Cat Games

Herding (or Stacking) Cats: 4 Cat-Themed Games

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Kitty Paw
Kitty Paw: build crazy patterns using tiles and cards! Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Kitty Paw is a bit of an odd duck (even though it looks like a cat). It’s a sort of real-time pattern-matching game, with tiles that look like isometric cubic cats.

At a glance: Kitty Paw is for 1 to 4 players, ages 6 and up, and takes 15-30 minutes to play. It retails for $20, and is published by Renegade Game Studios and Li-He Studio. It was designed by Aza Chen.


  • 28 Kitty tiles (4 each of 7 types)
  • 8 Cat Box cards
  • 4 Box cards
  • 48 Kitty Cards (24 Level I, 16 Level II, 8 Level 3)

The box itself is made to look like a lucky cat, with two ears that stick up on top. The rulesheet is in English, Japanese, and Chinese, but the diagrams and images can be a little confusing at first.

The kitty tiles are little hexagonal tiles that look like cat cubes–one side shows the cat facing to the left, eyes open, and the other shows the cat lying on its back with its eyes closed. The Japanese bobtail tiles are longer, like two cubes put together.

The Cat Box cards show a cardboard box with a paw reaching out of it on the backs, and on the fronts are 7 different types of cats (different from the breeds pictured on the tiles) and one Chihuaha.

The Box cards just look like an empty box–the two sides show a horizontal orientation and a vertical orientation.

Finally, the Kitty Cards show various patterns of cats that you’ll try to match during the game. The patterns get more difficult as you go from one level to the next, and the backs of the cards show negative points that you’ll get if you fail.

Kitty Paw setup
Starting setup for Kitty Paw. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

How to Play

The goal of the game is to score the most points by creating patterns successfully (and not losing points).

To set up, you place one set of 7 kitty tiles per player in the center in a big pile, mixed up. The 8 Cat Box cards are placed in a ring around the pile, with the “box” side showing. Each player gets a Box card (the one showing the empty box) and sets it in front of them. Shuffle each of the three levels of Kitty Cards separately, and stack them so Level I is on top. (Note: you only use one set of the Level II cards per game, but there are two different sets for variety.)

The game is played over a series of rounds, and each round is played in real-time, with no taking turns. The top 4 Kitty Cards are turned face-up onto the table. Players put one hand on the table and shout “Kitty Paw!” to start the round.

Kitty Paw
“Kitty Paw!” Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Each player grabs one of the face-up Kitty Cards and places it in front of them. Then, they grab kitty tiles (one at a time!) from the pile in the center, arranging them into the pattern shown on the Kitty Card. In Level II and III, one of the cats on the card will be depicted in a box–you must find the right Cat Box card as well and put it into your pattern. Also, each Kitty Card shows a box off to the side with a cat or two in it–you must have your Box card turned to the right orientation and the right kitty tiles in it.

The first player to finish their pattern must make the lucky cat gesture (one paw raised) and meow loudly. Everyone else then races to do the lucky cat gesture and tap paws with the first player while meowing. The last player to tap paws turns over their Kitty Card to show the penalty side. Then everyone checks over the first player’s pattern–if it’s correct, they keep their Kitty Card to show its point value. If it’s incorrect, the Kitty Card is flipped over to the penalty side. All other players discard their Kitty Cards–no score, no penalty.

Kitty Paw
A Level 1 card: the white and grey cats aren’t turned in the correct orientation, so this card will be a penalty. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The kitty tiles are shuffled back into the big pile, with the Cat Box tiles shuffled and placed face-down. Unclaimed Kitty Cards are discarded, and 4 more Kitty Cards are turned face-up, and a new round begins.

The game ends when any player has scored 5 Kitty Cards, or when the draw pile is empty after a round. The player with the highest score wins. Ties are broken by one more round.

The Verdict

Kitty Paw is a really odd game, but it’s a lot of fun. The pattern-matching is at the core of the game, and requires the ability to look at an isometric drawing and turn it into a 2D pattern of tiles. Add to that the time pressure of trying to be first, and it’s very easy to make simple mistakes–a cat turned the wrong way, or a missing cat in the Box card, and so on.

You’ll probably feel a little silly shouting “Kitty Paw” or “Meow!” but don’t worry: everyone else is doing it, too. What I’ve noticed is that it’s very easy to get so engrossed in building your pattern that it’s hard to remember you need to tap paws and meow when somebody else finishes their pattern first. But it’s important–if you’re not getting points for finishing your own pattern, at the very least you want to be sure you don’t lose points for being last.

Kitty Paw
A correctly completed Level 2 card: the blue cat is a Cat Box card. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

I like the way the patterns get progressively harder. Level I cards just have all of the kitty tiles in a single layer: they’ll be adjacent to each other but nothing overlaps. By Level III, however, you’ll have some tiles that barely peek out behind other ones, and it’s very easy to get something wrong if you’re not paying attention. (And, of course, you’re not entirely paying attention because you’re trying to be quick.)

The game definitely rewards those with quick hands and good spatial skills. I know some people will have a really hard time with the isometric look of things, and they will probably not enjoy Kitty Paw.

The other thing is that you could just play with the kitty tiles and the cards without the game portion, just creating the patterns as an activity. I know one of my friends said her kids just love to play with the tiles like that–so if the time pressure of simultaneous play is too much for your group, you could just make patterns together instead. Kitty Paw is available from Amazon, or check at your local game store.

Keep reading for Cat Tower!

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8 thoughts on “Herding (or Stacking) Cats: 4 Cat-Themed Games

  1. Thanks,
    We couldn’t figure out how to put the puzzle away and you solved our problem. Thanks for the photo! And your forethought to make it!

    1. You’re welcome—glad it came in handy! I knew we were going to need that a lot. 🙂

  2. Another cheer for that picture! Jamie hit the nail on the head- silly it wasn’t included in the box!

  3. YES! Thank you so much for the packing picture. I thought of this AFTER I had already dumped out the cats (but I was so excited, wasn’t really thinking).

    After playing a dozen rounds, went to put away game….and there I sat. For hours. Trying to get the bloody cats back in the box. Figured I would treat it like a bonus round. Still haven’t solved it. Still going to treat it like a bonus round…but now I have your photo for when and if I have to throw in the towel…

    As with any item you purchase, trying to get it all back in the box after opening is truly the ultimate test.

    Thanks for saving me ?

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