How to Train a Cat to Lie Down

Training cats isn’t especially difficult—you truly just need a bit of patience and a positive attitude! As Newsweek reports, cats aren’t as dependent on humans as dogs are, so it can take a bit more effort, but many enjoy the mental stimulation and togetherness of this training, which should feel like playtime. Happy, confident cats take best to training, but even shy and aloof cats may be open to learning tricks with the right person and right environment. Just remember never to get frustrated or disappointed if your cat fails. Continue the step you’re on until she gets it, and if that day never comes, accept that your cat does not want to learn tricks, and play with her in other ways instead!

Great, how do I train my cat to lie down? 

Let’s start with some universal pointers for training a cat to do anything. 

  • Keep your sessions short! 3-minute sessions are best, with no more than 3 per day. In the beginning, even a 1-minute session works, especially if your cat is confused or frustrated.
  • Always have fun! This should feel like playtime, so keep the mood positive and supportive no matter how often your cat fails to do what you want. If the vibe veers into discomfort, it won’t succeed. Skip sessions whenever kitty’s in a bad mood.
  • Be prepared! Have everything you need before beginning. It’s important that these steps aren’t interrupted by you running to fetch something.
  • Clear the room! Choose a space that is as free from distraction as possible. There shouldn’t be other toys, food bowls, or loud noises nearby. There also shouldn’t be other animals in the room. Likewise, leave your own distractors (like phones, television, music, etc.) powered off so you’re completely focused and your cat isn’t distracted by random sounds.
  • Choose the right motivators! Stock up on small, easy to chew treats for training sessions. If treats aren’t cutting it, purchasing a new training toy may be the solution. Any type of toy your cat enjoys will work, but only bring it out for training sessions so it remains special. Whenever the guide below mentions a treat reward, play together with the toy for 10–15 seconds instead. If using treats, training sessions should be held between or before meals, not after, when your cat is already full.

A critical note about “helping”

It may seem like guiding your kitty downward by gently pressing on her back may help her get the idea, but it will not. Instead, this will not only derail your training by confusing and potentially scaring her, but it can also cause physical injury. Never physically encourage any position, trick, or behavior from your cat during training or otherwise. 

A step-by-step guide to training a cat to lie down:

  1. Unlike most tricks, the process here will vary more widely, depending on your cat’s natural inclinations. Keep in mind the end goal is to catch your cat in the act of moving to the lie down position, and immediately deliver a command word (e.g., “down!”) when his chest touches the ground, followed by a treat. It may seem backwards to deliver the command after the action is performed, but we’ll reverse this later. For now, associate the action with the word and a reward by catching him in the act. Be sure to make him get up to receive the treat, though, so he’ll have to lie down again.
  2. After many repetitions of lie down, command, reward, move on to delivering the command earlier in the lying process, and continue rewarding each successful lie down. Eventually, the command will prompt him to lie down even when he wasn’t going to. Some cats will require more gradual developments between steps, stretching the process to weeks. Others will get it in one session. It’s all good!
  3. If this doesn’t work, you can try a more active approach of luring your cat to lie down. Sitting in front of your cat, hold a treat at nose level and bring it to the floor so that your cat follows. Don’t deliver the treat until your cat lies down (be patient), chest touching the ground, then deliver your command and reward. If your cat uses a perch or cat tree, it can be easier to try this method when he’s elevated. Show the treat at nose level, then lower it below kitty’s surface level, encouraging him to get so low he needs to lie down. Once regularly successful, begin delivering commands earlier in the process, as above, until you’ve trained him to lie down on command.

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