Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag: A Preschool Literature Unit About Cats
About the Story
Children love pets, so the classic book Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag is sure to become a favorite. The story is about an elderly couple that is lonely. The wife feels that if she had a cat, this would make her feel better. So, the elderly man went out in search of a cat for his wife.
He walked over hills and through valleys until he found a hill that had many cats living there. He picked up one cat that he thought would be perfect for his wife, but then there was another cute one, and another, and another, until the old man took home an enormous amount of cats.
The old woman was grateful, but told her husband they could only afford to keep one cat. They thought that the cats could decide who would be the one to stay with the couple, so the man said. “Which one of you is the prettiest?” This started a quarrel among the cats until they all were gone except one tiny kitten who knew he wasn’t the prettiest and hid in the tall grass. Even though this cat was tiny and scrawny, it was the prettiest cat of them all to the couple. And they lived happily ever after.
This book was written by Wanda Gag in 1928 and won a Newberry Honor. She also illustrated this book with black and white sketches. Today, it’s still an entertaining story for preschool children – perfect when teaching a theme about cats or pets.
Circle Time Activities for Millions of Cats
Young children enjoy songs and poems with repetitive phrases. This book has one that is worth teaching your class. Every time you get to this part, have your students repeat the part with you.
“Cats here, cats there,
Cats and kittens everywhere.
Hundreds of cats,
Thousands of cats,
Millions and billions and trillions of cats.”
Encourage the children to make cats sounds as well.
Talk about cats as pets. Ask who has a cat or kitten at home. Who takes care of the pet at home? What do you do to care for and love your cat? How does your cat make you feel?
Vote for the prettiest cat in this activity. Cut out four cat pictures from a magazine or catalog and glue them side-by-side on a poster board. Make sure you have a variety in color and breed. Give each child an adhesive color dot sticker. One by one, ask the children to come up to the board and place their sticker under the cat who they choose as the prettiest. After all the votes have been cast, count up the stickers to see which cat won the contest.
C is for Cat - Art
- Take a paper plate and cut out the inside circle to leave the outside edge. Cut out a portion on the right side to make this plate look like the letter C.
- Invite the children to paint the letter in the color of their choice (use the dull side of the paper that lets the paint adhere the best). Put this aside to dry.
- Cut out a tail, two cat ears, nose, and whiskers from construction paper (a different color). You can use large googly eyes or cut white eyeballs and black pupils from paper.
- Glue the facial features and tail to the letter C cat.
- Personalize each artwork with the child’s name, such as Tara’s Cat.
Yarn Ball Toss - Game
Cats are notorious for playing with yarn just like the kitten in the story, so a yarn ball toss game is fitting for this theme unit. Prepare balls of yarn before the start of this game. Place a line on the floor for the children to stand on. This distance where you put a laundry basket depends on the age of your students and their developmental abilities.
Give the child (player) several yarn balls to toss inside the basket. Make sure all students have a turn and repeat the game if time and interest allows.
Cat Faces - Math
This math activity is in the form of counting whiskers on the cat’s face. The teacher draws a cat face on paper plates - one for each number to be counted. Younger students may be comfortable counting from one to five, whereas older children may count to 10.
Cut slits at the nose/mouth area on each plate and then write a number at the top. Place a stack of pipe cleaners on the table. The child must thread the same amount of pipe cleaners through the back slit as marked on the cat’s face. Children can take turns playing this math game.
I’m a Little Cat - Music
Teach your class this piggyback song to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.”
I’m a little cat, soft and furry.
I’ll be your friend, so do not worry.
Right up on your lap I like to hop.
I’ll purr, purr, purr and never stop.
Talk to the children about a cat’s diet. What do they like to eat?
Serve some of these items for snack time, including milk, cheese, and tuna fish.
Ask each child to review the story with you.
The old man had trouble deciding which cat to bring home to this wife. Do you ever have problems deciding on things? What to wear? What to eat? What else?
Why did the cats start fighting with each other? Is it that important to be the prettiest? (This opens a discussion about self-esteem.) Note that in the text of the story, the old woman said, “I think they must have eaten each other all up.” This statement may scare young children. Explain that this is only a tale and not a real situation. You may want to say that the cats got tired of fighting and ran away.
How did the old man and old woman take care of the kitten? (This opens a discussion about pet care).