I HAVE always loved cats and have owned several ever since I was a teenager. Many have lived long and happy lives, some unfortunately had their lives cut short prematurely.

Up until Wednesday evening I had two. Elmo is a black and white moggy who is the laziest cat in the world. He sleeps and eats a lot and that is basically it. He purrs incessantly and loves having his ears scratched. He is the ultimate low maintenance cat these days, but it wasn’t always that way.

I got him from a cat rescue centre in Essex six years ago. No one wanted him because he was the ultimate scaredy cat and he was predominantly black and black cats don’t tend to be popular when it comes to adoption.

By all accounts he had been hit repeatedly by his ghastly previous owner and it took months for him to let me touch him, let alone stroke him. It has been a long and arduous process to get him to trust me but we got there in the end.

I have always tended to have two cats so when I heard that there was a large ginger tomcat called Jimi who needed a new home I couldn’t resist.

To call Jimi a character would be an understatement of epic proportion.

When I went to pick him up he was wailing and he never stopped until his untimely demise aged just six.

His legs were too long and he walked like John Wayne after three days of riding across the prairie but boy was he beautiful.

He was the ultimate ginger tabby with beautiful markings and distinctive rings on his tail which was about a foot long and of which he was inordinately proud, washing it at every opportunity.

He was fit, healthy and energetic and seemed destined for a long and happy life until he was taken to the vet for an annual check-up and injections just over a year ago.

The Australian vet checked him over and then announced with gravitas that... “I’m afraid Jimi has an irregular heartbeat. He could die in the next five minutes or he might live for another ten years. It is impossible to tell.”

He then added that it would be possible to fit a pacemaker but we were talking at least seven hundred pounds and possibly more.

Then the killer blow... “it might not work and he could die on the operating table”.

After consultation with my flatmate we decided not to go ahead. Yes we both loved Jimi dearly but didn’t have £750 spare to be perfectly honest and didn’t have pet insurance.

Most of the time Jimi seemed fine. The only concern was he would jump for no reason whatsoever. It was almost as if he had been hit with a jolt of electricity. But he would jump up on top of the conservatory, scale the fence and be at the door waiting for his Whiskas as soon as you put the key in the front door.

Then, suddenly, he wasn’t there and I had no idea what had happened to him. A day passed, then two, three, four, five, six and seven.

Had he been snatched, stabbed or run over? I had no idea and that made it even worse. When I arrived home on Wednesday there was a handwritten note from a neighbour confirming the worst.

It stated: “Hi, I am sorry to break the news but I heard one of your cats is missing and we found him in our back garden. It seems he passed away peacefully”.

It seems his heart simply gave out and I am devastated. He was an integral part of the family and will be sorely missed.

Jimi and Elmo never really got on. They tolerated each other at best and there were invariably fights at the food bowls as they both battled to wolf down as much food as possible before diving into the other’s bowl.

But since Jimi’s death was confirmed, Elmo has been in mourning. He is not eating well and is spending much of the time under the bed rather than sleeping at the foot of it.

He will recover in time but he is an old boy now as he heads towards his 11th birthday. Naturally I hope he has a good few years left but when he uses up the last of his nine lives then that will be it for me as far as cat ownership goes.

It is cliche but like most cliches it is true. You don’t own cats, they own you.

They come and go as they please and they will never be truly domesticated.

That is what I like most about them. They are independent spirits and all they care about is themselves. If you feed them and shelter them and treat them kindly they will stay. If you don’t they won’t.

For all his faults, Jimi enriched my life and has left a massive void. He will be sorely missed.