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  • Stephanie Petrelli

What A Street Cat Named Bob Teaches Us About Our Basic Human Needs

Updated: Nov 4, 2021



Ever heard of the book/film, A Street Cat Named Bob? It’s one of my favourite books. I know it’s not a classic or anything but it brings together two of my favourite topics: animals and mental health. If you’ve not heard of it, it's about a man who recovers from addiction with the help of a stray cat who adopts him as his human.


What I love so much about this book is:


  1. It’s based on a true story.

  2. It shows us what some of our basic human needs are and why they are so important.

  3. It shows just how deep our connection with animals can be.

  4. It shows how much they can contribute to our own healing.


Most pet owners will resonate with this in some way as this is one of the reasons we get an animal companion- for companionship. There is something so special about how animals can have such a positive impact on our wellbeing and mental health.



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Here are 3 of our basic human needs, why animals can help meet them, and why they are good for our mental wellbeing:


1. They give us purpose.

When James and Bob initially meet, he starts to have to think about someone other than himself. He needed to provide for Bob and felt an obligation to look after him. This in some ways becomes his sense of purpose- he has to keep going to provide for Bob and give him a good life. This motivates James to take better care of himself and focus on creating a life for himself he wouldn’t have prioritised if Bob wasn’t around.


Human beings need to feel like we are doing something meaningful in order to feel fulfilled. This will be different for everyone and will come from different areas of life depending on you and your life. Having a pet can be one of the many ways we experience this, especially when we are struggling with our own self-worth, prioritising our animal companions can force us to see the value in ourselves because of what we can bring and do for them.


2. They give us unconditional love- or tolerance if you have a cat (kidding...kind of).

One of the reasons why the bond between James and Bob is so special is because James feels fully accepted and loved by Bob, despite his past/current issues. James doesn’t feel defined by his past. He is seen by Bob for the person he is deep down, the man he aspires to be- not all of his failings or the mistakes he’s made.


One of the reasons why animal bonds are so fulfilling is because they exist without judgement. Your pet doesn’t care if you’ve put on weight, don’t have makeup on, made a mistake, failed in some way,...etc. They are there for you no matter what. They don’t criticise or expect anything from you (besides food and snuggles). Having a pet can help us feel fully accepted and needed.



3. They help us feel more connected

As Bob becomes more a part of James’ life, they begin to share experiences together allowing for them to get to really know each other and for their bond to grow.


Whatever type of pet you have, they all offer us different ways of connecting and engaging with them that can be incredibly beneficial for our wellbeing. If you have a dog, going on a walk together can not only be physically beneficial, but will also be a shared experience that brings dogs and their owners closer together. As a self-professed cat lady, I can tell you playing with my cats brings a smile to my face every time because they are just so focused on being in the moment. No matter the animal, they will help to meet our basic human needs of touch and connection in an incredibly unique way.



Now of course, having a pet is a responsibility and we need to ensure that we can look after them properly and give them the required amount of care so they are healthy and happy. But it’s through this task, of keeping a being alive and providing for them, that can give us such a sense of achievement and meaning. Having pets throughout my life has absolutely affected the way I’ve grown up and my ability to be more compassionate and responsible.

How have animals affected you and your life? I’d love to know so reach out and share your stories with me!


Also, if you’ve not read A Street Cat Named Bob, I highly recommend it. Although, be warned- I cried like an absolute baby whilst reading it. Genuinely. I get teary just watching the trailer so make sure you have some tissues by your side!


Struggling with anything that an animal companion can’t help with? Get in touch to see how I can help or check out my online short course, Overcoming the Struggle: A Guide to Dealing with Difficult Emotions.


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