A 3-month-old cat is clinging to life at a Sonoma County animal hospital after having been set on fire by two teenage girls who now face charges of animal cruelty.

The kitten, named Adam by hospital staff, has undergone two surgeries and had its tail and the tips of its ears amputated. The skin on its back was burned off in the attack, leaving nothing but raw tissue.

"The degree of injury is greater than our normal level of trauma that we care for," said Katheryn Hinkle, the head veterinarian and owner of the Animal Hospital of Cotati. "He's our most critical patient, and we're watching him constantly."

The cat, one of several feral felines trapped for spaying and neutering, was in a cage outside an apartment in Santa Rosa when two 15-year-old girls allegedly poured flammable liquid on the animal and set it on fire last month.

An 11-year-old boy and his friend saw the smoke and heard the cat, then eight weeks old, shrieking while the girls laughed. The girls, whose names have not been released, were charged with cruelty to animals in Sonoma County Juvenile Court last week.

With so much exposed skin, the cat is vulnerable to infection, Hinkle said. It cannot leave its cage and must be handled only with gloves. It will need several more surgeries to cover the wound on its back with skin.

The kitten was among six wild litter mates and a male cat captured by a trapper on a farm. The plan was to have the cats spayed and neutered and then released back to the farm. The cages with the kittens were stolen and only Adam has been found.

According to Hinkle, the bill to keep the kitten alive could run between $20,000 and $30,000 even though the vet performing its surgeries has donated her services. The community's concern for the cat has prompted anger in some Sonoma County residents, who complain that the slaying of a 16-year-old boy in the same neighborhood last year did not receive as much attention.