IV. Animals: Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behavior
One common misconception about furries is that they believe they are non-human animals. This definition more precisely describes therians🐾 than it does furries, who, while regularly representing themselves through the use of anthropomorphic animal avatars known as fursonas🐾 are not necessarily defined by their beliefs about, or identification with, non-human animals.
In nearly every survey of furries that the IARP has conducted, we ask two “yes” or “no” questions. First, we ask furries “Do you consider yourself to be less than 100% human?” Responses consistently show that the majority of furries do not: depending on the sample, responses range from 25-44% agreement with the item.🐾 To compare, in a sample of the general American population, about 7% of people agree with this question.🐾
The second question asks “Would you be 0% human if you could?” While more likely to say yes to this question than to the first question, most furries still say no, with only 38-53% saying yes.🐾 For comparison, 10% of the general population agree with this sentiment.
Taken together, the data suggest that most furries do not consider themselves to be non-human animals. Many of those who do are likely therian in addition to being furry, and it is the “therian” label, not the furry one, that best describes this phenomenon.
Many furries feel a sense of attachment to their particular fursona species,🐾 and in many instances believe, often truthfully so, that they know more about their species than the average individual does (e.g., researching the species, spending time learning their habits, interacting with animals). Given that many furries would be expected to have knowledge about their own fursona species, and given that furries spend time with other furries who presumably know a significant amount about their own fursona species, we tested whether furries know more about animals than the average. We tested this with a 33-item trivia quiz about general animal knowledge.🐾
The quiz was marked such that 1 point was given for each correct answer, a point subtracted for each incorrect answer, and a score of “0” was given for an answer of “I don’t know.” As predicted, furries scored significantly higher than the sample of the general population (11.5 vs. 8.9). Furries out-scored non-furries on 30 out of 33 of the test items.
In general, the data provide the first evidence that furries do, indeed, have a greater knowledge about animals, as a group, than the general population. Whether it’s the case that participation in the fandom increases one’s knowledge about animals, or whether those with greater knowledge of animals are drawn to the furry fandom, is a question which may be answered through longitudinal research. The data are consistent with findings that furries are also better than non-furries at recognizing non-human faces (e.g., fursuits, anthropomorphic animal characters), suggesting that there may be cognitive mechanisms underlying these effects.
We predicted that furries would feel strongly about animal rights, given their interest in anthropomorphic animals and given that psychological research has shown that anthropomorphized representations of non-human things increases empathy and compassion toward them. As such, we assessed furries’ attitudes toward animal rights, and compared them to non-furries who took the survey and to therians, who, as a group, identify with non-human animals. 83% of furries reported that they supported animal rights, while 7% said that they considered themselves to be an animal rights activist; these numbers did not differ significantly from the responses of non-furries. Therians, on the other hand, were significantly more likely to both support animal rights (94%) and to self-identify as an animal rights activist (19%).🐾
We also asked participants the extent to which they agreed or disagreed (on a 1-5 scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree) with 28 different animal rights issues. Furries strongly showed strong concern about the displacement of animals for land use, the use of animals in laboratory research, pain and suffering in animals, wearing of animal fur, and cosmetics testing on animals. However, they were far less bothered by items assessing the morality of eating animals or the use of animal products. When it came to their score on the scale overall, therians scored significantly higher than furries on concern for animal rights.
Given the furry fandom’s affinity for animals, over the years we’ve asked participants several questions about pet ownership, including whether they had ever owned a pet, currently owned a pet, and the number and type of pets currently owned.
The table below outlines the frequency of pet ownership by furries, organized by pet species.🐾
Pet Ownership in Furries
% of Furries Owning at Least One
It would be worth looking, in future research, at the extent to which furries want to own a pet; these numbers might help to distinguish—among the one-third of furries who do not have a pet—those who genuinely do not wish to own a pet from those who, while wanting a pet, may be unable to do so due to their current living conditions (e.g., living with their parents,🐾 living in an apartment which does not allow pets, being unable to afford a pet🐾)