The story is told from the viewpoint of someone who seems to be a lone human survivor of an attack by formerly-domesticated cats who became intelligent and whose forepaws mutated into "hands."

It's not a long story. The protagonist reflects back to a previous time when he discovered a litter of kittens who had as best I recall "tiny pink hands," being watched over by a male cat who was (somehow) apparently far more intelligent than a normal cat. There was an implication that if the protagonist had done something, or told someone, that humanity might not have been surprised and overwhelmed by the attack of the cats.

If I'm remembering correctly, the cats didn't kill the protagonist along with everyone else because the protagonist helped them. But in the end the cats are coming for the protagonist anyway.

It isn't a story in Brin's collection The River of Time, but I believe I associate the two because I read them around the same time (early 1990s).

  • 2
    Pretty sure this started with the single male cat that kept learning at the "growing kitten" rate after reaching adulthood, and bred true. I read it in Analog back in the 1980s or so.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 14:31
  • 2
    John Scalzi did something similar in "Three Robots", so it sounds like a reasonably common trope.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 0:26
  • Why do the want to exterminate us instead of enslaving us?
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 10:09
  • @user14111 Don't tell us you've never noticed your own (or a friend's) cat seemingly plotting to kill the "owner"...
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 11:24

1 Answer 1


This really sounds like A. Bertram Chandler's No Room in the Stable (available online), even if the details don't quite match:

But, one by one, I caught the poor, half drowned little wretches, opened the front gate just a crack and threw then out into the street. [...] I went outside to make a last check, to make sure that I’d evicted all eight of them. I had. Their mother was lying on her side in the gutter, giving suck. She looked at me very reproachfully.


But that wasn’t what worried me. It was something that I saw, something that I heard although I didn’t remember it properly until They came out from hiding and started to take over the world. I suppose that He, even then, had powers, although they were yet to be developed. He must have inhibited my memory somehow although, then, nobody would have believed my story.

As I picked Him up I saw that his front paws were more like little hands than paws and it is the hands of His children that, with their brains, have enabled them to fight us with their acts of sabotage.

And I heard in my mind a voice, not a human voice, saying, “You will pay for this...”

“You will! You will!” screamed the woman, reaching for the shotgun.

The ex-shopkeeper snatched it from her before she could use it. He said slowly, “Leave him for Them to deal with. Then, almost whispering, “I’d have drowned the little bastards...”

  • 1
    The tiny hands -- this is a good match, and is not the story from Analog that I referenced in my comment on the question. Querent may have another story to find and read... ;)
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 11:23
  • Actually, this might be the story I recall. I see it was collected in Science Fiction Masterpieces which I'm pretty sure I had out from the library at some point. (That's the first place I read Varley's "Air Raid," among others.)
    – DavidW
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 14:47

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