Just about everyone loves puppies, kittens, bunnies, cubs, and other young critters. These baby animals are happy, they play, they have fun, they live in the moment and for the moment.
So, it’s no wonder that people enjoy finding their inner puppy, kitten, and other youthful creature and experiencing that same feeling of joy and endless exuberance! Because, well, why not? They can escape from the stresses of daily life, reframe their experiences, and even strengthen their sense of self and reclaim power.
Pet play can also be a form of erotic role-play, in which one or more of the participants takes on the role of a real or imaginary animal, including appropriate mannerisms and behaviors. Other participants in the role-play may take on the roles of other animals, or of the owner, trainer, rider, or caretaker of the animal(s).
There can be a Dominant/submission (D/s) relationship involved, with one pet being dominant or submissive to another. For example, a dominant pet might hold a submissive down with a bite on the neck, or a timid person may transform into a werewolf and take the upper hand.
People engage in pet play for many reasons, ranging from the humiliation aspect of reducing or transforming a human being to animal status, or the loss of inhibitions associated with that animal nature, to taking on a role which allows for nurturing and a change from the usual roles in everyday life. In some cases, pet play is simply a loving, quiet, cuddling time where there is no need for verbalizations, and the simple act of stroking, rubbing, and holding the other person is satisfying and reassuring.
Pet play has been around at least since the 1970s in the US. The occurrence of animal play (including pony, kitten, wolf, etc.) by women was documented in 2015 by Jennifer Rehor (co-author of Women and Kink: Relationships, Reasons, and Stories, and President and Founder of Affirming Therapy Center) in her article published in Archives of Sexual Behavior titled Sensual, Erotic, and Sexual Behaviors of Women from the Kink Community. Her study of 1,580 women who were in the kink community showed that 54% of these women had participated in some form of animal play! This article is also the first to mention “pup play” in academic literature and has been cited in subsequent studies of this activity.
And you thought hardly anyone was a pet, right?
Let’s look a little more closely at pets!
Researchers identify five main rationales for engagement in pet play.
- sexual pleasure
- relaxation/therapy and escaping from self
- adult play and vibrant physicality
- extending and expressing selfhood
- relationship and community benefits
They also identified the importance of community within pet play, and the relationships that develop between groups of pets and between pets and handlers.
Yes, handlers. A handler has the responsibility of looking after a pet, carrying the pets’ paraphernalia or gear (e.g., toys, clothing, harness), providing training on how to behave, and interacting with their pets.
Some pets belong to packs or herds, some have one owner, and some are strays. Some have pet names for their pet personas. Some young animals belong to specific breeds.
Puppy play may involve the sorts of training and interaction that a human would have with a biological canine, including obedience training, going for walks, and playing games such as fetch. It often also includes traditional BDSM elements of discipline and punishment. Playing the role of a puppy means giving complete and unconditional love and obedience, in return for the protection and loyalty that a dog can expect from their master.
Kittens are different than puppies. A kitty might not play fetch or walk on a leash (although with time, and patience, you can teach them to do both those things), but you wouldn’t hesitate to clean a cat’s ears or face, feed them, or give them freshwater. In return, your kitten trusts you completely, knowing you’ll take care of them. Your kitten may require firm discipline, too — after all, you’re the adult in the situation, and you know what’s best. Kittens are cuddly and playful, but fickle.
Pony play often involves the practice and training that a horse owner or trainer would put their horse through. Ponies are usually trained in dressage, to pull a light cart or sulky, or as riding ponies, carrying their owners on their shoulders or back.
The relationship between owner and pet is one of trust and loyalty, and it is important to build that trust and loyalty right from the start. One of the most important ways to do this is through petting and grooming your pet.
Petting simply means to caress or stroke your pet. Ruffling your pet’s fur, scratching under their chin, or stroking their belly — all these things are petting. Most animals like to be petted, and as your pet grows more comfortable around you and their trust in you increases, they will be more relaxed about allowing you to touch them.
Stroking or caressing your pet is an important first step in building their confidence and trust in you. Once your pet happily and willingly allows you to touch them, you can begin to introduce grooming.
Grooming is important. First, grooming keeps your pet healthy and reduces shedding. Pets should be brushed and bathed regularly. Second, grooming your pet allows you to examine them closely for any injuries, inexplicable lumps, fleas or parasites, and so forth. Third, grooming your pet provides quality time to bond with them. It is an intimate time, but also a relaxing one for both of you, with no real demands made on either of you.
Part of the joy of owning a human pet is taking advantage of the combination of animal sensuality and human intelligence. However, the same caveats apply to sexual and erotic activities as you might expect. Pet ownership is a privilege. Every pet is different, and it is up to the individual to move cautiously and discover how best to engage with their pet, and for the pet to engage with its owner or handler.
What does this all mean?
It means you are normal. It means there are many people like you. (Join Fetlife.com — it’s free — and check out all the Pet Play groups!) It means there is a wonderful part of you that is worth exploring and sharing.
If you want to talk about your pet-ness with a therapist, or if you want to talk about yourself and your relationships without your therapist stumbling over the fact that you are a puppy, kitten, mouse, or other pet, we can help!
Please contact one of your pet-friendly Affirming Therapy Center therapists today!
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