We’re here to help.
With the help of our guest authors, Tempe O’Kun & Moms of Furries, in collaboration with our Furscientists, Dr. Gerbasi, Dr. Fein, Dr. Plante, & Dr. Roberts, we’ve developed a parent-specific FAQ for parents of furries who want to support their young furs, but have concerns and questions.
What is a “furry”?
A furry is a fan of media that features animal characters doing “human” things (e.g., walking, talking). Examples of famous anthropomorphic animal characters include Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. Media which feature such characters can be referred to as “furry” as well (e.g., “Zootopia is a furry movie.”)
What is the “furry fandom”?
The furry fandom refers collectively to the furry community—in the same way one would describe a community of science fiction fans as belonging to the “science fiction fandom.” Like other fan communities, furries talk about movies, art, or television online. Many cities around the world host furry conventions, which are major tourist attractions that bring together thousands of furries. If you want more data on who is in the furry fandom, you can check out our survey findings here.
What is a “furry convention”?
Furry conventions, or “fur cons,” are public, organized events where furries gather. Like other fan conventions, panels and events at such conventions include cartoon voice actors, booths that sell merchandise, live music, dance contests, and group activities like scavenger hunts. Furry conventions usually have a charity fundraiser for local wildlife reserves or animal shelters, and furries are known to raise thousands of dollars for charities. Smaller furry gatherings are called “fur meets,” and might only have a dozen or so people, usually locals, attend. Most furries go to these events in regular clothes, though costumes and fan-related clothing (e.g., t-shirts) are also popular. Some furmeets might be organized in conjunction with business owners to permit fursuit wearing (e.g., with permission of the alley, furries might go bowling in fursuits).
Are most furries kids?
In general, furries tend to be teens and young adults, though there are also plenty of adults in their late 20s and 30s in the fandom, too. In some cases, furries are in their 70s and 80s! Exactly who is in the furry fandom is one of the main things we study, so we have lots of data available on this site.
How long has the furry fandom been around?
That depends on how you define the furry fandom. People have created art and stories about talking animals since the first cave paintings tens of thousands of years ago. Starting in the 1930s, Looney Toons and Disney shorts popularized animal characters. By the 80s and 90s, furry conventions started to appear alongside the rise of sci-fi, comic book, and sports collectible conventions. In the 2000s, easier access to the internet made online communities possible, leading to a surge in fandom growth.
What is a “fursona”?
A fursona (furry + persona) is a character invented by a furry that is used as an avatar in the fandom for that person—that is, a way to represent themselves to others in the community. A fursona can be any animal species or a combination of multiple species and is not limited to real-world animals (e.g., gryphons, unicorns). Most fursonas are animals imbued with human characteristics, including the ability to walk and talk, wear human clothes, and have human personalities. Most fursonas tend to be fairly anthropomorphized (human-like), though some can appear closer in appearance to animals.
Why do furries have fursonas?
Primarily furries use fursona as a form of self-expression and creativity. Creating a fursona is a creative exercise, which can have a number of psychological benefits. Inventing a character can help you think about who you are as a person and who you would like to become. For example, if you’ve always stood out in school for being tall, having a giraffe fursona might help you feel more comfortable with your height. Also, many furries develop fursonas imbued with qualities they’d like to develop. For example, a shy person might create a lively, extroverted fursona, giving them the chance to practice being a little more outgoing than their persona. Thus, our research indicates that having a fursona often functions as a way to help furries explore and “try on” the kinds of qualities they might like to have as people!
What is “roleplay”?
Roleplaying (RP) is basically improv theatre in online or instant message form and has its origins in internet forums and chat programs. Furries often RP as their fursonas in a shared virtual world with other furries. Like being involved in theatre, this can be both a creative outlet and a way to safely develop social skills. Many instances of RP in text chats work like emojis, as in *hugs you* or *nods* to indicate the difference between spoken words and actions. For some furries, roleplay may be a way for them to safely interact with others in a low-stakes environment, where the fantasy theme and lack of face-to-face contact may make them feel less anxious about socializing. As parents, understanding the nature and frequency of your child’s interactions with others is important, and teaching internet safety for all online activity (furry or non-furry) is desirable, as is placing reasonable limits on the amount of time spent in any single activity.
Is my child a furry?
Even as researchers, we do not have a “test” to see if someone is a furry or not. Some furries will have fursuits, and others will not. Some will go to conventions or buy furry artwork. None of these is a necessary or sufficient condition to declare someone a furry. Like being a video gamer or a fan of a genre of music or a particular sport team, the label “furry” is one that you apply to yourself—typically when your interest in anthropomorphic animal media is an important part of your identity. If your child really enjoys movies or books with talking animals, then they might consider themselves to be a furry. If you’ve always liked Daffy Duck or Disney’s Robin Hood, you might be a furry, too. As we see it, self-identifying as a furry is the key to the furry identity.
Should I be worried that my child is a furry?
