This inspiring bestseller is the heartwarming story of a street musician and the ginger cat who saved his life
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
There’s an old adage I read somewhere. It says each of us is given second chances every day of our lives. They are there for the taking, it’s just that we don’t usually take them.
I spent a significant chunk of my life proving how true those words are. I was given a lot of opportunities, sometimes on a daily basis. For a long time I failed to take any of them, but then, in the early spring of 2007, that finally began to change. It was then that I befriended Bob. Looking back on it, something tells me it might have been his second chance too.
I first encountered him on a gloomy, Thursday evening in March. London hadn’t quite shaken off the winter and it was still bitingly cold on the streets, especially when the winds blew in off the Thames. There had even been a hint of frost in the air that night, which was why I’d arrived back at my new, sheltered accommodation in Tottenham, north London, a little earlier than usual after a day busking around Covent Garden.
As normal, I had my black guitar case and rucksack slung over my shoulders but this evening I also had my closest friend, Belle, with me. We’d gone out together years ago but were just mates now. We were going to eat a cheap takeaway curry and watch a movie on the small black and white television set I’d managed to find in a charity shop round the corner.
As usual, the lift in the apartment block wasn’t working so we headed for the first flight of stairs, resigned to making the long trudge up to the fifth floor.
The strip lighting in the hallway was broken and part of the ground floor was swathed in darkness, but as we made our way to the stairwell I couldn’t help noticing a pair of glowing eyes in the gloom. When I heard a gentle, slightly plaintive meowing I realised what it was.
Edging closer, in the half-light I could see a ginger cat curled up on a doormat outside one of the ground-floor flats in the corridor that led off the hallway.
I’d grown up with cats and had always had a bit of a soft spot for them. As I moved in and got a good look I could tell he was a tom, a male.
I hadn’t seen him around the flats before, but even in the darkness I could tell there was something about him, I could already tell that he had something of a personality. He wasn’t in the slightest bit nervous, in fact, completely the opposite. There was a quiet, unflappable confidence about him. He looked like he was very much at home here in the shadows and to judge by the way he was fixing me with a steady, curious, intelligent stare, I was the one who was straying into his territory. It was as if he was saying: ‘So who are you and what brings you here?’
I couldn’t resist kneeling down and introducing myself.
‘Hello, mate. I’ve not seen you before, do you live here?’ I said.
He just looked at me with the same studious, slightly aloof expression, as if he was still weighing me up.
I decided to stroke his neck, partly to make friends but partly to see if he was wearing a collar or any form of identification. It was hard to tell in the dark, but I realised there was nothing, which immediately suggested to me that he was a stray. London had more than its fair share of those.
He seemed to be enjoying the affection, and began brushing himself lightly against me. As I petted him a little more, I could feel that his coat was in poor condition, with uneven bald patches here and there. He was clearly in need of a good meal. From the way he was rubbing against me, he was also in need of a bit of TLC.
‘Poor chap, I think he’s a stray. He’s not got a collar and he’s really thin,’ I said, looking up at Belle, who was waiting patiently by the foot of the stairs.
She knew I had a weakness for cats.
‘No, James, you can’t have him,’ she said, nodding towards the door of the flat that the cat was sitting outside. ‘He can’t have just wandered in here and settled on this spot, he must belong to whoever lives there. Probably waiting for them to come home and let him in.’
Reluctantly, I agreed with her. I couldn’t just pick up a cat and take him home with me, even if all the signs pointed to the fact it was homeless. I’d barely moved into this place myself and was still trying to sort out my flat. What if it did belong to the person living in that flat? They weren’t going to take too kindly to someone carrying off their pet, were they?
Besides, the last thing I needed right now was the extra responsibility of a cat. I was a failed musician and recovering drug addict living a hand-to-mouth existence in sheltered accommodation. Taking responsibility for myself was hard enough.
* * *
The following morning, Friday, I headed downstairs to find the ginger tom still sitting there. It was as if he hadn’t shifted from the same spot in the past twelve hours or so.
Once again I dropped down on one knee and stroked him. Once again it was obvious that he loved it. He was purring away, appreciating the attention he was getting. He hadn’t learned to trust me 100 per cent yet. But I could tell he thought I was OK.
In the daylight I could see that he was a gorgeous creature. He had a really striking face with amazingly piercing green eyes, although, looking closer, I could tell that he must have been in a fight or an accident because there were scratches on his face and legs. As I’d guessed the previous evening, his coat was in very poor condition. It was very thin and wiry in places with at least half a dozen bald patches where you could see the skin. I was now feeling genuinely concerned about him, but again I told myself that I had more than enough to worry about getting myself straightened out. So, more than a little reluctantly, I headed off to catch the bus from Tottenham to central London and Covent Garden where I was going to once more try and earn a few quid busking.
