The Cat Behind the Glasses

by Lola Elizabeth Teigland

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I met SunglassCat a few years ago at World Dog Day. She sat serenely in a pink stroller, wearing a summer dress and sunglasses, calmly taking in the chaos. I peppered her owner, Karen McGill, with questions. Doesn’t she run off? All these dogs, isn’t she scared? She lets you dress her … in sunglasses?? Karen laughingly told me, “She’s no different than a dog, except for species.” I immediately invited this most unusual cat and her mom to join our troop of scouting dogs, known as the Pupscouts. Yes, it’s a scout troop for dogs, and I knew SunglassCat would fit right in.

Rescued from the Carson Animal Shelter at just two months old, SunglassCat is an unusual cat. Formerly known as Bagel, the tiny kitten lunged forward and draped her paws through the grate as Karen walked by. She fell instantly in love with the kitty’s cute crossed eyes … but those eyes were more than just crossed. Little Bagel was born without eyelids. She began wearing sunglasses after her first eye surgery. Two more surgeries followed, and because she had no eyelids, her eyelash follicles needed to be frozen to stop the growth.

Karen began dressing the tiny kitten almost immediately after adopting her. “We were at the beach,” says Karen. “It was 80 degrees, and Bagel was shaking. I thought, ‘Why are you shaking? It’s warm out!’ I went to Petco and bought a cute little red dress with white polka dots. The next day I took her to the beach and she was fine.” Today, this fashionable cat draws smiles of joy from the people she meets, but it wasn’t always that way. Initially, some people thought dressing a cat up in clothes and sunglasses was abusive— until they understood the medical reasons behind it. This fired up Karen’s core belief that people shouldn’t be so quick to judge, and differences should be celebrated.

With her passion ignited, Karen became a cat advocate. She started taking SunglassCat to local rescue events, using Twitter to organize their activities. They got involved with Best Friends Animal Society, doing meet and greets in Los Angeles and New York. “When traveling, I would take SunglassCat in the family restroom. I took a picture of her strapped in the infant seat. People loved it. They said you should be on Instagram. I said, ‘What’s an Instagram?’” Karen downloaded the app and her journey as a pet influencer began. SunglassCat didn’t stop with just helping cats. One night, she repeatedly bit at Karen’s heels as she slept, an unusual behavior for the normally gentle cat. Karen woke to find a smoldering extension cord! Another time, she jumped out of Karen’s hands and onto the bib of young girl in a wheelchair who had autism. Embarrassed, Karen apologized profusely, but the father thanked her. He explained that his daughter had smiled with a new light in her eyes. On another occasion, the caring cat responded with similar empathy to a boy with autism.

Today SunglassCat travels the nation for philanthropic causes. She volunteers for the Salvation Army at Christmas and for the LA Mission at their Easter celebration. She appeared at the Polished Girlz Prom, an event for kids with cancer who missed or might never see their own prom. And she continues to earn badges, doing good things for her community with her Pupscout troop. On September 1st, SunglassCat attended the Animal Rights March in New York City. So what’s next? Here in Los Angeles, you’ll find her marching with the Pupscouts in the Haute Dog Halloween Parade, an event hosted by Justin Rudd’s Community Action Team. After all, their mission aligns with hers: to promote social well-being to people and their pets everywhere!

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