Looking for a respite from all the negativity around the elections? Here's a simple, sweet and ridiculously heartwarming story about a stray cat and a former heroin addict who've journeyed from the streets of London to the silver screen.
Bob, an orange cat from north London, may be Hollywood's next biggest feline star. A new movie based on a bestselling novel about his adventures with his owner, James Bowen, is reportedly in pre-production, according to the Daily Mail.
The book, "A Street Cat Named Bob", details how Bowen -- a former heroin addict -- found a starving, injured stray hiding under the stairwell in his apartment complex in 2007. Bowen was hesitant to take him in, but was unable to find anyone else to claim the wounded cat.
He took the cat to RSPCA to treat the abscess on his leg and a large wound in his side. Bowen spent more than a day's wages on antibiotics for the stray cat.
"It was pretty much the last money I had, but I didn’t feel it was too much to help something in need. I’ve always loved cats," Bowen told the Daily Mail.
According to the Sunday Times, Bowen's problems began when his parents separated when he was just 3 years old. He moved to Australia with his mother, and was bullied as a teenager. He changed schools often, and didn't get along with his new stepfather. At 18, Bowen returned to England alone. After a short stint living with his half-sister, he found himself out on the streets, where he soon became addicted to heroin.
"When you’re sleeping rough, you are surrounded by people doing drugs," Bowen told the Daily Mail. "They offer you some, saying it will help you sleep -- which it does -- or make you feel better. And before you know it, you’re thinking Why not? I’ve got nothing else."
Soon, he was a serious addict -- precariously close to death.
Ten years later, when Bowen was finally in the process of recovery, he discovered the orange cat underneath his stairwell.
Initially, Bowen tried to let Bob go, even after paying for his veterinary treatment.
"I’d take him outside, but he just wouldn’t run off. I would leave for a day’s [panhandling] and he’d follow me up the road. Then, one day, he followed me all the way on to the number 73 bus. He climbed on right after me!" Bowen told the Daily Mail.
Finally, he relented and let the cat stay. The pair soon became inseparable and were a familiar sight panhandling around London -- Bowen strumming a guitar and Bob sitting at his feet or perching on his shoulders.
Bowen says that finding the cat and caring for his injuries enabled him to fix his own life. "I’ll never go back to drugs,” he told the Sunday Times. “I’ve learnt too much and grown up.”
Soon passers-by were bringing the cat bits of food, toys, and even clothes.
"Someone gave him a purple scarf," Bowen told the Daily Mail. "Then everyone wanted to give him one. He must have more than 20 specially knitted scarves, a couple of [sweaters], ten blankets — mouse shaped-ones, cat-shaped ones. It’s amazing."
Two years ago, Mary Panchos, a literary agent who also worked on the UK version of Marley & Me, spotted Bowen and Bob selling a magazine for the homeless outside a subway station. That was the beginning of their relationship and soon Bowen had a book deal with Hodder & Stoughton.
"She said she had been walking past us for weeks, and wanted to know if I was interested in telling my story," Bowen said. "Soon, we had publishers on board and six months later we had a book. It came out on my birthday. The best present of my life!"
The book, "A Street Cat Named Bob", has sold more than 160,000 copies in Britain alone and has been translated into 18 languages, with an American edition to be ready next summer.
Plans are afoot for a sequel about the life lessons that Bowen says Bob has taught him, as well as a children's version of the story -- which will omit the harshest moment of Bowen's drug-related past.
"I owe everything to Bob," said Bowen to the Sunday Times. "We’ve been on quite a journey together."
Despite their recent fame, Bowen says his life with Bob has not changed much, and they haven't stopped panhandling.
“I’ve no plans to move, either, though in the longer term I might look for somewhere and get a mortgage. Having a bit of money means I can, I suppose, enjoy being normal and certainly be under less pressure,” Bowen told the Sunday Times.
“I’ll use some of the money on Bob for health insurance,” he added.
Bowen will also spend money on a flight to Australia, where he will visit his mother for two weeks over Christmas: “She’s not been very well, so it will be good to see her.”
Though their lives may be quite different after the addition of a Hollywood movie to their repertoire, Bowen isn't focused on the fame.
“After the sequel is done I’d like to do some work on behalf of others," he said. "Help out those who don’t have a voice or work with some charities. I’m already speaking to a few."