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Furrygate: A Litterbox of Lies

A friend’s wife’s CrossFit trainer’s mom saw a post on a Facebook group about kids identifying as cats and using litterboxes at school.
October 17, 2022
Furrygate: A Litterbox of Lies
(The Bulwark / Shutterstock)

What are the teachers doing with their students’ poo poo? Does the smell just waft through the room until class is over? Doesn’t that embarrass the little kitties . . . errr, kiddies?

These are just some of the questions that have been nagging at me for the last few weeks. Ever since an episode of The Focus Group that made me aware of the great Furry Panic of 2022: an apparently widespread belief that children are “identifying” as cats in school, with said phenomenon being an outgrowth of the woke critical race theorizing / trans / groomer ideology that invaded American classrooms beginning January 21, 2021.

During that fateful focus group, Stacy from Wisconsin was the first to raise the issue. She recalled a recent job fair where “15 kids were furries. . . . They identify as a cat. Identify as a dog. . . . They had collars on. They had a leash.” Another participant, Jennifer, chimed in concurring that it was a problem in her school district as well . . . even though she eventually conceded that she had “never seen anything.”

At first, I got a bit of a kick out of this moment of podcast serendipity, thinking we had hit a jaywalking jackpot.

But soon I realized this wasn’t just some random rumor floating around Waukesha. Once I heard of it, I noticed the furry panic popping up everywhere.

First it was my brother, who works at a school in Colorado. He regaled me with a story from a recent function where multiple moms mentioned the proliferation of furries in schools and the grim news that some teachers were putting litterboxes in classrooms. Then it was Heidi Ganahl, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Colorado sharing that she was “collecting and distributing photos” of children who identified as furries. She pledged in an interview to blur out the faces in her binder full of kittens.

The furry tales compounded upon themselves in my Twitter mentions and DMs. They were shared by several other prominent Republicans. Last week the man with the largest audience in all of podcasting, Joe Rogan, got in on the action during an interview with former Democrat and noted furriologist Tulsi Gabbard.

“Are you ready for this,” he begins. (I was.)

“My friend, his wife is a school teacher and she works at a school that had to install a litterbox in the girls room because there’s a girl who is a furry who identifies as an animal and her mother badgered the school until they agreed to put a litterbox in one of the stalls. . . . It’s bananas.”

“It is, it’s absolutely insane,” Tulsi concurred.

So insane that it makes one wonder, is it actually true?

If it is, why does every litterbox story seem to be sourced by a friend’s wife’s CrossFit trainer’s mom? Shouldn’t there be photo evidence? Or primary-source documentation of the stench that curls toes?

Our friends at NBC News looked into the matter recently and came up empty. But is it possible that they are a corrupted part of Big Mascot?

We needed to get to the bottom of this ourselves. What follows is a Bulwark investigation.

My research began in my home state of Colorado, which seems to be an epicenter of the crisis.

Rylee Dunn of Arvada Press sourced Ganahl’s concerns to a Facebook group (natch) called Jeffco Kids First. The group was formed out of frustration with the county’s pandemic policies, but as schools returned to business as usual, the page’s agita turned to the furry menace.

A leading voice in the group told parents to empower their children to find “furries,” kids who dress up in animal accessories, and to record them. “If any of your kids would be willing to record anonymous audio of their experiences with furries hissing, barking, clawing, chasing, and how it affects their school day, please send to me or let me know ASAP!” Jeffco Kids First creator Lindsay Datko, a parent in Jefferson County Public Schools, posted.

I have to admit that I find it rather odd that the people who are concerned about parents’ rights and grooming in schools are also encouraging surreptitious recording of children without parental consent. But that did not seem to faze one prominent member of this group, Heidi Ganahl. Here she is barking . . . excuse me, posting . . . about the issues being raised by Jeffco Kids First:

“Boy, Jeffco Kids First has been such an impactful and amazing community, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of you over the past couple of years,” Ganahl said in a post in Jeffco Kids First. “You are warriors fighting for our kids every day in the classroom and in school. I want to be a voice for all of you.”

After this post was when Ganahl began floating the rumors of furries in schools, citing the Jefferson County district. The evidence for her claims remains fuzzy at best. The Jeffco Kids First page cited videos on TikTok where kids appear to be wearing cat ears and tails. Our review of the app using the suggested search terms did not reveal any litterboxes in classrooms or the students providing Cat/Kitten as their pronouns—though it does uncover a few kids dressed as a mouse, duh.

Hoping to get additional evidence, The Bulwark asked the Ganahl campaign to share the clandestine photos the candidate claimed to have acquired of student furries. By time of publication, we had not received a response.

But we did have some contrary evidence. The school district in question provided this quote to the Arvada Press on the matter:

“Jeffco Public Schools has district policy around appropriate dress code,” it states. “If clothing is disruptive, district policy gives the principal power to place restrictions on it, this would include students dressing in costume. We do not have litter boxes in schools.”