By the time I got back that night it was pretty late, almost ten o’clock. I immediately headed for the corridor where I’d seen the ginger tom but there was no sign of him. Part of me was disappointed. I’d taken a bit of a shine to him. But mostly I felt relieved. I assumed he must have been let in by his owner when they’d got back from wherever it was they had been.
* * *
My heart sank a bit when I went down again the next day and saw him back in the same position again. By now he was slightly more vulnerable and dishevelled than before. He looked cold and hungry and he was shaking a little.
‘Still here then,’ I said, stroking him. ‘Not looking so good today.’
I decided that this had gone on for long enough.
So I knocked on the door of the flat. I felt I had to say something. If this was their pet, it was no way to treat him. He needed something to eat and drink – and maybe even some medical attention.
A guy appeared at the door. He was unshaven, wearing a T-shirt and a pair of tracksuit bottoms and looked like he’d been sleeping even though it was the middle of the afternoon.
‘Sorry to bother you, mate. Is this your cat?’ I asked him.
For a second he looked at me as if I was slightly mad.
‘What cat?’ he said, before looking down and seeing the ginger tom curled up in a ball on the doormat.
‘Oh. No,’ he said, with a disinterested shrug. ‘Nothing to do with me, mate.’
‘He’s been there for days,’ I said, again drawing a blank look.
‘Has he? Must have smelled cooking or something. Well, as I say, nothing to do with me.’
He then slammed the door shut.
I made my mind up immediately.
‘OK, mate, you are coming with me,’ I said, digging into my rucksack for the box of biscuits I carried specifically to give treats to the cats and dogs that regularly approached me when I was busking.
I rattled it at him and he was immediately up on all fours, following me.
I could see he was a bit uneasy on his feet and was carrying one of his back legs in an awkward manner, so we took our time climbing the five flights of stairs. A few minutes later we were safely ensconced in my flat.
My flat was threadbare, it’s fair to say. Apart from the telly, all I had in there was a second-hand sofa bed, a mattress in the corner of the small bedroom, and in the kitchen area a half-working refrigerator, a microwave, a kettle and a toaster. There was no cooker. The only other things in the flat were my books, videos and knick-knacks.
I’m a bit of a magpie; I collect all sorts of stuff from the street. At that time I had a broken parking meter in one corner, and a broken mannequin with a cowboy hat on its head in another. A friend once called my place ‘the old curiosity shop’, but as he sussed out his new environment the only thing the tom was curious about was the kitchen.
I fished out some milk from the fridge, poured it into a saucer and mixed it with a bit of water. I know that − contrary to popular opinion − milk can be bad for cats because, in fact, they are actually lactose intolerant. He lapped it up in seconds.
I had a bit of tuna in the fridge so I mixed it up with some mashed up biscuits and gave that to him as well. Again, he wolfed it down. Poor thing, he must be absolutely starving, I thought to myself.
After the cold and dark of the corridor, the flat was five-star luxury as far as the tom was concerned. He seemed very pleased to be there and after being fed in the kitchen he headed for the living room where he curled up on the floor, near the radiator.
As I sat and watched him more carefully, there was no doubt in my mind that there was something wrong with his leg. Sure enough, when I sat on the floor next to him and started examining him I found that he had a big abscess on the back of his rear right leg. The wound was the size of a large, canine-like tooth, which gave me a good idea how he’d got it. He’d probably been attacked by a dog, or possibly a fox, that had stuck its teeth into his leg and clung on to him as he’d tried to escape. He also had a lot of scratches, one on his face not far from his eye, and others on his coat and legs.
I sterilised the wound as best as I could by putting him in the bathtub then putting some non-alcoholic moisturiser around the wound and some Vaseline on the wound itself. A lot of cats would have created havoc if I’d tried to treat them like that but he was as good as gold.
He spent most of the rest of the day curled up on what was already his favourite spot, near the radiator. But he also roamed around the flat a bit every now and again, jumping up and scratching at whatever he could find. Having ignored it earlier on, he now began to find the mannequin in the corner a bit of a magnet. I didn’t mind. He could do whatever he liked to it.
I knew ginger toms could be very lively and could tell he had a lot of pent-up energy. When I went to stroke him, he jumped up and started pawing at me. At one point he got quite animated, scratching furiously and almost cutting my hand
‘OK, mate, calm down,’ I said, lifting him off me and putting him down on the floor. I knew that young males who hadn’t been neutered could become extremely lively. My guess was that he was still ‘complete’ and was well into puberty. I couldn’t be sure, of course, but it again underlined the nagging feeling that he must have come off the streets rather than from a home.
