James Bowen is a young man for whom life hasn’t always been kind. But a chance meeting on the streets of London where he was selling The Big Issue with Bob, his ginger cat, and Mary Pachnos, a literary agent, changed his life forever. 

I was fortunate enough to have a telephone interview with James on Thursday, 26th April 2012. Having watched lots of ‘You Tube’ clips I knew that he’d been asked the same questions over and over again, so I steered clear of those, and asked, what I hoped, would be more interesting questions.

I asked James how old the vet thought Bob might be; Bob was not a young cat when they first met but on examination of his teeth – which were all in very good condition – the vet estimated that he might be just over a year or so. Bob is about 7 ½ now.

I had been in awe when I saw Bob doing ‘High Five’s’ with James on a couple of the ‘You Tube’ clips and I asked him how he did that. James replied that Bob will do anything for a treat and that it didn’t take him long to figure out what James wanted him to do. Bob is a very intelligent cat and picks things up quickly. James said that you can almost see him working things out in his head and then putting his thoughts into action.

James has known many cats in his life and said that he feels that ginger cats are the most intelligent. Having had a number of my own ginger cats, I can testify to that – that, and their laidback nature. It’s a myth that ginger cats are hot headed and feisty like their human ‘strawberry blonde’ counterparts. And although all cats are prone to their ‘racing around the room at breakneck speeds’ now and then, for the most part, ginger cats are, without a shadow of doubt, the easiest to get on with, the most affectionate and they’re so laid back, they’re almost horizontal!

The success of A Street Cat Named Bob has been meteoric and I asked if a sequel is in the pipeline. James said that he is already making notes of any adventures they have so that he’ll have the framework for another book at the ready when the time is right.

And on the strength of A Street Cat Named Bob being translated into 15 different languages already, would there be a possibility of it being made into a film perhaps? James replied that the American market has to pick it up first before Hollywood would be interested so it is unlikely that anything would happen on that front for at least another year or two.

I suggested that James and Bob should play themselves in the film and he laughed. Modestly he replied that he didn’t think he should play himself but that Bob should be Bob because he doubted that another cat could be as good or as intelligent as Bob, or behave the way that Bob does when they’re together.

I asked James if his life had changed since the publication of A Street Cat Named Bob and he said that it has, but in small ways. It takes about 6 months for the royalties to be paid so he is waiting for monies to come through. He has given up selling The Big Issue for the time being although he hasn’t ruled out going back to it at some time in the future. At the moment, he is busking again three or four times a week in the Neal Street area of Covent Garden – an area that Bob knows well and likes going to and where he is a familiar face.

I asked James if the royalties would enable him to move to a different place or area perhaps. He replied that he has lived in North London for 10 years and likes living in the area where he currently resides but he might think about getting a different place to live when the time is right. But for the time being he is going to stay where he is as Bob seems to like it as well.

I asked James what he went through, what he was feeling, the night that Bob got spooked by the dog and ran away. James had searched for him for hours, his heart in his mouth, thinking that he might have been run over, that someone else might have picked him up – a thousand different scenarios raced through his head. His long term friend Belle lived a couple of miles away and James headed to see her with the heartbreaking news that he’d lost Bob. It was late at night when he got to Belle’s building and who did he see waiting patiently on the steps - Bob, with a look on his face as if to say ‘what took you so long?’

James said that someone had seen Bob get on one of the bendy buses but he had discounted that information because Bob only got on buses with him. But having stayed with Belle when James went to Australia for a few weeks it’s feasible that he might have got on the bus to where Belle lives. Bob, being a highly intelligent cat, had remembered the journey and managed to find his way to Belle’s building. The fact that it was a couple of miles from where James was selling The Big Issue just goes to show how amazing Bob is; to get lost on the streets of London is one thing but to find his way back to a different address to that of his own in North London just proves how utterly incredible he really is.

The relief when James saw Bob was so immense that he was overcome with emotion. I know my heart was in my mouth when I read that chapter ‘The Longest Night’.  

I asked James what he hoped for the future and he replied that he’d like to see if he could get Bob registered as a Pets As Therapy cat because he felt that he’d have a vital role to play in an elderly care home perhaps, or with troubled or sick children. Knowing that Bob is so laid back and charismatic, I’m sure that they have a wonderful future ahead of them and that Bob will bring his enigmatic charm to all who have the pleasure of meeting him.

Finally, I asked James if he was happy. His response? ‘I’m more happy than I’ve ever been in my life.’  

My personal thanks to James for giving his time so generously and my sincere best wishes for a long and happy life to both of them.  

Pauline Dewberry April 2012

To read my review of A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen, please click here:

To see clips of James and Bob on You Tube, go to You Tube and type in 'Bob The Big Issue Cat' or 'Bobcat and I' and dozens of clips will come up of James and Bob. Enjoy!

One Cat is Company

"One cat is company.
Two cats are a conspiracy. 
Three cats is an attempted takeover.
Four or more cats is a complete coup!"

Shona Steele (Australia)

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