“You’re a puppy, you have to go ‘AWROOOOH’ with me,” Wednesday, better known as Kitpupzz on Instagram, recalls meeting a fellow puppy at a munch. “I felt silly at first but in the end, I’m like ‘oh yeah, this is what this is about,” they laughed. Wednesday, a Florida-based adult content creator, is one of many kinksters dabbling in pet play, a kink in which partners role play as pet and owner.

Pet play is not new. Fluffy cat ears and wide-eyed anime cat girls are cornerstones of internet culture and ‘Discord kitten’ is a running joke. But what does it mean to be a pet and how do you begin a pet/owner dynamic with a partner?

I reached out to experienced pet players to ask about the ins and outs of nonverbal communication, introducing partners to the kink, and pet play in the kink community. (Note: While all the pets in this article are puppies, you can be any animal that speaks to you.)

Why pet play?

Much like other dominant/submissive dynamics, giving up control plays a major role in pet play. Pet play takes the power dynamic a step further. Where submissives in other dynamics usually have words, pets communicate solely through body language and sounds.  

“I’m a very controlling person in my daily life but when I’m doing pet play, I don’t have the ability [to control],” Wednesday said. “It’s very free for me.” Dogs, cats, and other pets don’t have responsibilities so, naturally, neither do pets.

“It’s being able to go ‘dumb-puppy mode’ and just ignore the world for a little while,’ Salem, or @_pumpkin_boy_ on Instagram, is a pet-play enthusiast and sex worker based in Georgia. “[I’m] all smiles and wiggles, I’m gone, I’m not on this planet.”

Nox, a leather pup based in Stockholm, Sweden, finds similar freedom in pet play “You can just be a puppy and do what a puppy does which is just lie in a corner, bark at someone, or crawl up in someone's lap and just lay there,” he said. “You don't have time to have that many responsibilities anymore.”

How do you communicate pet play to a partner?

On his Instagram, Nox is mostly seen donned in a black with yellow accents leather hood. While part of his play, Nox explained that it’s not that important. Non-verbal communication plays a bigger role in his pup/owner dynamic.

“Me and my partner we have like our own language, which is mostly barks, howls, and dog sounds”, Nox said. ‘The hoods come on when we are with other with other puppies, to kind of show them that we're in the headspace at the moment or when it comes to stuff in a bed.”

This nonverbal communication or communication through animal sounds is an aspect of pet play and can be tricky to navigate. “It’s really important to learn your partner’s body language and to know how your partner reacts to things,” Salem said.

They brought up pet play to their partner casually and now, having been together for four months, their dynamic is almost 24/7. While Salem isn’t a nonverbal puppy all day long, they only take off their collar when showering. “It’s locking in the back [and] he’s in control of the key. I decided I didn’t want to worry about taking it on or off so I just kept it on.”

Is pet play just DD/LG with fluffy tails?

While parts of pet play overlap with the popular kawaii/Neko girl aesthetic, the kink is often criticized for its similarities to the DD/LG or CG/L (‘daddy dom/little girl’ or ‘caregiver/little’) kink and the sexualization of childlike traits.

Salem’s exploration of pet play began with DD/LG but they quickly grew uncomfortable with the direct sexualization of children. “The possibility of the sexualization of childlike things that really unsettled me,” Salem said, “but with pet play, [you’re] not actually sexualizing being a kid, there are just some traits that you’re bringing into it that might be childlike.”

For Wednesday, CG/L coexists with pet play. But where most kinks are inherently sexual, Wednesday doesn’t derive sexual pleasure from pet play or CG/L scenes. “If someone would make a scene sexual it wouldn’t do anything for me. It would be upsetting,” they explained.

“It’s also about understanding what you want,” they said. “I want to be taken care of, I want freedom, I want vulnerability.” Pet play and BDSM allow Wednesday to recontextualize things that were oversexualized to them before and to regain power that was taken from them through abuse.

Wait, so it’s not just for kinky furries?

Well, no. Wednesday compared the two to show the differences in the subculture and kink. “A furry is an anthropomorphic animal, pet play, you’re a human taking on traits of an animal,” they laughed. “I’m being a dog, that’s a dog being a human.”

So, where do I start?

There’s no need to immediately scour the internet for oversized pet cages and muzzles. Instead, take it slow, talk to your partner, and do a lot of research.

There are many creators online down to grab you by your imaginary leash and guide you to answers to all your questions. “What I suggest above all else, but I also think is the scariest thing is to just go to a munch and your local dungeon,” Wednesday said. “There are more resources in-person than an Instagram influencer in a dog cage and 10,000 followers can ever offer you.”

Nox agrees. “You should try and find others to talk you through it and to teach you about it and let it take some time,” he said, stressing not to rush to define your play. “You need to find yourself and find a way to your pup space.”