Do Cats Need Licenses Too? The Surprising Truth About Pet Regulations in NY


Cats in New York State do not require licenses in most areas. However, some select municipalities do have licensing laws for cats. In general, cat licensing regulations are much less stringent compared to dogs. While dog licensing is mandatory statewide in New York, cats have far fewer restrictions. Despite this, some towns and cities in NY still require cat licenses for various reasons. This article will provide an overview of cat licensing requirements in New York State.

Overview of Cat Licensing in NY

Cat licensing laws vary across New York state. Some counties and cities require licenses for cats, while others do not. According to the Animal Welfare Act Timeline, licensing requirements for dogs and cats were first established in the United States in 1894 when the ASPCA began operating animal shelters in New York City. The city of New York requires licenses for all owned cats, but licensing rules are different across other parts of the state.

For example, New York State Department of Agriculture oversees licensing of pet dealers across the state, but does not require licensing of privately owned cats in most counties. However, some counties and cities, such as Albany, do require cat licensing locally.

In summary, cat licensing is mandatory in some parts of New York like New York City, but not uniformly required across the entire state. The laws originated in the late 19th century with early animal welfare efforts in urban areas.

Where Cat Licensing is Required in NY

Cat licensing is required in some, but not all, parts of New York State. The key areas that require cat licensing are:

New York City – All cats over 4 months of age must be licensed according to NYC Health requirements. The license fee is $10.50 for spayed/neutered cats or $34 for unaltered cats. Licenses must be renewed every 1-3 years.

Nassau County – Cats over 4 months of age must be licensed per the county’s pet licensing law. The fee is $10 for spayed/neutered cats and $20 for unaltered cats. Licenses are valid for 1 year.

Suffolk County – Cats must be licensed in Suffolk per the county pet licensing requirements. The fee is $10 for spayed/neutered cats and $25 for unaltered cats. Licenses are renewed annually.

Westchester County – Cats over 4 months of age require a license per the county’s pet licensing program. The fee is $7 for spayed/neutered cats and $12 for unaltered cats. Licenses must be renewed each year.

Where Cat Licensing is Not Required in NY

Cat licensing is not required by law in most areas of New York State. According to the New York State Department of Agriculture, there is no statewide law that mandates cat licensing.

Specifically, cat licensing is not required in the following major cities and counties in New York:

  • New York City (the 5 boroughs)
  • Albany County
  • Erie County (Buffalo)
  • Monroe County (Rochester)
  • Onondaga County (Syracuse)
  • Westchester County

So in most of the heavily populated areas of New York, cat owners are not obligated by law to license their cats. Licensing is voluntary in these regions.

Why Cat Licensing Exists

Cat licensing laws exist primarily for public health and safety reasons. Requiring cats to be licensed helps ensure they are properly vaccinated against rabies and other diseases that can spread to humans and other animals. According to the City of Sacramento, licensing laws allow animal control officers to quickly identify lost pets and return them to their owners, preventing the spread of disease by getting cats off the streets. Licenses also provide a way to track a pet cat’s rabies vaccination status.

Additionally, licensing fees help fund animal shelters and control programs which work to reduce overpopulation of cats through spay/neuter services. Shelters can scan a licensed cat for a microchip or use license records to find the owner of a lost cat. Overall, licensing provides an important mechanism for authorities to monitor and protect community health.


Why License? – City of Sacramento

What are the purposes of municipalities requiring pet licenses? – Quora

Cost of Cat Licensing

The cost to license a cat varies depending on where you live in New York. Here are some details on license fees in different parts of the state that require cat licensing:

In New York City, cat licenses cost $13 for spayed/neutered cats and $25 for unaltered cats. License renewals are $10 for spayed/neutered cats and $22 for unaltered cats.

In Nassau County, cat licenses range from $7-$17 depending on whether the cat is spayed/neutered. License renewals are the same cost.

Westchester County charges $10 for spayed/neutered cats and $20 for unaltered cats. License renewals are $7 and $14 respectively.

In general, licensing fees tend to be lower for spayed/neutered cats to encourage responsible pet ownership. Fees may vary between municipalities, so check with your local animal control department for exact costs.

How to License a Cat

To license a cat in New York State locations that require it, follow these steps:

  1. Obtain proof of a current rabies vaccination from a licensed veterinarian. The rabies certificate must have details like the vaccination date, vaccine manufacturer, and expiration date.
  2. Acquire the proper license application from your local municipality office or animal control department. Forms vary by location.
  3. Complete the cat license application form. You’ll need details like your name, address, cat’s name, breed, color, sex, and rabies certificate number.
  4. Pay the licensing fee. Fees range from $5-$20 annually depending on the municipality.
  5. Attach your rabies certificate to the license application.
  6. Submit everything to your local licensing authority. This may be an animal control office, town clerk, city clerk, or public health department.
  7. Receive your cat license tag and proof of licensing. This license is valid for 1-3 years depending on location.
  8. Make sure your cat wears the license tag on their collar at all times as proof of licensing.

Licensing ensures your cat is vaccinated and provides identification if they are lost. Check with your local municipality office for details on licensing in your area.

Penalties for Not Licensing

In areas of New York where cat licensing is required, such as New York City, there are penalties for failing to license your cat. According to New York State law section 118, it is a violation punishable by a fine of $25-100 for a cat owner to fail to license their pet.

Additionally, New York City has additional penalties for not licensing your cat. The fine is $75 for an unlicensed cat, with an additional $15 late fee if you fail to license the cat within 45 days of a notice of violation. Criminal summonses may also be issued.

If you are found with an unlicensed cat in New York City, you will be required to pay the fine and license the cat immediately. Failure to do so can result in additional fines or potentially having your cat taken away and sent to an animal shelter.

Therefore, licensing your cat is very important in required areas not just to follow the law, but also to avoid these potentially hefty fines. The cost of a license is far less than the penalties for being caught with an unlicensed cat.

Exemptions to Licensing Rules

There are some exemptions to cat licensing requirements in New York State. According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, some entities are exempt from the definition of “pet dealer” and do not require a license to sell cats and dogs. This includes section 408 of New York State Agriculture and Markets Law.

Specifically, the following are exempt from pet dealer licensing requirements:

  • Breeders who sell less than 25 cats and/or dogs per year
  • Humane societies and animal shelters that operate not for profit
  • Veterinarians who provide veterinary services
  • Individuals who sell pets from their home and do not buy for resale

While exempt from pet dealer licensing, those selling cats and dogs may still need to register with the state and comply with other regulations. But they do not need a license solely for selling cats and/or dogs.


In summary, cat licensing laws vary across New York state. While some municipalities like New York City require cat licenses, many areas of the state including towns, villages and rural parts of counties do not. Licensing helps reunite lost cats with their owners, provides rabies vaccination records, and generates revenue for animal shelters and control. The cost of a license is generally between $5-20 per year depending on the cat’s status. Licenses can be obtained through local municipalities. Failure to license can result in fines from $25 up to $200. Service animals, show cats, and feral cats may be exempt from licensing rules. In the end, cat owners in New York should check their local laws to determine if a license is required for their pet.

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