Rat-a-tat Cat Instructions

By Dan Chruscinski
Game Pieces

Rat-a-Tat Cat is a card game where players attempt to keep their scores as low as possible. The trick is that players are unaware of how many points they have until the end of each round and spend the game swapping cards hoping to gain cards of lower points. This can be done by trading with other players, discarding cards, or using special cards to peek at their current hand.

Setting Up the Game

Begin by selecting one player to be the dealer and another player to be the scorekeeper. The scorekeeper will keep the role throughout the entire game. The dealer shuffles the deck of cards and then deals four cards face down to each player. Without looking at them, each player places his cards in a row in front of himself. The remaining cards in the deck are then placed in the middle of the players. The dealer then turns the top card over and places it next to the deck: This serves as the discard pile.

Game Play

The game begins with each player looking at her two outer cards and noting the point values of each card. No other player should see these cards and after looking, the player should keep the cards face down in the row. The player to the left of the dealer goes first and elects to do one of the following:

Draw the top card from the discard pile and use it to replace one of the four cards he has in front of him.

Draw the top card from the deck and either replace one of his cards, discard it into the discard pile, or perform the action stated on the card.

When replacing a card, players cannot look at the card they are replacing until it has been chosen. As the game progresses, players must remember the point values on each of their cards as they cannot be looked at except during special circumstances.

Power Cards

If drawn from the deck, a Power card allows players to perform a given action. These actions are as follows:

Peek: Look at one card in her hand

Swap: Trade one card with an opponent. (Remember that the value of each card cannot be viewed by either player during the swap.)

Draw Two: Take one card from the draw pile, either swap it into her hand or discard and draw a second card to be swapped or thrown out.

Power cards have no value and if they are in a player's hand at the end of the round. They must be swapped for the top card of the deck, a risk for players who may end up drawing a card with a high point value.


The end of a round occurs when at the end of his turn, one player says "rat-a-tat-cat" announcing that he thinks he has the lowest score. After this announcement, the remaining players each take one more turn and then all players reveal their cards, replacing Power cards with cards from the deck. The points are added up for each player and the scorekeeper writes down the score. The player with the lowest score wins the round. After the round, the cards are dealt by the player to the left of the current dealer. Play continues for the number of rounds set by the players at the start of the game.

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