In my experience, subs tend to fall into two different categories, which I call Cat Subs and Dog Subs, based on which animal’s motivations they tend to mirror.
Cat Subs are, like cats, essentially pleasure-driven. They crave submission because they find it a deeply pleasurable experience. Exactly what behaviors they enjoy varies. They may like being flogged or verbally abused or pissed on or gangbanged or just plain fucked. The common thread is that they find particular forms of submission arousing and seek out doms who will provide them with the experiences they enjoy. Cat Subs generally have no problem setting limits about what they will and won’t do. While they may do things they don’t enjoy, they will usually expect to get something they do want in exchange for that, and some Cat Subs will simply refuse to do things they don’t find pleasurable, and they usually let a dom know when they are not enjoying themselves. Because they are pleasure-driven, they are more likely to focus on sex and sex-adjacent things (like pain play) and are less likely to willingly do non-sexual things like domestic chores. While they are subs, they are less likely to be slaves.
Thus Cat Subs tend to approach power exchange with an emphasis on the ‘exchange’–pleasure for pleasure. At their best, they can serve well because they want to give as well as they get, and they know how to stand up for their needs in a relationship. If they’re experienced and know what they want, they may give you roadmap to their pleasures, which can make domming much easier. At their worst, Cat Subs can be remarkably selfish, prioritizing their pleasure and not really caring about their dom’s experience. They often haven’t even thought about why doms enjoy being dominant. They can be pushy bottoms with a tendency to top from the bottom. They can also be oblivious to what they’re doing, just assuming that everybody operates the way they do. They can become bored unexpectedly which sometimes makes them unreliable.
In contrast, Dog Subs are service-driven. They crave feeling like they are being useful to their dom and derive their pleasure and satisfaction from doing things that the dom wants. Thus they often enjoy things that they don’t find directly pleasurable because they know that their dom enjoys doing those things. Thus they endure a flogging or getting pissed on because it is their duty to accept the treatment their dom wants to give them, and they may be aroused more by the attention of their dom than by the particular things he has them do. They need to feel valued in some way. Domestic chores and other non-sexual service may be as satisfying to them as getting fucked. They may be good candidates for slavery.
At their best, Dog Subs can be deeply submissive and profoundly loyal, genuinely looking up to their dom as a superior being. They pride themselves on serving in whatever capacity they are asked to serve and self-sacrifice feels noble to them. They often take pains to give their best service and are often really good at following rules. At their worst, they can have trouble setting limits and may harm themselves by agreeing to do things they truly don’t want to do. They sometimes have trouble articulating their needs and it’s not hard for them to get taken advantage of by an unscrupulous dom. They may have low self-esteem and need a good deal of reassurance that they are valuable. They may become clingy. They may have trouble taking the initiative and often require clear instructions and rules, without which they can become anxious. They may become deeply upset if they make a mistake or break a rule, because that means they’ve failed at something truly important to them.
Obviously, most subs have some elements of both qualities, but the distinction I am making here is about their primary motivation. Most subs I have known broadly fall into one or the other group.
Recognizing which type of sub you’re dealing with is important. If you try to treat a Cat Sub like a Dog Sub, they’re likely to get irritated or dissatisfied that they aren’t getting what they want out of the interaction. A Cat Sub who doesn’t enjoy a scene probably won’t come back for more. They may bristle if you give them a lot of rules. If you try to treat a Dog Sub like a Cat Sub, they may become confused about why you aren’t prioritizing your needs over theirs. They may feel like you’re not truly being dominant with them, because ‘real doms’ take what they want.
One type of sub is not better than the other. Cat Subs can be remarkably enthusiastic if your kinks line up nicely with their kinks because that means you’re both getting a lot of pleasure from the other. If you’re good at doing the things they enjoy, they will probably value you as a partner. Dog Subs, as I said, can be deeply loyal and hard-working and will go through hell for you if you make them feel truly valued. If you’re the kind of dom who likes to give his subs a lot of rules to follow, Dog Subs may be better than Cat Subs. And if you want a domestic servant, the Dog Sub is probably your best bet.
Incidentally, Dog Subs are not necessarily Pups, and vice versa. Many Pups have a Cat Sub attitude and just want a handler because they need someone to fill that rule in their scenes, not because they want someone to be devoted to.
One of the biggest challenges new doms have is making sense of sub psychology, which is often dramatically different from dominant psychology, even though the two are clearly linked. Spend some time thinking about your subs and see if this distinction helps you make sense of your boy’s behavior and needs.
What do you think? Is this a pattern you’ve noticed in your boys, or in yourself? Let me know in the comments.