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Bob the Cat: The origin and history behind the cat who inspired the books

Ginger cat

A Street Cat Named became the star of a book and film

© elektrosmart - Pixabay

As moggy memoirs go, A Street Cat Named Bob: How one man and his cat found hope on the streets is one of the most famous and heartwarming there are.

By Zoë Monk

Updated on the

James Bowen and his cat A Street Cat Named Bob’s book has gone on to spawn a number of sequels and film versions, making Bob one of the most famous cats there is and a great symbol of just how wonderful the relationship between man and cat can be.

But where did he come from? What is his story, and how did he become half of a bestselling writing duo?

Is Bob the Cat a true story?

Before we even look at the story that brought Bob and his owner James Bowen into the spotlight, it’s important to say Bob is not just a character. Based on real-life events and how their journey together helped James turn his life around, Bob’s story is very much true.

What happened to Bob the Cat?

The inspiration behind James Bowen’s books came to him in a hallway at one of the lowest points of his life. James found A Street Cat Named Bob in the hallway of the building he was living in one night. He was wearing no collar and didn’t look well. After checking with his neighbours that they weren’t missing a poorly cat, James took Bob to the vet and nursed him back to health while looking for his original owners. James attempted to set Bob free, thinking he’d find his way back to his old home, but it simply wasn’t the case.

Instead, A Street Cat Named Bob kept coming back to James and following him wherever he went. Wherever James went, Bob went too. He named his new pal after Killer Bob in the TV show Twin Peaks and took him along wherever he went, from busking to selling the Big Issue.

James was battling drug addiction at this time, and his new ginger pal became his closest friend and ally as he battled homelessness and the difficulties of addiction on the streets of London. A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life was published in 2012, and there have since been five further Bob the cat books released in more than forty different languages. The original story has been made into a film and a second film. A Gift from Bob was released in 2020.

James and Bob found happiness with a new life and a new family with Monika and her cat Pom Pom.

Is Bob the Cat still alive?

Sadly, A Street Cat Named Bob’s life was cut short in June 2020. Unfortunately, Bob had been struck by a car and died instantly after getting out of their home. He was believed to be around 14, and his loss, of course, had a heart-breaking impact on his owner and best friend. In a statement on Facebook, James Bowen said:

Bob saved my life. It’s as simple as that. He gave me so much more than companionship. With him at my side, I found a direction and purpose that I’d been missing. The success we achieved together through our books and films was miraculous. He’s met thousands of people, touched millions of lives. There’s never been a cat like him. And never will again.

Tributes to Bob arrived in their millions and to commemorate his memory. There has even been a cat memorial erected. A Street Cat Named Bob statue was unveiled in summer 2021 in Islington Green in London. James and Bob spent many hours selling The Big Issue in this area, and James even began writing their story there too. The statue was a crowdfunding effort and is a permanent memorial to Bob. The life-size statue is made from bronze and is a sign for passers-by to remember Bob and the healing role pets can play in our lives.

Statue of Bob Street the cat
Memorial to "A Street cat Named Bob" in London©Joy Horton - Shutterstock

Bob, the street cat, remains one of the most famous felines to grace the world of books and film, and we’re sure his memory will live on.

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