from USA

      Looks like fun!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very interesting. Nice lens. I just want to share something that you might be interested, Bridge, is a card game fun to play, but the better you play, the more fun it is. As you improve, you will be fascinated at discovering how much there is to the game. Despite popular opinion to the contrary, bridge is not difficult to learn. Learn how to play bridge contract card game and improve your bridge game in less than five minutes a day. Keep on posting interesting stuff, more power to your lens.

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 

      9 years ago

      Looks like fun and the cards are cute and colorful too. I'll look for this for the grandkids

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      9 years ago from West Virginia

      Wow, tenth anniversary edition! And I'm just now hearing of it. Sounds like a fun game.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      So cool!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      I am so happy to have read this. Rat a tat cat has been one of our favourite family games for years. The girls are just starting to get a bit bored with it. I can't wait until they get home tonight so we can play the "harder" version I just learnt about here. 5*, favourite, lensrolled.

    • hlkljgk profile image


      9 years ago from Western Mass

      oh, this looks great - thanks for the introduction!

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 

      9 years ago from Minnesota

      Haven't heard of this but it sounds like great fun!


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