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Would you care about this kitten if he weren’t purple?

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Photo: Nine Lives Foundation via CNN

Photo: Nine Lives Foundation via CNN

A kitten that was dyed purple and may have been used as a dog’s “chew toy” is on the mend after receiving care in a California animal rescue shelter.

But the veterinarian caring for “Smurf” — named for the bluish-indigo hue of his fur — is worried the kitten’s plight will inspire further mistreatment of helpless animals.

The kitten was about seven weeks old and weighed less than 2 pounds when he was found in a cardbox box with rags and lemon slices on a street in San Jose, said veterinarian Monica Rudiger, founder of no-kill shelter Nine Lives Foundation. A person brought him to the San Jose Animal Shelter, which in turn delivered him to Nine Lives for medical care.

He had multiple puncture wounds resembling bite marks from a dog, Rudiger said. The color of his wounds indicate he was dyed before sustaining his injuries, suggesting he was used as a plaything, Rudiger said.

“He wasn’t beaten or strangled; these are repetitive bites all over his body,” she said. “I can’t imagine how else he would come to have so many puncture wounds.”

Smurf’s plight has drawn attention from around the world, Rudinger said. Her shelter has received emails and messages from people in Brazil, England and elsewhere offering to adopt the kitten.

She’s grateful for the attention but she worries that people only care about Smurf because he’s purple. Nearly each day she posts pictures of abandoned or neglected animals on Nine Lives’ Facebook page, many whom have experienced similar treatment or worse.

None has ever received as much attention as Smurf.

“It’s become a craze,” she said. “I appreciate the exposure but I hope the message is long-lasting that animal cruelty is real and this is just one guy who’s experienced it.

“There are plenty of other kittens who need to be saved.”

The good news is Smurf is making friends at the shelter while he recovers. He will enter foster care next week but it will be a long time before he’s ready for adoption, and not only because of his health, she said.

He is receiving antibiotics to clear up infections in preparation for surgery on a large wound on his right leg, Rudinger said. Caregivers also are washing and shaving him regularly to get him back to his natural color, which Rudinger believes is black or gray.

“We want to make sure people don’t want him just because he’s purple,” she said. “We don’t want to encourage other people to do the same thing.”