I caught up with Howl — a sex and relationship coach who’s also deep into BDSM, including pet play. While most pet play focuses on puppies, Howl is exploring their feline side.
When did you start to explore your big cat persona?
When I was a little kid — I was running around pretending to be different animals and role playing as characters from all the movies, shows, and books I was consuming. That’s typical for many kids, but I guess I just never stopped.
I started to formally explore the feline persona when I got a little deeper into BDSM and pet play about ten years ago. I’d seen puppies before at fetish conventions, but I didn’t identify much with a dog. Also, I incorrectly associated it exclusively with master/slave dynamics — it hadn’t exploded on the internet yet. But even as I learned more about puppy play, what I was seeing didn’t quite fit with my image of myself.
My Daddy at the time helped me to realise my interest in training and teaching. I still wanted to be some kind of animal, and I’d always been more of a cat person — both in preference and personality. That’s how Howl emerged. Being a cat really seemed to fit well with my style of dominance. I hadn’t seen anyone else doing it, but I tend to do what I want. Often, when I share with people that I was a big cat, the most common response is — ‘Oh wow, is that a thing?’
What is it about cats that really connects with you?
Most things — from their general behaviour, to their look. I’m very similar in personality to my favourite cats. ‘Cats don’t have owners, they have staff!’ is a saying that I share quite a bit. I feel like cats are complicated creatures, easily misunderstood and disliked, but cherished by many people. I also feel that big cats rule the animal kingdom, which I admire and respect.
When do you unleash Howl?
I’ve used Howl to resist the need to compartmentalise everything — especially where there’s opportunities to make connections and bend rules. Even my art practice — music and sound design — is extremely experimental and blends genres. Howl is a combination of so many communities and fandoms that I love.
I express Howl in the dungeons, commissioned art, sex, in the nightlife scene, the furry fandom, erotica, and even in public. I teach sex education and kink education, so Howl is even part of my professional work occasionally.
To create Howl, I’ve taken different pieces that I like from the worlds of BDSM, King, and pet play, and left out what doesn’t make sense for me.
I’m a furry with no intention over being a fursuitor, but I love to still dress up as my character and express it in other ways. I wear a lot of latex and leather, which isn’t always common or even welcome in the furry fandom. I still get art commissioned, both fetish and non, where I feature Howl as a furry, a human in gear, and hybrids of pet play and furry life. I wear gear outside of the dungeon and fetish cons. I wear heels because it makes me feel like a cat, with digitigrade feet paws.
You spend a lot of time in the club scene. How does Howl relate to drag?
I love drag and club life. I started go-go dancing and doing boylesque at a young age. I spend a lot of time in the clubs, so I bring Howl into that. In the nightlife and drag world, hyper gender-based portrayals or other illusions are common. Their looks are a major element and almost always change, and a lot of folks host and perform as their drag persona. Howl’s look doesn’t change much, similar to that of an anime or cartoon character who looks the same every episode. I don’t use makeup to create gender illusions, lipsync, tuck, or pad. I do push for a hyper illusion of an animal through my fetish gear, wear heels and nails, fuck with gender, host parties, and perform with club kids and people who do drag.
Why is pet play something that appeals to a lot of guys?
Pet Play doesn’t just appeal to guys, but it’s way too easy to feel that way. While gay white men specifically are celebrated more and dominate the airwaves and news-feeds, they’re not the only ones interested in or playing around with animal role play. Pet Play has a lot to offer, and plenty of folks are drawn to it because there’s so much there.
For a lot of folks in my circle, it’s a form of stress management. It’s something that can be fun and entertaining. It can introduce social codes for folks who may struggle with socialising, or just appreciate alternatives. There are healthier models for how to exist on the power spectrum than the abuse that we often see in wider normative culture.
For some it can be sexually arousing, while others don’t mix sexual tones in their play. People find purpose, confidence, notoriety, escapism, and authorship over who they are. Pet play allows people to take things within and express them safely in this way, as well as being a vehicle towards qualities they aspire to.
My approach is definitely a mixture of things, sexual and otherwise. It’s an opportunity for me to call on leadership and organisational skills, mentor others, as well as feel powerful and mystical.
Is the Marvel character of Black Panther your ultimate fantasy?
Black Panther is a major inspiration for Howl. From the actual animal, to the political party, as well as the Marvel comic book character — Black Panther has a lot to do with who I am. However, in my conception, Howl is a royal super villain instead of a hero.
When it comes to hooking up with guys, are you only connecting with guys who are into pet play?
I’m pansexual and very kinky, so I play with all types of folks. While BDSM is a major component of my sexuality, I don’t engage in BDSM with everyone I play with. Pet play is actually a relatively small percentage of my interest and attraction. I’m usually most interested in other queer people of colour.
I play with a lot of puppies for sure, but not exclusively. I have lots of fetishes, but my cat social media is all about a cat as supreme ruler, which in my mind is exactly how a cat would post.
Is there a difference in what you feel when you’re having sex with someone as your cat persona, compared to when you’re having sex with someone just as you?
I definitely don’t go into a cat head-space in every sexual interaction. Though there is some crossover. In non-kinky situations, some of my sexual behaviours are still very cat-like and primal. I love to bite, scratch, growl, be in control, and tap into that inner-animal, because those are natural responses for me when I’m aroused. Though I definitely don’t bring that persona out fully and formally outside of BDSM scenes.
If someone was interested in starting to explore pet play, what advice would you give them?
People should do their research. It’s important to identify what elements are appealing to you, and what things you’re less interested in. I couldn’t tell you how many people I’ve come across who aren’t exploring strong areas of interest because they’re so caught up on the elements they don’t connect with, not realising that they can omit those things. I meet people all the time who say things like — ‘I love the idea of puppy play, but I don’t like it sexually…’ and my response is — ‘Then don’t bring it to the bedroom, pet play isn’t inherently sexual.’
I also think it’s important to actually find some way to play as that animal — or with the animal if your role is to be the handler. Getting on the ground, being pet and fed, getting art made, writing stories, pet nicknames, making the sounds, having folks interact with you in the way you’d like — these things are all so important!
I see people drop a lot of money on gear to express or validate an identity that they’ve hardly formulated or haven’t intimately connected with. Gear is fun and exciting, but it doesn’t have to be everything for everyone, especially right away. I come across way too many people who don’t go to events because they feel that they don’t have enough gear.
What are some of your goals and ambitions for the months ahead?
I’m going to be doing a lot more public education, performances, and fetish demonstrations. I especially love doing these in spaces that aren’t traditionally kinky. Some of the major highlights for later this year include some teaching at Great Lakes Leather Alliance, Montreal Fetish Weekend, and a European tour. I’m also working on some national education initiatives with Kink.Com.
I’m also reviving a major project of mine — Sex Out Loud Live. It’s a gathering space for candid conversations about our sex, love, and intimacy. The program includes panels, community discussions, sexual health resources, and performances. The cool part is that it takes place in non-traditional education spaces, such as nightclubs.
By trade, I’m a social worker who focuses on relationship education. I’m also working towards becoming a Sex Therapist, plus I offer sex and relationship coaching. I’ve recently introduced the option to work with clients online, as Howl.