Bob the cat helps his owner James Bowen find love
The true tale of the stray moggi
The true tale of the stray moggie who rescued a homeless man from the depths of despair has inspired a best-selling book and an award-winning film - and now, in a heart-warming twist, they have both found love
- James Bowen from Surrey has written a series of books about his pet cat Bob
- He credits the ginger cat with changing his life around from living on the streets
- Mr Bowen, 40, at the time was battling against homlessness and addiction
- He has now found love with Monika - which he also credits to his pet cat Bob
Despite its happy ending, there was always something missing from the heart-warming tale James Bowen penned about the stray ginger cat who rescued him from a life of homelessness and addiction.
James and his faithful feline companion Bob became world-famous thanks to a series of best-selling books and an award-winning film about how their friendship set James on the road to recovery.
But in their whirlwind life of international book tours and star appearances, neither half of this dynamic human-feline duo had much time for romance — until now, that is.
James Bowen, from Carshalton, Surrey, left, pictured with his cat Bob has found love with Monika Hertes, right, who has a cat called Pom Pom. Mr Bowen credits Bob with turning his life around
Mr Bowen can often be seen busking with Bob, pictured here in Covent Garden in March 2012
He has written several books about his life with his pet, but now he has also found love
For, as the Mail can exclusively reveal, not only has James found lasting love after years of romantic heartache — but so too has Bob, with a pretty tortoiseshell belonging to James’s fiancee, Monika.
James and Monika got engaged earlier this month. The enamoured foursome now live together in his four-bedroom home in Surrey where, as you may expect, the rooms are overflowing with cat treats, feathery toys and scratching posts.
There is even a giant, purpose-built, enclosed ‘catio’ in the garden where Bob and his new love, Madame de Pompadour — or Pom Pom, as she is known for short — can frolic safely to their hearts’ content.
‘We can’t believe our luck,’ admits musician James, who turned 40 in March and still cannot believe how his life has transformed. His eight books, including the first, A Street Cat Named Bob, have sold nine million copies in more than 40 languages.
The film adaptation, in which Bob himself appeared alongside actor Luke Treadaway, who played James, won best British film at the National Film Awards in 2017. A sequel is due to begin filming later this year.
James vividly remembers the day the injured, stray cat turned up in the hallway outside his one-bedroom assisted-housing flat in Tottenham, North London, in spring 2007. After failing to trace an owner, James spent his last £30 on a visit to the vet to treat the cat’s injured leg. He named him after the Twin Peaks character Killer Bob.
‘I would never have turned my life around if it hadn’t been for him,’ he says.
‘I had to be responsible as he needed me to look after him. Everything positive in my life can be traced back to that. His influence on my life has been extraordinary. He’s my best friend.’
James vividly remembers the day the injured, stray cat turned up in the hallway outside his one-bedroom assisted-housing flat in Tottenham, North London, in spring 2007. After failing to trace an owner, James spent his last £30 on a visit to the vet to treat the cat’s injured leg. He named him after the Twin Peaks character Killer Bob
With such a close bond between man and cat, any woman hoping to steal James’s heart was going to have to overcome the toughest hurdle of all — gaining Bob’s approval.
‘Love me, love my cat,’ has always been James’s mantra. ‘It was unthinkable that I could be with someone who didn’t love Bob as much as I do,’ he explains.
Fortunately for self-confessed ‘crazy cat lady’ 36-year-old Monika Hertes, who met James via mutual friends on Facebook, Bob instantly gave her his blessing.
Indeed, the pair are so close now that it is Monika who Bob runs to each morning when he wants his breakfast, jumping on her pillow until she gets up.
‘The first time we met at James’s house, Bob sniffed me and rubbed his head up against me and let me pick him up,’ says Monika, who came to the UK 14 years ago from the city of Radom in east-central Poland. She was living in Wood Green, North London, and working in the hospitality industry.
As for Pom Pom, who came from a litter of six born to one of Monika’s colleague’s cats — Bob welcomed her with open paws.
Neither Bob nor Pom Pom were present earlier this month when James got down on one knee and asked Monika to marry him while on holiday in Tenerife
‘They took their time to get to know each other,’ says Monika. ‘Cats tend to be wary with each other, but soon they were playing and running around the house and curling up together to sleep. They really love each other.’
Neither Bob nor Pom Pom were present earlier this month when James got down on one knee and asked Monika to marry him while on holiday in Tenerife.
The inside of the white-gold band of the amethyst engagement ring he had commissioned for Monika is engraved with the words ‘my kitten’ — his nickname for her. ‘It was a beautiful moment,’ she says. ‘I said yes right away. I knew I wanted to marry him.’
‘When you know, you know,’ James says. ‘I’ve waited a long time to meet the right woman. Monika and I just couldn’t stay away from each other. We connected on so many levels.’
