FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The little orange-and-white ball of fluff is a fighter.

Any kitten that survives a tumble through the deadly maw of a wood chipper would have to be.

His meow would almost be pitiable, if he weren’t so full of energy and spunk just two weeks after his rescuer and veterinarian debated whether his injuries were so severe that he couldn’t be saved.

“Chipper’s” head is tilted to the right, the result of a fracture to the neck that apparently didn’t damage the spinal cord nerves. Both of the miracle kitten’s front legs were badly mangled and broken, but he gets around, if a little awkwardly. His right eye now appears to be functioning, even if it is damaged.

And just recently having gone to solid foods, he wolfs down his meals, a positive sign.

“I think his food bill is going to be more than his surgery bill,” said Dr. Salvatore Zeitlin, who operated on Chipper three times after the kitten was taken to his South Dixie Animal Hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. “He just gets stronger and better with time.”

Maury Swee of Boca Raton, Fla., who runs a no-kill shelter, the 10th Life Sanctuary, says he got a call from an anonymous woman on the morning of June 20. The woman said a kitten had been asleep in a wood chipper that was turned on by workers. Would Swee help?

Swee says he met her at a gas station, and rushed the bloody kitten to the animal hospital.

“This little kitten has pretty much used up his nine lives,” said Swee, who along with his staff and volunteers cares for more than 700 cats, most of them unsuitable for adoption, at his sanctuary.

When held, Chipper purrs away happily. Both Swee and Zeitlin said the kitten would make a good pet for someone who wanted to adopt, knowing he may have mobility and other health issues.

“What’s unique about this guy is he kept fighting,” Zeitlin said.

Chipper may have been feral, or the victim of an accident or cruelty, Swee suspects. Either way, he has become a darling at the clinic. He needs one more surgery, a cosmetic one, to repair skin damage on top of his head, where there is a big, dark scab.

Zeitlin donates some of his services to 10th Life Sanctuary, but the cost for taking care of Chipper already has run into several thousand dollars.

In a few weeks, when Chipper has had his fourth surgery and is stronger, he will leave the clinic.

“Then we have to find a special home for him,” Swee said.

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