HE ran away the first time I saw him.

That was at about 3am one morning, in the late summer of 2000.

I’d just come home from work at the airport when I saw him playing by the railings at the edge of the park.

A few days later, in the greenhouse, I saw a pair of eyes looking up at me from a pile of soot.

Black cats don’t show up very well from a pile of soot.

He was quite friendly, so I invited him in with a few prawns from the fridge.

He was rather diffident and reluctant to stay, but kept coming back over the next few days. Clearly the prawns had something to do with that.

Then one day, a neighbour from the other end of the street spotted me stroking him and told us his story.

He’d been sleeping rough in a nest he’d made in some bushes at the end of the street.

Some folks were feeding him but they couldn’t take him in, for they either had cats that didn’t get along with him, or they had burglar alarms.

When they’d first found him, he had a leather collar that was so tight it was slowly strangling him.

They’d taken him to a vet and it had to be surgically removed, leaving him always with a few white hairs where the collar had been.

There was no name tag on his collar and he’d not been chipped.

Cats never tell you their real name, so someone named him Binkie.

The neighbours who had been caring for him said we could have him.

We’d lost our two old cats and dog the previous year, so it seemed a great idea to take him in.

Gradually, he came to accept us and very soon developed a penchant for chicken breast as well as prawns.

A problem he did have though, was really awful bad breath.

A vet tried various treatments, but in the end, all his teeth had to come out, except for the incisors.

He learned a few words of English too, and certainly knew what ‘chook chook’ meant.

He soon made friends with three other local cats and it was not unusual to find all four curled up in the spare bedroom.

We didn’t mind, for they were all clean and were a lot of fun to have around.

Sometimes he would disappear for hours, but if we went near the bushes in the park and whistled, out he would pop and walk back home with us, just like a little dog.

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We moved away to Weston. There were 11 cats in the close, but he got along fine with all of those and he soon found a nearby field where he could hunt, play and sleep it off, but one short whistle and out he would pop.

We took him when we moved to west Devon, where he soon made friends with a few local felines, but by then he was probably about 12 and beginning to slow down a little.

He never strayed very far from the house and tended to follow me around, settling in whatever room I was in, or strolling into the garage with an air of ‘what are you up to? Is there anything to eat?’.

Always spotlessly clean, he seemed to have immaculate manners. If we were preparing his food, he would sit quietly at a distance, no ankle rubbing or trying to get his nose into the food tin.

If I rolled him onto his back to scratch his tummy (which he loved), he would never kick back with his back legs - a sort of reflex action with just about any cat.

Curiously, he never meowed or made any noise, but he certainly could do, as we found out one night when he’d got himself locked in next door’s garage.

By the time we moved back to the Taunton area, he must have been about 16 and rarely left the house or garden.

He’d put up with no nonsense from other cats though. One day, another pair came into the garden and started brawling.

Binkie dived into the fight, broke it up, and chased the pair of them out, marching triumphantly back with an air of, ‘Not on my patch!’.

Then, in early 2014, we noticed he wasn’t eating or drinking, seemed to be losing weight and sleeping more than usual.

The vet said he was seriously ill, but they could attempt to rehydrate him with a drip, so we left him overnight.

I was convinced it was the end of the trail; after all, he was probably 18, but the next morning when the phone rang, the vet said to please come and collect him before he completely empties the larder!

So he bounced back and was his old self for months.

But in the late summer, he began to drink a lot more water than usual. He began to hide in my wardrobe sleeping, or just sitting, staring into the corner.

Clearly something was seriously wrong again, and he was diagnosed with terminal kidney disease.

The option of keeping him alive with injections and pills seemed unfair to him, and would have been somehow selfish of us.

One beautiful late autumn day, we scattered his ashes in the bushes near where I’d first found him in the park.

We’d given him a good life, but in his way he had given us so much more.

I wonder if anyone remembers a little black kitten with blue eyes, who disappeared in the East Reach area in the late nineties?