Truffles the cat is making it fun to wear glasses for kids
Truffles lounges on a yellow table in the window of her family’s optical shop. When she’s not working, Truffles uses this spot to relax in the sunshine and wait for a child to visit, in search of a new pair of glasses. This cat knows a thing or two about glasses for kids.
Unlike your typical feline, Truffles’ striking green eyes are often seen peering through a pair of custom frames. Her affinity for glasses has gained her a substantial following on social media and created a platform for normalizing glasses for kids.
How a cat won the optician's heart
In 2016, Danielle Crull, Master Optician and owner of A Child’s Eyes, an optical shop in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was performing at a summer camp with her family band when she and Truffles met.
“We were up there the day after Truffles was born, and one of my kids told me to come and look at the new kittens,” Danielle says.
Three months later, Danielle’s family was asked back to the same camp, and Truffles was still there.
“She was just this cute little black fuzz ball with brown tips on the ends of her fur, which is why I named her Truffles, and I just fell in love with her,” Danielle says.
When Truffles was brought home, she joined the family of office pets. The optical shop hosts animals, from hermit crabs to a Green-Cheeked Conure bird named Freddie, who work as a welcomed distraction for Danielle’s very young clients.
“The average age of the children I see is probably three years old,” she explains. “So when putting glasses on a kiddo, every distraction you can take advantage of, you use it.”
As Danielle would soon find out, Truffles had a little extra something that would make her more than just an office cat.
The cat approach to glasses for kids
Danielle soon noticed Truffles’ outstanding attentiveness and love of treats, which inspired Danielle to train Truffles to do tricks.
“I had always heard that if your cat is very food motivated, they could be easy to train, so I wondered if I could teach her,” Danielle says.
“First it was high fives and shake hands and jump up and jump through my arms and sit,” Danielle explains. “Then I wondered if I could get her to put glasses on, so I just began to teach her the same way by saying ‘glasses on.’”
To make a pair of glasses for Truffles, Danielle used a pair of premie glasses by Solo Bambini, which are made of rubbery plastic. She adjusted the glasses to fit comfortably on Truffles’ face, taking extra care to ensure her wiry whiskers weren’t trapped or bent.
“I didn’t want her to be uncomfortable in any way,” Danielle says. “I would do the same for a child. I wouldn’t make them wear glasses without adjusting them first.”
By six months old, Truffles was consistently wearing her custom frames for the children who came into the shop. And, she would teach the children how to care for their glasses when not being worn.
“I taught her how to take the glasses off, and after she takes them off, I’ll say ‘where do we put our glasses?’ As long as an eyeglasses case is there, she’ll tap it,” Danielle explains
Probably the most impressive trick in Truffles’ repertoire is identifying the symbols on a children’s eye chart. While A Child’s Eyes doesn’t conduct eye exams, Danielle and Truffles use the chart as a way to familiarize children with the process. They encourage parents to work with their children so they’re more cooperative during an eye exam.
A community for children's vision
A common condition Danielle deals with in her office is amblyopia, or lazy eye. Typically, treatment for amblyopia requires a child to wear an eye patch over their stronger eye in order to strengthen the weaker eye.
Having to wear an eye patch can make children feel self-conscious. Danielle and Truffles, who wears a patch over her glasses in solidarity, have created a community for these children and their families.
“We have a patching support group where we meet once a month,” Danielle explains. “Kids get together to play and they all wear an eye patch, and I talk to the parents about amblyopia and help them to understand it a little better.”
After a child has gained enough eye strength to no longer need a patch, the group puts on a graduation to celebrate the child “patching out” of the program. Graduates are often invited back to be a mentor for children who are still “patching,” which allows them to stay in touch with the community.
“Our goal is always to make it a fun and memorable experience for families and for children,” Danielle says.
Encouraging kids to wear their glasses
Over the years, Truffles has gained an impressive collection of frames, including a pair of polarized, mirrored sunglasses that she wears when she’s outside.
“She wears glasses to help children feel more comfortable wearing them,” Danielle says. “I could spend three hours explaining to a child why they need to put glasses on and how it’s not going to hurt them, but Truffles can do it in 30 seconds, and the kids are like ‘I want to do it too!’”
Danielle recommends a couple of tips to parents on how to make their child feel more confident about wearing glasses. Get your child glasses they can be proud of by allowing them to pick out the frames themselves.
But also consider, even if your child loves how the frames look, comfort is king. You wouldn’t wear glasses that pinch your nose or put pressure on your ears, and a child won’t wear glasses that they find uncomfortable either.
The magic of Truffles
Truffles’ Instagram, which boasts nearly 11,000 followers, is packed with pictures and videos to help children find courage to face things that often seem scary. Recently, Truffles posted a picture of herself wearing pink frames and a decorated protective mask. The post advises children to stay safe during COVID-19 by wearing a mask and “washing their paws.”
“Truffles is committed to doing whatever she can to make kids feel comfortable, whether it’s wearing glasses or an eye patch or a mask,” Danielle says.
The impact that Truffles has on children that wear glasses is nothing short of magical. She has a way of calming their anxiety and building the trust of children who step inside her shop or watch her videos online.
Truffles is working to normalize glasses for kids all over the world, and as far as we’re concerned, she’s doing a purrrfect job.
READ NEXT: How to get kids to wear glasses
Page published on Monday, April 27, 2020