Must-Know Denver Cat Laws & Pet License Requirements

A cat beside a judge’s gavel to represent cat laws and cat ordinances in Denver

Denver is a cat-loving community. And with a wide selection of cat-friendly hotels and cafes, as well as top-notch Denver veterinary clinics, it is clear that Denver is the place to be for cat parents. 

As part of the community, cat parents have the responsibility to do their part by following Denver’s Cat Ordinances which contribute to creating a safer, more peaceful environment for all. Denver’s ordinances regarding pet cats involve cat licensing, required rabies vaccination, and required spaying/neutering. Some ordinances, like the prohibition against declawing, are also in place to protect the rights of pet cats.

This guide covers the ordinances you need to know to be a community-oriented and lawful cat parent in Denver. 

What’s in This Guide?

1. The Denver Cat License is Legally Required

According to the Denver Revised Municipal Code, cats and dogs that are older than 6 months of age need to be licensed. The Denver pet license for cats is required within 30 days of the cat being in the city or within 30 days of the cat reaching 6 months of age. 

Cats that are being held for redemption or adoption by the Denver Animal Shelter are the only ones exempted from getting a cat license or pet license for cats.   

What is The Purpose of Denver Cat Licensing?

Cat licensing in Denver helps ensure that pet cats have undergone required procedures, namely (1) getting an updated rabies vaccination and (2) spaying or neutering. Both of these procedures contribute to safeguarding the well-being of animals — while also looking after the interests of the whole community. Cat licensing in Denver also helps the city keep track of the cat population. 

How do I Get a Denver Cat License?

Recent data suggests that a whopping 82% of Denver pet owners don’t have a pet license. The good news is that the process of getting a pet license for a cat is as seamless as can be. Pet licenses in Denver can be purchased either online or in-person.

If you or anyone you know is looking to get a pet license, here is the list of required paperwork

General Requirements:

  • An updated/current pet rabies vaccination certificate
  • A signed statement or invoice from a certified veterinarian that the pet has undergone spaying or neutering

Additional Requirements:

  • For senior citizens over the age of 65, documents that serve as proof of age are required in order to get a pet license for free. The free license is restricted to one pet only. 

Note: Service animals get a pet license for free. However, as of the writing of this article, only dogs with special training can be recognized as service animals in Colorado. 

How Much is the Denver Pet License for Cats?

For both dogs and cats, there are three kinds of Denver pet licenses available: the one-year license ($15), three-year license ($40), and lifetime license ($150). The durations of these licenses determine when a renewal (and payment, if applicable) is needed. 

Note: Though lifetime licenses need to be renewed, they are only paid for once. 

As a reminder, a pet license for cats can be given free of charge if the pet owner is a senior citizen. However, if the senior citizen has more than one pet, the license follows the regular rate for the second pet and so on.  

Why Does the Lifetime Denver Dog Licensing Still Need Renewal?

One of the purposes of pet licensing for cats is to ensure that all pet cats in the city have an updated rabies vaccination

After the initial vaccination and the rabies booster shot a year after the initial shot, cats need to be vaccinated for rabies regularly, every three years. 

To ensure that licensed cats are up-to-date on their rabies shots, the lifetime pet license for cats still requires renewal. Renewing a lifetime cat license is free of charge. 

2. Rabies Vaccination is Legally Required in Denver

Denver’s Code of Ordinances states that rabies vaccination is required for cats (as well as dogs) over 6 months of age

  • If the cat is older than 6 months upon acquisition or ownership, the cat will need to be vaccinated within 30 days from acquisition. 
  • If the cat is acquired at an age younger than 6 months, the owner needs to ensure the cat is vaccinated before reaching 6 months of age. 

In Denver, rabies vaccinations for cats need to be initially administered and updated by a licensed Colorado veterinarian. 

What is the Purpose of Requiring Rabies Vaccinations?

Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects both people and animals. With a mortality rate of 99%, rabies is one of the most deadly infections in the world. Cats and dogs are not the only animals that can contract rabies. Skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes can also contract and transmit the rabies virus. 

By enforcing rabies vaccinations as a legal requirement to owning a pet cat, deadly cases of rabies can be prevented for pets, pet owners, and the community.

How Do I Get My Cat Vaccinated?

In Denver, rabies vaccinations can be obtained from your nearby primary care veterinarian. Other core and non-core cat vaccines are also available to boost your cat’s immunity and prevent a variety of illnesses. Though other types of vaccination may not be legally required, they are an essential pillar in preventive veterinary care. 

If you have a pet kitten, initial vaccination can be administered at 2 months of age. For unvaccinated cats older than 6 months of age, it is recommended to schedule the cat’s rabies vaccination as soon as possible, in compliance with Denver’s ordinance.

Is a Rabies Vaccination Needed for Cat Licensing in Denver? 

Yes. Having an official certificate for rabies vaccination is one of the requirements needed when getting a pet license for cats in Denver.

A kitten getting a rabies vaccination to get a pet license or cat license in Denver

3. Spaying or Neutering is Legally Required in Denver

According to Denver’s Animal Ordinances and Legislation, cats that are over 6 months old are required to be spayed or neutered.

Spaying and neutering are terms for procedures that remove an animal’s capacity to reproduce. Spaying (also known as ovariohysterectomy) is a procedure done on female pets — while neutering (also known as orchiectomy) is a procedure done on male pets. 

