Kirby, Sonar, and Riz. Members of Cardiff's furry group Fur The Moment

Inside Cardiff’s only furry club: ‘Furries come out of their shell when they put a fur-suit on’

The Cardiffian visits Fur The Moment and asks its members – who call themselves furries – how they got into one of today’s most fascinating subcultures

ON the first weekend of March, Martin boarded a train from The Valleys into Cardiff armed with just the essentials; his phone, wallet, keys, and a black bin bag containing a fluffy wolf costume.  

The civil servant made his way across the city to Morgan Arcade, where he descended into the basement of gaming shop Geek Retreat.

After ordering a cherry hot chocolate with extra whipped cream, Martin changed into the full-sized wolf costume and greeted – with high-fives and handshakes – Riz the Tiger, a bird called Kirby, and a green and black wolf named Sonar.

Martin talks discuss what being a furry means and life behind the costume

This is Fur The Moment, Cardiff’s only club dedicated to the animal cosplay fandom known as furries. Members come from all over the country to watch TV, play Twister, eat pizza, and hangout with other furry fans.

Martin, who has been a furry for 17 years and a regular at Fur The Moment since 2018, has found being a furry helps him be himself.  

“I know that a lot of furries really come out of their shell when they put a suit on,” he said.

“You can have a timid, socially anxious wallflower who stands in the corner, but put a fur-suit on them and they’re bouncing around.”

Martin holding his fur-suit head

Martin is just one of more than 50 regular furries who attend Cardiff’s fur-meets.

Others park their day jobs as civil servants, cinema workers, and undertakers to spend their weekends travelling from all over the country to attend the monthly meetings.

Members travelled from Poole, Liverpool and even Rotterdam, 450 miles away.

They bring along with them custom made fur-suits often costing thousands of pounds and commissioned from Cardiff-based Conifer – Wales’ only professional fur-suit tailor.

Fur The Moment are keen to stress to stress their strong focus on building a friendly atmosphere and everyone is welcome whether you chose to ‘suit-up’ or not. That’s because the wider cosplaying fandom is sometimes perceived as a sexual fetish.

“There is an adult side to it but there’s an adult side to a lot of fandoms. It’s not appealing to us,” said Sonar – not her real name – who trained as an undertaker.

“I don’t think it should be involved in the fandom at all. It’s supposed to be a friendly thing but it is making people see us as sexually-deviant people – we’re not. We’re friendly and quirky in our own way.”

‘My fur-sona’

Ray, organiser of Fur The Moment

The organiser Ray Weston – also known by his ‘fur-sona’ Toronto – works at Cineworld. He said members simply enjoy meeting up with like-minded people.

“Most of the time we just stay here and chill,” he said.

“Some people might think ‘Why don’t you do anything else?’ but we don’t really need to. Everyone kind of amuses themselves.

“We talk, mess around, take photos, occasionally we’ll play games, like, get Twister out. There’s always someone playing on the TV.”

A new member, who went by his furry name Kirby, says the monthly meetings are a lifeline for him socially.

“It’s an extra way to socialise and it’s nice to have a day dedicated to it that involves more than just messaging people online. Face-to-face socialising is much better.”

Annie, a student of animation and illustration in Rotterdam, had travelled for more than 24 hours on a coach to attend the fur-meet in March.

A regular attendee at furry conventions across The Netherlands, she had attended her first Cardiff fur-meet before Christmas.

She said: “In November I was in Cardiff for an assignment for school and I went to a fur-meet – I had so much fun and I said ‘As soon as I have another weekend free I’m going to go’.”

A selection of fur-suit masks and members in their furr suits

Can I be a furry?

Fur The Moment prides itself on being a friendly and welcoming club and its success can be seen in its steadily growing numbers.

There are more than 30 regulars who attend the monthly meetings.

Of those, at least 20% arrive in their fur-suits.

At the March meeting there were 50 furries in total and 20 in fur-suits but Ray is hoping that if numbers continue to grow they may be able to set up Wales’ first Furry Convention.

In 2018 a group of Cardiff furries was being run from an underground gay fetish bar and there were only a few regular attendees.

Ray said: “It was really dark, no one could see and no one was suited.

“I’d made some friends there and we were around a table and we just said ‘This sucks doesn’t it? We should just make our own fur-meets’.”

However, due to the lack of a permanent venue, the group initially met up in Bute Park, branches of Wetherspoons pubs or just walked around the city.

After the meets had to be closed down due to Covid, the group restarted with five people at the Halfway Pub in Pontcanna but, as numbers grew, Ray realised they needed a larger venue.

“We found the Geek Retreat and it was like fate and here we are now,” said Ray.

Furry masks

But Ray has big ambitions. He said: “It’s my dream in life to organise a Welsh Fur Con.

“But it’s securing a venue, hiring equipment and we just don’t have enough hands on deck to really be thinking about those things. It’s enough work just to organise these meets.”

How can I get a furry suit?

Furries will often create and develop their character, design artwork, and assume a personality before having a fur-suit custom made for them.

This is known as their fur-sona.

Kirby, who wore a bird fur-suit for his first visit to the meeting, said his fur-sona is “a form for my imagination and helps grow my confidence”.

Cineworld worker Ray said he doesn’t publicly “suit up” unless at a convention but will often wear his suits at home to film videos for his YouTube channel.

Fur-suits are usually custom made and can cost upwards of £1,000.

Ray has seven suits in total each with its own name and persona.

Amongst his collection he has a rabbit-fox hybrid called Toronto, two lions, a Tiger called Riz, an Australian Shepherd dog, a rabbit-fox-demon and a border collie named Akira.

Ray’s most recent purchase, his tiger, was custom made by fellow Fur The Moment member Conifer, and cost £1,500.

Conifer, not her real name, has been making fur-suits since 2005 and recently went full-time in 2020.

Kirby, a new member of Fur The Moment

Are furries sexual?

Organiser Ray is very clear that whilst a sexual subculture may exist within the wider fandom, Cardiff’s Fur The Moment is simply a community that gathers to socialise.

“There is a lot of negative press about the fandom,” said Ray. “I won’t pretend it doesn’t exist.

“That side of the fandom does exist but a lot of the time its just about having fun and that’s what we’re here for, just a bit of harmless fun.”

Sonar, an undertaker who regularly attends the monthly meet ups

The stereotype was also addressed by Fur The Moment member Sonar, an undertaker.

She said: “At first I thought it was a bit risky and NSFW (not safe for work) but then I looked into it and it’s cartoon characters and cosplaying.

“There is an adult side to it but there’s an adult side to a lot of fandoms. It’s not appealing to us.

“I don’t think it should be involved in the fandom at all. It’s supposed to be a friendly thing but it is making people see us as sexually deviant people – we’re not. We’re friendly and quirky in our own way.”

The group’s website states in its rules that members cannot wear leashes, harnesses, pup hoods or any other NSFW gear and that under-18s are welcome as long as accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Geek Retreat with the Fur The Moment members chatting, watching TV and playing games

All members said that they found that taking on their fur-sona helped them with their confidence and socialising.

Ray said: “If it weren’t for the fandom I don’t know what I would be doing. When it comes to socialising this is probably the most I’ll get.

“When I discovered the fandom it was a very low point in my life. I had no friends, nothing going on and I pretty much met every single friend I have through this fandom.”

This was echoed by Sonar who finds that her disability prevents her from going out.

She said : “I don’t get out as often as I like but coming [here] helps me concentrate on the good times.”

Fur The Moment’s next meet will be at the Geek Retreat on Sunday 2 April at 11am.