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A Street Cat Named Bob and the amazing history of cats

photo of Bob: by Karen Merchant

photo of Bob: by Karen Merchant

The uplifting tale of an amazing cat

Something amazing happened when a homeless man in London found an injured cat belonging to nobody. They saved each others lives and are now inseparable.

James told his story to a publisher and now we can all enjoy the book A Street Cat Named Bob. Such an uplifting tale of James Bowen and his amazing cat Bob has captured the imagination of London and the UK in 2012. See the glowing reviews of the book, loved and read by so many now.

Bob is the latest hero in the history of cats and their relationship with humans through the centuries.

Bob's story

Street cat Bob was taken in by James at his homeless accommodation in London as he was not in good shape at all. James nursed him back to health and sent him on his way. But Bob had other plans. He came back to James and wouldn't leave him.

Eventually Bob started to follow James as he set off to work. James is a busker earning money on the streets of London. They have been inseparable companions since. James Bowen is certain that it was looking after Bob that encouraged him to get off drugs for good and try to earn regular money for food. They are best of friends now and genuinely look after each other.

Cat intuition

What makes cats amazing seems to be that they have this special intuition which goes beyond what humans can comprehend. It seems the image of the cat today is that of aloof, independent, out for what it can get. But cat lovers know there is something more to cats that set them apart from other domesticated animals.

Let's take a look at how these essential qualities of cats have been perceived throughout the centuries.

The cat goddess Bastet – Ancient Egyptian sculpture in Louvre museum

The cat goddess Bastet – Ancient Egyptian sculpture in Louvre museum

The Cat in History: Ancient Egypt

In Ancient Egypt people were happy to domesticate wild kittens and the cats didn't seem to mind at all. Captive Jungle Cats (much gentler in nature) may have bred with the more aggressive African Wildcat to create the genes of the domestic cat we know and love today. They were useful to hunt creatures such as mice, rats and snakes that could be harmful to the household. Cats were treated almost as equals to humans in that they could come and go as they pleased so their relationships with humans was mutually beneficial.

From around 1000 to 350BC, when Pharoahs ruled, cats became looked upon as manifestations of gods. These were mainly wild animals: big cats such as lions (the Sphynx has a lion's body, for example).

The goddess Bastet was the first to be depicted as a domestic cat. She had the body of a beautiful woman and the head of a cat. Her image transformed first from the typical big cat to that of a domestic cat. She became a goddess of fertility, motherhood, the sun, the moon and protectress of domestic cats. Perhaps this is why, even today, society associates cats with femininity and the female psyche.

Even the law protected cats in Ancient Egypt. Anyone of lower class who killed a cat was put to death. When we began to excavate Egyptian tombs in the 19th Century we discovered the extent of this love of cats. Numerous statues of cats buried in tombs and mummified cats were found. However, kittens may have been killed as sacrificial offerings to Bastet and were sold as religious relics after the mass excavations of mummified cats.

Cats were referred to as miu or mau which translates in English as 'to see'. This marked them out as amazing creatures of great mystery and intuition from the very start. Also čaute is the Egyptian word for the female African Wildcat and is thought to be the origin of the word 'cat' in its many European variations.

The worship of Bastet was banned in 390AD when Christianity took prominence.

The Cat in History: Christianity and Cats

In medieval Christian culture, cats were viewed as demonic and a manifestation of Satan. This idea developed as Christianity attempted to differentiate itself from Egyptian religions. The church would denounce as occult the worshipping of false gods and animals.

Domestic cats have been associated with witchcraft for a long time in Christianity, again linking the essence of a cat to depictions of femininity and the occult. Cats were literally killed off by Christian leaders in the Middle Ages.

This contributed to the rise of the Plague in Europe as populations of rats increased along with population growth in humans. The Christian Church sought to place the blame for the Plague on cats—once again demonising them.

It was only during the Renaissance period that cats found acceptance from the Christian Church and became acceptable again as domestic pets from the 18th Century onwards.

Festival of the Cats, Belgium

Every three years a parade known as Festival of Cats (Kattenstoet) takes place in Ypres, Belgium. In medieval times, the locals had been accused of worshipping cats using witchcraft. To prove a point the town threw cats from the belfry tower to prove they were not worshipping them. This tradition now goes ahead with toy cats instead of real cats.


In ancient Norse culture, cats have been depicted leading chariots by the goddess Freya. In Norway the word for cat is pusekatt. This could be where we get the familiar term of 'pussycat' from.

Heightened sensitivity of cats

Cats senses are much more sensitive than humans.

