KEYPORT, N.J. (AP) _ An 82-year-old arthritic woman and her nurse have been fined more than $500 and ordered to get rid of 12 of their 15 pet cats because the animals violate local ordinances.

The dispute has aroused the ire of an animal rights activists, who claim the ordinances are unfair and that the woman needs the animals to keep her spirits up.

Marion Senson, who is confined to a wheelchair, and her live-in nurse, Robert Moritz, say they keep a clean house and their three dogs and the cats are in excellent health.

''All my animals have been strays, dogs and all,'' Mrs. Sensen said Tuesday. ''They all needed a home.''

Mrs. Senson, a widow with no children, and Moritz suspect local authorities were alerted by a neighbor.

Moritz owned the dogs before he moved in, and the cats belong to Mrs. Senson. An inspector who visited the house told him the dogs were unlicensed and that local laws prohibit residents from keeping more than three dogs and three cats per household.

Within weeks, Moritz received borough court summonses carrying $565 in fines and an order to get rid of 12 cats in two months.

Debbie Roskelly of Friends of Animals said that the organization wrote to borough officials objecting to the ordinance, and have offered to help Mrs. Senson.

''This is her family,'' said Ms. Roskelly.

The borough council will take up the matter at its Aug. 12 meeting, said Borough Administrator John J. Kennedy.

''I've only just got the letter,'' said Kennedy. ''I'll have to review the ordinances and discuss the matter with counsel.''

Moritz said all the cats - except for three that are too young for the procedures - have been spayed or neutered, and given rabies and distemper shots. The veterinarian's bill exceeded $500, said Moritz, adding that he and Mrs. Senson spend about $1,400 a year on food for the animals. ''They're very important to her,'' Moritz said. ''I love them, too. In spite of that, I was going to give the kittens away when they were pretty young. I was going to drop them at the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and I hate to do that because they don't always survive.

''Marion was very upset about that. It affects her. It causes depression in her to have to worry about what's going to happen,'' he said.

''They keep me company,'' said Mrs. Senson, who can recall the dates previous pets died. ''They're just very, very intelligent. They know more than people sometimes.''