I spent the evening watching television, the tom curled up by the radiator, seemingly content to be there. He only moved when I went to bed, picking himself up and following me into the bedroom where he wrapped himself up into a ball by my feet at the edge of the bed.
As I listened to his gentle purring in the dark, it felt good to have him there. He was company, I guess. I’d not had a lot of that lately.
* * *
On Sunday morning I got up reasonably early and decided to hit the streets to see if I could find his owner. I figured that someone might have stuck up a ‘Lost Cat’ poster. There was almost always a photocopied appeal for the return of a missing pet plastered on local lampposts, noticeboards and even bus stops. There seemed to be so many missing moggies that there were times when I wondered whether there was a cat-napping gang at work in the area.
Just in case I found the owner quickly, I took the cat with me, attaching him to a leash I’d made out of a shoelace to keep him safe. He was happy to walk by my side as we took the stairs to the ground floor.
Outside the block of flats the cat began pulling on the string lead as if he wanted to head off. I guessed that he wanted to do his business. Sure enough he headed off into a patch of greenery and bushes adjoining a neighbouring building and disappeared for a minute or two to heed nature’s call. He then returned to me and happily slipped back into the lead.
He must really trust me, I thought to myself. I immediately felt that I had to repay that trust and try and help him out.
My first port of call was the lady who lived across the street. She was known locally for looking after cats. She fed the neighbourhood strays and got them neutered, if necessary. When she opened the door I saw at least five cats living inside. Goodness knows how many more she had out the back. It seemed that every cat for miles headed to her backyard knowing it was the best place to get some food. I didn’t know how she could afford to feed them all.
She saw the tom and took a shine to him straight away, offering him a little treat.
She was a lovely lady but didn’t know anything about where he’d come from. She’d not seen him around the area.
‘I bet he’s come from somewhere else in London. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s been dumped,’ she said. She said she’d keep her eyes and ears open in case she heard anything.
I had a feeling she was right about him being from somewhere far from Tottenham.
Out of interest, I took the cat off his lead to see if he knew what direction to go in. But as we walked the streets, it was obvious he didn’t know where he was. He seemed completely lost. He looked at me as if to say: ‘I don’t know where I am; I want to stay with you.’
We were out for a few hours. At one point he scurried off into a bush to do his business again, leaving me to ask any passing locals whether they recognised him. All I got was blank looks and shrugs.
It was obvious that he didn’t want to leave me. As we wandered around, I couldn’t help wondering about his story: where he’d come from and what sort of life he’d led before he’d come and sat on the mat downstairs.
Part of me was convinced that the ‘cat lady’ across the street was right and he was a family pet. He was a fine-looking cat and had probably been bought for Christmas or someone’s birthday. Gingers can be a bit mental and worse if not neutered, as I’d already seen. They can get very dominant, much more so than other cats. My hunch was that when he’d become boisterous and frisky he had also become a little too much to handle.
I imagined the parents saying ‘enough is enough’ and − rather than taking him to a refuge or the RSPCA − sticking him in the back of the family car, taking him for a drive and throwing him out into the street or on to the roadside.
Cats have a great sense of direction, but he’d obviously been let loose far from home and hadn’t gone back. Or maybe he’d known that it wasn’t really home at all and decided to find a new one.
My other theory was that he’d belonged to an old person who had passed away.
Of course, it was possible that wasn’t the case at all. The fact that he wasn’t house-trained was the main argument against him having been domesticated. But the more I got to know him the more convinced I was that he had definitely been used to being around one person. He seemed to latch on to people whom he thought would look after him. That’s what he’d done with me.
The biggest clue about his background was his injury, which looked nasty. He’d definitely picked that up in a fight. From the way it was leaking pus, the wound must have been a few days old, maybe even a week. That suggested another possibility to me.
London has always had a large population of street cats, strays who wander the streets living off scraps and the comfort of strangers. Five or six hundred years ago, places like Gresham Street in the City, Clerkenwell Green and Drury Lane used to be known as ‘cat streets’ and were overrun with them. These strays are the flotsam and jetsam of the city, running around fighting for survival on a daily basis. A lot of them were like this ginger tom: slightly battered, broken creatures.
Maybe he’d spotted a kindred spirit in me.
Copyright © 2013 by James Bowen.
