You may well be aware that doctors in Florida have warned the public to steer clear of armadillos to avoid the possibility of being infected with leprosy. There has been a rise in human cases of Hansen’s disease (the alternative name for leprosy). It has struck nine people in Florida in the first seven months of 2015. The people were in direct contact with armadillos. The animals carry leprosy in their saliva and are sometimes hunted for their meat. They have a tendency to spit when cornered.
However, armadillos are the only animals other than humans that are known to carry leprosy which is a chronic bacterial infection affecting the skin and nervous system but which can be cured with antibiotics.
I’ve not found a definitive statement that cats cannot catch leprosy from armadillos but it would seem that they can’t because, as the above paragraph states, armadillos are the only animals that carry leprosy.
Dr. Bill Klemm, answering a question on Yahoo Answers about whether a dog can catch leprosy from an armadillo says that theoretically they can but it is highly unlikely. That would appear to leave the door open to cats also being able to get the disease. But I don’t know how authoritative he is. I have never heard of a case of feline leprosy!
Diseases which are associated with a specific species of animal do not normally cross the species barrier and infect another animal. This is the case, for example, with cat and human colds. However, some diseases are zoonotic. If you know of a definitive answer to the question in the title to this post then please leave a comment.
The armadillos in Florida are Nine Banded Armadillos. They are a non-native species but thrive in Florida. There are professional armadillo removal services.
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