Stewie, a 6-month-old kitten, is known as a survivor. He was rescued from a home where another kitten was allegedly killed by a Pueblo resident who goes on trial in June on charges of aggravated animal cruelty.
On Tuesday, Stewie took on the role of celebrity teacher at the Pikes Peak Humane Society's Camp Whiskers and Wags.
He basked in the oohs and ahhs as the kids got a lesson in how animals should be treated.
At first, Stewie - who looked feline fine indeed in his lime green and white striped bow tie - didn't take to the classroom. He preferred to show off his fancy escape artist techniques: climbing the sides of the enclosure; using camp counselor Patty Breece's back and shoulders as a ladder; and trying to disappear into a backpack hanging on the wall. Another kitten, Esperanza, who is his foster buddy, showed a bit more classroom decorum.
Breece asked the kids about cat care as the lesson plan himself wandered away, sat in laps for about two seconds, swatted at toys, and hopped over the fence.
"How often should you clean a litter box?" Breece asked gamely after retrieving a wiggling Stewie.
"A lot," one girl volunteered.
The day camp is held several times a year during school breaks and summer vacation. The kids get to interact with animals of all shapes and sizes, explained Katie Borremans, a society spokeswoman. "We teach responsible ownership, respect for animals and encourage compassion." Kids were told that Stewie was rescued, but no details of his past were revealed.
Robert Heckmann, 25, was arrested in January on suspicion of cruelty to animals for allegedly torturing and killing another kitten named Lokie, at the house where Stewie was kept in Pueblo. A Pueblo District judge this week set a June 10 trial date.
Stewie was removed from the home and has been residing at the Humane Society and in temporary foster care since late January.
"He is the bright spot to come from that horrific case," Borremans said.
Stewie will be up for adoption soon. Those interested must fill out a detailed application. Already the society is getting inquiries. They received donations of more than $3,000 for surgery he needed for a congenital condition.
Stewie was a big hit. Almost all the camp kids raised their hands when asked if they wanted to take Stewie home.
"Cats are very silly," Miranda Hamilton, 7, said.