Ganahl is not the only GOP politician in Colorado to raise the alarm. In a speech to the Truth and Liberty Coalition, Lauren Boebert said that a father in Michigan told her his son got in trouble when “he stepped on a furry’s tail in school.” She cleverly retorted that the man’s son should “identify as a trapper.”

So having failed to sniff out the litterbox in Colorado, I moved on to Michigan.

While we couldn’t corroborate the anonymous tail stomping incident, the broader tale of woe in the Wolverine State stemmed originally from a tweet by the notoriously reliable Libs of TikTok account. Libs of TikTok tweeted a school board meeting where a parent claimed that “at least one of our schools in town has, in one of the unisex bathrooms, a litter box, for the kids that identify as cats.” The parent then promised to “do some more investigation on that.” (Hopefully she reads this article!)

Libs subsequently tweeted the name of the school. The result was a firestorm, during which the co-chair of the Michigan GOP posted that “parent heroes will TAKE BACK our schools” from the cat-children. The brouhaha reached such a fever pitch that the school district had to look into the matter. The resulting report from MLive included this very alarming photo:

And yet, despite the report of one parent and the lonely litterbox pictured above, it turns out that once again the claims were unfounded.

In an email to students and parents, school Superintendent Michael E. Sharrow wrote:

It is unconscionable that this afternoon I am sending this communication, however, our Midland PS stakeholders may be confused about a false message/accusation that has resurfaced this week and is gaining traction in the social media realm. Let me be clear in this communication, there is no truth whatsoever to this false statement/accusation! There have never been litter boxes within MPS schools.

So my search continued.

I wanted to take the investigation back to where it started: Wisconsin. If there were a place where children defecate in a box, it had to be Charlie Sykes’s home state. And, sure enough, one of his former competitors was on the case.

Vicki McKenna hosts a conservative AM talk show in Madison and she reported that she received an email from a grandparent whistleblower who had heard that Waunakee Community School District was encouraging students to “normalize” classmates who wanted to be animals.

Here’s one harrowing excerpt from the email McKenna received: “The Furries can choose not to run in gym class but instead sit at the feet of their teacher and lick their paws. Barking hissing and similar animal noises are common place in the hallways at the schools.”

Paw-licking, you say! Surely, Waunakee would be the place where we would find the evidence. Hallway barking must have been memorialized on Instagram or Snapchat, or Wooftok, right?

Not according to the school. Superintendent Randy Guttenberg debunked the claim, telling the Associated Press that the district “does not have protocols for furries.”

McKenna did not respond to the AP’s request for comment.

But McKenna wasn’t alone. Litterbox allegations appeared in other corners of Wisconsin, to similar ends. In Denmark, Wisconsin, Scott Janssen, a candidate for school board, claimed that the local schools were infected with “bodily excretion nonsense that would cause your jaw to drop.” (I don’t like to kink shame, but you gotta admit, that is a pretty gross one.)

Janssen’s claims were, of course, bull. District administrator Luke Goral lamented that this same rumor had popped up in Seymour and Green Bay and other parts of the state. He told the AP: “If anyone is . . . doing anything as far as using the bathrooms inappropriately, it will be addressed.”

The litterbox stories are so widespread on the right that upon editing the story, I worried I made a typo sourcing the “bodily excretion” quote to Wisconsin candidate Scott Janssen, because there was another Republican, Minnesota gubernatorial nominee Scott Jensen, who is on the same tip.

In a video posted to Facebook (natch), Jensen says, “Why do we have litterboxes in some of the school districts so kids can pee in them, because they identify as a furry? We’ve lost our minds. We’ve lost our minds.”

Indeed we have.

When asked by a local reporter to provide evidence of the litterboxes, Jensen replied “no comment.”

The story is the same in New York, Iowa, Oregon, and elsewhere. There are lots of accounts from people’s friends uncle’s kids. There is no—zero, zilch, zip, nada—actual evidence of purring while pooping.

And yet, the howling continues.

The latest LittlePaw sighting happened last week in Illinois. “Rumors about students supposedly demanding litter boxes as a special accommodation have most recently floated around Red Bud High School,” according to the Republic Times.

Superintendent Brian Charron raised the obvious objection to the litterbox urban legend (well, obvious to everyone except Joe Rogan, Tulsi Gabbard, Lauren Boebert, and multiple Republican gubernatorial nominees).

“I assured them that no, there is no such thing going on, nor would that be up-to-code, for human beings to use litter boxes to relieve themselves in public places. The health department would take issue with that, I would assume,” said Charron.

You know what they say about assuming, Brian.

Nevertheless, Charron’s denunciation was good enough for the local press. “School Litterbox Rumors Buried” was their clever headline.

If only it were so.

If you or a loved one find physical evidence of a school litterbox, please email The Bulwark Investigates Hotline: [email protected]

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.