Bob the cat’s star turn

The queue snakes out of the doors of Waterstones and onto Islington Green. A staff member says it is the biggest crowd they have ever pulled in for a signing; over 200 members of the public, a TV crew and a gaggle of journalists eagerly await the arrival of street musician James Bowen and his doting companion, Bob the cat.

The placid ginger tom is nothing short of a feline celebrity. He has his own Wikipedia entry, his own Oyster card and now his very own book—A Street Cat Named Bob—co-written by his owner.

“It’s incredible the response I’ve had,” says Bowen. “To see people queuing around the block to meet us… Wow! That’s craziness. I feel so honoured that people think so much of Bob and myself.

“I felt overawed when I first saw everyone; it frightened me to tell the truth. Bob takes it in his stride though. He always does. He’s one of a kind.”

He’s not wrong. Bob is lapping up the attention. He even has his own bespoke paw stamp for the signing and by the end of the evening he amasses four bags of treats from his adoring fans.

Familiar faces on the streets of Islington where Bowen sold The Big Issue, the pair have been inseparable for five years.

The 33-year-old Londoner first encountered Bob, who is thought to be six years old, in Tottenham, close to Bowen’s sheltered accommodation.

Bob was severely injured following a suspected animal attack. Bowen was a recovering drug addict and facing a similarly uncertain future.

“James had just arrived in the accommodation. As he mentions in the book, he was on his last chance when he came across Bob,” says the book’s co-author, writer and journalist Garry Jenkins.

Bowen took him in, nursed him back to health and then sent him on his way. Except Bob refused to leave his side.

“From that point they’ve both moved slowly upwards,” continues Jenkins.

“London is a city of lost souls and here are two of them. They were broken individuals, struggling. But they’re survivors too and their paths just happened to cross. Their journey has been the same journey.”

The duo became a star attraction outside Angel tube station with Bob draped around Bowen’s shoulders or sprawled on his owner’s rucksack.

Their legion of fans included Islington resident Mary Pachnos, a literary agent at Aitken Alexander Associates Ltd, which represents Sebastian Faulks, and Germaine Greer.

“I passed by James a few times and thought ‘that’s unusual – you don’t normally see a cat!’ And I do love cats. Then I saw a piece in a local paper about their amazing friendship and decided ‘I’ve got to get them before anyone else does.’ James was enthusiastic from the outset. He’s a booklover; very literate and very articulate.”

“The process of writing the book was really enjoyable and actually quite easy to be honest. Just telling my story as it was,” says Bowen.

The book charts the pair’s many adventures in north London and Covent Garden, where they now entertain onlookers.

“The book took nine months to complete,” adds Jenkins. “Much of it was written here in Waterstones, which is why we wanted the store to host a signing.”

At its heart is the theme of survival, continues Jenkins. “James said that before he met Bob he felt invisible. We all need a friend, and he’s found an extraordinary friend in Bob.”

Fast forward 18 months from the book’s conception and its furry star is enjoying his time in the limelight.

“Bob’s definitely become a bit of a J-Lo diva that’s for sure,” says Bowen.

“What’s next? World domination, that’s what cats want isn’t it? A film would be nice!”

Given the book has already been translated into seven languages and the pair have been invited onto the This Morning sofa, maybe the big screen is not such a pipe dream after all.

A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets of London, is out now published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced at £14.99.

9 comments on “Bob the cat’s star turn

  1. I have read “A Street Cat Named Bob” as well as “The World According to Bob” not just once but twice and am truly grateful to have come across these books by a coincidence, which was perhaps not a coincidence after all. The message of the books goes straight to my heart, and I must admit that I shed more than just a few tears while reading them. Thank you James and Bob for giving me such a wonderful experience.

  2. I am a Chinese reader and I am just sodeeply moved by James and Bob?I love this.pair….?Carry on James?Support you and Bob here… You both are so sweet and hardworking good natured creatures?

  3. From the dates of the previous comments, with which I agree entirely, I was a “late comer” to the world of James and Bob which I regret, the voyage which they have taken is a superb mix of tears for the reader. The tears of sadness are chased away by the ones of humor and happiness before the experience begins once more! These activities may only be the ones that I went through, time after time, but I guess that, like James I was not alone! Thank you Bob and James for giving me the strange, but satisfying, emotional workout. Keith

  4. Loved this wonderful experience and can’t help but know God was in the process. He has something special for these two special creatures. What are they up to at this present time (Mar 2015)? Read something about cat cafes.

  5. I met them both every week at Angel Tube-Station in London in the year 2010, and it was clear that Bob saved James and took care of him, and James saved Bob in return. I told James. Very happy to see that all came to fruition. Maybe he remembers me. The woman that came by every Friday.

  6. I feel honoured to have read and seen the story of two souls that came together to save each other. Long may they live with love and peace in their hearts.

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