A sassy cat named Truffles is helping children see the beauty in wearing glasses.
Danielle Crull and her family adopted Truffles as a stray kitten found at a church camp in Pennsylvania in 2016.
“She’s a sweetheart,” Crull, 50, told TODAY. “I can’t believe nobody else wanted her.”
Truffles proved to be smart, too. The treat-motivated kitty soon learned the tricks “sit” and “high five.” Since Crull is a master optician and owns a glasses dispensary for children, she wondered if Truffles could also learn to wear glasses to help kids feel more comfortable.
A star was born.
Crull started bringing Truffles to work with her at A Child’s Eyes in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Clients are as young as 4 months old; most are 2-5 years old. Children can feel scared or insecure about being fitted for glasses, but when Truffles struts out modeling her stylish frames, everything changes.
“It’s just like magic,” Crull said. “As soon as the kids see her, they’re like, ‘OK, glasses are amazing.’”
Truffles seems to relish the attention. In fact, if a child is crying, Truffles doesn’t run away. Instead, she sits next to Crull and tries to get her attention until she suggests, “Do you want to see Truffles with glasses?”
In one meaningful encounter, a 3-year-old girl couldn’t stop sobbing because she did not want to try on glasses. She’d just come from the eye doctor, where she’d had drops in her eyes and lights shined in them. Plus, neither of her parents wore glasses.
But when Crull put glasses on Truffles, the child started laughing and then wanted to try on many different pairs.
“Her complete demeanor changed just because she saw a cat in glasses,” Crull recalled. “That was all she needed.”
Some clients need to wear an eye patch for amblyopia, a fairly common childhood eye condition — which can make children feel self-conscious. So Truffles wears one, too.
“When you cover up your eye that sees well to try to make your eye that doesn’t see well start to see better, you feel like you’re being punished,” she said. “Seeing Truffles in it makes them feel like she’s one of them.”
Truffles, known as Truffles the Kitty online, frequently receives messages and videos from kids who are “patching.” Some share that they’re having a hard time, or that their eye is better and they no longer need to wear a patch. One little girl sang a song she wrote about how Truffles is “the best.”
Crull shows every single video to Truffles and responds on her behalf with messages of support. Sometimes she sends “encouragement packages” from the kitty with gifts like T-shirts, puzzles and posters to kids who are having a tough time, such as a girl insulted by a stranger about her glasses.
Truffles stars in her own educational videos. She teaches kids what to do with glasses when they aren't wearing them by pulling a case toward herself or pointing, and shows them what eye charts look like. She demonstrates how to pick glasses and to wear sunglasses when outside.
Truffles has about 20 pairs of glasses and sunglasses (only the sunglasses have lenses). She loves wearing them, but only if they’re properly fitted. The cat can remove her glasses whenever she likes, but often keeps them on for a long time and even falls asleep in them.
“Sometimes I’ll go to take them off and she’ll just walk away from me,” Crull said. “She doesn’t want them off yet.”
Crull hopes people will consider adopting pets and allowing them to “be who they are.”
“I think animals are healing in so many different ways,” she said. “I can tell Truffles really feels like, ‘This is what I do. This is me.’”