To stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), people have been asked to “shelter in place” or practice social distancing. While that doesn’t mean you can never go outside (for example, caregivers can continue to feed community cats ), it does mean we’re spending a lot more time at home in the middle of the day…day after day.

It’s no surprise that many people who have an indoor-only cat are now seeing their feline family members’ everyday lives in a new light.

So, how do we care for cats during the coronavirus emergency and stay positive while staying inside? Here are four ways to make being indoors easier on your cat—and how to apply them for people, too!

1. Set a Routine

Cats love a good daily routine. It sets expectations and offers predictability to their day which is very comforting and stress-relieving for a cat. Try to keep a consistent schedule for your cats so they always know when it’s mealtime, where they can find some peace and quiet, and when they can get some affection from their favorite person.

Having a rhythm to the day is helpful for people, too, especially now that the coronavirus has disrupted so much. By setting a routine, we can add some order back into our lives and stay positive. Try waking up at the same time each morning, getting ready for the day as usual, and eating your meals on a schedule. You can even plan for activities like video chatting with friends.

Bonus: Sharing parts of your routine with your cat—like cuddles on the couch while watching your favorite show or having dinner at the same time—will make you both happy. It can also help relieve stress.

2. Stay Active

We educate about the need to provide cats enrichment and stimulation. Now, we’re all getting a feel for why that’s important as we spend longer periods of time indoors.  This is a great time for you to get active and help your cat get more exercise. By creating a cat exercise routine, you can enrich your cat’s indoor experience both now and when you are no longer home for most of the day.

Try penciling in some time to play around with cat toys and get your cat moving. Fabric “mice” filled with catnip are great for motivating a cat to chase, while cat trees can get cats climbing and stretching their muscles with some good scratching.

For us humans, exercise can give us the serotonin boost we need to stay focused and fit. If structured exercise is your thing, yoga or running on a treadmill are just a couple of great ways to stay active. You can also find workout routines that require no equipment. If the idea of an exercise program makes you cringe, doing yard work, cleaning the house, or taking the stairs also work

Even better: you can get active and bond with your cat at the same time through some creative and rigorous playtime. Try doing some elaborate ribbon twirling to get your cat jumping, or setting up an obstacle course for a treat reward. And if you have a hammer and some wood, you can perhaps get active building and installing small shelves in high places onto which your cat can leap and perch.

3. Get a Nature Fix

Nothing beats the feeling of sunlight on your face—just ask any cat who has a favorite sunbathing spot! Lots of reports have shown the positive effects nature has on people, and we know that cats are naturally adapted to living outside.

Thankfully, you and your cats can get the benefits of the great outdoors in small ways even while staying indoors most hours.

Some things to try:

  • Get outdoor airflow by opening a window or door with a screen.
  • Add cat-friendly house plants to your living area.
  • Enjoy the sound of running water with a fountain (pet fountains are also a great way for cats to stay hydrated).
  • Gather and make a display at home of some cool rocks, neat sticks, beautiful flowers, leaves or other things from nature, if they’re safe to bring indoors. Maybe bring something fun in from outside for your cats to enjoy, too.
  • Listen to some nature sounds with your cat, like the rolling waves of an ocean or crickets on a summer night.
  • Play a nature video that you and your cat can both enjoy. YouTube has a whole host of nature videos, from flying birds to squirrels munching at feeders.  You can check out nature-centric livestreams, too.
  • Bask in full-spectrum daylight. If you can’t get the real thing, it’s possible to order daylight lamps and lightbulbs.
  • Visit your yard or spend time on your deck or porch (if you’d like your indoor-only cat to join, you can try a cat harness and leash).

Find what works for you and your cat!

4. Do Something Special

While routines are super important, so is a little variety. Doing the same thing day in and day out can be really boring, especially if you’re under “Shelter in Place” or “Stay at Home” restrictions because of the coronavirus.  So spice things up with something special.

To enhance a cat’s daily routine, this may mean introducing a new scratching post, trying a fancy new treat, strategically sprinkling catnip and/or silver vine around the house, or adding some interesting new scents. You can also change up feeding time by creating food puzzles for your cat out of random (free!) household objects, like tissue boxes and paper towel rolls.

For people, you can try a new hobby, learn a new language, tap into your creative side with an art project, watch that movie you’ve been meaning to see, get around to reading those books that have been sitting on your shelf, or test a new recipe. If you want to get creative and surprise your cat, maybe your next arts and crafts venture can include making custom cat toys!

We’re In This Together

We know that being indoors all day can be stressful, whether you’re a cat or a person. We hope you and the cats you care for benefit from these suggestions and stay safe in these uncertain times—and all the time.

To learn more about Alley Cat Allies’ coronavirus emergency response, visit alleycat.org/Coronavirus.