How Truffles the Cat Helps Kids Who Need Glasses

The former stray found her home and calling in an optical shop: She shows kids who need glasses they don’t need to be afraid.

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Posted in , Oct 25, 2021

Truffles the cat wearing her statement frames

Imagine being a child, unable to see well. Your eyes are tested, dilated, puffed with air or squirted with liquid, and now you’re told you’ll need to wear glasses. Or perhaps, an eye patch. It can all be very scary.

Enter master optician Danielle Crull, who started her practice in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, specifically for youth—infants through teens—who need glasses. In 2002, she opened A Child’s Eyes, the first independent optical shop of its kind in the United States, and now runs the practice with the help of her husband and their three children, who are all in their twenties and board-certified opticians.

Wearing glasses as a kid prompted Danielle’s interest in the field and she jumped in with an apprenticeship right out of high school, before earning her national certifications. Her work with a pediatric ophthalmologist gave her hands-on experience and made her see the need for child-focused opticians.

While her practice was her priority, Danielle also made time to sing in the family band at a nearby church camp. They were a big hit—and not just with people. Stray cats and their kittens would roam around as the band jammed. After one gig, her kids begged her to keep the last kitten from a litter. They already had two cats at home, “but of course they wore me down,” says Danielle. “She was this little growling furball who didn’t want to be held.”

Yet Danielle and the Maine Coon, Truffles, bonded quickly, and the kitten revealed her treat-motivated personality. “That discovery showed me she could be taught very easily,” Danielle says. Truffles quickly learned to sit, stand, high-five and wave. “I’m no cat trainer. She’s just really smart,” Danielle admits.

Truffles first accompanied Danielle to A Child’s Eyes in 2018, joining a bird and hermit crabs Danielle describes as her “weapons to get kids distracted and comfortable.” She fit the fuss-free feline with glasses (without lenses), sizing her frames just as she would for a child.

“She is magic with the kiddos,” says Danielle, whose customers range from four months to 18 years old. “The young children are especially leery after all the testing they’ve gone through. I’ll say, ‘Truffles wants to show you her glasses,’ and she normalizes it for them within just a few minutes.” Truffles also uses her super smarts to allay kids’ fear of testing. She demonstrates how to do a shape test, identifying an apple and a circle with a tap of her paw.

Just like a growing kid, Truffles had to be refitted after a few years. She’ll bat her glasses off when she’s tired but has also been known to fall asleep in them. If a child suffers from amblyopia (a weaker eye) and needs an eye patch, Danielle adds a patch to Truffles’ glasses. And for kids who can’t visit the office, Truffles stars in a series of videos about eye exams and glasses care on trufflesthekitty.com.

“Every day I see Truffles fulfill her purpose through these children,” says Danielle. “If God had a plan for Truffles, then there isn’t anyone on this earth that he doesn’t have a plan for.”

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