Monika shares his two greatest passions — music and cats. But equally importantly, he points out, she had no idea who he was when they met.
‘She hadn’t read any of my books or seen the film,’ he says. ‘In the past women have preconceived ideas about me and I didn’t know anything about them.
‘With Monika it was different. We were able to start from scratch.’
It was only after they got to know each other that he handed her his book. She read about how, amid a difficult and painful relationship with his family, James ended up on the streets, trying to make ends meet as a busker and using heroin as a way of blotting out his grim existence.
As for Bob, his life appears to be a heady mix of glamour and domesticity. He has his own pet passport and travels around the world with James, visiting cities including Paris, Oslo, Berlin, Amsterdam and Lisbon
When Bob appeared, it became clear he was no ordinary cat. Early on, he followed James onto a bus and went busking with him. The pair soon became a popular sight in Covent Garden, where Bob either sat at James’s feet or on his shoulders. Among the crowds that thronged to see them was a literary agent. The rest, as they say, is history.
‘I loved the book,’ says Monika. ‘It was hard to read about James going through such difficult times. He and Bob are extraordinary. It’s amazing to be part of their lives.’
As things stand, there is no sign of James and Bob’s popularity abating. When the film was released in China last year, it went straight to number three at the box office.
A sequel, which will be based on the Christmas book A Gift From Bob, is in pre-production, with funding from Chinese backers.
The children’s TV channel Sky Kids has also commissioned an animated series, Street Cat Bob, which will be aired from October. There is also talk of a musical.
James and Bob have signed a deal to promote a new cat playground in Liverpool, and last weekend, the pair were at Manchester’s Family Pet Show.
In October, they are hosting a £165-a-head dinner at the House of Lords to raise money for homeless and cat charities. James is also discussing plans for a documentary in which he will explore global homelessness by sleeping rough in cities around the world.
It’s impossible not to wonder, then, if all this success has translated into riches. But while he has bought himself a £500,000 home with a small mortgage, it’s clear that money is not something that means a lot to him. ‘It’s important to me that I’ve got a roof over my head and that I can look after myself,’ he says. ‘Aside from that, I’m happy that I’m now in a position to be a voice for the voiceless. Charity work is important to me.’
While his lifestyle has clearly changed — last month he and Monika were at Ascot after being invited by a promotions company — the things he cares about haven’t.
Although he no longer busks or has to worry about where his next meal is coming from, he still writes music. He sings in a band called The Wild And Stray and has released two songs on iTunes. ‘When I was boy, all I ever wanted to be was a musician,’ he says. ‘I’m so grateful I get to do it.’
While Pom Pom is still only six, Bob is thought to be between 14 or 15 years old — which would place him in his mid-70s in cat years. His old age is a reality that James doesn’t like to dwell on
As for Bob, his life appears to be a heady mix of glamour and domesticity. He has his own pet passport and travels around the world with James, visiting cities including Paris, Oslo, Berlin, Amsterdam and Lisbon.
A photograph on the wall at home shows Bob at the window of a 50th floor suite in the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo, gazing out at the view across the city.
‘He loves travelling, whether it’s by plane, train or car,’ says James. But he is equally happy at home, tucked up in bed with James and Monika, nibbling the cat treats which are sent to him in the post by his most ardent fans, savaging his favourite scraggly white mouse toy, or curling up with Pom Pom.
It is also thanks to his thousands of admirers that he has two suitcases full of the little knitted scarfs which have become his signature look. ‘As soon as I put one on him he swaggers around,’ says James.
He has the run of an enormous outdoor enclosure, but his fame means he is at risk of being snatched by a cat-napper, so it isn’t safe to let him roam entirely free. As for children, Bob and Pom Pom have been neutered, so no one is expecting the patter of tiny paws.
James and Monika, who plan to marry next year, are undecided on whether to start a human family of their own.
They recently took on a new kitten, Mr Jynxie, a ginger and white tom who was abandoned by his mother. Bob and Pom Pom have accepted the juvenile addition to the feline fold.
While Pom Pom is still only six, Bob is thought to be between 14 or 15 years old — which would place him in his mid-70s in cat years. His old age is a reality that James doesn’t like to dwell on.
‘I know he can’t go on for ever, but whatever happens he will live on in the hearts of the millions of people whose lives he has touched,’ he says.
‘It feels like Monika is Bob’s gift to me so that I won’t be alone. Without him, I wouldn’t have met her. He started me off on this path, and he’s still looking after me.’
In the hallway of James’s home, there is a framed personalised print on the wall, one of many gifts sent to him by fans.
It is created from a list of names of some of history’s most famous couples, fictional or real — the kind of thing that might be given to a pair of newlyweds. There is Tarzan and Jane, Bonnie and Clyde, C-3P0 and R2-D2 and, in the middle, separated by a red heart, James and Bob.
Now it seems certain that a whole new chapter in the James and Bob story is about to begin.