The kitten intentionally set on fire by two Santa Rosa teenagers in 2007 received a whole new start in life from legions of people across the country who rallied to save him and mend his many injuries.

Adam thrived these past six years in the home and care of a veterinary technician who adored him despite certain destructive tendencies, such as knocking glasses from the kitchen cupboard to see them shatter on the floor.

But Adam's powerful story has ended tragically. The black, bold and handsome though earless cat was hit by a motor vehicle and killed Wednesday after apparently escaping master Tina Wright's Cotati home by ripping a hole in a screen.

"We're all really sad," said Dr. Katheryn Hinkle. She is Wright's employer at Animal Hospital of Cotati and one of the people who, along with surgeon Lisa Alexander of VCA Animal Care Center, for months largely gave over their lives to saving and, to the degree possible, restoring Adam after the inexplicable act of cruelty that left him burned over about 75 percent of his tiny body.

ADAM AND HIS BROTHER had been caught in June of 2007 in a humane box trap placed near Santa Rosa's Paulin Creek by volunteers with Forgotten Felines who intended to neuter the feral cats and give them medical attention. The brother managed to escape at some before two girls who'd found the cage dropped it into a garbage can after setting the trash on fire.

An 11-year-old boy witnessed the outrage and pulled the cage from the fire. The kitten inside was horribly burned.

Dubbed Adam, the tiny cat underwent seven surgeries paid for by people who read about what happened to him in stories that were written by Press Democrat reporter Martin Espinoza and distributed across the United States.

Many people touched by the story sent money and offered Adam a home. A local couple mailed Cotati Animal Hospital a check for $25,000 and a note that read, "Please contact us personally if more money is needed."

Dr. Hinkle said it was remarkable the way the feral and terribly injured kitten accepted all the handling and painful treatments.

"All I can say is he wanted to live, and he decided not to be wild," she said.

Adam emerged from the excruciating ordeal without his ears or his tail and with permanent internal and external injuries that included damage to his left rear leg and hindquarter. But he got around quite well, and grew to 10.5 pounds from 2.2 he'd weighed at the time of the act of cruelty.

Though he was offered many homes across America, there was no question that his best option was to live with Wright, the vet tech he'd bonded with as she nursed him through the nightmare.

"She's the one who stayed up endless hours, changing bandages and feeding him and giving him his medication," Hinkle said.

"He tolerated us but he loved Tina."

SHE LOVED ADAM right back, looking past some of his not-so-endearing ways. "He's not been the easiest pet," Hinkle said.

Adam had a big personality and upon becoming restless with being contained in the house and in the quite-nice yard enclosure that Wright had built for him he'd wreak havoc, such as with the recreational knocking of glasses from the cupboard.

But he and Wright had a wonderful life together these six years. Hinkle said Wright "is just broken in half" to have discovered that Adam got out of the house and was hit and killed by a car or truck.

Hinkle cited several silver linings to the sad-ended story of Adam's life: he had those good years after he recovered, and given the permanent injuries he sustained "he would probably have had some pretty big challenges as an older cat."

"He was a very interesting animal in many respects. He was quite something," said the vet who'll never forget the kitten that fought back from the fire.

"He was a lucky guy, he really was."

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)