From stray to screen, the cat putting the spotlight on homelessness in Britain

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Street cat named Bob and owner, street musician James Bowen
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Street cat named Bob and owner, street musician James Bowen
Street musician James Bowen busks with cat Bob in Covent Garden in London March 13, 2012. Bowen has written a book named "A Street Cat Named Bob" about the experiences of the then homeless pair and how they met. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Street musician James Bowen busks with cat Bob in Covent Garden in London March 13, 2012. Bowen has written a book named "A Street Cat Named Bob" about the experiences of the then homeless pair and how they met. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Street musician James Bowen travels with cat Bob on the underground in London March 13, 2012. Bowen has written a book named "A Street Cat Named Bob" about the experiences of the then homeless pair and how they met. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Street musician James Bowen walks with cat Bob in Covent Garden in London March 13, 2012. Bowen has written a book named "A Street Cat Named Bob" about the experiences of the then homeless pair and how they met. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Cat Bob sits with the coins thrown to street musician James Bowen in London March 13, 2012. Bowen has written a book named "A Street Cat Named Bob" about the experiences of the then homeless pair and how they met. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT ANIMALS)
Street musician James Bowen travels with cat Bob on the underground in London March 13, 2012. Bowen has written a book named "A Street Cat Named Bob" about the experiences of the then homeless pair and how they met. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
Street musician James Bowen holds cat Bob in London March 13, 2012. Bowen has written a book named "A Street Cat Named Bob" about the experiences of the then homeless pair and how they met. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
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LONDON, Nov 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A ginger tabby cat called Bob brought the plight of Britain's homeless to the big screen on Thursday as new figures estimated the number of children living on the streets or in temporary accommodation this Christmas would hit a nine-year high.

The film "A Street Cat Named Bob," which held its world premiere in central London, is based on the best-selling memoir of 2012 by recovering drug addict and street musician James Bowen about how his friendship with the stray changed his life.

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Starring British actor Luke Treadaway as the busker, Bob was played by the real cat himself - with the help of six other lookalikes - sitting on Bowen's shoulder as he navigated London's streets or by his guitar case as he strummed away.

The pair struck up their friendship after Bob, injured, appeared in the hallway of Bowen's government-supported accommodation one night and Bowen spent the last of his money on medical treatment for the stray cat.

From then on Bob refused to leave, following Bowen when he went busking or when he started to sell The Big Issue, the UK newspaper sold by the homeless.

See photos from the film's release:

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Premiere of 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in London
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Premiere of 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in London
Bob the cat poses with his owner James Bowen as they arrive for the world premiere of "A Street Cat Named Bob" at The Curzon Mayfair in London, Britain November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Bob the cat meets fans as he arrives for the world premiere of "A Street Cat Named Bob" at The Curzon Mayfair in London, Britain November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Bob the cat arrives at the premiere of the film 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in London, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Actors Luke Treadaway and Ruta Gedmintas pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in London, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Writer James Bowen, left, greets actor Luke Treadaway, whilst Bob the cat sits on Bowen's shoulders upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in London, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Joanne Froggatt poses as she arrives for the world premiere of "A Street Cat Named Bob" at The Curzon Mayfair in London, Britain November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Joanne Froggatt poses as she arrives for the world premiere of "A Street Cat Named Bob" at The Curzon Mayfair in London, Britain November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03: James Bowen with Bob The Cat (L) and Luke Treadaway attend the UK Premiere of 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in aid of Action On Addiction at The Curzon Mayfair on November 3, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03: James Bowen and Bob the Cat attends UK Premiere of 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in aid of Action On Addiction on November 3, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Danny Martindale/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03: James Bowen and Bob the cat attend the UK Premiere of 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in aid of Action On Addiction on November 3, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
Writer James Bowen and Bob the cat pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in London, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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Praised for highlighting homelessness to a broad audience, the film came as housing charity Shelter estimated more than 120,000 children in Britain would be homeless or in temporary accommodation at Christmas, the highest number since 2007.

Reviewer Adrian Lobb writing in The Big Issue said the social realism in the film was handled in a way that made it accessible to a wide audience but without sugar-coating.

"The pain, the heartache and the struggle and that feeling of invisibility experienced by people who are homeless are palpable - as is the joy and hope brought into James's life by Bob," Lobb wrote.

Treadaway, 32, prepared for his role by sleeping rough, busking and spending hours with Bowen, now 37, before director Roger Spottiswoode - best known for the films "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "Turner and Hooch" - started filming.

Since writing the first book about Bob, Bowen has gone on to write several more books about his loyal cat and also uses his time to help various charities involving homelessness and animal welfare, according to media reports.

He has said that he was homeless for about 10 years before meeting Bob.

Government figures for 2015 estimated more than 3,500 people were sleeping rough on any one night in England, a 30 percent rise on the previous year, with a quarter of these in London.

This figure did not include people in hostels or shelters, squatters or travelers.

Shelter's analysis released on Thursday said it expected the number of homeless children this Christmas to be the highest since 2007 when 133,000 children were in temporary accommodation. It is up 12 percent from a year ago.

"Children that are homeless are more likely to be in poor health, and more likely to suffer mental health problems. Our children don't deserve this," Shelter said in a statement.

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