A confused politician in the midwestern United States is facing public ridicule after claiming schools were leaving litter trays out for children who identify as cats.
Bruce Bostelman, a conservative Republican in the Nebraska legislature, made the claim during a video-taped debate on education funding that racked up more than half a million views on social media within hours.
Bostelman said he was “a little shocked” over stories that children were dressing up in cat and dog costumes, with teachers condoning and even accommodating the trend by leaving litter boxes in bathrooms.
“It’s something called furries. If you don’t know what furries are it’s where school children dress up as animals — cats or dogs — during the school day,” Bostelman said during Monday’s debate.
“They meow and they bark and they interact with their school, with their teachers in this fashion. And now schools are wanting to put litter boxes in the schools for these children to use. How is this sanitary?”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says a “furry” is someone who has a keen interest in, or dresses up as, animal characters with human personalities, such as those seen in comics, video games and cartoons.
Children aren’t typically members of the subculture, which sometimes incorporates sexual aspects including erotic art and furry-themed cybersex.
Many furries are inspired by iconic pop culture figures such as Sonic the Hedgehog or the rabbits from 1972 novel “Watership Down” — although they typically role-play in characters they have made up themselves.
“Many furries create their own animal character, known as a fursona, which functions as their avatar within furry communities,” the medical website WebMD says.
– ‘Not what furries do’ –
Bostelman’s comments prompted widespread mockery, but also an angry response from the furry community and its allies, who pointed out that adherents go to the toilet the same way as everyone else.
“That’s not what furries do AT ALL. And litter boxes? Dude, they’re humans and know they’re humans,” one Twitter user seethed.
The debunked rumor is a surreal twist in the heated debate in the United States around transgender students and their rights to use bathrooms matching their gender and participate in school sports.
Various versions of the story concerning school districts in several midwestern states have circulated in recent months, all of them false.
Bostelman said he was planning to bring up the issue with Nebraska health authorities, even offering an anecdote about a student who defecated on the floor after teachers refused to provide a litter box.
“My soul left my body,” his Democratic colleague Megan Hunt said, recalling the moment Bostelman brought up the topic.
The senator did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But Hunt reported on Twitter that the lawmaker retook the floor after a lunch break to say he had reached out to some schools and had come to realize his information was inaccurate.
“He apologizes to furries,” Hunt said.
— Agence France-Presse VIDEO