These days, pet cats are “born retired.” That’s not good for them mentally or physically, and it can contribute to behavior problems. Here’s what I told a reader who wanted to know what she could do about it.

Q: How can I get my indoor cat to exercise?

A: Great question, and so important. Kittens are so active that we don’t spend much time worrying about exercise for them, but adult cats like to play, too, especially if we make it part of their daily routine from kittenhood on.

Get your cat moving with a collection of cat toys: wand toys (kitty fishing poles), large peacock feathers that dangle enticingly, balls to chase and bat around, electronic mice that zoom around the room, and even the beam of a flashlight sent up the wall and down the hall. Toss catnip mice for cats to retrieve or stuffed animals that they can bunny-kick.

You’re not always home, but you can provide plenty of play options that don’t require your presence. Cat trees and tunnels are great for kitty cavorting and exploring — as well as the occasional nap or hiding place. Place a cat tree in front of a window so your cat can climb up for a view. If a cat tree won’t fit, attach a kitty ledge to the windowsill so your cat can watch the world go by.

Offer opportunities to “hunt.” Take the amount of food you’d put into your cat’s dish and portion it out onto little plates or bowls and put them around the house so he’ll have to go looking for them. Or buy a puzzle toy or two that you can fill with food, and then let your cat work to get it out.

If possible, provide a safe outdoor space: a catio. You can build one next to the house that your cat can access from a window, or convert a screened sunroom to a feline jungle gym filled with climbing areas and safe plants.

There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.

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