Bob The Cat Brings Salvation
The publication of ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’, a book by James Bowen, who has been homeless in London for several years. James and Bob have become a familiar sight for tourists in and around Covent Garden, where they busk for money to keep a roof over their heads. The book tells the story of how Bob came into James’ life at his hour of greatest need, and how their friendship saved the pair of them from a terrible fate. It’s a wonderful, heart-warming tale.
Bob is no ordinary cat, for sure. He’s so well suited to his lifestyle that he seems almost immune to normal catty fussiness. He’s happy to eat when food is available, rather than constantly asking for more, even when he’s not hungry. He’s sensible about the weather too, and happily wears the little woollen scarfs that James is given for him. He doesn’t fuss, or mew or scratch. He sits happily on James’ shoulder, or on the guitar slung around his neck. There is a stillness to Bob which is quite unlike any other cat you will have met. James says that he enjoys the attention he gets from passers- by and knows what a camera is. But there’s no showboating from Bob. He’s quiet and peaceful, and very gentle with anyone who wants to stroke him.
A Strange Meeting
James was in a terrible state when he first met Bob. Suffering from mental health problems, and thrown out by his family, he had become homeless and moved from the streets to hostels trying to find a way of living that wasn’t so painful. Being rejected by his family at a young age caused untold pain, and before long James – surrounded by drug addicts – became hooked on heroin in an effort to blank out the hurt and keep the cold away. He became terribly ill, thin and unkempt. He found himself living in a flat in Tottenham, and it was here that he opened to door one morning to find Bob. The dirty, scruffy stray was injured and pleading for help. A nasty infected wound needed urgent attention if he was to survive, and James quickly took control of the situation. He immediately took Bob to an animal rescue centre to get antibiotics and nursed him back to full health. Their relationship, forged when they both faced terrible difficulties, probably saved both their lives.
When it was time for James to go back to making a living as a street musician, or selling The Big Issue magazine for the homeless, he noticed that Bob refused to be left in the flat. Bob determinedly followed James to the streets, and patiently sat guarding his bag while he played. Bob always got excited when he knew they were going to work, and soon they were a familiar sight around London. Bob genuinely didn’t mind being stroked by cat loving Londoners and was happy as long as James was with him. If he got tired he climbed on to James’ shoulders for a ride. James was still very ill with his drug addiction, thin and undernourished. But with Bob’s help he began to turn his life around.
James finally managed to kick his heroin habit, which was a tremendous achievement. He has said, “Bob needed me more than I needed to hurt my body”. With the help of friends he began to join the world more fully, and got treatment for his mental health problems. Bob was with him the whole way, and James’ pride in his little cat shines through. He knows Bob is a lifesaver. Earlier this year a literary agent, who passed by James and Bob every day, asked if the pair would like to write a book about their story. James accepted the offer and has been transformed by the support he has received. Telling his story seems to have lifted a weight from him and he now appears fit and healthy. Given a boost by being thrust into the media spot light, James is now well-dressed and finally looks like he’s has some proper healthy food. Bob too seems to have been washed and brushed ready for television interviews and book signings. He’s looking very healthy, but has not let fame go to his head. He patiently sits on the desk during book signings and ‘high fives’ people who ask. He still wears a little scarf and is as happy in the sunshine meeting tourists as he is in front of a TV camera. Fame has not changed him.
It’s been suggested to James that a film may be made of his story, after the success of the book. He’s not looking too far ahead. James is sensible about the money that he will get from the book, and simply hopes he can ‘make his flat nicer’ and perhaps not have to work seven days a week. He also, rather touchingly, says that he wants to be able to afford pet health insurance for Bob, in case something went wrong. He says he’s been unable to afford it up to now, and doesn’t know how he managed if Bob became ill. Hopefully, with the help if the RSPCA animal charity, Bob would not suffer too much if he fell ill, but insuring Bob’s continued health and happiness is James’ priority. He’d rather take personal responsibility than rely on handouts for his pet.
James is an intelligent, gentle soul who has pulled himself up from the depths of suffering and despair, with the help of his pet. He’s talking of Bob becoming a Care in the Community pet, who visits the sick and disabled. He shyly wonders if he might ‘get some training’ in order to work helping others in distress. Bob is the centre of attention, but without James’ kindness and selflessness this would not be the happy story it is. He reminds us of the goodness in people we might just pass by on the street every day. It’s a salutary lesson that it took a ginger cat to shine a spotlight on this worthy young man.