Based on our research, we find no more reason to be concerned that your child is a furry than you would be if they were in the Star Wars fandom or the Sherlock Holmes fandom. Fandoms often have in common things like discussion groups, costumes, and public events. Being a furry is about as dangerous as being a fan of music, cars, fashion, or sports. However, our research shows that the furry fandom provides specific benefits for its participants in that the creation of a unique fursona seems to facilitate identity development, which is associated with all kinds of well-being outcomes. You should still be aware of the nature of online interactions and with whom your child is having said interactions, as would be the case with any online interactions. However, discussing webcomics, artwork, or television shows with other fans is not particularly dangerous in and of itself.
What is a “fursuit”?
A fursuit is a costume that looks like an anthropomorphic animal. They are typically made of fake fur, plastic, and foam rubber. The idea of fursuits originated from sports mascot costumes, Disneyland costumes, and theatrical stage costumes. They range from special-effects realistic to neon-colored cartoon creations.
Why do furries have fursuits?
Furries wear fursuits for all kinds of reasons. For some, it is an external representation of the fursona. For other furries, it is simply fun to dress up. In some cases, fursuits are a means for furries to side-step their shyness or to interact with others in the “real world” as their fursona. Other furries have fursuits simply because they enjoy making and wearing creative costumes in much the same way anime fans cosplay as their favorite characters or sport fans wear the jersey of their favorite athlete. In short, wearing a costume signals to other people that you’re just there to have fun. Some of our preliminary research findings indicate that people with autism can find fursuits helpful in terms of making them feel more confident, less anxious, while dulling stimuli (beneficial when symptoms of autism include sensory overload), allowing wearers to communicate with mascot-style exaggerated gestures when normally they might find conversing with new people stressful, etc.
Some participants also report that fursuits may cause physical discomfort in terms of heat and scratchiness.
Do most furries have fursuits?
No. Research suggests that fewer than 25% of furries own a fursuit, although many find the idea appealing. Fursuits can be prohibitively expensive for many people. It takes time and money to construct or buy one: hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars can go into making a fursuit. Of course, it’s also a matter of how interested you are in that aspect of the furry fandom. Like with sport fans, some people like to dress up to support their favorite team, while others just want to watch the game with friends. Some furries might wear costumes that just consist of animal ears or a tail, but many just wear t-shirts, buttons, or bags from furry TV shows or films. We suggest that if you are interested in purchasing a fursuit, perhaps begin with a partial (tail, paws, or even a head) rather than a full-body suit, as children tend to grow out of the bodysuits quickly.
Should I be concerned if my child is wearing costumes?
No, so long as the costume is age-appropriate, time appropriate, and occasion appropriate. Adults often play dress-up when occasions deem appropriate to do so. Wearing a sports jersey with a player’s name and number could be considered a costume, since you are “dressing up” as that particular player. In general, dressing up for a furry convention isn’t any more of a problem than dressing up for a Halloween party or a costume ball. A comparable phenomenon can be found in the science fiction and anime fandoms, where “cosplayers” create and wear costumes of their favorite characters.
*** Disclaimer: The following responses about sex are based on our best advice, given the existing research on the subject of furries and sexuality. Ultimately, decisions regarding how to handle issues pertaining to adult-themed material, sexuality, and what is deemed appropriate will vary based on a myriad of factors (e.g., religion, the person’s age, level of maturity, etc.) This advice should be taken only as a set of suggested guidelines to help inform your decision-making; it should not supersede your own judgment as a responsible parent.***
Are there adult aspects to the furry fandom?
Yes. As with many fandoms or communities that have teens and adults in them, the furry fandom has adult content. For example, it would not be out of the ordinary to see a video game fan with a pin-up of an attractive-looking character from one of their favorite games, or for a sport fan to admire the cheerleaders for their favorite team. In the same vein, artists do create adult-themed art of furry characters. How much of a concern this is depends on how old your child is, of course. It should also be emphasized that the presence of adult material does not make the fandom itself “adult” – no more than video games, anime, or sports are “adult” because of the presence of adult content in these fandoms. It is important to note that adult content in furry art does not include photos of real people or animals. It is usually a product of CGI or drawings (like cartoons). Conventions will often require that adult art content be covered with modesty covers or have a separate section of the convention where minors cannot enter. Understanding convention policies on adult content is something you might choose to investigate before heading to a convention.
Will the furry fandom expose my child to sexual content?
Given that the furry fandom is a largely online community, and given that the internet itself allows for easy access to sexual content, it is possible. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on what your child is doing online, especially if they’re middle-school age or younger.
How involved should I get in my child’s furry activity?
Be as involved in your child’s furry activities as you would be with their other interests, hobbies, and activities. Check out their art. Appreciate their sewing projects. These types of creative outlets can be a great way to have a conversation with your child about their interests in the furry fandom. Ask them about the specific details of the projects. If they’re going to a party with friends, you might want to text or call to check in, as you would normally. Moreover, local furry gatherings are quite clear about which events are adult (e.g., alcohol) and which are all-ages, and the latter are usually happy to accommodate parents who want to accompany their child. While we have never heard of such a situation, any meet that says “no parents allowed” when children are involved should be seen with skepticism. In general, it’s usually less important to monitor their every moment than it is to make sure they know they can talk to you about anything and to have you check in with them.
