How To Make Money From A Cat (without trying)

James Bowen must have made quite a lot of money from Bob his cat companion. James recently visited his publisher, Hodder & Stoughton, who told him that he had sold his millionth book in Britain. We are not told how many books he has sold elsewhere but we are told they are “international best sellers”. He celebrated the occasion with Bob and his friend Belle. They had a bottle of Cava wine and Bob had his favourite, Sheba salmon and gravy (Sheba is an expensive brand of cat food that you buy in supermarkets) – purrrfection.

James Bowden and Bob the cat

James Bowden and Bob the cat. Photo by Annie Mole on Flickr

You may remember James Bowen. He was a drug addict busking in London, selling the Big Issue and stealing meat from butchers shops which he sold in public houses in order to support his heroin habit. Then he met Bob, the ginger tabby and white stray cat. He saw Bob sitting on a step in a stairwell in Covent Garden, Central London. He stroked Bob and noticed that he had some bald patches in his fur and some scratch marks and an abscess. James thinks he had been attacked by a fox. That was the first meeting.

The next day James met Bob again at the same place and this time he knocked on the door of a flat that Bob was sitting outside and asked whether they owned him. They did not and that is the beginning of the story of James Bowen and Bob the cat because Bob followed James wherever he went. He got Bob fixed up with antibiotics and all of a sudden he realized that he had someone to care for, to be responsible for and because of that his health was important because he could not be responsible for Bob if he was on drugs. This was the beginning of the turnaround for James and for that he thanks Bob.

Since that meeting James has published two books about his life with Bob and, as mentioned, has sold 1 million copies in Britain alone. I do not know how much money James has made from his books. He had somebody helping him write the books, a co-author, Garry Jenkins. Nonetheless, I would expect James to be financially “comfortable” at this stage and there is more to come. It is not impossible to imagine that James will become a millionaire one-day if he isn’t one already. What a transformation!

Bob the cat at angel station

Photographer says: There’s a Big Issue seller who has a pitch in the afternoons outside Angel tube station. A while ago, he found a stray cat with a badly bust up leg, so being a kindly soul, he took the cat along to an animal shelter to get it sorted out. Photo by Stuff n Nonsense

I feel very comfortable with the way that Bob has made money for James. Without Bob this would not have happened. This is a celebration of the power of the cat and how a cat can help a person, at the very least, and sometimes transform their lives. It is celebrating the domestic cat and that can only be positive.

You have to compare this with another celebrity cat who makes lots of money for her owners: Grumpy Cat. I know that I have made some controversial remarks about this celebrity cat but I strongly believe that Grumpy Cat has been exploited. There is a marked difference in the nature of their stories. The whole moneymaking machine in respect of Grumpy Cat turns on her appearance which is due to a medical condition (genetic condition) which has created an anatomical deformity in her face. It is pure commerce while Bob’s story is about friendship, rebuilding one’s life and the positive effects of cat companionship.

All right, I just wanted to make the point that it is possible to make money from a cat and do it in a way that is not exploiting or abusing the cat. Indeed in Bob’s case it is the opposite.

James says that Bob is a bit of a superstar. He says that Bob is more popular than him and people treat him like a deity. In addition, James does a lot of charity work. He teaches people about the realities of homelessness. This is important for James. He is currently writing a book about Bob’s life before he met him. He will have to rely on his imagination but no doubt it will be a celebration of the humble stray cat.

James’s books: A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob

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How To Make Money From A Cat (without trying) — 13 Comments

  1. Yes a lovely story and Bob’s situation is completely different to Grumpy Cats. James didn’t seek to make money out of Bob and keep on exploiting him, it just happened. Bob is a handsome healthy happy cat, poor Grumpy is deformed and I think it’s wrong to cash in on her deformity!

    • Absolutely, it just happened and James did not try and make money – it was a publisher who, if you like, made the money and James became a beneficiary. That I think is the way it should be and I do not feel that Bob is in anyway exploited.

  2. Ruth and Michael:I have to agree with you totally about cats like Grumpy Cat. It started out as a fluke and went viral. She sure touches the heart-strings of folks out here on the internet.

    But cats that have touched the hearts of true cat lovers, such as Corky the Cat has helped so many needy cats- the shelter that rescued him has done amazing things for special needs kitties. I applaud them loudly. I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the owners of the shelter- and that lady rocks!

    • I think there is a difference between Bob and Grumpy Cat and the way they have been treated. It is hard to explain the difference but for me it is no doubt there. I can’t get away from the conclusion that Grumpy Cat has been exploited and a lot of money has been made. In many ways I cannot blame the owners because the rewards financially are very high but what does Grumpy Cat get as a reward? For her, I would argue that her life is less good as a celebrity cat that if she was a regular stay at home domestic cat. Celebrity cats can do a lot of good in publicising and popularising the domestic cat and helping people who are ill and this sort of thing and under those circumstances I applauded it.

  3. Back to Mumbai after a 16 day solo tour of Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Calcutta. Sad to inform “P.O.,C” members that my 22 year old “Non-human son” Mittoo the Alexandrine parakeet expired on Monday(10-3-2014) while i was away.He was perfectly normal and died a sudden death, found dead in his cage early in the morning.His entire life has been documented as also a “Page” on him in “F.B”.Bizarrely, his life and death mimicked the life of “Alex” the talking African Grey parrot, only difference was that he was pf a different breed and a lower intelligence and vocabulary level.Both my cats are normal and honestly, the house is not the same without the chirping of “Mittoo”.As they say , life goes on and hence i should be happy that “Mittoo” shared his life with me for 22 years, a long long time.

    • Rudolph, nice to hear from you again. I’m very sorry to hear about your parakeet. It must have been a bit of a shock for you and 22 years is, as you say, a very long time to have a friend and you will miss him. I have published a photograph of him with this comment because, unfortunately, your photograph has not been uploaded because it was too large. This is an earlier photograph that you kindly uploaded:

    • Rudolph I’m so sorry about the death Mittoo, that was a long time to spend together and his death must have been a nasty shock, glad he had a long and happy life. RIP Mittoo.

  4. Michael, a big thank you for uploading the photo of Alexandrine parakeet “Mittoo”. I have photographed a few cats from Bhutan and Kalimpong.Would upload these photos later on suitable topics moderated by you and other cat aficionado’s.

  5. Thanks for the condolences on behalf of “Mittoo”. He was lucky to have led a good life compared to the average caged parrot as also a long life.I console myself with the words “Its better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.Life goes on and “Mittoo” did enrich my personal human life and living by his humorous parakeet antics and mimicry, something i will miss.He was also once a mascot on “B.B.C Radio” in 2004 where i spoke over radio telephone in Mumbai on the topic “Should Circus and Film animals receive pension after retirement “.I have documented his entire life along with video’s.The video’s can be seen on “You Tube”. :-

  6. so sorry for your loss Rudolph such a hard loss having him/her so long hugs. In regards to the article i couldnt think of anything worse, i guess it helps in certain situitions just my view anyways.

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