The Fox and The Cat

Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon. A cat goes up a tree and gets away while a fox is caught trying to figure out what to do.

Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon.

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children

Cat and Fox

Milo Winter (1919)

Once a Cat and a Fox were traveling together. As they went along, picking up provisions on the way—a stray mouse here, a fat chicken there—they began an argument to while away the time between bites. And, as usually happens when comrades argue, the talk began to get personal.

“You think you are extremely clever, don’t you?” said the Fox. “Do you pretend to know more than I? Why, I know a whole sackful of tricks!”

“Well,” retorted the Cat, “I admit I know one trick only, but that one, let me tell you, is worth a thousand of yours!”

Just then, close by, they heard a hunter’s horn and the yelping of a pack of hounds. In an instant the Cat was up a tree, hiding among the leaves.

“This is my trick,” he called to the Fox. “Now let me see what yours are worth.”

But the Fox had so many plans for escape he could not decide which one to try first. He dodged here and there with the hounds at his heels. He doubled on his tracks, he ran at top speed, he entered a dozen burrows,—but all in vain. The hounds caught him, and soon put an end to the boaster and all his tricks.


Common sense is always worth more than cunning.

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

A Fox was boasting to a Cat of its clever devices for escaping its enemies. “I have a whole bag of tricks,” he said, “which contains a hundred ways of escaping my enemies.”

“I have only one,” said the Cat; “but I can generally manage with that.” Just at that moment they heard the cry of a pack of hounds coming towards them, and the Cat immediately scampered up a tree and hid herself in the boughs.

“This is my plan,” said the Cat. “What are you going to do?”

The Fox thought first of one way, then of another, and while he was debating the hounds came nearer and nearer, and at last the Fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds and soon killed by the huntsmen. Miss Puss, who had been looking on, said: “Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon.”

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall (The Cat and the Fox)

Croxall - Cat and FoxAS the Cat and the Fox were talking politics together, on a time, in the middle of a forest, Reynard said, let things turn out ever so bad, he did not care, for he had a thousand tricks for them yet, before they should hurt him: But pray says he, Mrs. Puss, suppose there should be an invasion what course do you design to take? Nay, says the Cat, I have but one shift for it, and if that won’t do, I am undone. I am sorry for you, replies Reynard, with all my heart, and would gladly furnish you with one or two of mine; but indeed, neighbour, as times go, it is not good to trust; we must even be every one for himself, as the saying is, and so your humble servant. These words were scarce out of his mouth, when they were alarmed with a pack of hounds, that came upon them full cry. The Cat, by the help of her single shift, ran up a tree, and sat securely among the top branches; from whence she beheld Reynard, who had not been able to get out of sight, overtaken with his thousand tricks, and torn in as many pieces by the Dogs which had surrounded him.


Whittingham - Cat and Fox

C. Whittingham (1814)

A man that sets up for more cunning than the rest of his neighbours, is generally a silly fellow at the bottom. Whoever is master of a little judgment and insight into things, let him keep them to himself, and make use of them as he sees occasion; but he should not be telling others with an idle and impertinent ostentation of them. One good discreet expedient made use of upon an emergency, will do a man more real service, and make others think better of him, than to have passed all along for a shrewd crafty knave, and be bubbled at last. When any one has been such a coxcomb as to insult his acquaintance, by pretending to more policy and stratagem than the rest of mankind, they are apt to wish For some difficulty for him to show his skill in; where, if he should miscarry, (as ten to one but he does) his misfortune, instead of pity, is sure to be attended with laughter. He that sets up for a biter, as the phrase is being generally intent upon his prey, or vain of showing his art, frequently exposes himself to the traps of one sharper than himself, and incurs the ridicule of those whom he designed to make ridiculous.

Taylor RhymesJefferys Taylor

Taylor - Cat and Fox 0147A CAT and a fox held a long consultation
Concerning the times, and the state of the nation;
When the aspect of things led them both to infer
That a grand revolution must shortly occur.

Said the fox, “For my country, it is that I fear,
For, as to myself, I can always get clear;
I have not, at present, much reason to fret,
For I’ve got a thousand new schemes for them yet.”

“Indeed!” said the cat; “as for me, I’ve but one,
And if that should fail I’m for ever undone,
The only protection remaining for me,
When the enemy comes, I must find in a tree.”

“A very poor prospect,” said Reynard, “I trow.”
“But see!” said the cat, “they’re approaching us now!”
Then each to his mode of escaping betook,
The fox to his schemes, and the cat to an oak,
Who found in the tree she could safely remain;
While the fox with his thousand manoeuvres was slain.

Hence it needs must appear, that when danger is near,
Cunning folks are not cunning enough;
And that persons who boast of their cleverness most
Fare the worst when its put to the proof.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Cat and Fox

Ernest Griset (1874)

The Cat and the Fox were once talking together in the middle of a forest. “Let things be ever so bad,” said Reynard, “I don’t care; I have a hundred shifts, if one should fail.” “I,” said the Cat, “have but one; if that fails me I am undone.” Just then a pack of Hounds burst into view. The Cat flew up a tree, and sat securely among the branches, and thence saw the Fox, after trying his hundred shifts in vain, overtaken by the Dogs and torn in pieces.

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual


Cat and Fox

The Fox said “I can play, when it fits,
Many wiles that with man make me quits.”
“But my trick’s up a tree!”
Said the Cat, safe to see
Clever Fox hunted out of his wits.

Trust to skill rather than wit.

1001Vulpes et Catus

Contrahebant inter se amicitias catus et vulpes, cui vulpes astutiarum suarum grandem recensebat numerum. Catus replicuit, “Ast ego uno tantum consilio et, quod Natura ad meipsum praeservandum suggessit, contentus sum.” Inter haec, odoram canum vim appropinquantium audiunt. Catus confestim altissimos arboris scandebat ramos et secure despectans sedebat. Vulpes autem et hic et illic trepide currebat et, nulla aufugiendi spe relicta, nulla uspiam latebra inventa, a canibus apprehensa laceratur.

1001Herinaceus et Vulpes, Iter Facientes

Cum una forte iter facerent vulpes et herinaceus, gloriabatur illa et ostentabat ingenii sui calliditatem et se plurimarum artium notitia instructam esse superbe praedicabat et rogabat quid herinaceus sciret. “Nihil enim,” inquit herinaceus, “nisi me in globulum convolvere.” Hoc enimvero irridebat illa et contemnendum ducebat. Paulo post, incidunt in canes, qui cum omnibus artibus vulpem capiunt et discerpunt; spinis autem suis tectus et defensus, herinaceus omne periculum evasit.

Perry #605