Book Review: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

Book Review: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

Lately, I’ve come across a lot of nostalgic moments leading me to read certain books. A while back, I’d once again, come across the documentary Being Mortal and eventually, I’d gone to read the book, after a friend had gifted it to me. Similarly, there was another video, a few months later, that randomly popped up again for Oscar, the cat that was always there for the residents of the Steere House nursing home during their last moments and suddenly, I’d found myself reading the book about him. This time, it was the opposite. I’d come across the book first, scrolling around Libby, and had a faint half second image of Bob on someone’s shoulder, flash by my head. A special cat. I knew I needed to read it.

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥. I hope you enjoy another review about a special little kitty.

Title: A Street Cat Named Bob
Author: James Bowen
Edition: Libby > Audiobook
Length: 6 hours 3 minutes
Genre/s: Nonfiction, Audiobook, Memoir, Biography, Animal > Cats, Contemporary
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.

Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts.

A Street Cat Named Bob is a moving and uplifting story that will touch the heart of anyone who reads it.

James Bowen’s life isn’t the best. While his childhood wasn’t bad, he was constantly moving and so never felt settled; making friends like that was hard. Now thousands of miles away from home, London rather than back in Australia, he’s working hard in trying to kick his heroin addiction while barely making ends meet. James busks during the day to pay for his necessities. One day, he notices an injured street cat, a ginger tom, curled up in the halls of his sheltered accommodations. Having spent the last of his money for vet bills, James had thought to let this ginger stay with him, just for a little while; a temporary stay so that he had a nice and warm place to curl up while recovering from injuries. When it was time to let the cat back out to the streets, Bob runs off behind some bushes…and pees before coming back to James, his usual outdoors routine as if to say Well? I’m done peeing, let’s get back home now.

A large part of this book was about Bob. They always say, a cat chooses you, not the other way around and this seems to definitely be the case with Bob. One day, he’d follows James to his usual busking work, playing his music in the Covent Gardens. Nothing James does can shoo the cat back to his flat and so, relents, even allowing Bob to ride his shoulders when crossing dangerous places or needing to walk in a hurry, the only thing tethering the cat was a piece of old shoelace. But of course, a cat on someone’s shoulders attracts a lot of attention and immediately, strangers from all over would come over to try and talk to or about the ginger tom on Jame’s shoulders.

This was a wonderful book. Though the focus was on Bob and how he’d saved James in multiple ways, it was an eye-opening book about homelessness and joblessness as well as the hardships of climbing out of such life, support systems and why they’re important, as well as drug addiction and addiction recovery. There’s this feeling of being like a ghost when you’re an addict or homeless, busking in the streets for spare change. Especially in the hustle and bustle of big cities, people pass by you as if you’re a nobody and Bob’s presence and ability to attract strangers to come towards James and his cat really helped James feel real again. That part really made me said, especially when he remarked about how, for so long, he felt unseen and nonhuman and finally he was beginning to be human again.

A big part of his journey to getting clean and sober, away from his addiction, is getting into trouble for illegally busking. If being invisible to the world isn’t enough, try getting attacked by angry people for nearly no reason at all; people harassing you or your cat. It’s a terrible and terrifying way to live so, after a while, James knew that his busking days were at an end. Spare change wasn’t going to get him back on his feet, he needed to get clean and needed a better and more legal job; one where the local cops can’t just run you away. So much of his motivation for change had been for Bob, who’d grown to be like a child to him. It was all, “For Bob.” For Bob’s next meal, for Bob’s safety, for Bob’s future.

Through Bob and this book, you begin to learn a lot about homelessness and drug addictions. You understand why people can’t simply just “Get back on your feet and get a job! a REAL job!” just with the snap of your fingers. It’s harder than that and through Jame’s eyes, you get to, in 280 or so pages, live through his life and see and experience what he does. On some days, getting to that next hit of drugs was all that mattered and to do that, you might resort to things that would put you in trouble with the law. With a decency on drugs, maybe a string of small crimes trailing behind you, suddenly, you won’t be able to just “get a real job” because, as James says, nobody wants to get near you enough to give you a second chance.

But Bob, he’s a special cat and many animals are so much more forgiving and humans are. He loves and has a special bond with James, one that nothing can sever. He’s a cat and if he wanted to leave, he certainly could. But, time and time again, he returns to James, even if separated by running away in a moment’s fear or being shoo’d off to live the life most street cats live. Besides helping James attract more attention, and thus a few more pounds a day when busking, he also provided a reason for James to fight on forward.

All in all, this is a lovely book. You get a cute cat who forms an inseparable bond with his owner, is known across the world to be a ginger kitty who sits on his owner’s shoulders as he walks the streets of London, accompanying James everywhere from his daily busking to his new job. But, you also get a book that shows you a new perspective; one of homelessness and how people treat you like you’re invisible, and drug addictions, how horrible drug withdrawals feel during rehab, and the hardship of trying to turn your life back around once you start to commit yourself to getting clean. An educational and heart-warming read.


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