If you geek out over movie characters or famous bands, or if you’ve ever done something as simple as invite your friends over to watch The Bachelor, you have more in common with furries than you think. “Furries are fans, just like anyone else,” says Courtney Plante, PhD, professor of psychology at Bishop’s University and co-founder and lead data analyst for FurScience. They’re fans of “films, stories, and artwork that feature animals [that] walk, talk, and do human things.”
If this sounds simple, it’s because it is.
Participating in the furry community is really no different from supporting your favorite sports team by painting your face and wearing its jersey, engaging in cosplay, or wearing a Slytherin scarf because you love the Harry Potter films, says Plante, who’s studied more than 30,000 furries over the past decade.
Still, the furry fandom is constantly poked fun at in movies, TV shows, the works. Since there are a lot of misconceptions out there about furries, allow an expert and an actual furry to debunk them once and for all with nine must-know facts.
1. Furries are not dysfunctional or socially awkward
“Whenever we see someone acting in an unusual way, we have an innate need to try and understand why they’re doing that,” explains Plante.
This is where the stigma surrounding the furry fandom comes in. People often can’t figure out why someone would invent an animal persona, or as it’s called in the fandom, a “fursona” (think: a fox for whom you’ve developed a personality, name, voice, and mannerisms), or dress up as their favorite animal cartoon character, Plante says, so they invent explanations. The usual conclusion is “either this person has some serious mental health problems, or this person is doing it for some kind of sexual gratification,” he says.
Neither of these are true. While stereotypical images of furries in media depict them as socially awkward people, research suggests furries are simply expressing passion for a hobby and interacting with others who share that interest. For others, their reason for joining the fandom is to fulfill a sense of belonging. Most engage in the fandom by anthropomorphizing their favorite characters or imagining adventures for their fursonas through drawings and art. Some just watch their favorite cartoons regularly, and for others, their identity as a furry comes down to online messaging other fans about, say, Rocket, a cartoon raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy films.
In fact, when Plante’s studies allowed him to analyze furries based on various wellness measures, he found furries are just as satisfied with their lives as non-furries, they have healthy relationships, and they’re no more likely to be on psychiatric medication or diagnosed with anxiety or mood disorders.
2. They’re not sexual deviants, either
Think furries get turned on by wearing fursuits? Again, not the case.
Truth is, only 15 to 25 percent of furries actually own a fursuit, and among them even fewer find it kinky. (As you can probably imagine, it’s very warm in there.) The goal for most is to escape reality for a bit.
But while there’s nothing inherently sexual about the fandom, Plante likens erotic furry content that is out there to the way Star Trek fans have sexualized Captain Kirk and Dr. Spock or car enthusiasts hang up posters of women sitting on the hoods of their favorite models. And when it comes to furries having sex with each other, he points out that most people date and have sex with people with whom they share a common interest. Furries are no different.
3. Anyone can get involved in the community in a number of ways…
For Jordan Dreyer, her interest began while on active duty in the Navy. When she learned how expensive fursuits were, she tried her hand at making one for herself by watching online tutorials. It wasn’t until “after I finished my fursuit [that] I found the amazing online social communities, the art, the conventions, and the awesome people.”
Since, Dreyer’s met up with other members of the fandom at small gatherings to bowl or grab food and at weekend-long conventions including Midwest FurFest where she becomes either Aurora Bloom, a charming husky, or Cynder, a lioness and Aurora’s ferocious alter ego. She’s joined by more than 11,000 furries (83.2 percent of whom are white and 66.6 percent who identify as cis-gendered males under 25 years old, per FurScience) who’ll attend screenings and dance competitions, and shop accessories and art at the vendor’s hall, and attend informational sessions about costumes, drawing, and writing.
4. …Many times, though, it starts online
Conventions are places for furries (along with the non-furry friends and family the fandom’s dubbed “normies”) to connect with fellow fans, explains Dreyer. It’s an exciting time because, for some, it’s the first or only face time they get with each other. Interaction across the fandom happens mostly online: in chatrooms, discussion forums, and social media platforms including YouTube—a hub for furry TikTok compilations, channels for the parents of furries, and giving back. In January, a furry-run stream raised more than $17,000 for Australian bushfire relief, she shares.
If the fandom is something you were interested in being a part of, the internet provides an easy and low-stakes way to join. Furries find their tribes within the fandom by gaming with or messaging fans who are into the same characters they are, or they find ones who share a similar passion for fan art or films. From there, numbers are exchanged, the regular meet-ups start happening, and most make plans to attend conventions. Whether platonic or romantic, relationships within the fandom are why people love it.
5. Furries don’t think they’re actually animals
Fursonas are not ways for furries to identify as animals, nor do most furries think they’re spiritually connected to the animal world. Plante’s studies show that while one in three furries don’t feel like they’re completely human, the majority of the fandom does.
6. You’ve probably already interacted with a furry
They’ve been seated next to you at dinner, you’ve gone to school with them, and you’ve worked alongside them, too, says Plante.
While numerous television shows, films, and certain corners of social media portray furries as fetishists with an unnatural interest in playing dress up, after hearing them out about the fandom, you’ll most likely find the myths about them are misguided. Is there kink in the community? Absolutely. But, sexual preferences are up to the individual, not the fandom. This is a misconception Dreyer especially wishes people outside the subculture would abandon.
7. These stigmas really affect furries
Outside judgment is seeping into the fandom itself. In fact, the shame that often comes with being a furry stems from fear of how they’ll be received. “Approximately 60 percent of furries agreed that they felt prejudice against furries from society, while approximately 40 percent of furries felt that being a furry was not socially accepted,” according to recent research.
8. Many have even been bullied
But don’t get it twisted, they’re not “asking” for it in any way. “Furries were more likely to be bullied throughout their entire lives,” says Plante. Sixty-two percent of furries report being bullied from age 11 to 18, while 48.3 percent say they were bullied between the ages of 4 and 10. In no way have furries brought bullying onto themselves because they’ve joined the fandom, it’s just the excuse bullies are giving.
9. Furries are no different from you
The furry fandom is a community where the people in it can feel like they belong when they’re feeling misunderstood. Think about it this way, Plante says: “What your family, church group, or work friends are for you, fandoms are for fans.”