A private school in Australia is reportedly supporting a young "non-verbal" student identifying as a cat.
The behaviour is often linked to a "furries" subculture being adopted by many teens, where many furries feel a deep connection to a particular animal that they take on their "fursona", according to Gerbasi et al.
A source close to the family said: "No one seems to have a protocol for students identifying as animals, but the approach has been that if it doesn’t disrupt the school, everyone is being supportive,"
"The behaviour is being normalised. Now more and more people are identifying as whatever they want to identify with, including 'furries'."
The Melbourne school's approach to mental health "is always unique to the student and will take into account professional advice and the wellbeing of the student".
Many Gen-Zers have taken on the subculture with an interest in anthropomorphised animals.
On TikTok alone, the hashtag brings people eccentric costumes called "fursuits." Some wear head-to-toe outfits, while others wear the mask.
Sharon Roberts, associate professor of social development studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, told ABC the subculture is becoming increasingly popular because of its safe and non-judgemental community.
"They're usually imbued with positive attributes, and they're often idealised versions of the self," she said.
"What the research has shown is that these self-created identities have incredible benefits to the person in all kinds of ways."
She said, "about 20 to 25 per cent of furries have fur suits."
"They might have ears or tails or wear a dog collar, but a lot of furries don't wear anything like that at all," she added.
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