In the spring of 2007, street musician James Bowen found a scruffy cat curled up on a doormat in the hallway of his apartment building. At first believing the cat belonged to whoever lived there, he gave him a pet and went on his way, but when he kept seeing the cat around and no one appeared to have any claim on him, James took him in and named him Bob. The feline was pretty sickly, so James took him to a vet and spent his last thirty pounds on medicine for him. Over the coming weeks, James carefully nursed Bob back to health. However, with James being a recovering drug addict, he was barely making enough money busking on the streets of London to feed himself much less a pet. He also thought that perhaps Bob had someone he might be trying to get back to or that he would simply be more comfortable with his independence on the street, so he sent Bob on his way, never expecting to see him again. But Bob had other ideas. He started following James to work every day and the smart kitty quickly became a hit with the people passing by. Soon James was making far more money on the days that Bob joined him than he ever had before. They had many adventures together, and with another creature that he was now responsible for, James finally became determined to get fully clean once and for all. Bob not only inspired James in a way he never had been before, but he also became an inspiration to the people of London, and before long, the entire world knew all about him, too, and fell in love with the former street cat named Bob.
A Street Cat Named Bob is the first book in the non-fiction Bob the Cat series that follows the adventures of author and musician James Bowen and the stray cat he found and dubbed Bob. As a child, James's parents divorced and he and his mom moved around a lot between England and Australia. With his life lacking stability, he eventually became a troubled teen, experimenting with drugs and getting into some trouble. He chose to move back to England where he briefly lived with a half-sister, but when that didn't work out, he ended up on the streets homeless, where he spiraled into an heroine addiction to mute his emotions. In 2007, he was finally starting to get his life back on track by moving into transitional housing and getting into a drug treatment program. He started busking in Covent Garden to get by and it was when he returned home from this gig one night that he discovered a ginger cat laying on a neighbor's doormat. James stopped to pet the feline, but thinking he belonged to someone else, left him there. However, when the cat was still there after a couple of days and he noticed what rough shape he was in, James realized he was a stray and spent his last thirty pounds to get the poor feline he'd named Bob treatment at the vet. After nursing him back to health, James knew that he was barely getting by, taking care of himself, and thought he'd let Bob go, believing the cat might try to get back to someone who was missing him or would simply prefer being outdoors. But when Bob started following him to work every day, James knew he was a keeper. He also discovered that the smart kitty was a huge draw that helped him make more money each day they went out together. And so they started sharing many adventures around the streets of London. Also realizing that he now had another creature for whom he was responsible, James started taking additional steps to get fully clean and turn his life around, all thanks to Bob's inspiration.
As a huge animal lover, I'm always eager to pick up inspiring stories about animals. However, I've noticed that there seem to be a plethora of books about dogs but not nearly so many about cats. While I appreciate all animals and have had both dogs and cats, I think I have a slightly stronger affinity for cats, so when I find cat stories, I'm even more likely to perk up and take notice. It's been quite some time since I first heard about A Street Cat Named Bob and I've been looking forward to reading it, especially since the movie version was made. It definitely met my expectations with my only small critique being that I noticed a bit of repetition that should have been cleaned up by the editor, which is why I dropped the half star. Otherwise it's great, equal parts memoir of James life and the story of one remarkable cat, and the deep bond of friendship that they formed with each other. Bob amazed me with his intelligence. As many cats as I've had, none have been quite as smart as him. Bob seemed to intuit that James needed him as much as the reverse. The thing that struck me is that before Bob, James was just another invisible, ex-homeless, busker on the streets of London, but with Bob by his side, James became visible to others, assisting him not only with making more money but also with making human connections. Bob helped James weather through the storms of life, start on the path to genuine healing from the past, and build a brighter future in which he's now able to help others. And Bob wasn't just an inspiration to James, but to millions of people as his story began to spread worldwide. He truly was a beautiful little beacon of light to the world. Alas, though, pets only come into our lives for far too short of a time, and I was deeply saddened to discover after finishing the book that Bob passed away two years ago (2020) after accidentally escaping from their home and getting hit by a car. But thankfully his story and spirit live on in the books he inspired and I very much look forward to continuing the series, learning more wisdom from Bob and chuckling at his antics.
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