One of the first questions we ask in any of our studies is the age of the participant. The purpose of this is two-fold: first, age can be an important variable, predicting a number of physical, psychological, and social outcomes. Second, due to ethical restrictions, the IARP is unable to study minors (as parental consent would be required, something we cannot reasonably expect to obtain if a person has not “come out” to their family as a furry).
Average Age (Years) of Furry Participants
As the table above and figure below shows, furries tend to be relatively young, with the majority of adult furries (over the age of 18) being in their early-to-mid-twenties, and nearly 75% of furries being under the age of 25. 1 Convention-going furries tend to be, on average, a bit older than furries in our online samples. This, we believe, is due to the fact that conventions can be expensive to attend (e.g., travel costs, hotel), requiring a level of expendable income and long-distance transportation more available to those with stable careers, who are more likely to be in their mid-twenties than their late teens and early twenties.
The term “greymuzzle” is sometimes used by furries who have been in the fandom for significantly longer (12.3 years vs. 6.2 years, on average) or who are older than the average furry (e.g., 42.2 years old, on average). Approximately 9% of furries self-identify as greymuzzles.2 They are comparable to other furries in most regards, not differing in their well-being or in their identification with the furry fandom. Greymuzzles do differ on a few variables:
a. On average, it took greymuzzles much longer to discover the furry fandom after developing furry interests (9.5 years vs. 4.6 years), likely a product of internet accessibility.
b. Greymuzzles are 3-4 times more likely to self-identify as therian.
c. Greymuzzles are less likely to have an interest in roleplaying activities.3
The IARP is currently investigating the reason for a significant drop in the age of furries, particularly after the early 20s. One possibility is that, as people age, factors such as families and careers may reduce the amount of time people can devote to their hobbies. Alternatively, it may be the case that as furries spend time in the furry fandom, they form close friendships and, after a while, find themselves interacting with those friends outside of furry contexts.
In addition to assessing actual age, the IARP has also studied subjective age—the extent to which furries feel younger or older than they actually are. As illustrated in the figure below, the “peak” of subjective (felt) age is younger than that of objective (actual) age. 10% to 15% of furries identify their felt age as being under the age of 18, while comparatively fewer identify a subjective age older than 40. The average actual age of furries is significantly higher than the average subjective age of the same furries (28.0 years vs. 25.3 years), about 6.9% higher on average.5
In 2017 the IARP began studying how age affects interactions between and attitudes toward members of the fandom, particularly whether members of the furry fandom tended to hold positive or negative attitudes toward furries outside their age group7.
To test this, we asked participants a series of questions about their willingness to interact with furries of different age categories (18, 25, 35, and 55 years old) in different contexts (e.g., willingness to talk to, get a ride to a convention with, share a room at a convention with, get advice from, interact online with). We averaged across each context to get an overall score from 0-3 indicating participants’ openness to interacting with furs of that age group (higher scores = more open).
We then divided participants up into three age categories: Under 25, 25-34, and 35+. Below, we show the results for each of the age groups.
The results reveal, first and foremost, that furries tend to congregate with furries in the same age range: Younger furries associate most with younger furries and older furries associate most with older furries. By extension, the results also show that younger furries tend to be less willing to interact with older furries and, likewise, older furries tend to be less willing to interact with younger furries.
These data are too preliminary to suggest that some sort of hostile, intentional ageism is going on, and it seems likely that furries simply prefer to congregate with those of a similar age group because they share similar interests (e.g., grew up watching the same shows, got into the fandom at around the same time) and are at similar points in their lives. Future research is needed, however, to test this hypothesis.
In an online study, we asked participants about potential generational gaps and factors which may or may not contribute to feelings of disconnection with the fandom, feelings that the fandom has changed over time, or negative feelings toward others in the fandom based on their ages. 8
In general this survey suggested that:
— Fandom engagement and connection tended to increase, rather than decrease, over time, as we had seen in earlier studies. 9 However, older furries were more likely than younger furries to agree that they felt less connected over time.
— Furries are far more likely to feel more connected to the fandom than less connected to the fandom over time; older furries were more likely than younger furries to agree that they felt less connected to the fandom over time
— Furries are a bit more likely than not to say that the fandom is different today than it was when they first joined; among those who say that it has changed, they’re significantly more likely to say that it’s changed for the better than for the worse; older furries are more likely to say that it has changed than younger furries, but are no more likely to say it has changed for the better or worse
— As they spend more time in the fandom, furries are more inclined to say that they feel they have more in common with other furries than they are to feel they have less in common; this tendency is lower is older furries than for younger furries
— Furries are slightly more able to keep up with trends in the fandom than to say they can’t; older furries say they struggle more to do so
— Most furries currently in the fandom have not left the fandom before, nor are they seriously considering leaving the fandom; older furries are no more likely than younger furries to agree with this
In an open-ended response, participants were asked whether they had ever felt out of touch or disconnected with a particular age group in the fandom and why. Significantly more comments (by a factor of about 6:1) were directed toward younger furries in the fandom than toward older furries in the fandom.
The most commonly cited issues contributing to felt gaps/divides were, in order:
Comments directed toward younger furries, by older furries:
- Technology differences (e.g., use/proficiency with Tik Tok, Furry Amino, Twitter)
- Perception of young furries as hyper-critical, political, overly concerned with political correctness, and concerns about cancel culture
- Memes, trends, jargon, and slang that’s difficult to keep up with
- Being too immature or short-sighted
- Being difficult to interact with due to differences in knowledge/understanding
- Different perceptions of what the fandom is or should be
- Being overly permissive or engaging too much with respect to issues of sex/kink or LGBTQ+ issues
- Behaviours perceived as negative (e.g., partying, drugs, being annoying)
- Lack of respect, rudeness, self-assuredness, entitlement, or lacking in empathy
- Being hostile or bigoted toward certain subgroups/kinks or older people
- Generational differences in life events (e.g., college, having kids)
- Too involved in “drama” or conflict
- Overly-focused on fursuiting, or a shallow/superficial interest in fursuiting
Comments directed toward older furries, by younger furries:
- Being intimidating or condescending toward younger/newer furries
- Being too cliquish, insular, or ostracizing toward others
- Being too openly sexual or too accepting of certain groups in the fandom
- Being bigoted toward minorities (e.g., kinks, LGBTQ+, racial groups)
- Technology gaps (e.g., MUCKs and other, older, technology)
- Immaturity or negative behaviour for a person of that age
- Conservatism/reluctance to change
- Being “creepy”
- Being too immersed in the fandom/having no life/being too concerned about popularity in the fandom
- Different norms or ideas about what the fandom’s norms ought to be