November 13, 2019

What Cats Think

Art by Mies van Hout
Text by John Spray
Pajama Press
44 pp.
Ages 6-10
October 2019

Dutch illustrator Mies van Hout has created a series of cat drawings to which author John Spray has matched what a cat might be thinking or feeling or doing or wishing. Each cat may be unique in its colour–rarely the grey, black, orange, brown and white cats of our world– but their expressions and their motives will be very familiar to cat-lovers while letting us into their minds and hearts to learn What Cats Think.
From What Cats Think, art by Mies van Hout, text by John Spray
In brilliant colours of lime green and red, turquoise and purple, Mies van Hout's art, created with acrylics, oil and gouache, startle and comfort the reader with an array of cats. They are skinny and scared, obese and wise, and playful and sneaky. They are no one's cat and they are everyone's cat. 

For each one, John Spray imagines what the cat feels and is experiencing (e.g., vexed, teased, worried, spooked, angry, flustered, panic, joy), what it needs to do (e.g., charm, capture, pout, dream, wash), how it acts (e.g., curious, sneaky) and who they are (e.g., grandmother, princess, clever Tom). It is in the creation of scenarios that John Spray illustrates with words what Mies van Hout's cats say in her art.
I saw him getting out the cage.
Now it's off to the kitty vet.
Needles and that thermometerOUCH!
There'd better be treats later!
From What Cats Think, art by Mies van Hout, text by John Spray
The original Dutch book, Dag Poes!, had a handful of Dutch writers provide poetry about cats to accompany Mies van Hout's illustrations. John Spray's text, however, is personal and a true reflection of the thoughts of each cat as it ponders its circumstances. As a cat person, I appreciate every sentiment expressed. We probably already knew that they hate seeing the cat carrier, don't think they were wrong to sneak on the kitchen counter for a bit of turkey, or delight in a catnip toy, though I'm sad to think that my kitty chirps at birds because it's feeling teased and feels threatened by the neighbour's dogs.
Two big dogs just moved next door!
Slobbery, slathering kitty-eaters!
Maybe I'll hide behind the furnace.
My man says they're only poodles.
From What Cats Think, art by Mies van Hout, text by John Spray
Every cat-lover and -parent knows that cats have a lot going on in their minds and hearts. We may only hear a handful of vocalizations–and most of us can recognize their basics of demands for food, expressions of annoyance, yearnings to play, cravings for solitude–but there is so much more than to understand. With What Cats Think, Mies van Hout and John Spray have given us the context for cats' looks and sounds that will remind us of the depth of feline reasoning and expression. It's not surprising to many that cats have been celebrated and worshipped throughout history and it's best we not forget this.
Grandmother from What Cats Think, art by Mies van Hout, text by John Spray

Get this in your calendar as

 John Spray and his publisher Pajama Press 

are launching 

What Cats Think


Saturday, December 7, 2019

6 - 8 p.m.


Queen Books
914 Queen St. E.
Toronto, ON

Though there will be hors d'oeuvres and drinks, I think the best reason to show up and purchase an autographed copy is that the author's royalties are being donated to Toronto Cat Rescue.


  1. I love the idea of this book. Just don´t tell my dog.

  2. Oh, I so wish I could go! I would love to get an autographed copy!