Binkie was born around September first, 2016. He was found in a field together with his 3 brothers and sisters. There was no mother in sight and 2 of the ten day old kittens were already dead. I was a volunteer for the animal shelter back then and Binkie and his brother were brought to me to foster. Sadly his little brother died on the way to my house. Binkie wasn’t in a good condition either and I decided not to name him until the following morning, if he was still alive. I bottle fed him every two hours and kept him warm. The following morning he was doing much better and I named him Binkie. Bink is Dutch for a handsome tough guy, but the good kind of tough, like a fireman. And since this little boy was obviously tough I named him Binkie, which in the Netherlands is not exactly an original name for a cat or dog. But I decided that it didn’t matter since he would be going for adoption anyway, like all the other kittens I had fostered, right? Wrong, in the roughly 6 years that I was a volunteer for the animal shelter, I fostered around one hundred kittens and grown cats, and Binkie was the one I couldn’t let go. He quickly won me over, but I still had to convince Kilian. We already knew that we wanted to travel for a longer period of time and at that point we still had some older cats and we would wait until they had passed away. Travelling with a cat wasn’t the plan. But that was actually the part about the plan I liked the least. So I slowly started to talk about it with Kilian and then Binkie did the rest and he got to stay.

We started taking him on short trips and he got used to a harness and leash. We took him with us on holidays, Scandinavia was his first big trip.

And when we left for our travels in August 2020 he became a full time travelling kitty. He has travelled through 37 countries, some of them multiple times. He crossed borders at least 80 times, most of them “illegally “ as we quickly learned that at most borders they don’t care and we only made sure to have all the correct paperwork when flying in or out of a country or if we knew they were going to be really strict.

Binkie liked meeting other cats but became a bit more careful after he was attacked by a local cat in Costa Rica and he got an abscess and needed a vet. In Albania while I took him for a walk he suddenly jumped in a bush and very quickly out of it, but not quickly enough as a snake bit him. Binkie had obviously seen the snake move and decided it would be a fun toy. His paw got pretty swollen but fortunately that was it. After that he was afraid of snakes, which suited me just fine, since we certainly didn’t want him playing with any snakes in Latin America! We had also gotten Binkie used to dogs by visiting an acquaintance with cat friendly dogs. Nevertheless we were always on guard with dogs and after a few too close and unfriendly encounters, Binkie was too. Although a couple of times he would suddenly jump out of the van and chase away a dog. We always wondered what had then suddenly gotten in to him? He also once chased away an ostrich, and liked sneaking up on lamas and chickens. But horses and cattle spooked him. He also was a bit scared of strangers, like a lot of cats really. But this could sometimes be a real inconvenience when taking him for a walk. On a busy trail we would either leave him in the van, or if that was too hot, he would spend most of his time in his special backpack.

Binkie really considered the van his home. While driving he would mostly lie on the folded bed except when driving of road, he would sometimes lie on the dashboard. When I got out of the van, to film the van or to give Kilian some instructions on a difficult track, Binkie would immediately sit on my seat, looking smugly outside as if he had finally gotten justice by getting “his” seat back! He was of course welcome to sit on my lap, but he never wanted to. When he was younger he would sometimes lie in Kilian’s neck and look out of the side window, but at some point he stopped doing that.

As soon as we parked the van, Kilian would put up a rope line for Binkie while I put on his harness and leash. We always tried to park the van in a place that would be fun for Binkie but of course that didn’t always work out, in which case we would feel a bit bad for him. And we always tried to find a hotel or apartment with a garden or at least a decent balcony. So basically Binkies happiness was a major priority although every now and then he would just have to “deal with it”. Binkie didn’t like the beach much but of course we would sometimes like to be at the beach.

But then after a few days at the beach, or a city we would make it up to him by finding the best “Binkie friendly “ spots for him.  Binkie would usually go outside on his leash, which we would attach to a long line (rope) between the van and a tree or something. We would also take him for walks.

