Updated: JULY 8, 2024

Kitten-cougar is a type of lesbian relationship involving a young submissive woman, known as the kitten, and an older, more dominant person, known as the cougar. This relationship dynamic is often based on the age gap and power exchange that naturally follows. A kitten-cougar relationship is the lesbian equivalent of the heterosexual cub-cougar relationship.

The Kitten

The kitten in a kitten-cougar relationship is typically much younger than their partner. Cougars may become attracted to a kitten’s energy and playful nature. In turn, kittens may seek guidance and mentorship from the cougar. They often take a more submissive role in their relationship and may enjoy the protection, care, and nurturance their more experienced partner can provide.

The Cougar

The cougar in a kitten-cougar relationship is usually much older than their partner. Kittens may enjoy dating a cougar because older partners are more experienced, and therefore more confident and assertive. These qualities help them naturally take the lead in the relationship and provide guidance and support for their kittens. They may open their kitten up to new sexual experiences that help them grow. Cougars often enjoy nurturing and mentoring younger partners and taking on a more dominant role.

Edward Reese, a trans* nonbinary activist and gender and sexuality expert at LGBTQ+ dating app Taimi told Kinkly “I identified as a lesbian for a good part of my life before coming out as genderqueer, and many of my sapphic relationships had a 10+ years age gap. As a person who can be called a cougar in this dynamic, I find pleasure in caring for the younger girl, sharing my experiences, and helping her open some new opportunities in life. What I am looking for in this kind of relationship is support, an understanding of my more youthful interests and traits, and some adoration for sure. I’m not saying that other types of dynamics can’t have all of the above, but with the age gap, it feels different.”

The Feline Scale

A kitten and cougar are at different ends of the feline scale, a scale that likens women who pursue younger lovers to cats based on their age. People who use this scale classify the youngest women in the dating pool as kittens. While there’s no absolute cut-off age for kittens, 18 to 24 is a commonly accepted age range.

There’s no clear definition for cougars either, but people commonly use this label for women in their late 30s to late 40s. Some people classify slightly younger women, in their 30s, as pumas. However, others use the terms puma and cougar interchangeably. Other labels on the feline scale are used less frequently but can include panther for women in their 60s, cheetah for women in their 70s, and leopard for women in their 80s. Alternative versions of the feline scale use the term sabretooth as a label for women older than 60 who pursue much younger partners.

Criticism of the Feline Scale

Some people criticize the feline scale for framing women at one end as helpless and needing care and women at the opposite end as predators. These depictions are both unflattering and dismissive of the consent both parties in these relationships give. They can also seem dehumanizing

“I like the feline terminology, but it’s mostly because I’m a cat person. Though associating my partner and me with cats is fun for me personally, I don’t support using these terms,” Reese confirmed. “The origins of the ‘cougar’ term and the ‘kitten’ as an opposite are inherently sexist and misogynistic. Stereotypically, cats are associated with women and dogs with men, though there’s no proof of such connections. ‘Cougar’ has been historically used as a derogatory term for older women who dare to be sexually active. And though some lesbians reclaim it, it’s still an insult for many women. Going back to the start, it’s still a porn term together with MILF."

“What's most important is to approach each relationship with an open mind, focusing on the individuals involved rather than relying on labels,” Michelle Herzog, a licensed marriage and family therapist and AASECT-certified sex therapist told Kinkly. “Respect, understanding, and genuine connection should be at the heart of any relationship, regardless of age differences.”

Visibility of kitten-cougar relationships

Reese says real kitten-cougar relationships are “almost invisible,” especially when compared to heterosexual relationships and male same-sex relationships.

“We’re not talking about porn stereotypes but about real women who love someone much younger or older. Twinks and daddies from gay culture have their solid place in the common language, but not kittens and cougars,” they explained. “As always, women’s sexuality has been solidified almost exclusively in porn, tailored to suit the male gaze. This is the main reason why kittens and cougars are a little bit scared to look for each other, even on anonymous resources like Reddit. If you try to find some like-minded individuals, you stumble upon spicy videos made by heterosexual men and/or for them, and sometimes, because of that, you lose all the fire.”

Dynamics of the kitten-cougar relationship

A kitten-cougar relationship often involves a clear power dynamic, with the cougar taking on the more dominant role and the kitten being more submissive and following the cougar’s lead. The age gap between partners reinforces this power dynamic. As people are typically taught to respect and follow the lead of their elders, it feels natural for a young kitten to see their much older cougar partner in the dominant role.

A cougar’s dominance can see them taking on the role of a mentor and guide in various facets of their kitten’s life. For example, they may support them in their career and help them navigate relationships with friends and family members. They may also encourage their kitten to apply themselves to their studies and be more responsible. On the flip side, kittens can help cougars tap into a more spontaneous, light-hearted side of their personalities.

“These relationships can be characterized by a mix of energy and experience,” Herzog added. “Kittens often bring a youthful vibrancy and a fresh perspective, while cougars typically offer maturity, wisdom, and life experience. The dynamics can vary widely, but mutual respect, communication, and understanding are crucial for the relationship to thrive.”

Sexual dynamics in a kitten-cougar relationship

A cougar’s guidance may see them introduce their kitten to new sexual experiences. A cougar may encourage their kitten to explore their sexuality and find new sexual practices that satisfy them. The relationship may give the kitten their first same-sex sexual experiences. A cougar may also help a kitten feel more comfortable with their sexuality. The dominant-submissive dynamic between kittens and cougars may naturally lead to BDSM-style power exchange during sex. 

“While we condemn the porn stereotypes, we shouldn’t forget that lesbians do actually have sex. For many women, an age gap relationship is a kink, not only a type of comforting connection,” Reese added. “Sometimes, the dom/sub or ‘mommy dom little girl’ dynamic is added, and the couple can have it as a lifestyle or only as a bedroom practice. It’s extremely important to remember that cougar/kitten relationships and MDLG have nothing to do with child abuse or any other illegal and unhealthy activities. No actual children are involved, and adults are free to do anything they want in bed with mutual consent.”

Navigating the dynamics of a kitten-cougar relationship

While many people in kitten-cougar relationships feel the dynamic is mutually beneficial, the power dynamic can become unhealthy. The kitten may feel resentful of the cougar’s dominance, much like a child resents a parent telling them what to do. Similarly, a cougar may become tired of a kitten who acts out or seems less capable than they are. Keeping communication open can help kittens and cougars navigate these issues. Consent should also be ongoing. If either party decides the dynamic no longer works for them, they may try to adjust how they interact with their partner or dissolve the relationship.


Latest Sex Positions

View More Positions More Icon