Play This: Rat-A-Tat-Cat

While traveling this summer, I was reminded of the quote from the movie Mean Girls (I know, you are wondering where this is going, hang in there), “Math is the same in every language.” Yes this is an actual quote from Mean Girls. Look it up.

While in Paris, we had the pleasure of meeting an Italian cousin who we had never met before in person. He is the same age as my daughter and he was in Paris visiting his grandmother for a few weeks of his summer vacation. We were lucky enough to have overlapping time in Paris with this cousin and we got to hang out together for a little less than a week. Here was the slightly tricky part. We speak English and French, this little cousin only speaks Italian. Things were fine as long as we were out and about, but once we were back at my cousin’s apartment, we weren’t sure how to keep the kids entertained and playing together.

Luckily, we had brought a couple of very transportable card games, one of which was Rat-a-tat Cat. This game is a simple math and memory game which, as I learned this summer, is easily understood by all who get thrown into game play. This is the brilliance of math and memory based games (here again comes the Mean Girls quote), “Math is the same in every language.”

My daughter and her cousin played rounds and rounds of Rat-a-tat Cat, and we soon learned that our little cousin is quite the card shark! Math is the international language!

Here is how to play:

Set up: Shuffle the deck of 54 cards (28 Cat cards that have the numbers 0-6 on them, and 17 Rat cards that have the numbers 7-9 on them, plus 9 power cards). The player to the left of the dealer cuts the cards.

The dealer then deals four cards, one at a time and face down, to each player. The remaining cards are placed face down, in the middle of the table, as the draw pile. The top card of the draw pile is turned over to start the discard pile. If that card is a Power card, it is placed back in the deck and another card is turned over.

Without looking at the cards, each player places four cards face down in a line on the table in front of him.


Game Play: To begin the game, players peek at their two outer cards once, then turn them face down again. During the entire game, players will always have their four cards face down on the table.

Once each player has peeked at their outer two cards, each knows the point values of two out of the four cards. The name of the game is to have the least amount of points in their hand by the end of the game (the four cards that are facing down). Since rats have high numbers attached to them, players want to get rid of all the rat cards and replace them with low point value Cat cards.

For each turn, a player may either draw the top card from the discard pile. This card MUST be used to replace one of her cards. The card replaced is then discarded, face up, to the discard pile; or, the player can draw the top card from the draw pile. A player may use it to: replace one of her cards, Peek, Swap, or Draw 2 if it is a Power card (these cards give you special card privileges for one turn), or discard it face up to the discard pile.

A player’s choice is based on remembering the values of his four face down cards. Keep track of what you have so you won’t accidentally replace your low point cards with high point cards.

During the game, when the draw pile is used up, shuffle the discard pile and turn it over for a new draw pile.

When a player thinks he has the lowest score and can win the round, they may end the game by knocking on the table and saying “rat-a-tat cat” at the end of the player’s turn. Once the player knocks, every other player has one more turn. Each player then turns over their cards and add the point values of their four cards. This is each player’s score for the game. The player with the lowest amount of points wins!


The game is designed for 2-6 players ages 8+.

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