Choose or invite two volunteers seated in opposing corners of the room.
Nominate one of these people to be the Cat, and the other person to be the Mouse.
Announce that the Cat and the Mouse will soon move positions very quickly.
To help identify where the Cat (or Mouse) is at any time, they must say the word “CAT” (or “MOUSE”) loudly over and over.
The Cat and Mouse move whenever the person with it taps any person close to them on the shoulder.
Practice this calling and tapping movement for 5 to 10 seconds to gauge understanding.
Remind your group that both the Cat and the Mouse can be moved around the audience in any direction, at any time.
Announce that the Cat has 30 seconds to catch (tag) the person with the Mouse.
When ready, call “GO.”
If the Cat catches the Mouse before the time expires, the Cat wins.
If the Mouse survives for 30 seconds, the Mouse wins.
Play several rounds and/or try a variation.
How To Play Narrative
One of the most difficult moments in a program leader’s career is to engage and enthuse a very large crowd of people, most of whom do not know each other, sitting in a vacuous auditorium.
If you find yourself in this situation, and are looking for ideas – this is it.
First, ask for two volunteers to raise their hand to become the nominated ‘Cat’ and ‘Mouse.’
Be sure to choose two people who are situated as far away from each other as possible. Indeed, given how little they need to do, you may even choose to elect them yourself by simply nominating the two individuals whom are seated in diametrically opposed seats of the room.
Next, instruct the Cat to repeat the word “CAT” loudly and frequently – at least 2 or 3 times – and then tap the shoulder of any person close to them to pass the Cat on.
This tapping motion effectively moves the Cat around the room. And, anyone within reach of the Cat can be enlisted to become the Cat – left, right, front or back neighbours are all eligible to be tapped.
Practice this motion for a few seconds, to gauge understanding of what’s required.
Then, turn your attention to the Mouse. Same thing, different animal.
The Mouse is instructed to repeat the word “MOUSE” loudly and frequently, and then tap the shoulder of any person close to them to move the Mouse. Practice this move if you think it’s necessary.
Now for the fun part.
Announce that you want the Cat to chase the Mouse and get close enough to tap it on the shoulder to effectively catch it.
Set your stopwatch to 30 seconds, and yell “GO!”
If the Cat catches the Mouse before the time expires, the Cat wins. However, if the Mouse manages to survive for 30 seconds, then the Mouse wins.
Naturally, the 30-second rule is quite arbitrary, and will need to be varied according to the number of people in the room, your group’s abilities, and how difficult you want to make it for the Mouse to survive.
Play several rounds, and/or take a look at the Variations tab to try some wonderful new challenges.
Practical Leadership Tips
In case it’s not clear, only the person with the cat (on their head) at any point in time needs to call “CAT, CAT, CAT….” The same thing for the mouse.
Encourage and remind people to speak loudly and clearly, so that everyone in the room can hear. My advice – don’t be shy asking people to speak up!
If possible, and physically feasible, invite people to turn their attention towards the centre of the room (where the action is happening) to increase engagement. If people are standing, this is not only very simple but really useful.
Balloons are not essential for the variations – any soft/light/brightly-coloured object that can be clearly seen are perfect.
You could integrate Cat On Yer Head as part of a well-designed SEL program to focus on your group’s ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Demonstrating Empathy & Compassion
Making Reasoned Judgements
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of large group interaction and laughter.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully play Cat On Yer Head speaks to the benefits of setting goals and working collaboratively, but I wouldn’t push this too hard. This exercise is unashamedly designed for FUNN.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which this fun energiser could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Where’s My Cheese? Distribute 3 or 4 coloured balloons (or other soft objects) – described as cheese – spread variously throughout the audience. The mouse must now attempt to eat all of the cheese before they get tagged or the time expires. All those holding a balloon hold it up until they are tapped, at which point they immediately move the mouse on before lowering their hand (they continue to hold the balloon.) Think of the popular arcade video game Pac-Man to grasp the basic concept.
Trapped: Introduce two or more holes into the game, by nominating a number of volunteers to assume this role. Give them a different coloured balloon to hold up high (black) and explain that if either the cat or mouse is moved onto them (their shoulder is tapped,) this cat or mouse will fall into said hole and be trapped for 2 seconds, 5 seconds, or as long as you wish. Clearly, this entrapment will benefit either the cat or the mouse depending on the situation.
Cat In Yer Hand: As above, but pass a couple of soft objects from person to person (rather than tapping shoulders.) Keep up the loud calls of “CAT” and “MOUSE” although these are more about ramping up the energy, and less about locating where the cat or mouse is.
Pass The Parcel: Add 10 metres of coloured webbing or rope inside 2 or more buckets. Place these buckets in random places throughout your audience. The people closest to the buckets are instructed to pull one of the ends out of the bucket and start to feed the webbing/rope bit-by-bit to their neighbour, who of course passes it to their neighbour, eventually stretching it out across many people, possibly in different directions. Once the buckets are empty, the webbing/ropes take on a life of their own. Challenge each section of rope to touch the end of another rope as quickly as possible. Or, if this is too difficult, challenge one rope to cross the other. Kudos to Floyd Hinman for sharing this gem.
Take a look at the Clapping Game to enjoy another very successful large group energiser that works beautifully in large auditoriums.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Most people standing before you in this large auditorium would admit that it would be very difficult to conduct a quick tag game in this space, you know, with all the aisles and crowded seating. But I have an idea…
One of the all-time classic contexts for setting up a chase-scene is to introduce a cat and a mouse. It was the long-running premise of the Tom & Jerry cartoon series. Well, believe it or not, with barely a movement, we’re going to play a quick game of cat and mouse now, right here, right now…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this incredibly fun, large group game:
Did you enjoy the Cat On Yer Head game? Why?
Were you surprised at the level of enthusiasm that was generated?
How did it feel to be on two teams – the Cat and Mouse?
Who won? What does this mean any way?
What variations would you introduce into the game?
The inspiration for Cat On Yer Head was sourced from the team at Playniac, in the UK. For a good laugh, check out the video that switched me onto this awesome, large group energiser here.