Meeting A Street Cat Named Bob
A Street Cat Named Bob has become somewhat of a celebrity since his sidekick James Bowen introduced a series of books and a film which documented their rags to riches story. You can see my sociological review of the film here. A couple of weeks ago I was delighted to see them at their signing of ‘The Little Book of Bob’.
Hundreds of cat lovers queued for over two hours to catch a glimpse of Bob up close; His celebrity status upheld by a flurry of security guards ready to escort us off the premises if we dared touch him. But what was on my mind was ‘is this the Bob or is it his body double’? We know that a look-a-like took his spot in the film when he needed respite, so what was to say that this wasn’t one of them now? Why was I intrigued to see Bob, when I had played with my own ginger cats a few hours earlier?
Besides the novelty of getting a paw print stamped in their new book, the main attraction was to witness the bond between James and Bob in person. The reason it mattered whether it was really him was because fans, like me, have bought into their story. Bob isn’t only a pet but a saviour. He is the cat that gave James a purpose in life. He is given agency in the discourse that they ‘found’ each other and take care of each other. This shows us how identity construction is perceived as a mutual endeavour as Bob gives cues to his motives which are interpreted to warrant his status as a subject or companion, not only a pet. But, this was contrasted with a poster in store that referred to him as ‘the street cat’ which seemed cold and anonymous rather like the situation they rescued each other from.
Cats have a bad reputation for being aloof so it was endearing to see that Bob seemed comfortable to sit wearing a harness and scarf in a bookshop. They have become a brand based on a human-animal relationship in which Bob is personified for his resilient and loving character. He’s not any cat, as a generic representative of the species, but a cat we ‘know’ and can relate to in the meaningful relationship with our own furry friends.