Ever since Peru where we camped in the desert, he would sometimes go off leash in places with no normal roads or dogs close by. He would be outside mornings until dark, although often he would take naps in the van. When parked we always made a bed for him on the drivers seat. If it was very hot he would sleep on the floor, if it was cold he would sleep on the bed, sometimes under the blankets. Every night he would wake up Kilian by tapping Kilian on the nose with his paw, so Kilian would get up and give him some food. In order to keep him on a healthy weight he got the same amount of food every day and not all at once. Of course he also got some snacks, his favourite were Churros, a liquid snack. He usually had to earn his snacks by doing the tricks that I had taught him. He could sit on commando, give a nose boop, a paw and a high five. I wish I had filmed this, but I never did. Binkie loved giving nose boops (so not a difficult trick for him to learn) and he would give nose boops just to cuddle or because he wanted food or snacks.

There are so many more things I could tell about this wonderful, sweet, beautiful, smart, cuddly little boy. But they are all now just history. On October 14th he got sick in the evening with a fever.

On Sunday we took him to the vet, by then he wasn’t eating anymore either. The vet gave him some medication to stabilize him until Monday and for a few hours he at least ate some and his temperature went down. On Monday blood was taken and an echo of his abdomen was done. The results came back negative, meaning nothing unusual was found. But he clearly was getting worse. The vet send us on to Santiago, the capital, with more resources and better equipped vets on Tuesday. On Wednesday he was admitted to hospital because he was refusing all food. He got a feeding tube and an IV for fluids. More tests were done, all came back negative or inconclusive. On another echo his pancreas was slightly enlarged, but the blood showed no abnormalities.

He got anaemic and needed blood. At first nothing could be found but one of the assistants went home to get her own cat with the same blood type. But Binkie also got internal infections and got pulmonary embolism, which made it harder for him to breathe. On Friday we visited him in the morning (we visited him daily) and he wanted a bit of a cuddle and started purring, for the first time in days. Maybe he was saying goodbye…at 5pm he decompressed while waiting for the blood to arrive at 7pm. He got intubated and was on intensive care with his full time own medical staff, to watch him for twelve hours straight. The blood came and in the morning his blood levels were slightly improved. But very shortly after he was taken off the machine that was breathing for him and the tube was removed, he decompressed again. He was intubated again but after an hour his little heart stopped. Even CPR was applied but he was gone. He died at October 21st 2023 at the age of only seven. Leaving us completely heartbroken and in shock. He was cremated on the 24th and all that remains now are his ashes in a beautiful urn, his blankly and his cuddly toy.

And then, suddenly there’s all that’s left…

It has been over 5 weeks and I now no longer cry every day… He leaves such a big hole, we loved him so much. He was with us 24/7 for the past three years, he was the third “person” in this van. He was an integral part of our journey. Without him it just doesn’t seem to matter any more. He was supposed to be part of all our future planned adventures and all the future adventures we hadn’t yet planned but only dreamed of. Cats, like most pets aren’t supposed to love us for our entire lives, we are supposed to love them their entire lives. But dying at only seven is at least still ten years too early. When someone, pet or person, dies way too young (and especially unexpectedly) you not only loose that loved one, but also the future you were to have together. Pretty soon we will be at Ushuaia, the most southern point on this continent you can drive. A highlight, an achievement for almost every overlander on this continent. We were looking forward to this.  But now I am dreading it, because it will be just another very painful reminder that only two of us made it there… We’re still going there, but now mostly because we have no other plan really.

Binkie 01/09/16 – 21/10/23

And we will never really know why he died. Vets have made educated guesses; aggressive lymphoma and internal infection. But we will never know for sure, nor will we ever know if maybe if we had done something different, we could’ve saved him. 

I know this was a long story with lots of photo’s, but I could have written so much more about Binkie.

In loving Memory

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