Do Santa Clara County Cats Need a License to Meow?


Cat licensing is a requirement for pet cat owners in many parts of the United States, including Santa Clara County in California. Licenses are intended to help reunite lost pets with their owners, and assist animal control and shelters in tracking rabies vaccinations. However, requirements vary between counties and even cities. This article will focus on answering the key question – do cats need to be licensed in Santa Clara County? We’ll provide an overview of the county’s cat licensing regulations, the process for obtaining a license, reasons for licensing, penalties for failing to license, statistics, discounts and exemptions, and frequently asked questions.

Background on Cat Licensing

Cat licensing has been a common requirement in many cities and counties for decades. The main purpose of cat licensing is to aid in pet identification and reunite lost pets with their owners ( Licensing creates a record with the owner’s contact information, making it much easier to contact the owner if their cat gets lost or injured. It also helps animal control and shelters identify stray cats and return them home instead of assuming they are homeless.

Most areas with licensing require cat owners to license their pets each year and attach the license tag to the cat’s collar. Fees are typically $10 to $20 per year. Licensing is mandatory in most cities and counties that have programs, with penalties for failing to license your cat (

Santa Clara County Cat License Requirements

All cats over the age of 4 months are required to be licensed in Santa Clara County[1]. The county’s licensing requirements are laid out in the Santa Clara County Code of Ordinances Chapter IV on cats.

The license fee for an altered (spayed/neutered) cat is $15. The fee for an unaltered cat is $50. Reduced license fees are available for senior citizens (age 60+) and disabled individuals – $7.50 for an altered cat and $25 for an unaltered cat.

Cat licenses must be renewed annually before the expiration date. The renewal period starts 60 days before the current license expires. Late fees apply for renewals processed after the expiration date.

New cat owners have 15 days after adopting/acquiring a cat to obtain a license. Licenses can be obtained from the Santa Clara County Animal Services Center or participating veterinary clinics.


Getting Your Cat Licensed

To get your cat licensed in Santa Clara County, you will need to complete a license application form and provide proof of rabies vaccination from your veterinarian. There are a few ways to submit your application and payment:

  • Apply in person at one of the county animal shelters in San Jose or Morgan Hill (
  • Mail in your completed application form and payment to Animal Services Licensing, 123 Animal Way, San Jose CA 95110
  • Apply online through the county website ( You can upload proof of rabies electronically.

License fees vary based on whether your cat is spayed/neutered. An unaltered cat license costs $100 while an altered cat license is $15. Senior citizens over 65 can get one free cat license per year. The license is valid for one year from the date of issue.

It’s important to keep your cat’s rabies vaccination up-to-date and renew the license annually. Licensing helps quickly reunite lost pets with their owners, and fees support animal services programs in Santa Clara County.

Importance of Licensing Your Cat

Getting a license for your cat is important for several reasons. First, having a license can help identify your cat if they ever get lost or end up at a shelter. The license will have your contact information so you can be reached if your cat is found. According to, 93% of lost licensed pets are returned to their owners, compared to only 10% of unlicensed lost pets.

Licensing your cat is also important for rabies control. To get a license, you must show proof that your cat is up to date on their rabies vaccination. Keeping your cat vaccinated helps prevent the spread of rabies, which is a dangerous disease that can infect humans. According to, licensing supports public health by ensuring cats receive their rabies vaccines.

Failure to License Penalties

Santa Clara County and its municipalities have penalties in place for cat owners who fail to properly license their feline companions. According to the Santa Clara County Animal Services website, cat owners who do not license their pets may face fines of $100 for a first offense. Subsequent offenses can result in fines of $200 per unlicensed animal.

The city of San Jose also imposes penalties for unlicensed cats. Per the San Jose Animal Care Services website, owners with unlicensed cats are subject to an administrative citation of $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation, and $500 for a third violation within a 12-month period. Failure to license a cat in San Jose is considered a separate offense for each unlicensed animal.

In addition to fines, Santa Clara County or city animal control officers may impound unlicensed cats. Owners must then pay impound fees and license fees to reclaim their pet. Licensing your cat is crucial for avoiding these penalties and ensuring lost cats can be quickly reunited with their families.

Licensing Statistics

According to Santa Clara County Animal Services, the county issued approximately 128,000 dog licenses and 32,000 cat licenses in 2021. This represents around 78% of estimated dogs and only 22% of estimated cats being licensed locally. Over the past decade, dog licensing rates have remained steady while cat licensing rates have slowly increased. In 2011, only 14% of cats were licensed compared to the 22% in 2021.

The City of San Jose saw a slight dip in 2021 with approximately 95,000 active dog licenses and 18,000 active cat licenses. Back in 2017, the city hit a peak with 99,000 dog and 20,000 cat licenses issued. The city estimates a dogs licensing compliance rate around 75% and cats around 20%.

In the City of Santa Clara, around 11,500 dog licenses and 2,300 cat licenses were active last year. Their 10 year high was 13,000 dogs and 2,800 cats licensed back in 2013. Much like the county and San Jose, dogs have a higher compliance rate at 65% compared to cats at 15%.

Exemptions and Discounts

There are a few situations where cat owners in Santa Clara County may be exempt from licensing requirements or eligible for discounts on licensing fees. According to Santa Barbara County’s website, the following exemptions may apply:

  • Cats under 4 months of age
  • Service cats that assist disabled residents
  • Cats kept in pet shops, kennels, or animal shelters awaiting sale or adoption

Santa Clara County also offers discounted licensing fees in certain cases. According to DocuPet’s website, discounts are available for:

  • Senior citizens (62+) – $13.50 fee
  • Spayed/neutered cats – lower fee than unaltered cats

Cat owners should check with the county directly to confirm current exemptions and discounts before assuming their cat is exempt from licensing requirements. The county may require documentation such as proof of age, spay/neuter status, or service cat certification.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many pet owners have questions about the requirements and process for licensing cats in Santa Clara County. Here we answer some of the most commonly asked questions:

Do I need to license my indoor cat?

Yes, Santa Clara County requires all cats over 4 months of age to be licensed, even if they are strictly indoor cats. Licensing helps ensure rabies vaccinations are up-to-date and provides a way to identify lost pets. According to California state law and Santa Clara County ordinance, licensing is mandatory for all cats. [1]

What does a cat license cost?

The license fee in Santa Clara county is $15 per year for an altered (spayed/neutered) cat or $50 for an unaltered cat. Discounted prices are available for seniors and low-income residents. The license is valid for one year from the date of issue. [2]

What if I adopt a cat from a shelter?

If you adopt from a Santa Clara county shelter, the license fee is usually included with the adoption. But you will still need to register the license with the county each year to renew it. Check with the shelter upon adoption for more details on the license.

How do I license my cat?

You can license your cat through the Santa Clara County Animal Services website or in person at one of their offices. You will need to provide proof of a current rabies vaccination. Other required information includes your contact details, cat’s name, breed, age, color, and sex. Pay the license fee and your cat’s license tag will be mailed to you within 2 weeks.


In summary, Santa Clara County does require cat licensing for all cats over the age of four months. Licensing helps reunite lost cats with their owners, provides rabies vaccination tracking, and supports animal care and control services. While failure to license can result in fines, discounts are available for low-income families and seniors.

Licensing your cat is quick, easy and affordable. It provides peace of mind that your furry friend will have extra protection should they ever get lost. With so many benefits for both you and your cat, there is no reason not to license your feline companion.

The small yearly licensing fee goes a long way in supporting essential services to keep cats healthy and safe across the county. Together, responsible pet owners in Santa Clara County can make a difference. Don’t wait – license your cat today!

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