Table of Contents
1 Fellow Travellers 1
2 Road To Recovery 15
3 The Snip 39
4 Ticket To Ride 49
5 Centre of Attention 57
6 One Man and His Cat 73
7 The Two Musketeers 93
8 Making It Official 107
9 The Escape Artist 115
10 Santa Paws 127
11 Mistaken Identity 137
12 Number 683 153
13 Pitch Perfect 169
14 Under the Weather 177
15 The Naughty List 191
16 Angel Hearts 211
17 Forty-eight Hours 221
18 Homeward Bound 233
19 The Stationmaster 249
20 The Longest Night 257
21 Bob, The Big Issue Cat 269
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Loved this book! It touches the soul. It's an amazing story of how a cat gave one mentally ill man a reason to live and kick a vicious drug addiction.
James Bowen's A Street Cat Named Bob is an incredibly heartwarming story. Reading it fills you with joy and love. A darn good book!
An incredible story two fold. The characters are a homeless man and a sick and homeless cat. The story of a cat finding the man and the book they wrote. The story is true. To start at the beginning, James’ has had many ups and downs, twists and turns that have influenced his life. His mother and father divorced when he was young. James’ mother, a career woman re-married and the family moved from England to Australia. As a youngster he attended several schools as the family moved frequently. As a result James had trouble fitting in with the other children. He was identified as a ‘problem child’ early in life and was diagnosed with ADHD, schizophrenia and manic depression. James did not like or get along with his stepfather and returned to England. He lived with his sister and her husband for a short time but this did not work out and James became homeless. James has been homeless most of his adult life living on the streets, in shelters for the homeless and sheltered accommodation. Living rough in London, England for about ten years, James has survived by busking and selling the Big Issue, a street newspaper sold by the homeless in eight countries. He spent many years living in hostels and shelters and succumbed to drugs, Heroin being his drug of choice. Fortunately James was able to break the cycle of addiction with the help of his ‘some time’ partner, Belle, who was also former heroin addict as well as charities such as Connections at St Martin-in-the-Fields. One of the greatest influences in James life has been Bob the cat who turned up on his doorstep one day. Bob has given James a reason to live and put his life back on track. The two were suffering and needed each other. On Methadone as part of his treatment to get off heroin James was struggling to survive. Bob was injured, hungry, and homeless. The most amazing part of this story is that Bob began following James to the areas where he did his busking and later selling The Big Issue. Naturally the pair attracted much attention, many pictures taken and videos on YouTube. Unbeknown to Bob and James, they were becoming quite famous. A result of all the pictures and videos came when a literary agent saw them and suggested James write a book, which he did in collaboration with Garry Jenkins. A must read for all who love a heartwarming story, love cats and just want a good read.
I received my copy a day after my beloved cat died, I could not read it right away, but a few days later still very sad, I started reading it. It brought me much comfort and I finished the book in a day. I could not put it down. Excellent book well worth the read.
I have bought several copies of this book and given them to friends. Without exception, all were reluctant to read a "cat book"--but after a little persuasion--none of them could put the book down. James Bowen's story is compelling --full of pathos, comic moments, epiphanies and joy. Bob, an orange cat--or Ginger, as they call these cats the color of marmalade, is an astonishing creature. The two found one another and like the title says, were one another's salvation from a lonely, sick, sad life. The book really is how love can rescue and redeem any of us--we just need to let it work its magic. The prose is simple and the story straightforward but with transitions that make you keep turning the page to see what happens next. It's a page turner! And I challenge anyone to read this book and not feel the love just radiating from the pages. When I read it, I realized that I would never turn my eyes away when I see a homeless person. I want to help them as well as contribute to helping abandoned, abused or stray animals. James and Bob's journey together will never be forgotten by me--and probably not by you, eithe
Definitely a HIGH FIVE!!! Fabulous book! I read it in less than a day last year when it was out in the kindle edition. When you get to know the author and his soul mate through interviews, videos, etc. you will love it even more. What a kind hearted good soul! An extraordinary young man and absolutely fabulous gorgeous feline.
Very heartwarming story! I am a dog lover but reading this book made me surprisingly like cats :-). This story is unbelievable and so sweet!!!! Kept me turning from from one page to the next.
I rate it a 5. Read the book a friend from Manchester England loaned me that was sent to her from relatives. I have been in love with Bob since. The life of James and his discovery of "gift of giving" are inspirational. I will be buying my own copy soon as I want to have it to re-read. Their story will never leave my heart. Thank you James for sharin your story and Bob with us in the US. Pattie B.
Wonderful story of a street cat and the young man who became both: the cat's rescuer and resuee. I am not a cat person, but Bob the cat has me sold on little felines.