They have an ability to hear faint or high-pitched noises, they see well in the dark, they can identify so much through smell (a cat will remember who you are mostly through smell). They are also social animals communicating with each other through different sounds and body language.

Their sensitivity to pheromones, magnetic fields and vibrations gives them a heightened awareness which can be perceived as intuition. A cat is not affected by circadian rhythms unlike humans and many mammals, allowing a cat to stay awake all day and night and to catnap whenever the mood strikes.

Cats and intuition

Cats often seem to display intuitive powers, some even call it supernatural. But really it could be down to their highly sensitive senses.

Cats have been known to be aware when an earthquake is about to happen. But this seems to be due to sensing vibrations and sounds before us humans can detect any warning signs.

A cat is also known to be aware of when their owner is about to come home. But from my own observations over the years I have noticed that they hear something maybe five minutes before someone comes through the door. Perhaps their highly attuned hearing can recognise familiar footsteps.

It is known that animals can make use of the magnetic field of the earth and the atmosphere to navigate. This is especially true for cats as they seem to instinctually locate places they used to live and to follow someone across great distances.

There is something else that we don't fully understand about cats but many of us have experienced. A cat can sense when we are grieving, sad, sick, emotional and upset. I owe a lot to the cats I've had in my life when I have needed some comfort and company. They seem to instinctively want to comfort you the best that they can. Perhaps they pick up body language or some type of subtle change that our body chemistry signals to them.

Or is there something else at play here? What do you think? Do you think that cats may be psychic? What are your experiences?

I think Bob the street cat will have used some of these special traits to follow James and to find his way back to the safety of James and his home. Bob is truly an amazing cat. But aren't all cats amazing? I think so.

Street cat Bob: photo by Karen Merchant

Street cat Bob: photo by Karen Merchant

sources and further reading


Jelliebean (author) from Edinburgh, Scotland on October 19, 2013:

I know exactly what you mean, Shaz. Thanks for commenting.

Shaz on October 17, 2013:

I was raised with cats who taught me everything I know. I adore cats and they comforted me through so many things like illness and grief. They just know.

Jelliebean (author) from Edinburgh, Scotland on July 20, 2013:

Thank you so much Kathryn. I have had this same experience with cats too. They seem to sense sadness and emotional upset and offer stillness and comfort when you need it most. I know exactly what you mean. I'm touched. Thank you.

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on July 19, 2013:

This is a very interesting article, from start to finish. The story about the street cat and his human friend helping each other out is incredibly sweet, and I like to read about the history of cats, as well as some of the qualities that make them unique and special.

I have always noticed that they can sense when someone is sad. I have had many cats comfort me in times of sadness.

Thanks for sharing this with us. Voted up and more, and sharing. I'm also going to share on Google Plus, because my mother loves cats.

Have a wonderful day!

~ Kathryn

Jelliebean (author) from Edinburgh, Scotland on July 19, 2013:

Thanks for your lovely comments and shares. The comments mean a lot to me and I'm so happy that you enjoyed this.

WhiteMuse on July 13, 2013:

This is a very nice story. We had our own problems with a street cat. I only hope that it had worked out better.

harmony155 from Atlanta, Georgia on July 09, 2013:

Cats are special creatures that definitely have somewhat of a 6th sense! My kitty practices Zen better than any monk that I know!

mamarou from Sherwood, OR on July 09, 2013:

Cats are definitely unique. They, like dogs, are an animal that has a specific type of owner. After all, how often do we hear, "I'm not a cat person", or "I'm not a dog person" The truth is, we can all be both, we just have to want to.

moonlake from America on July 09, 2013:

How cute I love Bob. Cats are funny they take up with people they know need the help. Voted up and shared.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 09, 2013:

Cats know character and potential when they see it. Nicely written and researched. Voted up and sharing.

Jelliebean (author) from Edinburgh, Scotland on July 08, 2012:

Thanks the girls. Bob really is quite a cat. I often wonder about how the 9 lives saying came about. Maybe because cats are so agile, they often get out of trouble by the skin of their teeth. I appreciate your commenting.

Jelliebean (author) from Edinburgh, Scotland on July 08, 2012:

Thanks so much Netflix, there's so much to love about cats.

Theresa Ventu from Los Angeles, California on July 07, 2012:

Interesting article! Bob's story of loyalty is inspiring. Cats are known to have nine lives too :-)

NetflixReviews from Somewhere in North America on July 07, 2012:

I'm a cat lover too! Great article!

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