What should I do if I find my child has been looking at adult furry content?
If they’re a teenager, you might not need to do anything. It’s normal for teens to be curious about sex and to seek out information about it online. If your child is younger and stumbles across something adult, you may want to treat it as an opportunity for a teachable moment about sex. No matter your child’s age, this would probably be a good chance to talk about how romantic relationships should work, that they are based on love and respect, and the differences between media portrayals of sex and relationships in the real world. Also, discussing the crucial importance of clearly giving and receiving consent is strongly advised. Teach your child about the importance of asking for permission more generally too: before giving a stranger in a cute costume a hug, before taking their favorite artist’s photo, etc. Remember, fursuits do not equal consent.
Does liking adult furry art mean my teenager wants to have sex with animals?
Furries are no more likely to be attracted to real-world animals than non-furries. Zoophilia is one of the most unfortunate misconceptions of furries. Screenwriters’ imaginations have contributed to this misnomer.
What should I do if my teenager has been talking about or roleplaying sex over instant messenger?
It’s a good idea to talk with your children about safe sex and how to build healthy romantic relationships. Kids grow up, and it’s important to their development that they can come to you for advice. It is important to note that, as with anything on the internet, one should be cautious about interacting with strangers. Ensuring that your child is informed about the precautions they should take online is good practice for any parent with a child who’s using the internet (e.g., no giving out personal information, no sending images of themselves, always being critical about who they may be interacting with).
I found a dog collar in my teenager’s room—are they having weird bondage sex?
It’s unlikely. Colorful collars are a fashion item in the furry fandom, much like spiked dog collars in the punk-rock scene. Collars themselves can mean a lot of things and don’t necessarily have an automatic BDSM association.
Is it safe for my child to attend a furry convention?
Yes, unless the convention itself is advertised specifically as an “adult-only convention” (typically due to alcohol use and adult-themed panels), but such conventions are rare. Furry conventions, while flashy, are as safe as a street fair or carnival. Any adult discussion panels or art will be clearly marked as such and will likely have someone checking IDs. Like any other event, it’s a good idea to know your child’s basic plan and which friends they’ll be with. If your child is underage and planning to go alone, you should probably attend the convention with them. You won’t be the only parent doing so, and the fandom itself is very welcoming and positive toward parents who take an active interest in their child’s interests. Just look for other adults who seem bewildered by the presence of rainbow-colored animal costumes, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself interested in attending future conventions. (It happens with surprising frequency!). It should also be noted that many furry conventions even have events, especially for parents!
What are the benefits of being a furry?
Our research tends to show that the furry fandom is positive for those involved, often providing them with a community of like-minded others in which to belong. The furry fandom gives kids permission to express themselves, develop artistic skills, and make friends. The added layer of anonymity online can keep their personal information safe. They can experiment with different sides of their personality and ways of interacting with others through roleplay instead of “acting out.” The fandom is also a supportive community, so they can feel like part of a group and, therefore, won’t be as inclined to fall in with bad friends just because they’re nearby. They can meet new people from all over the world and learn about their cultures. Perhaps the biggest benefit, however, is the sense of belongingness and acceptance provided by the furry fandom, especially for those kids who struggle to ‘fit in’ or who feel different. The fandom’s tolerant and diverse nature means that people from all walks of life are welcome. This sense of community can provide furries with social support and resilience: when times get tough, it’s always great to have friends in your corner! As research has shown time and time again, having a group of people who care about you is one of the best predictors of well-being and happiness. In short, for most people, the furry fandom is a fun and healthy hobby.
How should I talk with my child about the furry fandom?
The same way you talk to them about any other interests or hobbies they may have, really. Just keep in mind that kids are easily embarrassed. Think back to when you were your child’s age: how excited were you to talk to your parents about your favorite bands or movies? In general, we find that parents have the best luck talking to their kids about their interests by showing interest in it while not being too pushy. A good example of this would be asking what some slang term means when they use it, or asking them simple questions about the content when they’re engaging with it (i.e., “What are you watching / playing?”). All the better if you can find a way to support their interests (i.e., helping them learn how to build their first fursuit, driving them to a local meet-up, complimenting their art or speaking positively about furry-themed posters or t-shirts they might have).
Where can I learn more about the furry fandom?
1) This website is a good resource for psychological and sociological information on the fandom. Feel free to check out our findings at the top of the page.
2) If you’re interested in an analysis of the genre in popular culture, you’ll like Culturally F’d:
Culturally F’d loaned us Tempe O’Kun, who is novelist with a Siberian husky fursona, to write this FAQ. He’s a regular guest-writer for the channel.
3) If you’re looking for a parent’s perspective on having furry kids, check out Moms Of Furries on YouTube:
The gals at Moms Of Furries helped out with this FAQ, so it’s officially mom-approved.