parent opinion

Kids barking at each other and kitty litter in bathrooms? Exactly what's going on with 'furries' at school.

This article was originally published in July 2023.

Trends for kids come and go faster than we can keep up with. 

Remember the Prime drink craze? The Floss frenzy? The Dab?! 

Well, this week I heard from my 12-year-old son that he was 'sick of furries barking at each other at school'. This 'furry' trend was new to me, and many of my parent-friends, who have heard similar tales about furries from their high-school-aged kids.

One mum told me how her teenage daughter in Year 9 reported being barked at and chased by a 'furry' boy at her school. Another mum said her Year 8 daughter told her there was a girl in her year who identified as a 'wolf'. A teacher friend told me there was a Year 9 girl in her school who also identified as a wolf and that she knew of another student who would 'gallop and neigh' like a horse.

Watch: Things parents of teens just get. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

In a separate conversation this week, I heard from a friend about how an unknown local high school principal had refused to put a kitty litter tray in the girls' bathroom to cater to a girl who identified as a cat.

I asked this friend to follow up on where she might have heard this, and it turns out, the source was 'a friend of a friend'.


So, what exactly is going on with the kids? 

Does a bit of aggressive barking mean kids are 'identifying' as dogs or just behaving poorly? Does galloping like a horse translate into identifying as one? 

And are there actually kids out there using kitty litter trays at school?

So what even are Furries?

According to Kathleen Gerbasi who has a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Rochester in New York, a ‘furry’ is someone who feels a deep connection with, or even assumes the characteristics of, a particular species of animal. Gerbasi was even the lead author of a paper about furries and their 'fursonas' in 2008.

'Although there is no standard definition of furry, most furries would likely agree with the following: A furry is a person who identifies with the Furry Fandom culture,' Gerbasi wrote in the paper.

Gerbasi discovered from her work that common furry identities are dragon, feline and canine. 

And while Gerbasi's paper is now 15 years old, the term furry and its community have found a whole new home online, most recently on TikTok where the hashtag 'furries' has been viewed 2.6 billion times, and hashtag 'furries in school' 327 thousand times. 

Furries in schools.

While the term originated in the US and is closely related to cosplay, it seems that some school kids are turning up to school in 'furry' outfits.

According to a recent article in The Sun, the UK government-backed 'Safer Schools' initiative says teachers and parents should be on the lookout for students taking up “fursonas”, or dressing as furries, and not be too judgemental.

“What you should not do is overreact or ridicule,” Safer Schools, a respected safeguarding body, writes on its website.


“If a child or young person in your care begins to show an interest in joining any community, be it online or off, how you approach and handle any related conversations is crucial.

“It is important to build a safe environment for them based on trust, where they feel comfortable expressing themselves to you.”

Seems fair to me.

@trevvvvor On all levels except human I am a wolf 💓🐺 #pov #furrytok #anime #wolf #furry ♬ original sound - Trevor Dean

But while there have been many TikToks made and articles written about schools in Australia and the US needing to cater to students who identify as cats – I could not find anything that confirmed this was happening on a large scale.

High school teacher and mum of three, Mrs Smith*, told me that it was the rhetoric around the reporting and rumour of furries in schools that worried her.

"While certain people don't feel safe to say something openly transphobic, the supposed furry phenomenon feels to me like a ridiculous 'stand in'.

"I worry that when parents or communities make disparaging comments about furries, it is a way of undermining trans kids.

"The focus on furries as an issue (which it feels like it isn't) also takes attention away from the real issues kids are facing, like vaping. These are the things parents should worry about – not furries."

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The Barking Challenge

While a true furry might dress and identify as an animal full-time, it's likely that the rise of furries at school is related to yet another TikTok trend, 'the barking challenge'.


One school in the US put out a Facebook post to plead with parents to get their kids to stop behaving like animals during school time.

“We want to make you aware of some observations we have made this year regarding some behaviors and trends we are noticing that are different from prior years,” Camp Ernst Middle School in Burlington, Kentucky wrote in a Facebook post in 2021. 

“We have noticed an uptick in TikTok trends such as challenges that encourage kids to destroy the soap dispenser in the bathroom and kids making animal noises toward each other, specifically barking.”

Not something I ever imagined a teacher would have to write, but here we are.

A furry 'tale'?

While real cos-playing furries are out there living their best lives, a furry takeover in our high schools seems highly unlikely. 

In fact, it might be wise to question the hype around furries in schools as Mrs Smith points out.

Kids barking or wearing cute animal costumes might be the least of our worries as most are probably not going to become full-time furries and are simply following trends on TikTok. 

And just like the time you thought your kid might never stop flossing, by tomorrow, they will have moved on to the next challenge. And we had better keep up.

*While this woman is known to Mamamia, her name has been changed for privacy reasons. 

Feature Image: TikTok / Canva.

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