Sunday 7 October 2012

The World's Most Famous Busker's Cat (An Interview I Did Earlier This Year)

It’s early afternoon on a sunny spring Saturday in London, and Covent Garden’s Neal Street is bustling with the usual mixture of tourists and hipsters. Amidst a crowd of fifty or sixty of them, a busker sings Molly’s Lips, a song written by the Scottish band The Vaselines and made famous by his favourite band, Nirvana. His look is pretty archetypal for his trade: long black coat, jeans, beard, floppy, collar-brushing hair. What makes him unusual is that in front of him sits a medium-sized ginger cat, in a scarf. As people mill around him, taking photographs, the cat sits perfectly still, like a small ginger Buddha, barely flinching even when a huge four by four passes along the street within a few feet of his nose. 

“As far as I know, I’m the only person who does this in the UK,” James Bowen tells me, leaning down to stroke the head of Bob, the ginger moggy who accompanies him everywhere he goes. “I heard about a guy in New York who walks around with a cat on his head, but not here. Lots of dogs and some ferrets, but no cats. I wouldn’t actually recommend it. I think Bob’s a one off.”

It was almost five years ago that James, a former heroin addict, met Bob, a poorly stray who hung around the assisted housing where he lived in Tottenham. Having nursed him back to health, he not only realised that Bob wanted to stay by his side, but that he was perfectly happy to ride around on his shoulders and sit patiently with him while he busked. At first, Bob would trot into town alongside James unshackled, but, following a hairy incident when Bob got frightened by a man in an inflatable suit on Piccadilly Circus and ran away, he introduced a harness. “Some people have told me I’m cruel to keep him on a lead,” says James, “but if a cat is unhappy on a lead, it’s obvious. And Bob is happy with it.” In agreement, Bob gazes beatifically up at him, before – and I really have to pinch myself as I watch this - giving him a high five with his paw.

 Soon, James and Bob became London celebrities, whose fans would bring Bob daily treats and clothing (“his wardrobe is much bigger than mine,” says James). As an author of two books about cats, I remember my readers sending me photos of the pair of them as far back as 2008. Now their adventures have been recorded by James in A Street Cat Named Bob: an instantly bestselling memoir that, beside its heartwarming tale of their friendship, offers an insight into the injustice of life on the streets that’s by turns frustrating and life-affirming. “My life really can be divided into two periods: Before Bob, and After Bob,” says James. “I feel blessed every day to know this cat. Some people have asked me if they can buy him, and I always reply with the same question: ‘Would you sell me your firstborn child?’.”

  A Street Cat Named Bob
  Under The Paw
  Talk To The Tail

Thursday 4 October 2012

Happy Birthday To The Bear (Sort Of)

It's The Bear's 17th birthday today. Well, it's not technically his birthday, because, since he was found in a plastic bag at the side of the motorway as a kitten (before being rescued by a kind stranger and taken to a pet shop), nobody really knows his exact date of birth. But he should have one, and we know he is definitely 17 some time in 2012, so here at Under The Paw HQ, we have decided to make today the day, and buy him some treats. He's a touch arthritic these days, and sometimes Shipley gives him a little bit of a hard time, but he looks pretty good for his age, don't you think?
Read more about The Bear in Under The Paw and Talk To The Tail

I Must Leave Now. My People Need Me

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Kitten Advice For Tuesday

Kittens have been used in espionage for almost a hundred years. Does your kitten have a habit for hiding in unlikely places, walking quietly and popping up out of nowhere? If so, it too may be suited to a career in the spy industry.