Excellent book I have ever read up till that time.... inspiring and heartwarming one .I could not put it down and finished in one sitting..
I recently read "A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved Me" after a friend mentioned James Bowen and Bob at lunch a few weeks ago and I realized I still had the book sitting on a shelf (I'd purchased it a few months ago). Neither James nor Bob have lived a perfect life and James' honesty in telling their story (good, bad, otherwise) is really great. Overcoming addiction and/or struggles is difficult for anyone and James' taking responsibility for both Bob and himself leads to a much better life! It touches on the lives of those many of us in society often do not see or wish to see - the homeless, recovering addicts, street performers, buskers, and many others. This book is very human and a touching story. It's wonderful to see James doing good for both himself and Bob! I wish you the utmost success in the USA!
A story that really touched my heart. Each of our little furry friends is of course unique, but Bob is truly extraordinary, and it was wonderful to read the story of these two beings who support and love each other, and end up literally saving each other. I shed a few tears reading the book, but there was laughter and smiles too. I would recommend it to anyone with empathy and compassion, whether or not you're a cat fan, and perhaps you will be by the time you finish this book.
You wouldn't believe how heartwarming this story is. And how it opens up the world of homelessness. It is amazing how Bob found James and how much they grew to mean to each other. This book is a wonderful read - you can't help but be impressed with both James and Bob.
I loved this book. With the way things are going in the world, it was a refreshing change to read a book of hope and inspiration!
I give this book a HIGH FIVE!
This book is a must read! Everyone has his/her trials and tribulations. James Bowen and his ginger tom Bob are no exception. Both James and Bob are in need of medical care and a home. I am proud of James Bowen's courage to take on the responsibility of taking care of another being (in this case a cat), when James is not sure how he is going to take care of himself let alone overcome his addiction to heroin. Nevertheless, James made sure Bob got the medical care he needed, food, as well as, a home. Bob, in return, brought to the forefront the issue of addiction and homelessness by capturing the attention of people passing by thereby bridging a gap that allows James to be eventually acknowledge as a person in need of a way to support himself and Bob instead of remaining an invisible entity that people tend to ignore in society. We live in a complex stressful society, where maybe some people are just one step away from being in the same shoes as James. Bob has a way of diffusing the situation allowing an open dialogue to be initiated between the homeless and society. I hope James Bowen and Bob remain advocates for people who suffer from drug addiction and homelessness.
a truly inspiring story about 2 lost beings who in their lowest moments found each other at the right time!!! thank you james for sharing this great and touching story of how you and bob met .
Quick, heartwarming read. The author draws parallels between his own life as a recovering addict, and that of Bob, also formerly homeless. Interestingly, he writes more about his worry and concern for Bob's well-being than his own, as he weans off methodone treatments. I'm guessing just about everyone who reads this book will to a YouTube search of Bob the Big Issue Cat, just to see him in action.
A heartwarming story of second chances. The author candidly tells his story of life's failures and how a stray cat named Bob helped him along the road to recovery. You won't want to put it down. Well edited.
If you are an animal lover you will truly enjoy this book. I have always believed in the power of animals to help humans heal. bob is definitely proof of that idea. this is a heartwarming story and an easy read. I highly recommend it.
I love this book! It is such a heartwarming and inspirational book! Bob changed James's life forever, and James changed Bob's life forever. I always believe we do not choose a cat, they choose us. James accepted responsibility and changed his life, because he had someone in his life who cared, Bob. Bob and James have a deep bond that can't be matched.
This book was wonderful. I couldn't put it down. With all the negativity in the world today it was so good to read about the power of love. I'm a cat lover but I believe that anyone would get a lot of happiness out of this book.
How could I pass up that book cover with a beautiful ginger tabby perched happily on his person's shoulders? Being a cat lover, I could not! I completely empathized with Jame's ability to communicate with Bob and the incredible bond they share. I have been touched by substance addiction in my family and it made me wish I understood my deceased brother's struggles better. James and Bob's story is inspiring in that both came together by happenstance and were enriched by each other's company.
I loved this book. It was interesting and kept my attention all the way through. I didn't know I was prejudiced against homeless people when I see them with pets. I always thought they shouldn't have a pet because they couldn't take proper care of them. I have changed my opinion since reading this book! Everyone deserves love in whatever form you can get it. Bob and James are in a loving relationship that touched my heart. I am buying this book for a Christmas gift for my daughter (she has 2 cats) and I am recommending the book as a Book Club selection. Seeing Bob and James on YouTube just added to the book. I wish them all the best.
I won't bother you with a recap of the story. It is a great story though. A story of companionship, devotion and love between two broken individuals.