Note: It’s possible to have a cat exempted from spaying or neutering by getting an Intact Animal Permit from Denver Animal Protection.  The most common reason for getting an Intact Animal Permit for a cat is if the cat is medically unfit to undergo the procedure. 

An intact permit, however, is NOT a permit for breeding. Therefore, a household may NOT have more than one intact (not spayed, not neutered) cat. In the state of Colorado, breeding cats or dogs without a pet animal facility license is unlawful.  

What is the Purpose of Requiring Spaying or Neutering?

Spaying or neutering helps prevent unwanted cat pregnancies and uncontrolled animal overpopulation in the community. Because feral cats are sometimes the offspring of pet cats that escaped or are abandoned, spaying or neutering pet cats can contribute to controlling the feral cat population. In connection with this, spaying or neutering pets helps to reduce instances wherein unwanted kittens won’t have good homes to care for them. 

Last but not least, spaying or neutering presents a number of health benefits for cats such as:

  • Increased lifespan of pet cats. According to a study, spayed female cats live 39% longer while neutered male cats live 62% longer. 
  • Reduced risk of developing certain types of feline cancer. Spaying or Neutering helps prevent related conditions like uterine or ovarian cancer, mammary tumors, and prostate cancer.
  • Decreases the cat’s desire to roam or run off. This is a crucial benefit because both intact female and male cats have a tendency to roam — and cats can escape the house far more easily than dogs can. Spaying and neutering helps prevent escape attempts, thereby reducing the risk of the animal getting lost or contracting diseases from other animals while out and about.

How Do I Get my Cat Spayed or Neutered in Denver?

Spaying and neutering are considered routine surgical procedures. In veterinary medicine, routine surgeries encompass surgical procedures that are…

  • Not considered an emergency; 
  • Are performed on healthy animals; and 
  • Are not intended to correct a medical condition. 

As a routine surgical procedure, spaying and neutering can be performed by a primary care veterinarian in Denver, and can be easily scheduled. 

Is Spaying or Neutering Needed for Getting a Pet License for Cats?

Yes. In order to get a cat license in Denver, cat parents need to present a signed statement or invoice to indicate that their cat has undergone spaying or neutering. 

4. Declawing of Cats is Prohibited in Denver

Denver, Colorado is one of the cities in the United States where declawing cats is banned — along with other major cities like San Francisco, Austin, Madison, and St. Louis. Declawing is a process of surgically removing or altering a cat’s claws. 

It is unlawful for a person to declaw a cat or to have their cat declawed in Denver unless circumstances deem the procedure medically necessary. If declawing is a medical necessity, only a licensed veterinarian can perform the procedure AND it is legally required that anesthesia is administered to the cat. 

The only legal circumstances that justify declawing in Denver include the following: 

  • Declawing will treat or relieve an infection, injury, or physical illness.
  • Declawing is needed to correct an abnormality that is causing the cat harm or pain.

Declawing cannot be performed on cats as a means of facilitating convenient handling or for aesthetic reasons. 

What is the Purpose of Prohibiting Declawing?

Declawing is a major surgical alteration with plenty of potential side effects, both physical and behavioral. Declawing goes beyond cutting the cat’s nails; the procedure involves amputating a small portion of the cat’s toes. Recovery from this procedure is slow and potentially painful. Complications such as infections, tissue necrosis, nerve damage, and back pain can also arise. 

What is the Penalty of Declawing Cats in Denver?

The maximum fine for violating the declawing ban in Denver is $999. Jail time is also possible. 

How to Deal with Destructive Scratching in Cats

As mentioned above, in Denver, declawing cannot be legally performed unless it is a medical necessity. Therefore, declawing cannot be done to mitigate destructive scratching. 

Instead, certain measures can be taken to reduce problematic scratching. These measures include: 

  • Providing the cat with scratching posts. Experiment with textures that are attractive to cats such as wood, sisal, cardboard, and so on. 
  • Discouraging inappropriate scratching. Place a cover or sticky tape over surfaces that the cat should refrain from scratching. Do this while also providing scratching posts so that the cat will shift their attention to it. Remove the covers once the habit of scratching the scratching posts is already formed. 
  • Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed. One of the reasons why cats instinctively scratch is because their nails are long. By carefully clipping your cat’s nails, this will help reduce destructive scratching. 

If you are dealing with feline behavioral problems involving destructive scratching or scratching as an aggressive behavior, consult your local veterinarian for personalized advice.  

A young cat getting a behavioral consultation in the Highlands location of Sploot Veterinary Care, Denver, Colorado

Final Thoughts on Denver Cat Licensing & Other Cat Laws

We hope you found this guide helpful to becoming an informed, community-oriented cat parent in Denver! All of the ordinances laid out here help to create a safe and peaceful community for both cats and cat-lovers alike. A majority of these ordinances are linked to required pet licenses for cats because this license serves as a major preventive measure against rabies and feral cat overpopulation. 

If you’re about to renew your pet license or get a one for a new cat, we’re here to help you get all the medical requirements fulfilled and documented. 

Sploot Veterinary Care is a go-to provider of primary and urgent care. We offer daily appointment availability (including holidays) and extended vet clinic hours, so that we can be here for pet parents when our help is needed the most. Feel free to book an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app.