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10 Cat's Cradle Facts That'll Wow You!

Check out these 10 facts about the string game, Cat’s Cradle!

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Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  March 19th 2022

Have you ever played the game Cat’s Cradle? It’s the ancient past-time that’s still popular all around the world. All you need is a piece of string and a steady hand. If you're bored of fidget toys and looking for a new challenge, then you should definitely check out these Cat’s Cradle facts. If you like these pieces of trivia, then you’ll love our guide to Everything You Need to Know About Fidget Spinners!

1. Cat’s Cradle is an ancient game!

No-one knows who invented the Cat’s Cradle. The first written evidence of the game can be found in a 1768 book called The Light of Nature Pursued by philosopher Abraham Tucker. He writes: "An ingenious play they call cat's cradle; one ties the two ends of a packthread together, and then winds it about his fingers […] into a multitude of figures whose names I forget, it being so many years since I played at it myself.”

2. Cat’s Cradle has gone global!

Different versions of this game have been found in cultures around the world, including in Africa, Eastern Asia, the Pacific Islands, Australia, the Americas, and the Arctic! There are lots of theories why Cat’s Cradle is so popular but maybe it’s just something to do with it just needing a piece of string and a friend to play!

3. It’s not just called Cat’s Cradle!

Lots of cultures have different names for Cat’s Cradle. In Japan they call it Ayatori. In Russia, it’s called The Game of String (but in Russian). In China, the game is called Fan Sheng, which means 'turning rope'. In some states of the USA, Cat’s Cradle is called Jack in the Pulpit. We have no idea who Jack is and maybe he should get out of the pulpit before the vicar turns up!

4. How do you play Cat’s Cradle?

To play Cat's Cradle, two or more players take it in turns to make a shape or 'figure', with the loop of string. Each player alters the figure made by the previous player until a figure is made that cannot be changed into another (or someone gets all tangled up). The game starts with one player making the first figure, called - you guessed it - a cat's cradle.

5. There are hundreds of figures to master in the game!

In the UK they’re called things like Cradle, Soldier's Bed, Mattress, Candles, Calm Sea, Manger, Upturned Cradle, Saw, Diamonds, Carpet, Mattress Turned Over, Cat's Eye, Fish in a Dish, Pig on Pegs, Hand Drum, Scraggly, Two Royal Crowns, Grandfather Clock and Lucky Tea Kettle. Phew! That’s a lot of moves!

6. You can make candles out of diamonds!

After a figure has been made, the next player very, very carefully takes the string from the hands of the previous player, using a few pinches or pulls to create another figure on their own hands. For example, if the first player has made Diamonds the next player might be able to make Candles!

7. Other countries have some pretty cool and crazy Cat’s Cradle moves!

The Peruvian version of the game features a figure called 'Chicken Bum'. In the Torres Straits, they have a move called 'fighting head hunters' and in New Guinea, they prefer the creepy move 'ghost dance'.

8. There is a Cat’s Cradle World Record! 

Robyn Lawrick and Jane Muir completed over 22,000 changes of Cat's Cradles in 21 hours in Alberta, Canada, 1976. That’s a LOT of different moves. They really had to string it out! We bet by the end they were feeling pretty ropey. We’ll stop the string jokes now. Knot!

9. You only need a piece of string to play Cat’s Cradle!  

Any string or cord will do - even an elastic band - but Cat’s Cradle experts seem to agree that the best length for the Cat’s Cradle string is around 40 inches (or 120cm). World Champion Cat’s Cradlers sometimes practice with extra thick elastic to strengthen their fingers and use the same training techniques as climbers to improve their grip!

10. Cat’s Cradle inspired a book!

Famous writer Kurt Vonnegut used the game Cat’s Cradle to title one of his books. A character in the book explains that the invisible cat in the game Cat’s Cradle is a symbol for all of life's nonsense. Maybe he’s reading too much into it?